The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Tasting Bruno Giacosa, Estate-Bottled and Négociant

Drinking in Bruno Giacosa’s history and its wines

A label from Azienda Agricola Falletto di Bruno Giacosa

A label from Azienda Agricola Falletto di Bruno Giacosa

I know I am partial, but you really can’t beat IWM wine tastings. This past Saturday was one of those sorry-you-missed-it events. The theme was Bruno Giacosa, and we tasted wines from the estate’s négociant arm Casa Vinicola Giacosa as well as wines from Bruno Giacosa’s legendary vineyard Falletto.

Most of our clients already know and love Bruno Giacosa, but let me give some background. Born in Neive in 1929, Bruno crafts some of the most prestigious Barolo and Barbaresco wines in Piemonte and holds the rank of one of the world’s most respected wine producers. One major point to know about Bruno Giacosa is that he never studied enology; he dropped out of school after the war at the age of 13 to work with his father Mario and grandfather Carlo, who had been making wine since the 1890’s.

Bruno spent his youth learning from both his father and grandfather in the vineyards, and the most important talent they passed down to him was how to select great fruit. This was very important as the Giacosas didn’t own any vineyards; instead, they purchased grapes from select network of growers. By being familiar with each of the cru vineyards in the region, Bruno was able to “cherry-pick” the finest grapes. With time, Giacosa noticed he had less and less fruit to choose from, and in 1982, he decided to purchase the Falletto vineyard in Barolo, and in 1996, he added the Rabajá and Asili vineyards in Barbaresco.

Starting in 1996, Giacosa has divided the estate into two winery names—Azienda Agricola Falletto di Bruno Giacosa and Casa Vinicola Bruno Giacosa. Azienda Agricola Falletto di Bruno Giacosa is located on top of the Falletto Vinyard approximately 400 meters above sea level and makes wines only from estate vineyards or from vineyards he owns. These are Barolo Falletto, Barolo Rocche del Falletto, Barbaresco Asili and Barbaresco Rabajà. Casa Vinicola Bruno Giacosa, on the other hand, is located in the town of Neive near Barbaresco and makes wines using grapes purchased from selected growers including Barbaresco Santo Stefano, Barbaresco Gallina and Barolo Villero.

A label from Casa Vinicola Bruno Giacosa

A label from Casa Vinicola Bruno Giacosa

The best way to distinguish the difference between the two is by the crest on the front of the label. Wines from the Azienda Agricola Falletto have the word FALLETTO in gold letters as well as a crest with a gold F on it. In addition the labels also feature a drawing of the vineyard and winery. The vineyard name on single-vineyard wines is always listed below the type of wine and above the vintage. The single vineyard wines are also numbered. As opposed to the estate-bottled wines, labels from Casa Vinicola Giacosa say Casa Vinicula and have a crest with a crown on it and feature a drawing of the old castle of Neive on it. (This past Tuesday, Garrett wrote about the under $28 Casa Vinicola Giacosa Dolcetto d’Alba!)

Bruno Giacosa wines are a treat. Super elegant, marvelously perfumed, and full-bodied on the palate, Bruno Giacosa’s wines require time and patience, but they will reward you with a spectacular experience. I had some leftover Barolo Falletto that I drank over the course of three days. This wine was like the every-ready bunny because it kept going and going. With each sip I experienced a new aroma or flavor: earth, fruit, minirality, cassis, tobacco, and crushed stone all mingled with elegant red fruit in the background. The only bad thing about it was when I tried to pour more and the bottle was empty.

Fortunately, I have next Saturday’s tasting to console myself.

Expert Picks: Cupano and Gaja

Two expert selections from Francesco Vigorito

The one thing that these two amazing wines have in common is that they are both the products of warmer vintages, especially the 2003. Many people might stray away from a 2003 Brunello, but I can guarantee that this Cupano Brunello will change your mind about that. Nebbiolo doesn’t generally do well in hot vintages like 1997, but Gaja managed to retain Nebbiolos freshness and delicacy and I have to say that it is drinking great right now.

Cupano Brunello 2003 $139.00

What you’ll get in the 2003 Cupano Brunello are loads velvety textured fruit, soft, integrated tannins and beautifully mature profile. This is a Brunello to drink now and drink often because it’s that good. Come see what Cupano is all about!

Gaja Barbaresco 1997 $299.00

One of his greatest Barbarescos to date, this 1997 dazzles for its concentration, polished texture and complexity of flavor. Classic notes of tar and flowers come through all supported by silky ripe fruit that ride on a bed of soft tannins. This is a Barbaresco not to miss!

Expert Picks: De Forville and Ada Nada

Two expert selections from Francesco Vigorito

Francesco 2014Nebbiolo—who doesn’t love it? With its firm structure, enchanting aromatics, and long-lived personality, Nebbiolo makes some of the best wines Italy can offer. Most people think Barolo when they think Nebbiolo, but that’s not the limit of this Italian indigenous grape. Today I have two different examples showing two of the many faces and price points that Nebbiolo can offer up.

De Forville Langhe Nebbiolo 2012 $19.99

At its core, this wine is actually a “baby” Barbaresco because it derives from fruits from around the area of Barbaresco. This wine is gorgeously red fruited with classic notes of licorice and flowers.  You can pair this ’12 Nebbiolo with just about anything under the sun. Because of its lighter structure you can even pair up this wine with herb grilled chicken.

Ada Nada Barbaresco Elisa 2008 $47.55

Exceptional Barbaresco under $50 is very hard to come by; in fact, it’s nearly impossible.   We have just two wines that fit these criteria at IWM, and the Ada Nada offers one of the best quality-to-price ratios we’ve ever seen. The Ada Nada Elisa is not a Barbaresco that you have to wait fifteen years to drink; it’s deliciously approachable now and will drink for the next decade.

Expert Picks: San Giuliano and Bruno Giacosa

Two expert selections from Garrett Kowalsky

Garrett_1The last time you heard from me, I was extolling the virtues of the Barbera offering from the San Giuliano estate. In the time since, we were lucky enough to procure some more bottle of another one of their offerings, the 2009 Barbaresco. Since I had been grooving on the producer, I thought it best to open a bottle for myself. After enjoying it immensely, it got me thinking about the tiny area of Barbaresco and about value finds and about legendary houses and then, well, I thought I would just show you a couple of my favorites. So, enough rambling, just take a look at these two and enjoy.

San Giuliano Barbaresco 2009 $52.25

If you saw the release of this wine from IWM earlier this year, then you would know that this is a family-owned-and-operated estate that has been flying under the radar for years, and IWM is one of a handful of US merchants fortunate enough to carry their wines. Barbaresco is so tiny and production so limited, it is a marvel to find a wine at this top-level quality for this kind of pricing. Telltale cherry notes on the nose followed by an explosive and exuberant palate. Drink now and for 5-7 years.

Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva 2007 $349

In addition to showing you a value pick from the region, I thought I might also highlight a superstar, a legend—nay, an icon against which other producers measure their own work! The estate of Bruno Giacosa has been crafting sensational wines for nearly 40 years and you could argue that no bottling is as prized as his Barbaresco Asili Riserva. This is the very definition of elegance, but if you try it right now, there is a good chance your palate will pay the price. Drink this bottle is at 10 years from vintage—at least. Your patience will be rewarded with a life affirming experience. Drink 2017 to 2037

Expert Picks: Sartarelli and San Giuliano

Two expert selections from Will Di Nunzio

Will Di Nunzio

Will Di Nunzio

In Italy, as in other great wine-producing countries, pairing wines with food is important, but pairing wine with weather is even more so. Spring is here, and the warm sun shines on us, reminding us that in the next few months we will likely step away from the heavier wines and look to those that are lighter and easier-drinking. Today I chose two wines that are just that: lighter, prettier wines that you can drink anytime this summer. During the day, the Verdicchio is a personal favorite of mine, and for the evenings I like a nice, elegant Barbaresco. Enjoy!

Sartarelli Verdicchio Castello di Jesi Classico 2013 $17.75

Drive thirty minutes inland from the Adriatic Sea, and you’ll find the city of Ancona, home to one of the most famous white winemaking regions of all of Italy, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi. Most likely founded by monks, Castelli di Jesi is ancient, and Sartarelli produces its bottling right in the middle of it. The average altitude of their vineyards is about 1000 feet above sea level, and the proximity to the sea gives these wines incredible minerality along with beautiful balance and aromatics. This is a wine I always have on hand; it’s easily the best value white at IWM right now.

San Giuliano Barbaresco 2009 $52.25

San Giuliano occupies the historic hillside vineyard of the same name, yet it comprises a total of 17 acres of vineyard area spread throughout the Piemonte zones of Roero, Asti, Neive, and Barbaresco. While owner/enologist Giulio Pastura continues his grandfather’s trade, he has wholly altered the winery’s orientation, pursuing high-quality production as opposed to bulk efforts. This limited-production wine (400 cases) is partially aged in Slavonian oak for a period of 18 months and receives an additional six months of bottle age prior to release. As the product of a ripe vintage, it offers accessibility, rich fruit flavors and a beautiful bouquet. Overall, this ‘09 is simply a pretty wine. I love this Barbaresco.

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