|Puttin' on the Rizzi.|
|It is a special occasion indeed that I find myself using a pencil.|
|How do you play a good game of checkers when all the pieces are red? These are the questions I ask myself sometimes.|
|I took this picture at the Rizzi estate during the 2012 harvest there.|
|The Rizzi cru.|
Fondetta is a steep plot composed of compressed sandy stones. Vines were planted there in 1972, and then additionally in the mid 1990s, 2001, and 2007. The oldest of the vines is bottled as Fondetta by Rizzi.
In Pajore the vines are older. Those were planted in the 1960s, although there was some additional planting in 2008. The planting in 2008 followed the purchase of a second Pajore parcel by Rizzi in 2007. Again, the older vines are sold as the cru bottling by Rizzi, and that bottling is the Pajore. About 250 cases are made of the Rizzi Pajore each year.
The Rizzi cru is quite big, and basically in two parts. There is the majority of the Rizzi vineyard, which is sandy stones, and then there is the Boito parcel of Rizzi, which is mostly clay. The Boito section is at the top of the vineyard behind the family house. One portion of the Boito vines was planted in 1969, and the other was planted in 1994. Enrico mentioned to me that while in Boito they do a lot of green harvesting, less is necessary in Pajore, probably because of the higher percentage of old vines in the later.
Much of the Nebbiolo from the younger vines is sold off in bulk as wine.
In terms of style, I was told by Enrico that the Fondetta tends to make the more elegant wines of the three crus, while the Boito turns out the most powerful. Pajore tends towards the middle in terms of weight. This has been my experience as well after sampling the 4 vintages of Boito and Pajore at the tasting, as well as a 2000 Rizzi Fondetta a couple of years ago.
That got me to thinking, because I realized that although the Rizzi wines are very accessible, they really need time to show their layered nuances. They are open knit wines in their youth, and I think for that reason perhaps not given their due in the US market. We may be nearly over the "I want a BIG wine, like a Barolo" era of Italian wine consumers in this country, but I think that many still expect a fine Nebbiolo to display a lot of grip. The Rizzi wines do not. This is perhaps for many different reasons. The cap is not punched down or submerged, would be one reason. That means there is less contact of the juice with the tannin bearing skins. The wines are then fermented in stainless steel, and probably (although I did not ask this) with some degree of temperature control. This also emphasizes the fruit profile. And this is Barbaresco that doesn't see that much wood or that much time in wood. The wood is large and used, and the wine is in and out of the botte in under a year and a half. So not much wood tannins, and also not so much time for oxidation through the staves. The wine is also not racked that much. It might be that a Nebbiolo wine at Rizzi is racked only once after it goes into wood. That isn't so much, relatively speaking. That also contributes, I would imagine, to more pure tasting primary fruit. And finally, it may have something to do with Treiso. Treiso was an area well known for Dolcetto, Enrico tells me, before the rise in the fortunes of Barbaresco and the desire of growers to plant more Nebbiolo. The style of Dolcetto that Treiso is known for, Enrico said, is one that is less strong than what is found in Dogliani or in Alba generally. It may be that that "less strong" characteristic carries through to the Nebbiolo as well.
I bring all this up because I think that Rizzi is overlooked in the US market. As I mentioned, they do not have a US importer, even though they are a sizable estate that owns large parcels in significant crus. And I think that they do not have an importer because the wines do not seem in their youth to be entirely "serious." They are red fruited. Pure. Easy to drink. Open knit. Accessible. And if you didn't like them then you might think that they tasted commercial, even though they are not flashy at all. I would just say that I have had very good experiences with how these wines age, as for example with the 2000 Fondetta that I mentioned earlier, and I think that we may well be witnessing a classic example of a market that is not properly understanding the potential of the wines. They are being dismissed as being simpler than they really are. With a bit of time, they show you what they are about. Buyers in other countries seem to have already gathered this, as for example Rizzi sells decently in France, which is in general surprising for any Italian producer.
|The Rizzi wines are easy to drink with food at any age, even giant slabs of cheese as big as these.|
In terms of other vintages, 2012 seemed to Enrico to be a very good vintage, avoiding the hail that fell in certain parts of Barolo, and also the dryness of other parts of Italy. 2011 was a very hot year, with rich wines, and powerful Barbera. Enrico prefers 2010 to 2009 for its better blend of classic elegance, acidity, and complexity. He also finds 2005 Barbaresco to be better than 2005 Barolo in most cases, and he attributed that to the earlier picking dates in Barbaresco, which allowed growers there to avoid the rain that started on November 2, in 2005 and continued for four days.
In my own opinion I would say that the 2007 vintage is my least favorite of the recent Rizzi years. It displays at Rizzi the characteristics that I tend to dislike elsewhere: the fruit loops of unbalanced fr00t, the lack of a real underpinning of any kind, and the need to settle down and in. I have some sympathy for a grower who has to find an importer on the back of what 2007 brought. But some folks certainly like 2007 for the same reasons that I don't, so perhaps Enrico will be okay.
Whether or not the wines do find an importer, I plan to follow them in the future.
|Enrico Dellapiana says "Respect the Boito."|