Sunday, February 18, 2018

Elvio Cogno's Barolo Ravera Bricco Pernice and Vietti's Barolo Ravera: The Emergence of Novello and Ravera

The Antonio Galloni celebration of Barolo is held annually in New York City and consists of (i) a gala dinner and (ii) a Masterclass tasting of 15 Barolos on the day after the dinner. This year's Masterclass was titled 2013 Barolo: Sublime Finesse and Elegance and featured 15 of the region's top producers discussing, in turn, their estate's 2013 vintage.

The wines were presented in flights. This flight, titled The Emergence of Novello and Ravera, featured 2013 Barolo Raveras from Elvio Cogno and Vietti presented by Valter Fissore and Luca Currado, respectively.

The Emergence of Novello and Ravera
The context of the flight title is captured pithily by Masnaghetti (Barolo MGA):
If, up until 15 years ago, Novello could be numbered among the townships of lesser importance for the Barolo appellation in terms of vineyard surface, things are quite different today. ... the vineyard surface for the production of Barolo has practically tripled over the last 13 years, now making it superior to Verduno and even to Castiglione Falletto. An expansion which has principally involved the Eastern Slopes of the township where we moreover find the best known crus, in particular Ravera and Sottocastello di Novello.
Masnaghetti goes on to say that most of this growth appears to be driven by producers from other townships expanding their growing and production capacity into the area, potentially driven by lower costs.

Galloni, in a February 2014 article, also mentioned the potential of climate change having beneficial effects for "austere" wines such as those produced in Ravera.

Ravera is the largest of the Novello MGAs, its shared status with the Barolo commune notwithstanding (According to Masnaghetti, 4% of its 130.41 ha falls within the borders of the Barolo commune.). There was a recent significant expansion of the Cru (probably as part of the MGA classification process) because Petrini (A Wine Atlas of the Langhe) had defined it more narrowly: "The territory we have identified as the Ravera vineyard ... covers about five giornate (two hectares). It is a south-facing vineyard that runs along the Ravera municipal road descending from Novello, near the church of San Rocco, to the Panerole municipal road." A rough approximation of the boundaries of the currently defined cru is illustrated in the map below.

An approximation of the Ravera Cru illustrated in brown
The altitude of the vineyard ranges between 300 and 480 m (Masnaghetti), among the highest in the Barolo zone. This height, coupled with the lack of barriers between it and the mountains to the north, exposes the vineyard to cooler north winds. The vineyards experience copious amounts of direct sunlight and significant day-night temperature variation, yielding brilliant fruit endowed with great acidity (Luca Currado, Vietti). These growing conditions usually have the Ravera vines blooming 10 days, on average, later than the vines in other crus but they catch up during the course of the growing season (

The soil composition is 57% loam, 28% clay, and 15% sand, with the clay contributing to its water-holding capability. The limestone content is high, as is the pH(8.2).

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."

Elvio Cogno Barolo Ravera Bricco Pernice
Elvio Cogno purchased Cascina Nuova in 1990, thus launching his own estate after a decades-long association with the Marcarin estate in La Morra and, earlier, making wines for patrons of his family's restaurant. In 1996 Elvio passed his business on to his son-in-law Valter Fissore, husband of his daughter Nadia. Today the winery owns 11.5 ha of vineyards in the Ravera cru, distributed over four vineyards: Cascina Nuova, Bricco Pernice, Ravera, and Vigna Elena.

Elvio Cogno and its vineyards (Source:

Bricco Pernice is a 2-ha vineyard located at 320 m elevation in a "warm and sheltered" portion of the cru. The white color of its soil is a testament to high levels of limestone interspersed with clay. The vineyard is planted with the lampia clone with two of its three parcels outfitted with 25-year-old vines and vines in the remaining parcel averaging 50 years. The vines are vertical-trellised, Guyot-pruned, and planted at 5000 vines/ha.

Bricco Pernice (Source:
The vineyard follows organic-farming principles and, as such, has eliminated the use of synthetic treatments and fertilizers.

Grapes are vinified in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks and macerated for 30 days with a submerged cap. The wines are then racked over to large Slavonian oak barrels (25 - 30 hl) for 30 months aging and is aged for an additional 18 months after bottling.

Vietti Barolo Ravera
The Vietti Ravera plot is 3 ha in size with a southwest exposure and clay-limestone soils. The vines average 25 years and are planted at 4500 vines/ha.

In a video clip on -- wherein Luca Currado and Valter Fissore discuss the Ravera cru -- Luca stated that he has made a wine from this cru for many years but that he had to learn how to make such a wine. In the early days he had tried a more modern approach but the results were unsatisfactory: the "brilliant fruit" and "great acidity" were not adequately represented. After many years of experimentation, he finally came to the realization that the traditional approach -- long maceration and long aging in large casks -- worked best in bringing out the terroir characteristics of the fruit. The year 2000 signaled the end of the period of experimentation and ascendance to production of a reliable terroir wine.

The grapes are crushed and placed into stainless steel tanks for four weeks of fermentation and maceration (pre and post) and are aged for 30 months in Slovenian oak casks.

The Wines
The 2013 Elvio Cogno Barolo Ravera Bricco Pernice showed ripe red fruit, tar, and spice on the nose. Plum on the palate. Saline finish. The Vietti Ravera showed tar, roses, a deep cherry, licorice, and a slight balsamic note. Open on the nose. Floral on the palate. Elegant with a beautiful finish. These are both excellent wines but I found the Vietti slightly more pleasing.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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