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 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. Despite 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 quickly amassed the cashflow 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 about the pursuit of happiness, balance and freedom.

Humble beginnings

As were many local families, Federico’s parents were poor. Through nothing short of good fortune, the Oberto family had for some time owned three small parcels of vines on the prized hill of Rocche dell’Annunziata, though they had never made wine themselves. The three parcels owned by the family are Anavà (11 downslope rows planted in 1989 and 1999), Canavà Bassa (0.5ha parcel planted in 1961, 1971, and 1999) and Ütin d’Bastiàn (planted in 1951). In 1971, the family rented their entire holdings in Rocche to the late Renato Ratti, who had wanted to buy the land. Part and parcel of this deal was that Ratti hired 19-year-old Federico, who at the time was working as a plumber.

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This agreement would prove a shrewd business decision for both parties, with Ratti later naming Rocche among his ‘first category vineyards’, and Federico remaining at Ratti throughout the 90s and into the early 2000s. Federico was a blank slate and learned all he could from Ratti, who sadly passed away in the late 80s. As well as helping draft the early regulatory foundations of what would later become the DOCG, Ratti spearheaded the local embrace of single-vineyard (Cru) wines while also refining a range of winemaking techniques that helped tease out elegance and longevity. 

While his father was working at Renato Ratti, Nicola, just 14 at the time, began working at a local enoteca in La Morra. Open-minded and eager to learn, he quickly accrued a rich and expansive knowledge of the region’s wines, winemakers and most iconic sites. It was during this time that Nick learned the value of both the long game and of strategy, building long-lasting relationships with clients, betting on multiplying future sales. By the time he was 18, Nick had completely fallen in love with wine and with a small group of friends had formed a tasting group, regularly hosting horizontal and vertical tastings of wines from Brunate, Rocche, Cerequio and more. 

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Despite his son’s burgeoning passion, Federico encouraged him not to major in oenology. Though a revolution was afoot in both Barolo and Barbaresco, the deprivation of their younger years shaped the perspective of a generation, such that a portion encouraged their children to seek lives outside of winemaking. Nick would eventually major in finance at Milan’s Bocconi University, though would later regret having not studied oenology. After an internship at Merrill Lynch, despite the salary funding his growing collection of fine wine, Nick felt disenfranchised. As is the case for many like him, the desire to create something tangible, a deeply human motivation, drew him back to the Langhe. However, his father, reluctant to leverage his close personal and professional relationship with Ratti, was unwilling to suggest he hire his son.

At the time, Federico had been buying parcels in Berri, and though having never considered a project of his own, the temptation of his son’s fervour proved irresistible. Nick, a confident and spunky young man, began to ask his father to join him in planting vines. Specifically, he had asked him to find land. In 2007, with the help of Vladimiro, a bank director, they planted 5ha in Berri, the most Western located vineyard in Barolo, which Mauro Molino, Renato Ratti, Elvio Cogno, and Marcarini bravely replanted.

Fortuitous encounters

Several years later, having sold a touch short of their entire crop each vintage, Nick was invited to a barbeque at a villa in Barolo. Along with a handful of winemakers, David Berry Green, an eighth-generation family member and buyer at Berry Bros. & Rudd, also attended. Nick had taken with him a magnum of 1996 Rocche, bottled by his father, who had made a small amount of wine each year, mostly for personal consumption. Upon tasting the wine, Nick recalls David standing up and with great vigour asking that the bottle’s owner make themselves known, sheepishly Nick raised his hand, fearing David would pronounce the bottle as either poor, faulty, or both. Instead, he thought the wine was marvellous, immediately arranging to visit the family property, a stable holding just 3 barrique, the following day. This chance encounter would later prove instrumental, and in 2010, thanks in part to David, whose support afforded them much-needed financial clout, Trediberri bottled their first vintage.

In 2010, the trio produced 3000 bottles of Barolo and 1000 bottles of Rocche, now into their 9th vintage the estate has grown rather remarkably, producing 40,000 bottles of Barolo and 10,000 bottles of Rocche. As has the nature of the business, Nick’s approach to winemaking and viticulture has evolved with each opportunity. Captivated by the trailblazing viticulture of Lalou Bize-Leroy, as is frequently the case among progressive winemakers, Nick toyed briefly with biodynamics. Though having struggled with biodynamics disconcerting roots (namely Steiner’s anthroposophy), decided he could no longer level this pursuit with his ethics. Though the estate’s earlier attainment of organic certification had been with the sole intention of yielding a higher price for their grapes, Trediberri remained committed to certification until 2020, when rules surrounding copper usage changed such that they no longer aligned with Nick’s own beliefs on what constituted responsible stewardship of the land. Today, Nick is reasonable and considered, grounded and realistic, pragmatic, not poetic. Advocating considerate and reasonable farming, he places great emphasis on the ethical treatment of both the land and of his employees. Turin natives Lara and Luisa of Azienda Agricola Lalù speak fondly of their time working at Treddiberri.

As late as pHossible

Trediberri’s vineyards (Rocche, Torriglione, Berri, and Vicoforte Bricco Mollea) are rarely fertilised, cover crop is encouraged, and the vines are never hedged. While this method incurs some additional labour (braiding the canopy and managing disease pressure) the additional lateral growth (crowding the fruit zone) and larger berries often brought about by hedging is more of a concern. Harvest takes place as late as pH allows and while acknowledging the importance of phenolic ripeness, analysis of pH informs picking time at Trediberri. Though ‘freshness’ is of great importance, microbiological must health motivates Nicks pH-centric decision making. At this stage in their business, Trediberri simply cannot afford to lose a harvest and so clean ferments and stable wines are of the utmost importance. Interestingly, above their plots in Rocche (with plantings from 89,61, and 51), Nick can see vines belonging to Maria Teresa Mascarello and Roberto Voerzio. Mascarello has never hedged, nor does she fertilise often, conversely Voerzio harvests early, hedges his vines and fertilises frequently. Although the two are juxtaposed, it is their clear vision and decisive strategy Nick admires, a conviction he aspires to emulate.

Trediberri
Barolo 360 – Rocche dell’Annunziata

Nick likes young wines, enjoying fresh, primary fruit and seeking wines that while complex and enthralling are vivacious and pure. While maintaining a preference for spontaneous, native ferment, the same level of sensible flexibility is employed in the winery as is applied elsewhere. While aiming to kickstart the ferment with a pied de cuve, usually prepared 3-4 days before harvest, Nick has in the past inoculated when ferment conditions are less than ideal. 

For Rocche, ferment usually lasts around 12-14 days, followed by a 12–15-day (6-7 for the Barolo) post-fermentation maceration. Concerned with the wines microbiological stability post-ferment, Nick likes to go as dry as possible. Malolactic takes place in oak where the wine ages for around 20 months in 52-hl and 25-hl oak barrels from Garbellotto. In the past he has experimented with submerged cap; however, the limitations of a small production inhibit this to some degree, having too little of a single wine to fill, submerge then top up space. In 2017, Nick experimented with a small amount of whole bunch (roughly 50% in a 25hl barrel) and though trials went without a hiccup, Nick jokes he is ‘not brave enough to try it again. As of 2021 Trediberri boasts a new cantina, imposing tall cement tanks, unvarnished 52hl Garbellotto botti and a spacious, functional warehouse.

Reflecting on his relative youth, Nick sees Trediberri’s future with an open mind, affording himself a level of freedom such that he is not tied to particular dogmatic constraints. In a moment of sincere transparency, he tells me ‘I cannot be Dujac, but I can be consistent, I can learn and grow, and I can have a clear strategy in both the vineyard and the winery’. Introspective though this may be, Nick remains somewhat agnostic toward wine in the sense that he seeks something more profound than favourable scores and doting reviews. As well as balance in the vineyard, he seeks balance in his life. Not kidnapped by the idea of being the best forever, he hopes one day to achieve a healthy separation between his craft and himself, such that the product of his labour affords him the luxury of living. At Trediberri there is no dogma, no fixed protocol, only equilibrium in wine and vocation, these are wines unconstrained by any particular way of being, embodying the very best of modern Piedmont.

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