This is one of the very special sites that Giorgio Pelissero owns and farms, producing an outstanding quality of grapes in the boundaries of the village of Treiso in the subzone of Barbaresco. The provenance of these ingredients is at the very pinnacle of the quality pyramid; it's like a cru vineyard in one of the villages in the Côtes de Nuits.
This wine is from the near-perfect vintage of 2019. Warm and then hot, dry and then enough rainfall at the right time, there was a long ripening period, allowing for the component parts of the grapes to ripen evenly. The resultant wine is structured and broad with medium-high levels of fine-grained tannins and a supporting acidity that prevents the wine from being jammy or chewy. The flavours are like opening a box of delights. It opens smoke and farmyard notes, with a dark, occluded sensation that there's more to give as the unyielding wine slowly shows its hand: black and red cherries, rose petals, damson and fig are met by leather, cigar box and nutmeg. Endlessly enjoyable and hugely rewarding, this is a wine that will develop for decades.
Barbaresco is a small village that gives its name to the region surrounding it and its best-quality Nebbiolo wines. Set in the the wider Langhe region, it is often thought of as the second of the two top wines, the other being Barolo. Barbaresco is smaller in size than Barolo and though the vineyards produce fruit that is often less intense and less-densely structured, there is elegance and refinement here that often doesn't present in Barolo. As seasons change and the climate gets warmer, this may change (though there will never be the same volume from the region) and there is a strong belief that the more nuanced and perfumed nature of Barbaresco will continue to grow in its relevance to the world of fine wine. If ever there was any doubt as to its sensational potential, the presence of Gaja in the commune has really helped the cause, acting as an out-of-reach zenith, while simultaneously increasing the attention and challenging the production quality of his neighbouring producers to ever-greater heights.
The Langhe is the large, high quality wine zone in Piemonte, that includes that towns and wine making subzones of Alba and Asti, Barbaresco and Barolo. Hills are plentiful and feature significantly in providing varied soil types, different solar aspects and the height required to avoid the negative aspects of fog, which arrives in the early autumn months, a key point in the life-cycle of grapes. The fog gives its name to the region's chief grape variety Nebbiolo (the word for fog is nebbia in Italian), and the best vineyard sites are all above the fog line.
What grows under the fog line? Well, some lesser quality earlier-ripening grapes but also something that does like the warm and damp conditions under the canopy of low-height woodlands; the leafy, earthen gold of the region: truffles!
(By the way, the foothills of Giorgio's own vineyards are no different, but what amazed me was his approach to the people who use the land - though Giorgio knows that he has truffles there, it's not really his thing; he eats them, for sure, but he's not a truffle hunter. When they come to him asking to use the land (it's just manners) he always lets them do it - no charge, no fuss, and no demand for any share of their crop. It seems like an act of mutual respect, which I think is wonderful.)
And on the other hand, at the top of the slopes, at a height where grapes can struggle to ripen, the land is given to plantations of hazelnut trees: one of the region's most high-profile residents is Giorgio's neighbour, Signor Ferrero...
The region is used by the landowners and workers to draw an absolute maximum yield from its potential. It's a wonderful place to visit and has, for centuries, been the seat of high-quality food production in Italy.
It is Giorgio Pelissero's home. In the shadows of the Alps, Monte Bianco (Mont Blanc), the industry of Turin and in the swathe of history of one of the world's most acclaimed wines, he farms and harvests grapes of serious quality and makes wines of generosity and regional typicity. Traditional and relevant.
It is also a hallmark of Giorgio Pelissero's winemaking that the wines are "digestible" as they say themselves, which really means that they are both approachable and excellent for matching with food.
Giorgio started working in his Great-Uncle's vineyards as a very young boy and the winery ad house attached is now where he and his parents live. Having maintained this incredible set of vines since the 1960s they are one of the few who have grown by buying up parcels of land hat suit the style of wines they want to make. The result is that Giorgio is now one of the largest owners of land in Barbaresco, and able to grow fruit for nearly 100% of the production requirements of the winery. It's not that this makes things easier - far from it - but it makes the quality higher and means that he can be in direct control of the vines from the beginning of one year until the end. The blame stops with him and so too does the credit! He's a proud man, but never conceited nor arrogant. He works as hard as anyone I've met in the business and deserves the plaudits he has received, many times over.
My first trip to the idiosyncratic wine fair VinItaly had me underestimate the time it can take to find ones way around a fair and also the amount of time it can take to hold a meeting. I was running late for the last meeting of the day which was with the eport manager working for Giorgio Pelissero. I ran into a booth that seemed to meet the coordinates of the meeting point and saw the wine-fair equivalent of tumble weed and a sparsely populated set of ramshackle tables and chairs. One man was standing behind a bar and polishing glasses, sleeves rolled-up. Cue: pigeon Italian from the hurried visitor "Hullo, sorry to disturb you, I'm looking for Giorgio Pelissero, do you know where he is?"; "Yes, of course," said the glass-washer, "It's me!" And so began a long friendship with him and his whole team. In jig-time a plate of Ravioli in creamy Gorgonzola and walnut sauce (Fact: I still remember it) was in front of me and all of the staff as well. We tasted through the wines and Giorgio sat next to me, looking on at this ruffled, slightly harried, highly enthusiastic fellow. The wines were sensational and they still are to this day. But the other thing that still sits with me is that, because it was the end of the day, many people were leaving the fair and made a point of coming to seek Giorgio in order to shake hands, pat him on the shoulder, give him a hug - he had the respect of everyone. Farmer, wine critic, fellow wine makers... and he made time for everyone, even me.
This is the first of his three single vineyard Barbarescos and the most approachable. If you have an interest in the top quality wines of Italy, this is an absolute must for you.