A few of years ago I was blessed to attend a dinner with a double vertical of Capellano wines, the Rupestris and Piè Franco. These names refer to rootstock of the vines. Rupestris vines being grafted onto American rootstock, resistant to phylloxera, Piè Franco or French foot vines being ungrafted, on their own roots, and thus susceptible to attack from phylloxera!
For the second time, March 2021, I had the chance to repeat the session!
The two wines although from the same vineyard and made in the same way are remarkably different. Typically the Rupestris has much more generosity of fruit a richness and certain power. The Piè Franco is lythe, elegant and sophisticated. It’s going to be fascinating to see what happens in the Yarra Valley, where, as of the last 5 years or so, replanting from old vines on their own roots to grafted vines on large scale to combat the ingress of phylloxera has commenced. Will we see the same powering up of the wines? Only time will tell.
A Vintage Chart for Barolo … Is it possible?
Just prior to attending the session a Vintage chart from Giuseppe Vajra was posted on instagram.
I’m well known for bagging the crap out of vintage charts. Never seen a good one, until now. Scoring a wine range with just one dimmension is a waste of time, particularly when it covers an area like South East Australia AKA NSW, Vic & SA.
I’ve finally seen one that shows careful consideration and merits the same.
Not surprisingly it’s Giuseppe Vajra’s behind it. It’s only for the 10km x 15km Barolo region.
Presenting 2 spectrums, and 3 vintage descriptors, it’s designed to give an insight into the last 20 years in Barolo. It simply highlights the key elements of Barolo with enough detail to add context.
Reflecting on the wines in the Uber home I flicked to this chart, it all made sense. F#@k Me! A vintage chart that actually added real value.
The baseline in Barolo has lifted over the last 30 years. Dud years are less of an issue. Vignerons are much further down the long and winding road of understanding how to manage vineyards and fruit in any given, climate change impacted year. Now it’s more a case of which years to drink early and which years to hold.
Perhaps that would be 6 dimension to add to Giuseppe’s chart! It could only be an extreme generalisation given just how much winemaking choices impact the life span of any wine.
Maybe one day we’ll see this format used for other regions and wine types.
Dark with an edge of lift. The vibrant acid of Barbera sitting well on the palate which has resolved and settled. Secondary characters building with florals, earthy and savoury notes.
2013 Langhe Nebbiolo
Excellent Nebbiolo. Line, length and purity. Dark licorice Fun floral with great harmony. Just delicious.
‘Piè Franco’ Vertical
Highlights of the Piè Franco line-up: 2004, 2008, 2007, 2011.
The texture here is outstanding with great line and length. Very pretty florals, savoury with a wonderful core of elegant fruit. Faintest bit of lift sitting well amongst the fruit. Delicious flowers on palate. Truffles & divine secondaries are out to play. Excellent, fresh and energetic.
Bigger bolder. Solid core of savoury, leathery fruit. Tannins hitting the mid-palate. Sweet fruit. A little angularity on first pour. 2005’s have taken a bit of time to come together. With time in the glass this freshened up and lengthened, still maintaining the mid-palate structure.
Following in the same vein as the 2005 being bigger and bolder. Better length of tannin here. Savoury, huge wine, lovely fruit underlying, a little oxy with a leather and savoury notes. Riper tannins than 2005.
Fresh, perfumed with excellent line and length. Slightly edgy tannin. Wonderful fruit harmony & complexity. Exellent wine. So much fun.
Delicious. Lovely balance, freshness and development. Supple tannins. A little tar & licorice with great depth and length. Sophisticated and pure showing just how good 2008’s are. Ripeness of tannin & acid balance working well here.
Initially looking quite primary and youthful. Took some air time in the glass to come together. Lots going on here with lovely tannin. Savoury with licorice & fennel over darker fruits. One to watch the evolution of.
Second time this wine has either been corked or oxidised. In this case oxidised. All the halmarks of 2010 sitting underneath. Bold, big, ripe long tannins. A shame it looked so tired.
Beautiful drink. Perfume, together, excellent nose, fine, long tannins slightly dusty tannins. An example of grace and harmony.
Youthful. On previous occasions it has taken a day or so to settle into it’s skin. No surprise that a fresh pour was a little primary. Excellent texture and length. Together with harmony over an excellent core of red fruits. Beautifully weight. A long life ahead of it. It’lls bring much more with time.
2015 Giuseppe Rinaldi Brunate
Outstanding way to finish the night. Note just reads EPIC! And it was. Seamless, with all the pieces in the right place. Layered, complex, rich, yet beautifully weighted. Rinaldi’s Brunate is on the Barolo side of the Cru near the border with La Morra. The wines of Barolo & La Morra are always much more approachable in their youth than those of Serralunga and it shows here.
Cappellano on the Barolo ‘Piè Franco’
The great deeds are not accomplished when sober
Heresy, challenge to homologation, return to the origins. In the second half of the 1980s, Teobaldo Cappellano put into practice what many regarded as folly, namely the decision to grow in the Gabutti vineyards some rows of ungrafted nebbiolo Michet, the system in use before the adoption of American graft after the diffusion of the Phylloxera. A “backwards evolution” to borrow Teobaldo’s own words, guided by the desire to somehow return to the true Barolo and to the idea of purity; but also, a homage to grandfather Giovanni who spent the final years of his life in Africa trying to understand whether the adoption of the new system was inevitable and in search of vines resistant to the new terrible parasite. Many bet on the failure of the enterprise, persuaded as they were that the Phylloxera would quickly attack the ungrafted vines: instead, those rows are still there, intact and healthy, proud as a hymn to bravery and utopia. Their gift is an “irregular” Barolo, seductive, of extraordinary complexity and intensity, which conveys the unmistakable imprinting of the Serralunga territory, without posturing and magic tricks.
Tradition noun Latin traditio -onis, literally «delivery, transmission», derived from Latin tradĕre «to hand over, deliver»]
During the years we have been sometimes added, for various reasons, to the ranks of the “traditionalists”. We believe that this definition is a limit only when it is associated with the deceptive term of “conservatives”. We do not reject it ‒ rather, we lay claim to it ‒ in its true meaning of delivery and transmission of lore and practices, indispensable values for progress and for that sort of “backwards evolution” my father loved to talk about.
In practice, these values translate into an activity respectful of the land and of its offerings: in the vineyard we work with an organic methodology (copper, sulphur in different ways, and no pesticides), in the cellar we limit our interventions to the minimum by reproducing exactly what the elder generations used to do, only with more refined tools.
The basic concept is that of ‘delicacy’, from the grapevine to the bottle: we prune with non-invasive techniques, we harvest with tools which preserve the integrity of the grapes, we stock our bottles in an underground cellar purposely built to guarantee the perfect ageing until shipping.
Who does not stand on one side or the other of the fence, is the fence himself
Vladimir Il’ič Ul’janov
Winemakers Cappellano have often been associated with the concept of “revolution” ‒ quite an oxymoron if one thinks of the established renown as “traditionalists”. And yet, tradition and revolution are two sides of the same coin ‒ a revolutionary or nonconformist attitude seems to be inscribed in the genes of the Cappellano patriarchs.
A grandfather, Francesco, so stubborn as to leave the Langhe to set up a wine business in Africa (specifically in the former Italian colony of Eritrea).
A father, Baldo, who returned to Italy with his family and with the dream to restore the family vineyard from scratch. He purchased back a plot of land in one of the most prestigious crus in the Langhe ‒ Gabutti. He re-established the production of Barolo Chinato with the old recipe, and realised his father’s old dream of an ungrafted vineyard.
A bit crazy, dreamers, reckless. Visionary, brave, precursors. These words and many more were used about them, this ‒ and much more ‒ can be inferred from their family history, only briefly sketched here. These traits best characterise those personalities which bring about change and revolution. We like to believe that this tiny seed of folly, suggestive of a brighter future and of a dream worth fighting for, is now endemic and permeates me as well as all the wonderful people who have made the vineyard reach this day. We strongly believe that the right motivation, fuelled by a fire, is necessary to make life worth living. Call it a cause, call it utopia. This pursuit makes us happy and, hopefully, also active and productive parts of this world-system.
If I dare to use the word, ideologically I am certainly an anarchist. I believe that I am civilised enough to grant myself a degree of self-rule.
Fabrizio De André
I would like to indulge with memories now because the term “anarchy” is inseparable from my father. I grew up together with the vineyard, and both of us were grown by a free and responsible man. Free to express concepts and elaborate projects against the mainstream views; free from the human calling to follow the flock for the sake of comfort and safety. Responsible for he was always animated by unyielding respect for the others and by the innate attitude to side with the weak. Anarchy and sociability, freedom and responsibility. For a child as well as for a company, growing up in the union of the opposites means to put a philosophy into practice, to take it as a model beyond the mere theory. My father bequeathed to us a sort of anarchic thinking and independent attitude which prompted us to even question (or re-think) his own work, lest we fall into the trap of a diverse yet equally undesirable homologation. What remains, unforgettable, is an approach to life ‒ and to winemaking ‒ which signifies what really matters to us: it is unthinkable to follow a random dogma, in particular when it is nothing more than a momentary fashion. We are interested in the meaning. A good produce, the true expression of what the land and the season give, combined with the wisdom necessary to pursue harmony and pleasure. We are devoted to the ethics of land and man, we believe in humankind and in Nature, but we start from small to think big. Do not look for us on the big stages, rather expect to find us in uncommon places, in unexpected situations which may let us share a glass of wine and a part of the journey.
To Wine “Guides” humblyspeaking:
In 1983 I asked the journalist Sheldon Wasserman not to publish scores for my wine. Not only did he not publish the scores in his book “Italian Noble Wines” he also wrote that I had asked not to be in the “classificatios” in which a comparison becomes a divise numerical term rather than expressing shared human toil. I have not changed my mind: my tiny farm producing 20,000 bottles of wine a year interests only a small number of customerfriends. I believe in freedom of information, even if the judgement is negative. I think of my hills as an anarchical arena, with no inquisitors or opposing faction’s, whose inner richness is stimulated by severe, thoughtful critics; I strive for a community that can still express solidarity with whoever has not been so wellrewarded by Mother nature.
Wishful thinking? Allow me to dream.
Where in the World is Capellano?
The Garbutti Vineyard is in Serralunga roughly in the center on the western border with Moneforte d’Alba. It’s contours run continue into the Cru’s of Parafada and Lazzarito.
If you have a Barolo MGA subscription you can check out more details of the Gabutti Cru here.