If you don’t yet know the wines of Giovanni Rosso, I wouldn’t be surprised. That said, given the quality of their wines in the 2016 vintage, I don’t think this lack of recognition will last much longer.
Monica Larner has just reviewed two wines from this estate in 2016, but not a word has been published on them by Antonio Galloni. The complications of this year have rendered normal tasting calendars impossible, and even Monica Larner ended up tasting samples in the comfort of her own home.
I visited the estate of Giovanni Rosso last year and spent some time walking through the vineyards, touring the cellar and tasting various recent vintages with the winemaker. It was all too easy to be convinced that this was an estate that had identified its goals and one that was focused on quality.
The Rossos have been making wine in Serralunga d’Alba since the 1890s and today have holdings within some 12 crus in this commune, including La Serra, Cerretta, Broglio, Sorana and notably Damiano and Vigna Rionda, both of which were mentioned as far back as 1694. They have also acquired a new vineyard in Valle del Mondo towards the Roddino boundary. Their cellars are nested in the curve of a valley, down from the Prapo vineyard. Giovanni’s son, Davide, took over responsibility for winemaking in 2001, having studied oenology and worked at various cellars in France – at that time he was just 27. Davide’s ambition is clear, not just in the exacting standards evidenced here in Barolo, but also in Sicily where he has commenced a new project.
Why will you hear more of this estate? Well, simply put, quality is rising rapidly – new investment has delivered state of the art winemaking facilities, providing ample space for maceration and maturation. Perhaps the most dramatic illustration of their commitment to quality in the long term is their decision to uproot and replant two-thirds of their holdings in what is regarded as the jewel in the crown, a significant 1.2 hectares of the Vigna Rionda cru. To put this into context, imagine pulling up two-thirds of either DRC’s 1.7 hectare Romanee Conti vineyard or Rousseau’s 1.4 hectares of Clos de Bèze! From the 0.40 hectares that remain to Rosso since 2011’s replanting, they produce a mere 1800 bottles of Vigna Rionda, while the fruit from the young vines in the replanted sections goes into a Langhe Nebbiolo, all this fruit declassified until the vines reach sufficient maturity. Both wines are made under the Ester Canale label. Taking this decision in one of Barolo’s most famous vineyards tells you a lot about their intent. This vineyard was made legendary by the Vigna Rionda vintages of Bruno Giacosa in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990, many of which rank among the greatest Barolo ever made. Replanting such a hallowed vineyard is a major undertaking, but the Rossos are taking no shortcuts to quality. Vigna Rionda is a special vineyard – full south facing, and a limestone base - and the Rossos are treating it as such.
The above highlights the growing reputation of this estate, one firmly rooted in history but now clearly building quality for the future. I have been fascinated to see the winemaking approach refine and adjust, backed up by the bold decisions the family has taken in the vineyard.
To me, many of the Cru of Serralunga d’Alba show the power of Barolo, but few show finesse to the extent of Cerretta. The Rosso's Cerretta parcel has been in the family for a century and was partly replanted in 1984 and 2000…the vineyard stretches like an amphitheatre facing south-east and rises to over 350 metres. A small copse shelters the vineyard from stronger winds. The soil of Cerretta is mainly limestone, clay and marl, and revealing very few pebbles in the surface, it can look like pale, newly set cement when wet (as my boots can testify) and becomes flaky when dry. The balance between power and finesse demands incredibly high standards in the vineyard with green harvest and canopy management necessary to encourage the grapes to full maturity and bring about a finer quality of tannins in the skins. Winemaking must be equally as attentive to avoid extracting too much from the skins – temperature and duration of maceration are key factors. This is what has impressed me so much at Rosso – the tannins are so well-managed, and the fruit is achieving fine ripeness. This was evidenced in the overlooked and underrated 2015s and now is showcased in the exceptional 2016s. I loved the dark brooding fruit quality of the 2016 Cerretta, it already shows a complex melange of nuances, but there is no doubt this will age beautifully – I can’t wait to see how it shows in 8-10 years’ time.
2016 Barolo, Cerretta, Giovanni Rosso
£285 per 6 bottle case in bond
95 points, Monica Larner, robertparker.com
The Giovanni Rosso 2016 Barolo Cerretta is a tight, focused and high-energy expression of Nebbiolo. Red and purple fruit aromas of cassis, dried cranberry and cherry provide pretty highlights, but ample space is given to those equally pretty aromas of licorice, campfire ash and candied orange peel that so deftly play supporting roles. To the palate, this is a glossy, polished wine with enough tannic kick to carry it forward for another 10 or 20 years of cellar aging. Drink : 2023-2045.
Please let us know of your interest.
All the best,