Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A visit to Cantina Giuseppe Rinaldi (Barolo, Piemonte)

After our morning session at Gaja, we stopped in for a quick lunch at La Ciau del Tornavento in Trieso before rushing back to Barolo to keep an appoinment with Carlotta Rinaldi of Giuseppe Rinaldi. I had sat at the same table with Carlotta at the La Festa del Barolo lunch and expressed an interest in visiting the estate. We ironed out the details of the visit shortly after the La Festa event.

Carlotta Rinaldi and author at La Festa del Barolo 2017.
Photo credits: Eric Guido
We pulled into the Rinaldi property from Strada Provinciale 163 and was immediately struck by the rather prominent structure dominating the landscape. This building is described in A Wine Atlas of the Langhe as the "lovely early twentieth century residence that now houses the Giuseppe Rinaldi cellar." Carlotto opened the cellar door in response to our knocks and welcomed us inside. She apologized for her attire, a result, she said, of a just-concluded trip to the vineyards.

According to Carlotta, the Rinaldi estate was founded by her great grandfather Giuseppe Rinaldi who had already been making wines with his brothers but broke away to form his own estate in 1916. The Rinaldi winemaking heritage actually stretches back to 1870 when her great great grandfather Giovan merged his inherited vineyard with that of his wife's to form the Barale-Rinaldi estate, the third largest in the region behind Borgogno and Marchesi di Barolo (Labor of Love).

The current estate proprietor, Giuseppe, is best known for his continued adherence to the traditional ways of producing Barolo wine: long maceration, indigenous yeasts, aging in botti, and blending from different terroirs. And the market has responded to, and rewarded the estate for, this diligence. Giuseppe has been joined in the estate by his two daughters Marta and Carlotta. In a family business, members contribute wherever their efforts are required; and the same is true in the Rinaldi case. But the sisters do have focus areas which are informed by their specific areas of study. Marta's area of focus is in the cellar while Carlotta spends a lot of her time in the vineyards.

Giuseppe Rinaldi sources fruit from four Barolo crus: Brunate, Le Coste, Cannubi San Lorenzo, and Ravera. The characteristics of those crus are shown in the figure below.



Brunate is considered one of the greatest Barolo crus and has been treated in greater detail here.

Cannubi San Lorenzo soil is loosely packed, dry, and infertile and is primarily comprised of sand and the "whitish silaceous marl known in the local dialect as tov." Pockets of dark, nutrient-rich clay are encountered from time to time. The wines, according to A Wine Atlas of the Langhe, drink well early but also respond well to being laid down. Carlotta observed that this cru gives the best results in rainy years and needs to be blended in order to attain its highest potential.

Ravera is the largest and most diverse of the Barolo zone MGAs as regards elevation and aspect (Masnaghetti). Its climate is affected by the Alps to the north and the Ligurian Sea to the south and this intersection results in morning fog and significant diurnal temperature variations. According to Kermit Lynch, the wines from this MGA "... have the distinction of combining the structural strength of neighboring Serralunga d'Alba with the concentration and richness of Bussia and other crus further north."

The Rinaldi vineyards are farmed organically. The fruit undergoes a month-long pre-fermentation maceration/fermentation/post-fermentation maceration or a month in tall, un-cooled, Slovenian oak vats. Indigenous yeasts are utilized in this effort. Cap management is via twice/day pump overs along with some manual punchdowns. Grape solids are sent to a basket press at the end of the maceration.

Carlotta explaining the winemaking process
at Rinaldi
The wines are aged in big botti for 3 to 5 years. They are racked once or twice per year during the first two years but are untouched in the third.




Giuseppe Rinaldi is a fierce adherent to blending Barolo wines from different sites, one of the major aspects of its traditionalist chops. They have been producing two blended Barolos (Brunate-LeCoste and Cannubi San Lorenzo-Ravera) from the four crus since 1963 but, as of 2010, it is no longer permitted to place two cru names on a Barolo bottle. In response to the new regulations, the estate is now producing a Barolo Brunate (includes 15% Le Coste fruit) and Barolo Tre Tine (50% Ravera, 30% Cannubi San Lorenzo, and 20% Le Coste).

We tasted three wines at the conclusion of Carlotta's discourse:
  • Langhe Nebbiolo 2015
  • Barolo 2013 Tre Tine
  • Barolo Brunate 2013 


The Langhe Nebbiolo was easy drinking, fruity, and approachable. According to Carlotta, this wine is sourced from a combination of older and younger vines from, the Ravera cru and was aged in botti for 1 to 5 months. A pleasant wine.

The Tre Tine was aged in botti for 3 years. Dark fruit, bitumen, and kerosene on the nose. tar on the palate along with dark fruits and a savoriness. Good acid levels. Structured yet approachable.

The Brunate showed tar, spice, and tobacco on the nose. Dark fruit, good acid levels, and great weight on the palate. Balanced. Excellent wine.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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