English sommelliers report

Good work does not just translate into sales, but also into recognition and appreciation for what one does. I was always taught that one works not merely for money but also for satisfaction, respecting the ancient concept of work well done. At the same time, I realize that it’s not enough for paying back loans to the bank…

Below I have posted the splendid report written by Gareth Maxwell, for the Gingerino crew, a component of Exclusive Hotel’s Anglosaxon sommeliers’ expedition, organized by the importer Ellis of Richmond, after a visit to our winery a few weeks ago :

Rivetto Visit November 2011

It was a very early meeting time of 5.30am at Gatwick that saw most of us a little bleary eyed but all very keen to get underway. No-one in the group had visited the Piedmont region with a few people not having visited Italy before either. After being herded onto the Easyjet flight it was a short hop over to Milan followed by a 2 hour transfer to the Barolo region.  The first hour of the transfer has little scenery and is flat and dull but this then gives way to the rolling hills of the Piedmont region.

The mist and fog that the region is well known for was present, despite my telling James that we were in for sunshine all day but this accentuated the tops of the hills that peaked through. The colours caught everyone’s attention as the autumn was in full swing with some of the most vivid leaf colours that I have ever seen.


Rivetto have over 20Ha of planted vineyard with a good portion being in the acclaimed ‘Serralunga’ part of Barolo. The family has been making wine in some form since 1902 and is still family owned and operated, sound familiar?

Lunch was first on the list and was lovingly prepared by Enrico’s mother even with her arm in a sling, true Italian dedication!

This was a chance to taste the non-Barolo wines that Rivetto offer starting with the:

Nascetta 2010- this can now be varietal labelled instead of the previous Langhe di Bianco. The wine has improved dramatically since the 2009 vintage showing more pungency on the nose, more floral notes and a lovely texture.  There is an increased vine age, more skin contact and lees stirring when compared to the previous vintage. The acidity is pleasantly high though Enrico feels it lacks mid palate. We also tried the Nascetta 2011 Tank Sample which has had over 8 hours skin contact and is almost Viognier in aroma. Enrico wants to make a wine that can age though I personally don’t see the need. They have planted more vineyards having removed some Dolcetto to make room; if they can get the price down on this in future then it could be an even better wine to have in the portfolio. There are around 25 producers making this now with more plantings planned.

We tasted the Langhe de Nebbiolo 2009 that we stock and it still delivers plenty for the money though this looks like it will become more expensive over time. The new vintage of the Barbera d’Alba 2009 Zio Nando is excellent with lots of dense fruits, black plums and wonderful acidity, a great food wine that probably has better oak balance when compared to 2007 vintage. This is dangerously easy to drink…. The Barbera d’Alba Lirano Soprano 2007 is MUCH BETTER than this time last year with the oak now well integrated and the wine having developed some more savoury character and moved away from being a blockbuster fruit bomb. We didn’t actually taste the dolcetto during the whole visit and forgot to ask!

A tour of the vineyards enabled us to understand the Marl/Clay soils which soak up a lot of rainwater and cause havoc on the generally steep vineyards with landslides a common occurrence in the region. Enrico also explained that he is planting barley in between some rows as their roots penetrate deep into the soils and take oxygen down with them. The marl soils are made up of layer upon layer of clay that becomes very hard but the roots penetrate deep into them and take on board the minerality that is present in the wines. Without being corny, Enrico is looking into more natural methods for working in the vineyard to try and represent the terroir more as the area suffered over the years with excess herbicides/pesticides/fertilizers being used.

A trip into the Winery enabled us to taste plenty of barrel samples of Barolo 2011, 2010, 2009 which was fascinating to see the development of the wines in barrel.  2011 was just tannins and greenness as it was very young though this wasn’t a great year anyway. 2010 was much more approachable, still tannic but richer in fruit and is set to be a very good year for Barolo. 2009 was a little hotter during the vintage which may make it a little more approachable at a younger age so perhaps good for continuity after 2007 is finished.

Dinner was also in the winery and was fantastic with local dishes served up with a good selection of wines from the day with the addition of a Barbaresco 2009 which had a very fragrant nose and much silkier, smoother palate expressing the more feminine style of that region. This was a lovely wine that we don’t currently ship and it will still come into us at quite a high price due to the grapes being bought in so who knows if we will stock it? A great wine on the night was the Barolo Serralunga 2007 that we do stock, though it wasn’t a great year for Barolo, it makes a wine that is much more accessible and smoother than the 2006 so bear that in mind for sales as we stock both vintages and the 2007 is cheaper.

The Highlight of the trip was the Vertical Tasting of Barolo’s the next day; 10am is quite early to do this especially after the previous nights Barbera adventures….. We were lucky enough to taste the following:

1964 Barolo Riserva

1982 Barolo Riserva

1990 Barolo Riserva

2001 Barolo Serralunga

2004 Barolo Riserva

2006 Barolo Serralunga (There is a Riserva currently in production)

Enrico’s father was present to talk us through the ’64, ’82 and ’90 vintages which was translated by Enrico. When I first nosed the 1964 I thought that it was slightly oxidised and ‘over the hill’, how wrong I was. The wine opened up in the glass after a while to show deep mushroom flavours, nuts, caramel and a silky, smooth palate. This wine ended up being the winner of the tasting for many.

The 1982 was lacking on the day and tasted a little stalky and vegetal and did not show very well. The 1990 on the other hand was the favourite of many with a very precise, traditional Barolo style and being in its prime.

The 2001 is when you can see the first influence of Enrico and his brother. There is a little sweeter oak on the nose from some barrique ageing but a large part of the difference actually comes from the retention of fruit in the cellar due to a cooling system being introduced (I assume this could be the case worldwide).  This was a fantastic wine showing a little development with the tannins starting to integrate but still plenty of fruits remaining.

The 2004 Riserva is still very tight and needs lots more time in order to open up but there is still a very dense fruit behind the very structured wine, a theme that runs through all of Enrico’s wine.


Key Points


  • Family owned and operated since 1902
  • Missed out on boom time for Barolo due to a family split
  • Enrico studied viticulture at Alba University
  • Working towards more sustainable viticulture
  • Relatively small producer
  • Nascetta is improving
  • ’07 Serralunga is softer and more approachable than ‘06
  • Langhe di Nebbiolo could increase in price
  • Barbera Zio Nando has a good proportion of grapes from 60 year old vines
  • Nascetta is Vegan, all others are not
  • Barbera Lirano Soprano spends 24 months in new oak barriques
  • All hand harvested
  • Triple selection in Vineyard, 3 different picking stages for Nebbiolo