Saturday, November 12, 2016

Cantina Cavallotto Wine Tasting Dinner: The estate's grape-growing environment

Earlier this year I visited Mt Etna to participate in Contrada del Etna, the annual event which showcases the region's wines and producers. After a full-day of tasting local wines, we repaired to Cave Ox, the local watering hole, for dinner. I had a feel for a non-Etna Italian red and conveyed that sentiment to the owner. He brought me a Barolo by a producer named Cavallotto. I liked the idea of a Barolo but had not had a Cavallotto previously. He reassured me that it was a good producer so I jumped in. And was rewarded for my courage.

I had been pleased with my first encounter with the wine so when I received an invitation from Morrell to attend a Cavallotto Wine Dinner at La Pizza Fresca in New York, I jumped at the opportunity to learn more about the Cantina and its wines.

About 60 people attended the event. The winery was represented by Alfio Cavallotto, one of the three 4th generation children working at the estate. Before describing the tasting, I present some background on the estate's grape-growing environment.

Castiglione Falletto
The Cavallotto estate is located in Castiglione Falletto, one of the five core Barolo communes.

A key characteristic of the commune, according to Masnaghetti (Barolo MGA), is a long ridge which rises from the plains in the northern part of the township and continues southward forming eastern and western slopes." The dividing line for the slopes is illustrated by the generally north-south blue line on the map below. Exposure is homogenous across the eastern slope, improving gradually with elevation as it shifts from east to southeast to south (Masnaghetti).

The western slope has four distinct sectors, each associated with a ridge running in a northwesterly direction. The best exposures are those facing Barolo and La Morra, normally with a south or southwest orientation but sometimes veering west (Masnaghetti). The MGAs (crus) of Pugnane and Mariondino are normally placed in the fourth sector but, according to Masnaghetti, "differ in terms of their position and layout." He sees Pugnane as the terminus of the Munie cru of Monforte d'Alba while Mariondino hugs the ridgeline and has principally western exposures.

Source: Compiled from Masnaghetti's Barolo MGA
Castiglione Falletto vineyards rest on Langhian soils, the characteristics of which are detailed here. A total of 247.08 ha are planted to vine in the commune with the distribution across wines as follows: Barolo, 140.17 ha; Barbera, 31.23 ha; Dolcetto, 27.29 ha; Langhe Bianco, 24.26 ha; and Langhe Rosso, 24.13 ha.

The Crus
The Cavollotto holdings amount to 25 contiguous ha distributed across the Bricco Boschis and Vignolo crus.

Bricco Boschis lies between the ridges of Monprivato and Montanello and is 17.65 ha in size. Eighty-six percent of its surface is under vine, with the resident varieties being Nebbiolo (78%), Barbera (15%), Dolcetto (3%), and Langhe Rosso varieties (4%). Elevation in the cru ranges between 230 and 337 m. This cru is a Cavallotto monopole save for two small, non-contiguous plots farmed by Vietti and six contiguous plots farmed by Roccheviberti.

The cru falls within the Langhian soils subzone and has a mix of sea-floor, shallow-sea, and sandy-beach deposits. The center of the cru rests on the Langhian-Tortonian border and, as a result, the cru shows a mix of white, yellow, and grey marls interspersed with layers of sand. This mix of soils imparts characteristics of both soil zones to the wines of this cru.

A little more than half of the Vignolo MGA is farmed by Cavallotto with the remainder worked by Paolo Scavino and Privati. This tiny cru (compared to Bricco Boschis) is 3.57 ha in size, is 99% planted to vine, has southwest exposure at altitudes ranging between 220 and 270 m, and is primarily planted to Nebbiolo (78%) and Dolcetto (17%). The soil of this cru is Langhian and is comprised of calcareous clay marls intermixed with a small amount of evenly distributed beach sand deposits.

The map below shows the distribution of plantings by cru and vineyards. The table following shows some additional data for a subset of these vineyards.

Source: Compiled from

In addition to the above, Grignolino, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay are planted in the environment. The over-arching management philosophy is the application of an integrated farming methodology inclusive of some organic principles.

I will cover the actual tasting in a follow-up post.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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