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Barolo Chinato, Dr Giuseppe Cappellano, Serralunga, Piedmont
Dr. Giuseppe Cappellano is revered as one of Serralunga d’Alba’s founding fathers, and after whose family the largest square in the village is justly honoured: ‘Piazza Cappellano’. Founded in 1870, the Cappellano family led by lawyer Filippo owned 150 ‘giornate’, or 60 hectares, around the village. His son Giovanni developed the family estate, renovating the vineyards and finding the time to build two hotels in Alba. For his ‘travails’ Giovanni’s vineyard was awarded bronze at the 1889 Paris Universal Exhibition, which enabled him to developed sales (of grapes?!) in a French market devastated by phylloxera. Giuseppe, Giovanni’s brother, graduated as a chemist. Consequently he leaned more towards the more pharmaceutical side of wine production, inventing none other than Barolo Chinato; a fortified ‘aromatizzato’ wine that combines fine Barolo and spirit steeped in twenty herbs.
Unfortunately Giovanni died in 1912 of a disease contracted while in Tunisia searching for phylloxera resistant vines. Giuseppe took over the running of the family estate. The responsibility was then passed down to Francesco Augusto Cappellano, an enologist, and then to his son Teobaldo, who returned from life in Eritrea to scale down the estate during the 1960s and to focus on high quality Barolo and Barolo Chinato; the latter at that time facing competition from mass-market imitations.
Augusto Cappellano succeeded his father Teobaldo in 2009, renovating the cellars and focussing his energy on the great vineyard of Gabutti, from which their two Barolo wines: the more generous ‘Rupestris’ and the rare, ungrafted ‘Piede Franco’ wines are derived. Vinification is naturally traditional, using cement and slavonian botte grande. And of course he continues to continues in the family tradition of hand-making their original Barolo Chinato.
Nebbiolo is the grape behind the Barolo and Barbaresco wines and is hardly ever seen outside the confines of Piedmont. It takes its name from "nebbia" which is Italian for fog, a frequent phenomenon in the region.
A notoriously pernickety grape, it requires sheltered south-facing sites and performs best on the well-drained calcareous marls to the north and south of Alba in the DOCG zones of Barbaresco and Barolo.
Langhe Nebbiolo is effectively the ‘second wine’ of Piedmont’s great Barolo & Barbarescos. This DOC is the only way Langhe producers can declassify their Barolo or Barbaresco fruit or wines to make an early-drinking style. Unlike Nebbiolo d’Alba, Langhe Nebbiolo can be cut with 15% other red indigenous varieties, such as Barbera or Dolcetto.
Nebbiolo flowers early and ripens late, so a long hang time, producing high levels of sugar, acidity and tannins; the challenge being to harvest the fruit with these three elements ripe and in balance. The best Barolos and Barbarescos are perfumed with aromas of tar, rose, mint, chocolate, liquorice and truffles. They age brilliantly and the very best need ten years to show at their best.
Located due south of Alba and the River Tanaro, Barolo is Piedmont's most famous wine DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), renowned for producing Italy's finest red wines from 100 percent Nebbiolo.
Its red wines were originally sweet, but in 1840 the then extant Italian monarchy, the House of Savoy, ordered them to be altered to a dry style. This project was realised by French oenologist Louis Oudart, whose experience with Pinot Noir had convinced him of Nebbiolo's potential. The Barolo appellation was formalised in 1966 at around 1,700 hectares – only a tenth of the size of Burgundy, but almost three times as big as neighbouring Barbaresco.
Upgraded to DOCG status in 1980, Barolo comprises two distinct soil types: the first is a Tortonian sandy marl that produces a more feminine style of wine and can be found in the villages of Barolo, La Morra, Cherasco, Verduno, Novello, Roddi and parts of Castiglione Falletto. The second is the older Helvetian sandstone clay that bestows the wines with a more muscular style. This can be found in Monforte d'Alba, Serralunga d'Alba, Diano d'Alba, Grinzane Cavour and the other parts of Castiglione Falletto. Made today from the Nebbiolo clones Lampia, Michet and Rosé, Barolo has an exceptional terroir with almost every village perched on its own hill. The climate is continental, with an extended summer and autumn enabling the fickle Nebbiolo to achieve perfect ripeness.
Inspired by the success of modernists such as Elio Altare, there has been pressure in recent years to reduce the ageing requirements for Barolo; this has mostly been driven by new producers to the region, often with no Piedmontese viticultural heritage and armed with their roto-fermenters and barriques, intent on making a fruitier, more modern style of wine.
This modern style arguably appeals more to the important American market and its scribes, but the traditionalists continue to argue in favour of making Barolo in the classic way. They make the wine in a mix of epoxy-lined cement or stainless-steel cuves, followed by extended ageing in 25-hectoliter Slavonian botte (barrels) to gently soften and integrate the tannins. However, even amongst the traditionalists there has been a move, since the mid-1990s, towards using physiologically (rather than polyphenolically) riper fruit, aided by global warming. Both modernist and traditional schools can produce exceptional or disappointing wines.
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