December 23, 2014
Quinta do Poço do Lobo, Arinto 1995: The Fountain of Youth
Caves Sãn João is a major figure in Portuguese wine, proudly laying claim to being one of the oldest wine trading companies in the country. They are also known for their extraordinary library of wines, housed in labyrinthine underground tunnels stacked with bottles—over a million—dating from 1959 to 2000. But it started small: in 1920, three brothers—José, Manuel, and Albano Costa—began to trade fine wine from the Douro and Bairrada regions. In the 40s, they expanded into winemaking, and and began producing sparkling wine in the traditional method with indigenous grapes. From this experiment came two of the most iconic Portuguese labels: Frei João from Bairrada and Porta Dos Cavaleiros from the Dão region. In 1972, they acquired 35 ha of vineyards known as Quinta do Poco do Lobo, and planted them with the indigenous Arinto (white) and Baga (red) grapes.
Their 1995 Quinta do Poço do Lobo comes from this original planting, and is 100 percent Arinto, one of Portugal’s oldest indigenous varietals. The grape is known to produce lively, mineral whites throughout Portugal, but it thrives in the coastal regions. At Poço do Lobo, only 15 kilometers from the sea, it has found its ideal terroir, and makes excellent, long-lived, complex wines. Arinto is often blended with warm-climate Portuguese wines, because its naturally exuberant acidity brings longevity to wines—when bottled on its own, it’s a powerhouse. In Bairrada, the grape’s natural acidity is enhanced by the cool Atlantic climate and winds.
The 1995 has exotic notes of dried fruits and mushrooms, and the characteristic acidity that Arinto is known for has kept this wine remarkably fresh and vivacious. It is a fantastic cheese accompaniment, but would be lovely with fish, pork, or roasted chicken, as well. This bottle accomplishes an illusive trifecta: solid winemaking, good storage practices, and excellent raw materials. The result is a lively, eternally youthful wine (or seemingly so) with deep roots in Portuguese tradition.
December 16, 2014
Barolo Boy Elio Altare
The film Barolo Boys. The Story of a Revolution is a fascinating documentary about a group of friends who revolutionized Barolo and helped to make it the famous region it is today. Now one of the most famous red wines in the world, 30 years ago Barolo was unknown even in its own production region, the beautiful Langhe. In the 1980s, the Barolo Boys shined a spotlight on the region, and the whole world was watching.
A Perfect Trifecta
- The Barolo Boys consisted of a younger generation who were traveling to other regions like Burgundy for inspiration. They came back with thoughts of change and thus became known as the “modernists.”
- Robert Parker’s taste praised big, oaked wines. It may have been the American culture at the time, but one thing seemed true: the more wood the better!
- Marco de Grazia was young himself and took a chance importing the Barolo Boys in the USA. The USA at that time was itching for something other than Chianti. When Marco brought the gang to the USA for a wine tour, everything clicked.
Elio Altare was a leader of the Barolo Boys. Not only is he featured throughout the movie but so is his daughter Silvia Altare (Barolo Girl). But the story is not all bucolic: now renowned for being a major innovator in the region, Elio almost lost all claim to the winery for his rebellious winemaking views. After a trip to Burgundy in the 1970s, Elio returned with new visions of modernizing the family winery—which meant replacing the large aging barrels with smaller French barriques. His father did not share his vision, and the tension culminated when Elio took a chainsaw to his father’s old barrels. He was banned from the winery until his father’s death in 1985. Upon regaining control, he implemented organic agriculture, bought rotary fermenters, implemented short macerations, and employed the small French barriques for aging.
Today he is mentor to many of the younger generation of winemakers in the commune of La Morra. And his daughters, Silvia and Elena, are poised to carry on his legacy as the next generation of exceptional Barolisti.
In honor of the film, we are featuring a library selection of Elio Altare Barolo. Mix up a vertical selection for your thoughtful beverage program. There is no split case charge.
Before the Modernists
It is undeniable that the Barolo Boys brought fame and fortune to the region. However, not everyone was happy with the Barolo Boys’ modernist winemaking approach. The older generation of winemakers, like Elio’s father, did not agree with the changes in the cellar. Referred to as “traditionalists,” these producers prefer large oak barrels and longer macerations among other things.
Brovia is one of the traditionalists. The Brovia family estate lies on the road between Alba and Barolo within the confines of Castiglione Falletto. There is a rigor and discipline to these wines, vintage to vintage, under perfect and not-so-perfect conditions, that puts in sublime relief the exceptional terroir rendered by the supremely well-sited vineyards that the Brovias have spent years accumulating. There is no flash, no exaggeration to the Brovia portfolio of wines; rather, one finds distinction and grace, much like a well-dressed gentleman in finely tailored suits made from the best cloth.
The series of Barolos from the 2010 vintage are among the finest they have produced, with every element one could want in a typical wine from this appellation. The growing season was mild and consistent, allowing for a long, gradual ripening of the grapes. The concentrated, controlled fruit envelops a definitively classic tannic structure, which comes together as a wine that will age gracefully for decades. The Brovia family says these wines are their finest effort in many years, likely surpassing even the vaunted 1996 vintage.
Brovia 2010 Barolo - This cuvée is a blend of the younger vines found in the various “crus” and offers a stylish take on the Brovia approach to this appellation.
92pts Vinous by Antonio Galloni
Brovia 2010 Barolo, Garblet Sue - This is a dynamic wine filled with surprises. From 35 year-old vines on a 3/4 hectare clay limestone hillside site in Castiglione Falletto, the wine is a fraternal twin to the more stern and imposing Villero with the classic restrained power of the best of the wines from the village. It distinguishes itself by its enormous energy, a positive and heady wine with a gorgeous interplay of black fruits and minerals.
96pts Vinous by Antonio Galloni
94-95pts International Wine Cellar
Brovia 2010 Barolo, Villero - If you had to pick one of these wines as the “king of kings,” Villero would get the vote! The package is complete: strong yet elegant, powerful but dignified, above all pure and balanced. No matter the vintage, this special site in Castiglione Falletto yields a consistently marvelous wine that will age with grace. Dark and brooding in its youth, it matures into a regal wine of exceptional depth. Quintessential Barolo.
96pts Vinous by Antonio Galloni
93-94pts International Wine Cellar
Brovia 2010 Barolo, Rocche di Castiglione - The splendid and fabled site Rocche in Castiglione Falletto gives us a window onto the elegant, feminine side of Barolo. Always the most aromatic and sensual of the crus from Brovia, the Rocche dei Brovia carries its weight with a ballerina-like delicacy on top of tannins that are sweet and silky. The unique qualities of this “cru” result from the sandy soil composition that is in stark contrast to the terrain that underlies its neighboring “crus” in Castiglione Falletto. The Brovia parcel (1.5 hectares) of this vineyard faces southeast and sits at 350 meters altitude. The vines were planted in 1966. The wine ferments for at least 3 weeks and then is racked into large oak barrels of French origin for an aging period of no less than two years before it is bottled (unfiltered).
96+pts Vinous by Antonio Galloni
94-96pts International Wine Cellar