2013 is a stunning vintage for Piemonte and more specifically for Barolo. Over the last year, I have tasted widely in the region on two separate occasions and each time, I have been impressed by the precision and purity of the wines. In the main, the 2013 Barolo offer perfumed aromatics, a fine textural impression, dark cores of coolly ripe fruit and thereby terrific ability to age. In short, this vintage started with a cool spring; temperatures then climbed from July, leading to a hot August, but crucially one with cooler night time temperatures that aid aroma and acidity retention in the berries. August was followed by a sunny and dry September that allowed Nebbiolo to ripen beautifully for harvest to commence in mid-to-late October.
I am really pleased to be offering wines across the Grasso range, from the headlining Barolo to the more humble Chardonnay. Few wine buying visits are as pleasurable as a tasting at Elio Grasso’s estate in Monforte d’Alba. Not only does this estate boast a stunning panorama towards Serralunga d’Alba and the vineyards of Francia and Falleto - made famous by Giacomo Conterno and Bruno Giacosa respectively - but the quality of the wines here is so consistent that it never disappoints. Included in this offer are the following:
2013 Barolo, Ginestra, Casa Maté, Elio Grasso at £285 per 6 bottle case in bond
2013 Barolo, Gavarini, Vigna Chiniera, Elio Grasso at £285 per 6 bottle case in bond
2016 Dolcetto d’Alba, dei Grassi, Elio Grasso at £60 per 6 bottle case in bond
2015 Barbera d’Alba, Vigna Martina, Elio Grasso at £110 per 6 bottle case in bond
2016 Langhe Nebbiolo, Gavarini, Elio Grasso at £80 per 6 bottle case in bond
2016 Langhe Chardonnay, ‘Educato’, Elio Grasso at £80 per 6 bottle case in bond
Today, the estate is run by Gianluca Grasso, who has taken over the day-to-day running and winemaking from his father Elio, after completing his studies at the oenological school in Alba. There is no great secret to the quality of the wines here. Yes, the Barolo vineyards, the Cru of Gavarini and Ginestra, are outstanding sites on which to grow high-class Nebbiolo: both are south-facing, spanning at 300-400 metres of altitude, with a little more clay in Ginestra and a little more sand in Gavarini over the limestone base. Above all, however, it is a meticulous attention to detail that maintains the quality of the wines. This is something of a Grasso character trait and it underwrites the family’s firm belief that ‘wine is made in the vineyard’. Since Gianluca assumed winemaking responsibilities, quality has been propelled further; that same meticulous attention he employs in the cellars also ensures that the fruit is handled sensitively and none of its potential is lost.
Tasting the two Cru Barolo side by side has been a fascination over many years and the 2013 were no exception. They are made in an identical manner, yet each vineyard expresses itself differently. The Gavarini ‘Vigna Chiniera’ typically captures a more scented, fragrant nature. It is easier to assess when young with its brighter red fruit accent and silky textural character, though the tannins build and there is no denying its persistence. The Ginestra ‘Casa Maté’ is a deeper natured wine, more brooding in style, it typifies the power and intensity of Monforte with assertive, underpinning tannins and a bold fruit core. We will have to wait for the Riserva ‘Runcot’ as legally Riserva must be aged for a minimum of five years of which three years must be in oak. For now, this continues its maturation in barriques and we will undoubtedly offer when it is released. I have included the scores and tasting notes of the 'Casa Maté' and the 'Vigna Chiniera' from Antonio Galloni below. He tasted in November, but given my tasting of two weeks ago, I think these wines are showing much more of their potential today and I would not be surprised to see the scores nudged forwards in time.
2013 Barolo, Ginestra, Casa Maté, Elio Grasso
£285 per 6 bottle case in bond
96 points, Antonio Galloni
The 2013 Barolo Ginestra Casa Matè is powerful and intense, with huge beams of tannin underpinning the fruit. Black cherry, plum, violet, mint and licorice develop in the glass. Today, the 2013 is quite reticent, with tons of power in reserve, but all the elements are in the right place. Not surprisingly, the 2013 is a tightly wound ball of energy. Readers need to be patient. Drink 2023 to 2043.
2013 Barolo, Gavarini, Vigna Chiniera, Elio Grasso
£285 per 6 bottle case in bond
95+ points, Antonio Galloni
The 2013 Barolo Gavarini Chiniera is racy, exotic and super-elegant, with a finesse to tannins that is almost impossible to believe in a young Barolo. This is an especially delicate, refined style that shows just how elegant Nebbiolo can be. Sweet red cherry, kirsch, chalk, mint, white pepper and rose petals meld into a super expressive, inviting finish laced with veins of bright, salivating acidity. The 2013 gets better and better with time in the glass, but its finest drinking belongs to the future. Drink 2023 to 2043.
Dolcetto, Barbera, Langhe Nebbiolo and Chardonnay
While the Barolo command the headlines at this address, the Grasso family also produce some first-rate Barbera, one of the finest Dolcetto I have tasted in the region, some supple, elegant early-drinking Nebbiolo and a Chardonnay of surprising quality for the region. I have included my notes on these wines, as Galloni has not yet tasted. We rarely include so many wines in one offer, but the range below certainly show quality up and down the scale.
2016 Dolcetto d’Alba, dei Grassi, Elio Grasso
£60 per 6 bottle case in bond
This is a beautiful Dolcetto, bright purple in hue, with a sweet ripe fruit of dark cherry and damson. Just as a Dolcetto should be, this is a vibrant, juicy, more-ish style that is intended for early drinking. There is just a hint of mint and spice on the finish. The selection process for this wine is as strict as for any other and Gianluca Grasso goes the extra mile to ensure that just the very best fruit makes it into this wine. Such an appealing Dolcetto. Drink 2017 to 2020. (SL)
2015 Barbera d’Alba, Vigna Martina, Elio Grasso
£110 per 6 bottle case in bond
This has always been an impressive Barbera from vines close to the Gavarini vineyard. The Grasso are careful in the use of barriques here as they wish to round out Barbera’s natural acidity but not to dominate the fruit. Therefore, 50% of the barrique are new and 50% are second use. This is expertly judged; packed full of succulent brambly fruits, loganberry, spiced raspberry and blackberry. Wonderfully sleek with a creamy, vanillin nuance, this generous Barbera shows in a typically exuberant manner, with just a touch more poise than it has shown in recent years. Hugely impressive. Drink 2018-2027. (SL)
2016 Langhe Nebbiolo, Gavarini, Elio Grasso
£80 per 6 bottle case in bond
From the younger Nebbiolo vines within the Gavarini vineyard, the Grasso family produce this enticing Nebbiolo. All fragrant cherry fruits with notes of violet on the nose, the palate is restrained and elegant with a supple fruit of ripe berries with hints of cinnamon. This very much hinges on elegance and charm, with a softness and early drinking appeal. The slightly deeper character than the norm and the impressive length and purity do however have me considering how Nebbiolo has faired in the 2016 vintage. This is after all a forerunner to the Barolo. Drink 2017-2021. (SL)
2016 Langhe Chardonnay, ‘Educato’, Elio Grasso
£80 per 6 bottle case in bond
Chardonnay in Piemonte is not a natural association. Most Piemontese examples lack precision and acidity - not so here. This cuvée comes from vines planted by Elio in 1985. Just a single hectare is dedicated to Chardonnay, and production rarely exceeds 8000 bottles. Gianluca has been quietly tinkering with this style. Today the wine does not go through malolactic in order to retain valuable acidity. No batonnage (stirring of the lees) is carried out and the proportion of new oak has dropped substantially. The result? Something of a surprise. With a gently leesy citrus on the nose, the palate shows good energy with lively acidity and a bright fruit capturing notes of nectarine, lime and background toast leading to almost salty mineral infused finish. Hard to say where anyone would place this if tasted blind. Rather than exhibiting a sense of place, this shows a deft hand and plenty of winemaking skill. 2017 to 2020. (SL).
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