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PieroBusso & his magnetic glasses

Franco Minuto, Moccagatta

Ornella Pasquale opens bubbles

Barbaresco, and of course our neighbours seem to be hitting the headlines this month and about time too. The publicity will undoubtedly help wine tourism in Piemonte, too often overlooked except by the “cognoscenti”.  In Decanter magazine this month, Piero Busso– Stan Stunet 2008, Pasquale Pelissero– Bricco San Giuliano 2008 are both “Highly recommended” 4*wines . Moccagatta- Basarin 2008, Barbaresco 2008, Bric Balin 2008 and Pasquale Pelissero Bricco San Giuliano 2008 are all scored 90+ and are top wines in Wine Spectator. I have visited these cantinas recently and been impressed by not just their Barbareschi but the overall quality and diversity of their range.

I love visiting small family run cantinas where the wines are a real expression of  the winemakers art, the terroir and the weather and not simply an unsubtle industrial process where every wine tastes the same year in year out.

Ornella took over the running of the beautiful 8 hectares of vineyards that surround the cantina in 2007 when her father died. He was one of the first Neive producers to sell bottled wine in the early ’70s. It’s a beautiful spot set on a hill in the lee of Neive with stunning views towards Barbaresco and the Alps.

View of Peliserro Pasquale's Ciabot

She is doing a fantastic job evidenced by the fact that her wines  sell out quickly and when we visited not all wines were available so we grabbed some while we could. The ones that stood out for us screaming “buy me, I’m cheap”  were:

Dolcetto d’Alba 2010- a delightful strawberry nose, good length and structure and a smooth finish

Langhe Freisa 2009-  another serious Freisa aged in French oak for at least a year but nonetheless delicate with a satisfying acidic edge and lots of red fruit particularly cherry. Ageing potential if I can resist drinking it.

Barbaresco Bricco San Giuliano 2008- Elegant, spicy Barbaresco from the oldest vineyards. Aged for a minimum of 2 years in a mixture of oak barrique and botte. Characteristic berries and liquorice, smooth tannins, persistent vanilla finish. Enjoyable now but will improve, carry on drinking the Dolcetto and Freisa.

Other wines produced in smallish quantities and excellent: Crosé Nebbiolo Rosé, Chardonnay, Favorita, Barbera d’Alba, Langhe Nebbiolo (mini Barbaresco) and Muffato “Stramej” (a luscious late harvest botrytis Moscato).

Pierguido with HO and Oz mate Kerrie

Always a great welcome at Piero Busso and we were ably looked after by Pierguido, Piero and Lucia’s son. Only daughter Emanuela was absent, busy with children. The whole family is involved in the process.The cantina has undergone substantial renovation recently and must be a far cry from 1953 when it was set up by Piero’s father and I suspect the wines are rather better: the wine press certainly think so.

My favourites were:

Langhe Bianco 2010- a blend of 55% Chardonnay  & 45% Sauvignon Blanc. This serious wine only sees stainless steel but you could be fooled into believing it has seen wood. Complex creamy finish with loads of pineapple, citrus flavours.

Majano Barbera d’Alba 2009- 10 months in botte grande has produced an extremely fruity Barbera with good acidity. Red and blackcurrants with tobacco & tar on the long finish.

San Stefanetto Barbera d’Alba 2009- from a vineyardd in Treiso where more rock and clay means deeper roots and more concentration (15°). Well balanced and rounded: chewy mouth-filling stuff.

Mondino Barbaresco 2008- the lightest but nonetheless elegant. Aniseed nose

Borgese Barbaresco 2008- caramel nose reminiscent of fairgrounds, marmalade. Changed by the minute. Complex rich concentration and great length. Still quite tannic but a soft fruit finish that will win in time.

San Stefanetto Barbaresco 2008- according to Pierguido the more international wine. From Treiso it is more complex, mineral and intense.  Violets, roses. Very classy.  All the Barbareschi spend 18 months mainly in botte grande and are  made in the same way but the differences are quite marked. By comparison the 2007 was excellent easy drinking like most 2007s but not notable.

The slumbering Albesani Riserva

There is also sensational Barbaresco Riserva in the making from 2010 and 2011 Cru Albesani old vines. We tasted them from the barrel and I have made a diary note to grab some when they are released in 5 or 6 years time. I can still taste the cherry vanilla.

Langhe Arneis 2011- was only bottled a couple of days before so needs time to settle.

Francesco “Franco” Minuto has invited us to the Moccagatta Cantina several times during aperitivi at La Torre (we regularly drink their wine) and for one reason or another we hadn’t quite got round to it. Fortunately we made time last week and were well rewarded. Another all-family venture with brothers Franco and Sergio running the show with son Franco and daughter Martina respectively assisting in the wings. The cantina is probably the most immaculate we have seen. The wines are pretty good too:

Immaculate Mocagatta Cantina

Chardonnay 2011- fresh, crisp and overwhelmingly pineapple. Decent acidity, structure and length. One for the summer.

Langhe Chardonnay Buschet 2009- a serious barrique-aged Chardonnay that is one of the best, if not the best in the zone. Buttery, peachy, excellent mineral acidity, structure & length. Relatively expensive but worth it for that fishy dinner party.

Langhe Nebbiolo 2010- as a Barbaresco alternative at half the price this was a classic. Still a little tannic so pop it away for a year or so. Lovely length. Violets and red fruit

Basarin Barbaresco  2008- beautiful fruity nose, creamy, violets and spice. Very elegant.

Bric Balin 2008- Incredibly different to the Basarin. Much heavier and more masculine. Tar, tobacco spice. A long life ahead of this wine.

Both the 2006s of these 2 crus exhibited incredible “power & glory” and we want to be around when they wake and open up. They had already been put to bed in my cellar from a previous visit.

Sergio & Franco Minuto