Sunday, June 3, 2012


A friend living in Alba tells me that amongst the locals Beppe Rinaldi is known as "Citrico." Apparently this is a nickname of long standing, dating back to when a much younger Beppe stepped up to the chalkboard in full view of the enology class and completed a chemical equation on the board with many several boatloads too much of citric acid. A name that recalls a simple mistake, but one that has stuck to a personality some might describe as tart.

I don't have any photographs of Beppe from this year's visit, because after gesturing towards the stairs and voicing a throaty "Pronto!" to our group, Beppe basically disappeared into the bottling room, not to be seen again. So, no pictures of Beppe.

There is of course this highly detailed rendering of the man that I was able to painstakingly assemble during last year's visit to Giuseppe Rinaldi and the few pictures that made it into the first draft of Wine Toy Story. But nothing from this year. Sorry. I did manage a handshake with Citrico, but the unfortunate trick about handshakes is that you can't operate the camera and the handshake at the same time.

It was Marta Rinaldi who led us around this year, which was very cool actually, because I had only briefly met her on our last visit and she seems really great. And no wilting flower. In fact, I came to find out that Marta has no problem at all swimming with the boys, because she does it regularly on the Alba water polo team. She is one of only three girls to play in the competitive weekly matches, actually. This being the Alba team of course everyone there is the heir to some Barolo estate or other, and she plays against several well known wine world names. I searched for an extremely long time to find this YouTube video of Marta pump faking in the face of a young male modernist producer and then taking the ball to the goal to share with you. Hope that you like it!

Er, actually no. I couldn't find that video, although I definitely did search for it. Please let me know if you do ever come across it!

Marta shows us the wooden fermenting vats at G. Rinaldi. This vat, which is the oldest, is used for the Nebbiolo grapes from the Brunate cru.

Each cru of Barolo from which Rinaldi harvests grapes is given its own fermenter. There is one each for Cannubi San Lorenzo, Ravera, Brunate, and Le Coste. For the longest time I had thought Cannubi San Lorenzo inferred two different plots, Cannubi and San Lorenzo, however that's not true. Cannubi San Lorenzo is one vineyard. Originally the vineyard was called in most references just "San Lorenzo," but then the name Cannubi was added to it, in much the same way that "Montrachet" is seen joined to "Puligny." The historical (and famous) Cannubi vineyard is located nearby the historical San Lorenzo vineyard. In a twist of fate, it is now possible to label a wine from Cannubi San Lorenzo as simply "Cannubi" if the producer wishes to, and that is true also for Barolo from Cannubi Muscatel: it can be labelled just "Cannubi" if that is what the producer wants to do. It is probably because I have had such a hard time understanding all of this that Beppe doesn't bother to talk with me much. I don't talk with me much, either.

Of course, as you know, Beppe blends his multiple Barolo crus together and makes only two Barolo bottlings: the "Cannubi San Lorenzo - Ravera" Barolo and the "Brunate - Le Coste" Barolo.

But now here is where things get all tricky and turned around: Beppe has been told by the authorities that pretty soon he will not be allowed to put multiple vineyard names on one bottle of Barolo. The new ruling says that only one cru can be named on an individual Barolo bottle label, not multiple crus.

Of course this would mean that Giuseppe Rinaldi's two different Barolos would not be made distinguishable from each other by the labelling. The family is considering adding made up "fantasy" names to the labels so that their customers can tell the difference between the two. They haven't picked out the final "fantasy" names as of yet, though.

I myself suggested calling one Beppe Barolo "Baldo" and the other "Bartolo," in honor of the other arch traditionalists and old friends in the zone. Marta replied that it would make sense to call the Cannubi San Lorenzo - Ravera bottling "Bartolo" since San Lorenzo is near Bartolo's old Cannubi stomping grounds. Of course that nomenclature probably won't happen, but we'll see what does.

In the meantime, Giuseppe Rinaldi, as well as the cantinas of Bartolo Mascarello and Poderi Oddero, have officially appealed the recent cru labelling regulation changes, hoping that the new rules will be overturned before they go into effect.

Perhaps this label of Bartolo's is an endangered species.

Bottle label talk aside, there is little that has changed in the cellar from our last visit.

Although they are awaiting some new casks.

And there are quite a few empty spaces in the family cellar where the homemade sparkling wine bottles once rested. Seems like somebody has been thirsty.

But there is plenty more to drink down there.

And maybe a few surprises, as well.

Since we'd been talking so much about the multiple cru bottlings of G. Rinaldi, I asked Marta to clear up the story about the single vineyard magnums. The bit that you sometimes hear is that after the blends have been completed Beppe bottles what is remaining in the single cru casks in large format bottles. So, the story goes, you can find single vineyard Brunate and such from G. Rinaldi from magnum up in to the current day. Marta stated flat out that this story is wrong, and told me that she knows what goes into the magnums because she bottles them herself. She said that what does go into the magnums is the same blend that is in the 750mls. So no single vineyard magnums, at least not since Beppe rejoined his father in the cellar in 92 or 93. A little later research on my part with the google search indicates that the spurious rumor may have started with Beppe's father Battista and his habit of ageing a Brunate Riserva in large format bottles before rebottling it after 10 years in 750mls.

The same "Barolo di Barolo" source indicates that it was Battista Rinaldi who, during his tenure as the mayor of Barolo, led the change towards communal ownership of the spectacular Castle of Barolo. The Castle (pictured above) now houses a wine museum while hosting other activities.

But of course you never know the for sure real deal story at Giuseppe Rinaldi, as for instance when he told me that he would be bottling the Freisa with the same style label as the Barolo in the future, instead of with the old gray one. Which does not seem to be what has happened.

In fact now there is talk this year of eliminating this structured Freisa offering (my notes read: "Structured!") from production altogether. Of course, such a change might receive little attention in the States, as only the Barolos from G. Rinaldi are in fact officially imported into the US.

Which isn't to say that this Ruche from G. Rinaldi isn't delicious, because it sure is.

We also miss on these shores the Dolcetto, the Barbera, and a Langhe Nebbiolo (this last sourced entirely from Ravera).

Which of course are not the only bottles which aren't imported that you might find resting in the cellar of Giuseppe Rinaldi.

Apparently, the Citric One wishes for nothing. I, on the other hand, would gladly take another glass of that Ruche. Or the 2009 Cannubi San Lorenzo - Ravera. Whatever they end up calling it.

Maybe next year.


Ken V said...


The story I have read about the nickname "Citrico" is that it was because his hair was lemon yellow when he was young. I'll have to see if I can find where I read that.


Ken V said...

Great post by the way. Marta is quite special and will make a great heir to her father.

Levi with an i said...

Let me know what you find, Ken.

Thanks for reading.

Alfonso Cevola said...

Think about Mascarello - they own property in Cannubi (proper) and make no mention of it on their it all depends on how much of a big deal one wants to make of it.

I'm for purity - not mixing the names up - but as far as the wine - if they want to blend the vineyards or keep them separately that's an aesthetic 9 and [philosophical) decision for each and every winemaker