Cavallotto has been a winery on the verge of a break-through for several vintages and it is with mixed feeling that a say this. Long a little known producer of great, traditionally styled Baroli, Cavallotto has finally become a mature player on the world’s stage. A recent re-release of back vintage Barolo just highlighted how well these wines age and to now have to share them with all the world leaves me just a touch melancholy.
Situated just north of the Village of Castiglione Falletto, the Cavallotto family’s Bricco Boschis estate is ideally situated with a west-southwestern exposition in a concave depression that flows down from the top of a ridgeline. A fifth generation of Cavallotto, Alfio and Giuseppe now represent the estate and continue the traditions, started by their grandfather in 1948, of producing, bottling and selling their own wine.
Spending time with the brothers is an experience as the intense and slightly contrarian character of Giuseppe is balanced by the steadfast sagacity of Alfio. Together they are a virtual encyclopedia on wine making and the region.
During a recent visit I was able to taste through several of the wines currently on offer and got a unique glimpse of meters upon meters of excavated hillside that is making way for a slight expansion of the cellars. The layers of sedimentation revealed the alternating bands of quick draining sand and absorbent clay that allows this fantastic terroir to adapt to seasonal variation. The Cavallottos are obsessed with understanding the particular microclimate of their hillside and are quick to pull out charts indicating the relative similarities between; for example, the temperature swings through the growing seasons of 1989 vs. 1990.
This attention to detail is one element that has allowed the Cavallottos to move from strength to strength with each passing vintage. Working the same land for generations has created an intimate understanding within the family that is simply impossible to duplicate. While some might lament the intrusion of modernity here the truth of the matter is often far more complex than what meets the eye. For example the use of roto-fermentors in the cellar is no secret and has had many questioning, and some even “perceiving” a change in the style. The truth is that while roto-fermentors are indeed used they are set at such a slow turn, one revolution per day, that they are simply mimicking the time honored tradition of cappello semi-sommerso!
A walk through the vineyards with Alfio and Giuseppe reveals their true colors. The health and vigor of the land is a testament to the harmony with which it is allowed to grow, harmony that ultimately finds its way into every bottle. Wild grasses offer a natural ground cover and the encouragement of indigenous predators help maintain the health and vitality of the vines. Alfio comments in an almost backhand way that if there was the time and the want the vineyards could be certified as Organic today.
Certified organic or not, Modern, traditional or not the truth is of course in the glass and while I was not able to try the whole line-up today the wines certainly lived up to my expectations. One aside, I didn’t taste the Freisa this time but drink it by the case at home, and especially for my Birthday party of all things! Simply put it is one of the great wine values of the world. If you are even the least bit curious about Italian wines you owe it to yourself to try it!
Langhe Bianco 2007
Pinot Noir vinified as a white wine. This sees only stainless and is bottled the May after harvest so this sample had been recently bottled. Produced since 1989 with the exception of 1991, 1993, and 2005 when the fruit was vinified as a red wine.
This strikes a decidedly Champagn-esque tone with its accessible aromatics of chalk, acacia flower, apricot and just a hint of musky gooseberry. The palate profile on the other hand is lush and round with soft acidity that gives this an almost decadent feel. The fruit is expressive with tones of apple and grape over a small core of moist soil tones that turn a touch more mineral on the pretty long finish with it’s notes of drying fruits adding some complexity. Easy to like and easy to drink just lacking a touch of complexity. 87pts
Langhe Pinot Nero 2005
This has spent 2 years in botte.
This offers up a distinct contrast to the Bianco with it’s initial burst of sweet and spicy aromatics, a touch of wild black berry and wild flower notes are joined with mineral, eucalyptus, and licorice tones. An interesting blend of Pinot fruit and Barolo terroir. In the mouth this is easy with soft acids and mild tannins and again there is the balsamic forest floor that marks this as Piemontese. Some gentle red fruits add complexity; notes of seared raspberry and wild strawberry compliment the earthiness and lead to the finish where the tannins become a touch more obvious and slightly angular. The finish is long and turns a touch savory with a cola/coriander note on the finale. Certainly an interesting bottle but I am not sure this speaks enough of Pinot, as the Cavallotto character seems to dominate. 86pts.
Dolcetto d’Alba Vigna Scot 2006
4-6 day fermentation then aged for approximately 6 months in stainless.
This smells powerful with a hint of exotic spiciness reminiscent of candied ginger that pops over the lovely wild berry fruit. A touch sweet and almost apricotty then turning more masculine with a core of scorched forest floor. This is surprisingly light and elegant in the mouth with good acidity and moderate tannins, that are a touch drying, supporting intense, dark Italian plum fruits that are gently accented with mineral and soil tones. Finishes very clean and fresh with excellent focus if a touch short but the mineral thread continues through the finale. Very drinkable and wonderfully balanced. 88pts
Barolo Bricco Boschis 2004
This starts off very slowly with dusty earthy tones dominating but evolves in the glass offering up a little potpourri with floral and balsamic tones then building crushed cherry fruits that gain an asphalt tarry note turning the fruit towards scorching cherry pie juice and finally an uplifted bolt of roses. Great evolution on the nose! Very bright acids in the mouth frame the polished soft tannins and offer great cut to the dark, earthy cherry fruit. There are tones of plum skin and melon rind to the unevolved fruit but there is great purity here. The tannins turn a touch fuzzy on the long finish, which offers up glimpses of incipient complexity with its mineral and balsamic tones. A very complete Barolo at a compelling price, drink 2012-2-24 92pts.
Barolo Riserva Bricco Boschis San Giuseppe 2001
Produced from vines averaging 50 years of age. This spends about a month on the skins and is aged in Slavonian Botte for almost 4 years.
Deep and high-toned with great tobacco, wet cigar, and cigar ash components on the nose which closes up in the glass leaving a touch of mineral and menthol topnotes Dense and layered in the mouth with juicy acids and very fine tannins There is a superb core of fruit here hiding behind very complex notes of earth, medicinal herbs, quinine, licorice and angelica root. Not particularly fruit driven today but everything is there for this to blossom with age. The finish is a bit tough and drying with excellent length. The imposing structure is absolutely beautiful offering up power without weight and just breath-taking balance in the mouth. If you are into classically structured Barolo this is a must buy! This will probably need until 2012 to really get going and should evolve positively for two decades more. 94pts.
Barolo Riserva Vignolo 2001
Produced from vines averaging 40 years of age. This spends about a month on the skins and is aged in Slavonian Botte for almost 4 years.
This is much more open than the San Giuseppe revealing a very savory element with smoky/ rubbery tones to the core of red fruits. Develops well in the glass revealing layers of flowers, Middle Eastern spices and cardamom. Elegant in the mouth with very fine, very ripe tannins and solid, vibrant acidity that gives this mouth filling volume without much weight. Richly fruited with notes of red plum and wild strawberry vying for dominance all nicely accented with grace notes of maduro tobacco, anise seed and a dried fruit edge that turns very dried strawberry on the long finish which gets a touch of mouthgrab from the emerging tannins that could use a few year to fully integrate. Drink from 2010-2020 92pts.
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