Modernist or not – La Spinettas great wines

The battle between modernists and traditionalists in Piemonte was maybe at it’s peek some 10-15 years ago. It concerned things like shorter maceration-periods, new oak vs. old slavonian casks and no or total de-stemming.

Today we find wines that show the trademark of both modernists and traditionalists as well as all kind of mixes between the two of them – but most wines of the new millenium have one thing in common: they are made with riper fruit and in a more fruity approachable style that doesn’t need decades in bottle before you open them. And the best thing is that the longevity of the wines does not seem to have been compromised.

The Rivetti family of La Spinetta was one of those who was leading the revolution and showing that you can make approachable nebbiolo that still got an impressive (or almost awesome) backbone of tannins and acidity. They started back in the 1970s and they did it with Moscato d’Asti – Piemontes underappreciated sweet light sparkling wine – the closest you get to pure grapejuice when it comes to wine.

But already from the start the Rivettis had there sights set on making great red wine.  Braida and Giacomo Bologna had shown what could be done with the barbera grape with their now legendary Bricco dell’Ucellone (1982) and in 1985 the Barbera d’Alba Ca’ di Pian was created at La Spinettas winery in Castagnole Lanze 1985. It is now La Spinettas entry-level wine – but there is nothing simple about it and it offers great value for your money.

Pin was next – a groundbreaking blend of nebbiolo and barbera (1989). Six years later came the first Barbaresco Cru Vigneto Gallina (and also the first wine to get the now famous rhino on the label). Barbaresco Vigneto Starderi and Barbera d’Alba Gallina followed 1996. IN 1997 came Barbaresco Vigneto Valeriano, 1998 Barbera d’Asti Superiore Bionzo and 2000 La Spinetta bought their first vineyard in Barolo – Campè. And since then the producer has also acquired 65 hectar of land in Tuscany.

What makes La Spinetta modernists is the Rivettis firm belief in new french oak for all their prestige wines. They also use rather short maceration-periods (7-8 days) and so called rotofermenters – rotating vessels for the fermentation and color extraction of their wines. This may make the Spinetta wines a bit more juicy and fruity than those from many other great producers of Barbaresco, Barbera and Barolo. But as I said above – these are serious wines that you can cellar for decades if you like.

So what’s up next? Earlier this years La Spinetta bought the historic sparkling wine producer Contratto in Canelli – and the results so far is stunning. But more on Contratto later here in Uncorked.

In the top photo: The wonderful Manuela Rivetti of La Spinetta. You can see the vineyards for Ca’ di Pian on the hills in the background.

La Spinettas’s Barbaresco Bordini 2007

It’s been all work and no play since EricssonUncorked returned from our short trip to Italy. And I haven’t written nearly as much as I should have about the wonderful wines I’ve tasted at for example La Spinetta and Quintarelli.

I will return with a longer post from our visit at La Spinettas Winery in Castagnole Lanze but for now I will just focus on one of it’s latest wines – the Barbaresco Bordini. Made from nebbiolo grapes from a younger vineyard that the Rivettis bought in 2006 for the production of Langhe Nebbiolo. But the fruit was so good that the family decided to make an vinyeard Barbaresco instead, says Manuela Rivetti!

The Bordini vineyard lies in Neive 270 meters above the sea level with south exposure and comprises 4 hectars of vines on calcerous soil. The average age of the wines is between 20-25 years. Average yield was 3 tons/hectar and the total production was 13000 bottles in 2007.

The fermentation lasted for 7-8 days in modern rotofermenters and malolactic were made in oak (50 percent new and 50 percent one year old french medium toasted oak casks) followed by 20-22 months ageing in the barrels. Then followed 3 months on stainless steel before bottling with no filtration or clarifying and an additional 12 months in bottle before release.

All this has resulted in an orange-red wine with a big, sweet and juicy aroma. I found elements of herbs, leather and lots of red berries on the nose. The juicyness is carried all the way to the palate with a concentrated taste of red berries, dried fruits and herbs. The tannins are tough and tight and the wine really needs some additional bottletime. But the long finish is filled with luscious fruit and oak/fudge-notes and for those of us who loves a little bit of harshness in our wines it is already lovely to drink. But it will improve for 5-8 years! I can understand why the Rivettis wanted to something more than just a Langhe Nebbiolo with this vineyard/wine!