Old Friends and New – Langhe, Italy 3rd June 2014

I’m not sure if it was just the jet lag but there was a surreal feeling returning to Italy, the place that had the most profound impact for me on my big trip a few years ago. After some 18 hours in transit and only six hours sleep on a plane in two days, I collected my Fiat 500 (the same car I had last time) from Malpensa airport and set off for Alba in Piemonte.

This is what I look like after 18 hours of transit.

This is what I look like after 18 hours of transit

As I may have mentioned, I have a particular fondness for this part of Italy. I don’t think there is a landscape I like more than rolling hills, and Langhe has them in spades. It’s part of the reason that in spite of the small area it takes a little bit longer to get from one place to another thanks to the countless winding roads. The Langhe also boasts some of the best food in Italy, being famous for (amongst other things) truffles, hazelnuts and beef. The people are also very warm and generous, which admittedly is not uncommon in Italy, but belies the importance of this region in terms of wine.

Stunning weather to arrive to in Alba

Stunning weather to arrive to in Alba

In a slightly bedraggled condition I arrived at my first official visit for #Italy2014 which was partly to catch up with Dave Fletcher, a good friend who has relocated to work at Ceretto. Dave was one of the early champions of the nebbiolo variety in Australia, producing a number of single site wines sourced from a number of vineyards across South-Eastern Australia. His love for the variety came from his experiences working vintage in Barolo, and it’s fantastic that he’s had a permanent sea-change to the home of his beloved nebbiolo. A wonderful article was written about him by his good friend Josh Elias in the first issue of Alquimie.

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Dave Fletcher introduces us to the Cannubi vineyard

But as much as I was looking forward to catching up with Dave I was also excited to visit Ceretto, a benchmark producer of Barolo with plots in several of the best crus. When Bruno and Marcello Ceretto made the decision to buy plots it was at a time when the concept of cru was quite foreign to the region, a much more French idea. At this time there were very little bottlings of specific sites and wine was generally labelled as Barolo. Since then of course, many of the top vineyards of Barolo are as familiar to wine lovers as those of Burgundy, names such as Cannubi and Monforte.

The Ceretto dome

The Ceretto dome

These days Ceretto is one of the largest vineyard holders in Piedmont at 160 hectares, located in the Langhe and Roero areas. Philosophically they use sustainable practices in their fields and whilst modernity is used commonly they prefer traditional practices rather than new oak barriques. There are four estates producing wine; the main winery in Monsordo Bernardina near Alba, Bricco Roche in Castiliogne Falletto Barolo, Bricco Asili in Barbaresco and the Santo Stefano Belbo vineyards. On the day I visited I got the chance to see the first two, the focus being the Barolo winery as it is where most of their top wines come from.

Lovely day for visiting vineyards in Barolo

Lovely day for visiting vineyards in Barolo

Along with David I was hosted by Alessandro Ceretto who oversees all the viticulture and winemaking for the business. From the Alba property we drove to Bricco Roche and the striking winery atop the hill, where we toured the cellars and I had the chance to taste wines still in cask. These were mostly from the 2012 vintage and were sitting in 28.5 hectolitre casks, and whilst still very early in their life you can see how good the 2012 vintage is set to be when the wines are released. Following this we headed out to one of theirs (and Barolo’s) most important vineyards, and then after returning to the winery I tried a number of current release wines in the tasting room, my notes are here.

Alessandro Ceretto

Alessandro Ceretto

Click here to see more photos from my visit to Ceretto in Alba.

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