Sunday, February 11, 2018

E. Pira e Figli's Via Nuova and Luciano Sandrone's Le Vigne: The art of the blend

The second of the six flights at Galloni's Masterclass (2013 Barolo: Sublime Finesse and Elegance) at La Festa del Barolo was titled The Art of the Blend and showcased the 2013 Barolos of E. Pira e Figli (Via Nuova) and Luciano Sandrone (Le Vigne) presented by Chiara Boschis and Barbara Sandrone, respectively.

There are a number of blending drivers, as indicated in the figure below. While varietal blends tend to dominate, blending can occur down to the single-variety, single-plot level where free-run and press juice are kept separate and then blended in a winemaker-determined proportion at a later date.

According to, complexity in wine is demonstrated by "multiple layers and nuances of bouquet and flavors that are formed mostly in mature wines because aging contributes to this attribute." Further, "complexity creates interest and often unfolds layer upon layer on the nose and in the mouth if the wine is at its peak. Compared to complex wines, other wines seem shallow or one-dimensional."

According to Winemaker Matt, writing on the Kendall-Jackson Blog, blending different vineyard sites with different characteristics from different growing regions allows winemakers to create a wine that is 'greater than the sum of its parts.'" He points to the Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (assuredly not one of the world's great wines; but the principle holds) which is built from a small percentage of the 400 lots which the winery vinifies and ages separately post-harvest. He creates a core blend and then experiments with different lots to add complexity and seamlessness. According to Matt, "Often the results are truly surprising. A wine that might seem simple, but having one or two interesting features, can provide an incredible enhancement to a new blend."

As it relates to Barolo, Erin Scala (writing in Vinography) stated thusly: " In the first half of the 1900s, producers generally blended wines from different vineyards and bottled them together. In addition to the levels of complexity that you'd get from the subtle differences in ripeness from different microclimates, the blending of wines from sandstone and limestone marl could yield a full, complex wine. You could also get other layers of complexity from the blending of younger and older wines."

E. Pira e Figli's Via Nuova
Via Nuova used to be a cru but, when this named vineyard was incorporated into the Terlo MGA, Chiara trademarked the name and, as of 2009, made a blended Barolo with fruit sourced as follows: Terlo and Liste in Barolo, Ravera and Mosconi in Monforte d'Alba, and Gabutti and Baudana in Serralunga d'Alba. Each site averages 0.5 ha in size and is either south- or southeast-facing at an average elevation of 340 m.

In addition to the living-soil practices of organic farming, and the pest-control characteristics of biodiversity, Chiara has an active-measures program for the provision of high-quality fruit to the cellar door. Vines are pruned in the winter (a maximum of 9 buds/plant) and green harvesting (to concentrate the vine's energy into a smaller number of bunches) remains a mainstay of her vineyard management program.

All work in the vineyard, including harvesting, is done manually. At harvest there is a strict selection in the vineyard with grapes not making the cut dropped in the field to contribute to soil regeneration.

After harvesting, the grapes are crushed/destemmed prior to being placed into stainless steel tanks for fermentation (Chiara prefers stainless steel because of the ease of cleaning). Each vineyard is vinified separately. Maceration is shortened (two weeks for fermentation and maceration in this case) with the cap being managed by punchdowns. The grapes are then lightly pressed and racked over to barriques for malolactic fermentation.

The wine is aged for 24 months  in lightly toasted French oak barrels (1/3 new, 1/3 second use, 1/3 third use) and then an additional year in bottle.

Chiara Boschis at La Festa del Barolo 2018

Luciano Sandrone's Le Vigne
Lee Vigne is a multi-vineyard blend composed of fruit sourced from the Baudana (Serralunga d'Alba),Villero (Castiglione Falletto), and Merli (Novello) vineyards. According to the winery website, these vineyard sites "form a perfect diagonal across the area" and encompasses a variety of terroirs: soils ranging from light and sandy to ones that are more compact and deep; different altitudes; and different exposures.

The winery is known for severe green harvests (in order to produce high-quality fruit) along with "an obsessive attention to training, pruning, and harvesting." Once harvested, the grapes are vinified and aged separately with blending occurring prior to bottling. Fermentation is spontaneous with medium-length maceration. Malolactic fermentation and aging are carried out in 500l, partially new, French oak barrels.

The Sandrone winemaking practices place the enterprise squarely athwart the traditional and modern winemaking philosophies in Barolo.

Barbara Sandrone at La Festa del Barolo 2018

The Wines
The Via Nuova showed rose petals, tar, licorice and dark cherries. Powerful. Tar carries through. Persistence on the palate from attack through a lengthy finish. The Le Vigne showed tar, licorice, red fruit, and a hint of rose petals. Fruit and acid balances beautifully on the palate. Spice. Great weight. Lengthy sour finish. I like this wine.

These two wines made great cases for blended Barolos.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme


  1. These are both modernist, upper-echelon producers. It would be interesting to compare their wines to some of the more traditional producers of blended Barolo, like Pio Cesare or Bartolo Mascarello.