Somehow Sergio Germano’s wines seem to linger a little under the radar, which is more than a little surprising given the endorsements they have started to attract from key critics.
Every time I visit, I feel like things have moved forward – the winemaking has certainly evolved here, as at many addresses, and today the fruit shows fine purity, with measured extraction and large oak casks are used for ageing. What is more, recent vineyard acquisitions and inherited parcels have injected new impetus here. The estate was founded in 1856 and today rests with the fourth generation. Based in Serralunga d’Alba, the estate now has enviable holdings in famous Cru vineyards such as Vignarionda, Prapò, Cerretta and Lazzarito.
Sergio’s wines never seem to be reviewed in Antonio Galloni’s initial review of a new Barolo vintage and instead are covered in an addendum released later in the year. I am not sure why that is, but perhaps it has an impact on profile. It can be tricky given that Barolo releases do not fall in one specific month or two but are rather spread out across the year. Either way, under the radar they are, and under the radar means they are more keenly priced than you might expect!
A word on the vineyards:
Prapò lies right next to the Germano’s house and cellars in Serralunga d’Alba. It is a highly regarded site with a south-east exposure and an altitude of 340 metres allowing for slow ripening of the fruit, which has been beneficial in recent Piemontese vintages. The soils are calcareous but not as heavy as some other Serralunga vineyards such as neighbouring Cerretta, which means the tannins and structure in a young Prapò are not as dominant as in other Serralunga Cru. The vines here were planted in 1967 by Sergio’s father with some replanting having taken place since. The overall Cru extends over eight hectares and Germano is easily one of the two key references for this site.
Cerretta borders Prapo to the north, only just up the road from the Germano estate. The hill of Cerretta produces powerful, ageworthy wines on account of the calcareous soils. Cerretta is a big Cru covering 40 hectares, though only 80% is planted with vines. Germano owns four hectares here with south/ south-eastern exposures stretching up to 380 metres in altitude. Cerretta is divided in three zones, and the vines that are planted on the section which runs down to Cascina Sordo are regarded as the finest. This is where we find the Germano holding - these are perfectly situated. Today, the vines average in excess of 40 years of age. The resultant wines are rich, firm Barolo that require patience to reveal their true colours, yet aside from the bolder tannins, the Germano example regularly reveals outstanding harmony even at an early stage.
Please see below for my full notes. As yet neither Monica Larner nor Antonio Galloni have published notes on either of these wines, I have included Walter Speller’s informative notes from Jancis Robinson’s website. I tend to find Walter’s assessment of the Ettore Germano wines is closer to my own.
2019 NEW RELEASES
As we have some stock of the 2016 Riserva remaining and I recently read Walter Speller’s impressive note, I thought I would highlight it once more here.
Lazzarito was first mentioned as a vineyard in the land register of 1610. Today this MGA (Menzione Geografica Aggiuntiva, or appellation) covers 30 hectares at an altitude of 350 metres. The one-hectare parcel that belongs to Germano is oriented south-west and benefits from the afternoon sun. This is an old vine parcel with the vines dating back to 1931. Lazzarito is a fascinating Cru – as with various examples from Serralunga d’Alba, it can show some austerity in its youth, perhaps on account of the marl soils with veins of iron-rich sandstone. That said, with maturity, there is a silky quality to the tannins of Lazzarito and a sense of great refinement, as well as persistence, largely due to the calcareous element in the soil. Given the calibre of the parcel, Germano has opted to make a Riserva from the fruit from these beautifully situated vines and what a gorgeous wine it is. Riserva must be aged for 62 months before release, of which 18 months must have been in oak.
2016 Barolo Riserva, Lazzarito, Ettore Germano
£360 per 6 bottle case in bond
In the glass, the 2016 Lazzarito shows the classic garnet hue typical of Nebbiolo. The aromas bring together elements of rose, cinnamon and blood orange, all of which I found in the 2015, yet coupled with notes of darker spicier fruit. The palate shows a fine depth of fruit, wonderfully elegant yet with a sense of something held in reserve. Refined, beautifully balanced with notes of exotic spice and savoury elements emerging to the finish. This is already approachable – nothing is forced, and the tannins are finely-expressed, creating a sleek profile. Four to five years further cellarage will see this Riserva hit its plateau and I would expect it to drink well for a decade thereafter. Another success for Sergio Germano. (SL). Drink: 2026-2036+
18 points, Walter Speller, jancisrobinson.com
Lustrous mid ruby with orange tinges. The classic spice and concentrated slumbering cherry and dried fruit hints I associate with Lazzarito. Black-pepper tingle. Supple and generous on the palate yet contained and with fine long tannins on the finish. Very long focused supple fruit with the perfect dose of gripping but fine tannins. Already irresistible. (WS). Drink: 2022-2036
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All the best,