Friday, June 8, 2012

Returning to Brovia

We arrived back at the Brovia cantina, and with high expectations. It had been a tremendous first visit a year ago, and at that time I had come away thinking that Brovia had produced a more solid range of 2007 Barolo than anybody. We had tasted a few hundred 2007s at Nebbiolo Prima before that visit and Brovia had been the real highlight, across the board. I was especially curious to see where those wines stood a year later.

The 1995 was the first vintage of ca' mia that was released by Brovia.
I have a great deal of respect for what Brovia has achieved in recent years, and yet it seems like their reputation broadly is not yet at the level of the actual wines. The ca' mia in particular I think can stand with most any Barolo produced, as a bottle of 1995 consumed on this trip confirmed.

We again sat down with Alex Sanchez, who strikes me as both thoughtful and generous. Alex has a quiet personality, and speaks about the wines in an open ended fashion, leaving room in his thought for the changes and future epiphanies that follow a complex beverage. Alex doesn't so much declare, as examine. For example, Alex mentions that the Brovia 2000s and 2006s are still putting on weight, "still growing" in palate density as they mature inside the bottle. He contends that 2008 is "maybe a vintage that is a little bit different to understand, but the potential is there." He tells us that while 2008 production levels were in line with the quantity levels produced by Brovia in 2007, 2010 had a lower quantity resulting from 2010's shift to complete organic viticulture at Brovia.

Looking back to benchmarks, Alex mentions that 1998 showed "a perfect picture of each cru - each show's its character." It is beyond interesting to taste the four cru Barolos of Brovia in any vintage, because each is vinified in the same manner: spontaneous fermentation in cement tanks, a 3 week maceration of the skins achieved through pumping over, and ageing in wooden botti of the same size. The means used are the same for each of the cru bottlings: Garblet Sue (which is from Bricco Fiasco), Villero, Rocche, and ca' mia. So it really is the vineyard that shows the difference in any given vintage. Of course it is hard to sum up those differences in words, at least for me. I found it noteworthy that Alex said in his opinion Rocche is the cru that changes the most in flavor profile from vintage to vintage.

The ca' mia, based around Serralunga fruit from the Brea vineyard, does often seems like an outlier from the rest of the group, as all three of the others are in Castiglione Falletto. Sometimes when I drink ca' mia the closest cognate for me is actually Cappellano, whose Rupestris is also from Serralunga fruit.

Brovia's 2008 ca' mia Barolo.
On this trip we tasted all four cru Barolos of Brovia from 2008, amongst other wines. The 2008 Barolos had been bottled this past September. Amongst my notes the words "control" and "compact" tend to crop up quite a bit, testifying to what I generally think of as a Barolo vintage this is a bit turned in on itself at the moment. I myself imagine that 2008s will be retiscent for a bit as 1998s were, and then show very open if a bit rustic, earthy, and herbal around the edges, as again 1998s often do today. 2008s can in general show muted aromatics at the moment. For especially that reason I myself do not plan on opening a lot of 2008 Barolo bottles right away. I like to take in the aromas, rather than try to hunt them down.

We also tasted from cask a couple of 2010 Barolos from Brovia on this visit (the 2010 ca' mia is spectacular, btw), a 2009 ca' mia, and returned to a host of 2007s in bottle. Perhaps because I had liked the 2007 Brovia Barolos so much amongst the context of other 2007 Barolos, I had high hopes. I was thinking that perhaps the wines would have quieted down over the course of the year, lost some of their tutti frutti character, and become drier and you know what? I was wrong. That didn't really happen. Perhaps because we tasted the 2007s after the 2008s, the fruit of the 2007s seemed expansive, and still somewhat facile, at least in the case of the Villero and the Garblet Sue. But it is still early days, and we are talking about long ageing Barolo for heaven's sake, so maybe I should wait for more than just one year to make pronouncements. I sure did think that the 2007 ca' mia made a strong argument for the greatness of ca' mia, even when from a vintage that I just don't really care for. I'd still hazard to say that the 2007s from Brovia are some of the better Barolos from that year, so far as that goes.

Tasting and copious note taking over, we headed out to see Brovia's Rocche cru. And wouldn't you know it but the batteries of my camera died just as we were getting out of the car and into the vineyard. So I have no pictures of Rocche at all. Luckily, the great Gregory dal Piaz was also there, as he was at all the visits that I made in the Piemonte this year, and he has allowed me to use here some of the photographs that he took of Rocche. In the above shot you can see Rocche in the distance, from the Monforte side. There is the Castle of Castiglione Falletto in the right of the picture, and the hillock of Ceretto's Bricco Rocche rising above the road on the left hand side. Below that road is Rocche di Castiglione.

This is the view at the top of Rocche, from the road. Many of Brovia's Rocche vines were planted back in 1966, although there is a spectacular terraced parcel at the bottom the vineyard that was planted only 5 years ago. That bottom parcel also belongs to Brovia. This is an important cru for the estate, as it is the cru they have been working with for by far the longest period of time. If you have had an old bottle of Brovia Barolo you most likely drank a wine from Rocche.

And here is a shot looking down the slope of Rocche. Unfortunately you can't see from this shot just how steep the vineyard is. It is actually nasty steep. Like wicked, nasty steep. I really had no idea until I myself walked all the way down to the bottom of the vineyard. Or more like held on till the bottom of the vineyard, as I kept grabing the vine row posts on my way down there, afraid I was about to fall. No joke, and this is true, there was somebody's broken tennis shoe in the dirt down there. Like somebody had lost a shoe sliding down the slope and had never gotten back to recover it, but had just tried to crawl out of there as best they could, lucky to escape with some bruises.

This is the other reason I don't have any pictures of that bottom parcel for you: trying to take a picture down there would be perilous. You are at a disadvantage just trying to stand up straight. But let me tell you, there are some low trees and bushes and then a clearing opens up and it looks like an old Roman terraced vineyard. And it looks like a sun trap. At any rate, it is pretty cool. If you can make it down there, definitely check it out.

Which is what I would say about Brovia in general: check it out. This a producer turning out some tremendous wines.


Martin said...

Levi, really great posts from the beautiful Langhe I've been enjoying them a lot Maybe next time we meet it could be there instead of NYC.

All the best


Levi with an i said...

Sounds good, Martin.

Looking forward to seeing you one place or another.

Thanks for the note.