We are pleased to let you know that our Piemonte Vintage Report, referred to in our recently emailed offers of Francesco Rinaldi and Elio Grasso, is now live. As Simon mention in this report, there are some thrilling wines from the gently expanded number of producers with which we are delighted to be working. In terms of vintages, we should point out that Barbaresco release ahead of Barolo as a consequence of legal ageing requirements. Therefore while we will be offering 2015 Barolo, we will concurrently be offering 2016 Barbaresco. The release schedule is somewhat protracted and we will send out details of individual producers’ wines over the coming months as and when they are confirmed to us.
Another new estate for us is Guiseppe Cortese, whose 2016 Barbaresco Rabajà we can now offer; Simon's comments below.
When a producer you rate highly suggests you visit another estate, you tend to heed the advice – they never make recommendations lightly. So, at the suggestion of Gianluca Grasso, we arranged a visit to the estate of Guiseppe Cortese in the heart of Barbaresco. Suffice to say, it was a great recommendation. On the basis of our tasting we find it odd that the wines of Guiseppe Cortese seem to languish on the sidelines, not featuring heavily in critics’ notes and guides on the region. Odder still when you consider that the Cortese Barbaresco are based firmly on a four-hectare plot within the famed vineyard of Rabaja, and boast vines of 70 years of age. The estate itself is modest but with enviable views over the Crus of Martinenga, Asili, and their parcel of Rabaja within spitting distance.
Sadly, Guiseppe Cortese passed away at the beginning of this year, but his work is being carried forward by a close-knit team lead by his son Pier Carlo and his daughter Tiziana. When we visited, it was clearly still a difficult time for the family, and I could not help but feel rather emotional looking onto the vineyard to see Guiseppe’s widow progressing through the vineyard carefully pruning the vines. Guiseppe achieved so much on these few hectares of vines and the family remains dedicated to preserving his legacy. The approach here is traditional, by which I mean the wines benefit from long macerations and are aged in large oak foudres or botti, as they are termed in Italy; no new oak, no French oak barriques. Antonio Galloni recently commented: ‘‘as always the Guiseppe Cortese Barbarescos are classically inspired and built.’
As I have previously commented, climate change appears to be bringing a certain consistency to the wines of Piemonte, both Barolo and Barbaresco. The fruit profile is a touch more generous, tannins are a fraction softer, and the edges have been rounded to a degree. If you are looking for the supreme elegance and aromatic complexity for which Nebbiolo is famed, then wines such as these from Cortese should feature on your list of targets.
2016 Barbaresco, Rabajà, Guiseppe Cortese
£220 per 6 bottle case in bond
Simon Larkin MW, Atlas Fine Wines
Aged for 22 months in botti, the 2016 captures aromas of fresh fruit, perfumed dark cherry, damson with a minty note. On the palate there is a deep core of fruit, with very fine clarity and precision. Sleek in texture with an assertive, mineral backbone. This is an energetic style – powerful and intense as befits a Cru like Rabajà, but with an overriding impression of balance and finesse. You can sense some of the more complex herbal notes developing. I am excited by this wine’s potential and it is clear to see why Pier Carlo Cortese has opted to produce a Riserva (aged for 40 months) in this vintage. Drink 2024-2034. Tasted in February 2019
Antonio Galloni, Vinous, 93+
Just bottled, the 2016 Barbaresco Rabajà is massively backward. Dark and imposing, the 2016 is an especially brooding wine. Black cherry , sage, lavender, menthol and dark spice fill out the wine's vertical frame effortlessly. Readers will have to be patient here, as the 2016 is not likely to be ready to drink anytime soon. Pier Carlo Cortese gave the 2016 22 months in cask, and has a Riserva in the cellar as well. This is a superb wine in the making. Drink 2022-2036. Tasted in October 2018.
This is a small-scale producer, so we only have a limited volume available. Equally, we have just started working with the estate and in a five-star vintage, so volumes are further limited.