Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Barolo Zone's Bussia MGA (Monforte d'Alba): Too big to succeed?

At 292.3 ha, Bussia is the second largest MGA in Monforte d'Alba (and the Barolo Zone as a whole), bested only by Bricco San Pietro which weighs in at a massive 380.09 ha. The demarcation of this large surface area under a single MGA came about with the introduction of the MGA schema with the 2010 vintage and has not been wholeheartedly embraced by Barolo experts (Galloni, for example, says that the designation is "too large to be meaningful. Masnaghetti (Barolo MGA) sees the designation as an attempt to leverage the famed name by incorporating "... other vineyards which could be considered marginal" under its umbrella.)

The Bussia MGA, as currently designated, is shown within the red oval in the map below.

Bussia MGA is shown centered within the red
But today's Bussia is not the Bussia of yore. Prior to the 1960s, Barolo wine was a multi-vineyard blend but all industry players knew the important vineyards. It was not until 1961 that this knowledge was acted upon and two single-vineyard wines were introduced by Beppe Cola of Prunotto (Barolo Bussia) and Vietti (Barolo Rocche di Castiglione). On the Prunotto website, the Bussia vineyard (the source of this single-vineyard wine) is described thusly:
The Bussia vineyard is one of the most renowned of the Barolo zone, extending across 7.35 ha and is laid out like an amphitheatre, with a southeast/southwest exposure. A small cru, Bussia Vigna Colonello, is located on the interior of the vineyard.  A red Barolo of grand character originates from this vineyard. This wine expresses all of the peculiarities of this territory, offering intense and persistent aromas. 
Renato Ratti's Carta del Barolo, published in the 1970s, gave us a glimpse of the notable vineyards in what is today's Bussia MGA. The map, reproduced below, shows a number of Class 2 and Class 3 vineyards and large swaths of open spaces between. Bussia Soprana and Bussia Sottana are mentioned, with Soprano incorporated into a Class 3 Zone called Granbussia. It should be noted that the vineyard referred to in the below map as Fontanile is now called Munie (Masnaghetti).

Table 1. Ratti classification of vineyards that
fall into the modern-day Bussia MGA
Best sub-regions of high qualitative peculiarity Sub-region with special characteristics Historic sub-regions of wine growing

Bussia Soprana Arnulfo

Bussia Sottana Dardi

Fontanile Gran Bussia

Pian Della Polvere


Santo Stefano

The Petrini map of the Great Vineyards of Monforte d'Alba (pp. 152 - 153 of A Wine Atlas of the Langhe) shows three clusters of vineyards in what is today's Bussia MGA. As it relates to Bussia, Petrini states:
To the west, as you turn to Barolo, you will find the vineyards of Bussia. Further south lie Dardi, Pianpolvere, Visetti and Arnulfi ... Bussia is an area that embraces two separate villages, Bussia Soprana and Bussia Sottana. Considered as a whole, Bussia includes some outstanding plots that produce wines with superb sensory profiles, beginning with their very fresh, intense aromas. The great vineyards in this Atlas include Munie and Pugnane with Bussia Sottana, as well as vineyards that surround the hamlet itself and from which it takes its name. Similarly, the vineyard below the houses at Bussia Suprana is named after the little village and ranks in quality alongside the celebrated Colonnello, Bricco Cicala, Romirasco and Gabutti della Bussia vineyards.
In the foregoing, Petrini has expanded Bussia to be all of the vineyards around Bussia Soprana and Bussia Sottana, to include Gabutti. The vineyards to the south are not included in this construct. The Bussia MGA blows away this distinction by incorporating the vineyards to the south under this broad umbrella.

Masnaghetti is convinced that Soprana, Colonnnello, Cicala, Romirasco, and Gabutti should be considered part of one major sub-zone. In his Barolo map, Galloni classifies the vast bulk of the Bussia MGA as noteworthy (the third level of his classification scheme) with only Cicala, Romirasco, and Pianpolvere Soprano rated as outstanding (the second level in his classification scheme).

Below is a map of the Bussia MGA and, following that, brief descriptions of each of the sub-zones.

Named after the pharmacist who bought the property in 1874. Vineyard exposure is south and southwest, with west exposures in the lower sections. Elevations range between 250 and 320 m. The sole grower in this sub-zone is Costa di Bussia

Bussia Soprana
As mentioned previously, Masnaghetti seeks to group the sub-zones around this vineyard into a larger whole. Petrini speaks to a classic designation -- Gran Bussia -- where the wine contained a proportion of fruit from each of the vineyards (Poderi Aldo Conterno does bottle a Gran Bussia wine, for example.). The Bussia Soprana Valley is protected by the high hillside "running from the village of San Giovanni di Monforte to Boschetti at Barolo" and produces fruit of uniform quality. The character of the wines reflect a "common origin in their restrained fragrance, austerity, and structure ..."

The producers in this zone include: Fratelli Barale, Bussia Soprana, Domenica Clerico, Francesco Clerico, Aldo Conterno, Alessandro e G. N. Fantino, Poderi Luigi Einaudi, Prunotto, Rocche dei Manzoni, Oreste Stroppiana, and Terre del BArolo

Bussia Cicala
This vineyard is located in the upper part of the Bussia Soprana Valley and the vines form a bowl with aspects ranging from southeast through southwest. The slope is sheltered from the wind. Clayey calcareous soil which is rich in calcium carbonate and iron.

Bussia Soprana
Four hectares under vine. Barolo from this zone has "excellent structure and crisp, clean aromas that evolve over time into tar. The prominent tannins merge with other elements to produce a wine of outstanding character" (Petrini).

This vineyard has a southwest aspect. The wine has the elegance and harmony of the Barolo commune and structure and power of Serralunga (Petrini).

Five hectares under vine with southwest to west exposures at 355 to 395 m elevation. The west-facing plots are highly prized due to being sheltered and being warm enough to ripen the Nebbiolo.

Seven hectares at 400 m with southwest exposures. Wholly owned by Aldo Conterno. Clayey calcareous soil which is rich in calcium carbonate and iron. Similar soil to Cicala but less brown.

Bussia Sottana
Classe as having excellent characteristics by Ratti. Southwest-facing with elevations ranging between 280 and 340 m. Producers here include: Batasiolo, Damilano, Giacomo Fenocchio, Conterno Fantino, La Boca, Monti, and Armando Parusso.

This is a 7-ha vineyard with the best plots being above the village. The topmost point of the vineyard is known as Mondoca. The wines are "classic Barolo, mineral at times with somewhat rugged tannins. The Mondoca wines are "fuller, complex, and less subtle." Producers include: Francesco Clerico, Angelo Germano, Alsssandro e G. N. Fantino, Oddero, Poderi Colla, Prunotto

An 11-ha vineyard with west to southwest exposures and elevation ranging between 250 and 330 m. The lower part of the vineyard is known as Bofani while the upper portion is called Funtanin. Wines of great elegance and finesse are produced from this vineyard. Producers include: Batasiolo, Cascina Ballarin, Franco Conterno - Sciulun, Conterno Fantino, Giacomo Fenocchio, Livia Fontana, and Armando Parusso.

One of the most highly regarded and homogenous crus in all of Monforte d'Alba, according to Masnaghetti. Unquestionably one of the most privileged spots for Nebbiolo in the Langhe, according to Galloni. The wines are tannic, mineral and possessed of less fruit than neighboring crus. Pianpolvere Soprano, which is differentiated from the broader Pianpolvere, has fleshier wines. Producers are Fratelli Adriano, Famiglia Anselma, and Pianpolvere Soprano.

This vineyard is a continuation of the hill descending from Munie. Nine ha in size with west and southwest exposures. Soil is richer than Munie's. Producers are Giancarlo Boasso, Cascina Pugnane, and Mario Marengo.

Six ha with south and southwest exposures. "Wines have a mineral character and are at times somewhat tannic."Producers are Fratelli Moscone, Attilio Ghisolfi, and Terra del Barolo.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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