Trediberri: good fortune, introspection, and decisive strategy

In 2007, Nicola Oberto, his father Federico and their friend Vladimiro, purchased 5ha of land in Berri, initially intending only to sell their crop. Following the release of their first vintage in 2011, Trediberri, a young, artisanal family winery, was born. Though lacking ancestral heritage and familial prowess, the three from Berri do boast a brief but compelling story of their own. In the late 60s, Federico was hired by the late Renato Ratti, a prime mover in Piedmont’s cultural and technical revolution. His parents, Nicola’s great grandparents, had agreed to rent Renato their parcel in the now famed Rocche dell’Annunziata. The catch was that Renato would have to hire their son. Federico stayed at Ratti into the early 2000s. In spite of the revolution taking place in the late 90s, resource remained scarce in the Langhe and Federico, grateful for employment, had never had the confidence to establish a project of his own. Having worked in a wine store in La Morra, Nicola fell in love with wine, majoring in finance so that he could afford to continue collecting. After 3 years in the financial sector, Nicola successfully convinced his father to find land that they and Vladimiro could buy together. Following a chance encounter with David Berry Green over a magnum of Rocche, Trediberri received the financial clout they needed to set up shop. Today, the trio vinify 10.5ha, producing, Barolo, Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Barbera and Sauvignon Blanc. Nicola is refreshingly self-reflective, a grounded and pragmatic winemaker. We spoke about the estate’s past, present and future, as well as the pursuit of happiness, balance and freedom. 

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Philine Isabelle Dienger: the spirit of a shokunin from Heidelberg to Barolo

The philosophy of shokunin transcends mere physical skill, the shokunin embodies a social consciousness and embraces an obligation to work to the best of their ability for some greater good. This obligation, characterised by both the material and the spiritual, can be more simply understood as an endless pursuit of perfection, often of a single process, product or craft. Aged 16, German-native Philine Isabelle, had considered agriculture an attractive pursuit. In 2009, after a brief stint studying Politics and Administration at Konstanz University, Philine abandoned formal education in search of a more industrious endeavour. Her father’s passion for wine and her employment in a local restaurant drew her toward viticulture. For almost a decade, Philine worked at a number of biodynamic estates including Odinstal, Pranzegg, and Heinrich, as well as working as a consultant for master pruners Simonit & Sirch. Today, renting a 1.2ha plot in Preda, nestled between Cannubi and Vignane, Philine works tirelessly, aspiring to craft an 'effortless masterpiece', a Barolo that while simple overall is untiring, revealing subtle details that balance simplicity with complexity. I spoke with Philine as she embarks on a life’s work, exploring her shokunin in more detail.

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Paitin: standing the test of time in Barbaresco

In 1796, Benedetto Elia purchased a small plot of vines in the Bricco di Neive. A few years later, after purchasing a number of contiguous parcels, he bought a nearby underground cellar. The Elia's were private bankers owning a small bank on the border between Neive and Castagnole facilitating transactions between the two provinces. The Pasquero family, from Spanish military ancestry, served the Royal House, managing and vinifying hectares in Vezza d'Alba. On Oct. 13, 1943, Italy declared war on Nazi Germany. However, German forces soon took control of northern and central Italy shortly after. Soon after, Mussolini, having escaped with the help of German paratroopers, established a puppet state to administer the German-occupied territory. The oppression of Italian Jews had begun in 1938 with the enactment of racial laws of segregation. Between 1943 and 1945, under Nazi occupation, Jews in Italy faced persecution, deportation, and murder. As a result of this, the family Pasquero-Elia, their members having since married, lost their bank, their reputation and their livelihood. The family made no wine at the estate between 1938 and 1945, the family sold their properties to pay staff while the men were at war. Today brothers Giovanni and Silvano Pasquero-Elia manage the Paitin estate with their father, Secondo, Giovanni's son Luca and Elisa. The family farm 18 hectares, 13 of which are Nebbiolo, and have recently, for the first time in 125 years, purchased new vineyard sites in Basarin and Faset.

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Azienda Agricola Lalù: serendipity, friendship and strength of will

The Langarolo of old were notoriously isolated and individualistic people. While their prosperity exudes enviable dynamism, they were often closed and married to their culture. Juxtaposed to the establishment, committed to revolution and determined to eschew preconceptions, the late 80s saw the Barolo Boys bring notable recognition to the Langhe. Though no official hierarchies existed, as they did in Burgundy, savvy consumers soon picked up which vineyard tended to yield the most impressive wines. The inception of the MGA between 2007-10 made it even easier for consumers to stratify wines and thus the stratospheric increase in land prices that followed were inevitable. Coupled with their insular nature, the locals' reluctance to sell or rent land to outsiders makes establishing a new estate in the Langhe a sizeable task. Challenges notwithstanding, Lara and Luisa of Azienda Agricola Lalù, city girls with no rural tradition of their own, have grasped this task by the horns. Having purchased their first vineyard in La Morra in 2015, the pair now farm 3.5ha in total, shared between Nebbiolo and Barbera. Having worked at some of Burgundy and Piedmont's most prominent estates and having earned the trust and respect of the locals, the pair are now forging their own path from a converted workshop in Serralunga d'Alba. Pursuing drinkable wines of elegance and sensitivity, their farming is meticulous and winemaking informed and worldly. I spoke to Lara and Luisa in detail, discussing their journey to date, their philosophy and more.

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Cascina delle Rose: big ideas and incremental change

Amidst a prototypical winter, marked by ample snowfall and adequately cold temperatures, pruning is well underway at Cascina delle Rose. The family work the same land today, bar half a hectare in Neive, that they have owned for a little over 70 years. Today, brothers Davide and Riccardo, under the watchful gaze of their parents, Giovanna and Italo, spearhead the steady, consistent evolution of this outstanding Piedmontese estate. In 1983, having felt disenfranchised with the textile industry, Giovanna, fiercely determined and eager to carve out her own path, saved a portion of her income and purchased the family estate from her parents. Having released her first Barbaresco in 1992, Giovanna, herself an autodidact, was working in the vines, raising children, and planning to open apartments on the family property. The locals, then a typically individualistic and often cynical people, rarely offered her assistance. A break came In 2004 with Davide joining the business full time, followed by his father, Italo, in 2007. Consequently, the estate grew in terms of both the size of its workforce and its overall quality. Today, the estate produces less than 30,000 bottles annually, and though not having grown in size, Cascina delle Rose has steadily but surely refined both their farming and winemaking. The resulting wines deliver finesse and elegance in abundance. I spoke with Riccardo Sobrino of Cascina delle Rose about the estate's origins, the families philosophy of and the future for both them and the region.

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Piero Busso: in the vineyard we trust

We talk a lot about rising stars, most notably those making wine in Burgundy. To what extent this conversation is motivated by overzealous importers hoping to augment the price of producers with which they were able to secure an allocation is debatable. Having already, by any reasonable objective measure, risen, there are those estates where with the passing of the baton from parent to child there is a substantive shift in quality. Though the Busso family have cultivated vines since the 1950s, it was not until 1978 that Piero Busso, Guido Busso's son, overwhelmed by hireathic yearning for the Langhe, ceased selling the families grapes and began making wine, labelling his first Barbaresco in 1982. Over the following two decades, Piero purchased plots in a handful of laudable vineyards, including a plot in Gallina, in 1999, followed twelve months later by San Stunet. In 2010, Piero's son, Pierguido, alongside his father, sister, Emanuela, mother, Lucia, took over the day-to-day running of the estate. The estate's quality had long been recognised, Pierguido's father was somewhat ahead of his time in his manner of working in the vineyard. However, since 2012 a distinct amplification of quality is recognisable in both the vineyard and in the glass. Inspired by a handful of iconic winemakers, Pierguido is fastidious and exacting, his philosophy is one of precision and respectful management of the land. I spoke to Pier, exploring the estate and his influence in more detail.

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Cantina D’Arcy: promise, practicality and dogged grit

Bordering the Swiss Alps, Piedmont is a picturesque and historically-rich region in the Northwest of Italy. Roughly 1 hour south of the capital city, Turin, in the province of Cuneo, you'll find the rolling hills of the Langhe. Recognised by UNESCO's World Heritage, in part for its outstanding living testimony to winegrowing and winemaking tradition, the Langhe features prominently in the writings of writer Beppe Fenoglio and novelist Cesare Pavese. The past 40 years have seen the regions most prominent DOCG's, Barolo and Barbaresco, skyrocket to stratospheric acclaim. With land prices in Barolo reaching as much as €2.5m per hectare in the most prestigious crus, expansion is difficult even for established winemaking families. That being said, nestled between Cannubi and Vignane, in the cru of Preda, having acquired experience with some of the worlds greatest winemakers, Tom Myers is finding his feet, working the land, and intending to make great wine for decades to come. I spoke with Tom about his journey thus far, Cantina D'Arcy and the future.

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Produttori del Barbaresco: the worlds best wine cooperative?

In 1894, Domizio Cavazza created Barbaresco's first cooperative, the Cantine Sociali. Cavazza recognised that Nebbiolo from Barbaresco differed from Barolo, and for the first time, acknowledged this on the label. In 1920, fascist rule forced the Cantine Sociali to close, it wasn't until 1958 that a cooperative reemerged in Barbaresco; the Produttori del Barbaresco. Today, in a good vintage, the Produttori (consisting of 54 growers and 250 acres of vineyards) bottles nine single vineyard wines, a Barbaresco DOCG, and a Langhe Nebbiolo DOC. My appreciation for the Produttori, and Piedmont as a region, came to be in 2015. I received as a gift, a bottle of 2008 Produttori del Barbaresco Pora: the wine was ethereal, seductive and poised. Last year I visited the Produttori and in this article get to grips with what makes this cooperative the best in the world.

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Returning to Champagne Paul Launois: crafting a vision

I first visited Champagne Paul Launois in 2019, since then I've watched tentatively from the sidelines as Julien and his partner, Sarah, iteratively crafted what is a considered, artistic and exciting project. Their winery, once a press house belonging to Billecart-Salmon, can be found nestled among the tightly-packed ruelle of grand cru village, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, a stone's throw from Krug's iconic Clos du Mesnil. Having traditionally sold their grapes to the village cooperative, three generations of the Launois family have tended to a little over 6.5 hectares of Chardonnay vines. Following nine years working abroad, in 2015 Julien and Sarah completed their first harvest together. A year later Julien began working on the single-barrel project, a personalised and intimate expression of Champagne shaped together by winemaker and wine lover. Following my first visit, it was the nature of their project that had left me enthralled. In a contracting market of growers, Julien and Sarah stood out to me as being among a small number who may well buck the trend. Though the project had impressed me in 2019, this time around the wines took centre stage and Julien's evolution as a winemaker was clear. Though growing in volume, their range of 4 cuvée is each year entirely outstripped by demand with strong interest from keen buyers the world over. I spent a late-summer morning with Julien tasting from his single-barrel library and discussing the future.

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Chasing 3MH thiols with Daniel Sorrell of Cloudy Bay

In 1770, during his voyage to New Zealand, Captain James Cook would discover a stretch of land spanning New Zealand's South Island, to the south of the Marlborough Sounds and north of Clifford Bay. Cook's discovery coincided with regional flooding, which washed large amounts of sediment into the sea. Noticing the water’s opaque appearance, Cook christened the area Cloudy Bay. Cloudy Bay's name was later officially altered to Te Koko-o-Kupe / Cloudy Bay, with the M?ori name a nod to the early explorer Kupe. 215 years later, seasoned winemaker David Hohnen, convinced of Cloudy Bay's potential to produce great wine, invested in the best land the region had to offer and established Cloudy Bay Winery. Now under the ownership of LVMH, many consider Cloudy Bay to be amongst the world's best Sauvignon Blanc, including wine writer, George Taber. Defined in part by mouthfeel, Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc also boasts intense, concentrated fruits, namely grapefruit, passionfruit, and guava. Joining via Zoom, following the recent launch of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2020, winemaker Daniel Sorrel told how chasing one particular thiol, 3MH, has come to help shape these defining characteristics. In this article, I examine thiols in more detail and explore more closely how Cloudy Bay and others hunt 3MH.

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