One of my favorite visits during my recent to trip to the Dâo was to Casa da Passarella located in the Serra da Estrela subregion. Casa da Passarella is a historic wine house which began producing in 1892. The estate was instrumental in the creation of the official Dâo wine region demarcated map in 1908. The Dâo region is the oldest for still wine in Portugal. The Cabral family now owns the estate and has worked hard to maintain the traditions and the stories of those who were there first, their slogan is "Stories written in wine." Fortunately, while some of the history has been lost to the past, fanciful legends now fill in the blanks.
Paolo Nunez, the winemaker at the property since 2008, greeted us in the courtyard. He shared that he was born in Douro where he studied enology. He had tasted Dâo wine and liked the more refined style from the region. He wanted to make this type of wine rather than fortified Ports so he came to the region in 2003 to work as a consultant before taking over at Casa da Passarella.
It was a sunny yet cold morning as he led us out to see the vineyards. He shared that it is always cold in this part of the region, even in the summertime, and they often got snow in the vineyard in the winter. The 100 hectare property sits at 800 meters above sea level and the climate is influenced by the cool winds coming from the Serra da Estrela mountains for which the subregion is named. They have 45 hectares under vine where they grow Encruzado, Malvasia Fina, Verdelho, Touriga Nacional, Jaen, Tinta Roriz and Alfrocheiro along with small amounts of Baga, Alvarelhâo, Tinta Pinheira, and Tinta Carvalha which are used for the red field blends. The vines grow in granitic low fertility soil and Nunez shared that due to the seclusion of the property, it was fairly easy to grow organically though they had not sought certification. We headed back to the winery for some warmth and a wine tasting.
Casa da Passarella O Oenologo Encruzado 2017 - The grapes for this wine are treated to a pre-fermentation maceration before being fermented in used wood casks. This white had aromas and flavors of tangerine citrus with verbena, a medium body, vibrant acidity, and a long citrus finish, very pleasant and drinkable. This wine comes complete with a story of twin brothers, one good and one less so. Which one deserves the Nobel Prize in wine making?
Villa Oliveira Encruzado 2015 - This smaller production fuller-bodied white wine aged 9 months in 600 liter oak barrels. More complex, displaying lychee, pear, and citrus with an elegant, fresh, mineral-laced finish. This was bottle number 320 of 2417. The Villa Oliveira label was original to the estate, they have a bottle dated from 1893 on display.
Casa da Passarella Colheita Tinta "A Descoberta" 2015 - This violet-purple colored red blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Alfrocheiro, and Jaen. Ripe red fruit aromas and flavors of raspberry and pomegranate was fresh and balanced with moderate tannins and good acidity with a medium length finish. There is a box pictured on the label that had been hidden in the walls of the house by the former owners. It was found in 2010 during renovations piquing great interest before it was opened and found to be empty, or was it? It, too, has a story written in wine. Casa da Passarella Enxertia Jaen 2013 - This single varietal almost opaque red was fermented and aged in cement vats exhibiting spicy notes of black pepper over fresh raspberry with a light vegetal hint. It was well-balanced with fresh acidity, soft tannins, and a long mineral-laced finish. This wine's story involves grafting, levitation, and a mirror to end phylloxera, truth or fiction?
Casa da Passarella O Oenologico Vinhas Velhas Tinto 2014 - This field blend has a total of 24 different grapes which underwent a pre and post fermentation maceration before aging for 18 months in oak barrel. It was an almost opaque red color with aromas and flavors of mixed red fruit with spicy notes, a full body, moderate tannins, and a long, fresh finish. Villa Oliveira Touriga Nacional 2015 - Also made in cement vats with pre and post fermentation maceration, this wine aged for one year in 225 liter French oak barrels. With a fully opaque red color, this wine showed bright aromas and flavors of red currants and raspberries with a hint of bergamot, it was full-bodied, fresh, and elegant with a long, smooth, spicy finish.
Casa da Passarella Fugitivo Vinhas Centenárias 2014 - This red blend of 25 native varieties come from vines that are over 100 years old which is vinified traditionally in a lager before spending one year in 600 liter oak casks and 2 years in the bottle before being released. The wine was a sheer red color with bright red fruit aromas, a vegetal hint, medium body, smooth tannins and a persistent fruit-filled finish. This was bottle 552 of 3160 made.
Casa da Passarella Fugitivo Vinhas Branco 2016 - This full bodied, fresh white has a long slightly savory finish and comes from an old vines field blend of "all the dog grapes," per Nunez. It spent one year aging in oak casks and one year in bottle before release. This was bottle 513 of 1970 made. A love story and an escape from a soon to be war-torn Europe accompany this and the previous wine.
All of the wines tasted are highly recommended. I was particularly taken with both Encruzados and the Jaen. This winery is on route 5 of the Dâo Wine Route and is tourist friendly with both vineyard and winery tours, wine tastings, and a wine shop.
When two wine samples arrived from the Salice Salentino region of Italy, I quickly realized how limited I was in my knowledge of this area. Although I had met one producer from Puglia a few years ago, I had not encountered any other wines from the region besides his since then. A quick search of some wine textbooks from previous classes showed me that I was not mistaken, I really had not learned much about this area during my formal wine education at all, my WSET-3 textbook, for example, had one sentence regarding Salice Salentino in their two paragraph coverage of all of Puglia. It seemed a little research was in order.
Puglia is located in southeast Italy in what is commonly referred to as "the heel of the Italian boot" surrounded by both the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. The climate is sunny, warm and dry with a good diurnal shift making it ideal for many types of agriculture along with grape growing. Salice Salentino is located in the southern part of the region near the center of "the heel" or sub-penisula.
The Salice Salento DOC is named for a town located in the province of Lecce which is the main production area. There are many styles of wine produced within this region. The primary grape in the two samples I received is Negroamaro. The name translates to black and bitter in English. The grape is believed to have been brought to the region during Greek colonization of the area around the 8th century BC.
The Greeks were not the first people to arrive and they would not be the last to want to colonize or take over the area. The history of Puglia reads like Game of Thrones with one kingdom after another laying claim to its agricultural bounty and strategic location.
After the Romans ousted the Greeks, they connected Puglia to Rome with the Appian Way, an important road for the empire that would enable trade between the two areas. After the fall of Rome, the area was controlled by the Ostrogoths, the Lombards, the Normans, the Holy Roman Empire, the French Angevins, the Turks, the Aragons, Austria, Spain, and France before finally being united with the rest of the Italian peninsula during Risorgimento in 1861. After Puglia was reunited with Italy, it would continue to grow as an important agricultural region eventually surviving intense bombing during WWII as German troops were forced out.
The region continued as an agricultural and winemaking area throughout the 20th century and into the present time. Salice Salento would receive its DOC status in 1976. Regulations require a minimum of 75% Negroamaro grapes in both the red and rosato wines and a minimum of 90% if Negroamaro is included on the front label. Riserva wines must be aged for 24 months with a minimum of 6 months in oak.
Rosalbòre Salice Salentino Negroamaro 2017 - This rosato wine is produced by Cantine Sanpancrazio, a cooperative that has been working the area since 1961. Currently there are about 400 contributing members with 500 hectares of vineyards within the Salice Salentino production area. Their philosophy is "Tradition in the vineyard and innovation in the cellar." This cherry colored rosé is made from 100% Negroamaro grapes which have been fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks. With fresh aromas and flavors of strawberry and raspberry with light floral hints of rose and a touch of rosemary, this dry, medium+ bodied wine is well-balanced with food friendly acidity and 13.5% ABV with a lingering red berry finish, it is fruity, refreshing, and crowd-pleasing. Falco Nero Salice Salentino Riserva 2013 - This reserve red wine is produced by family owned Cantine de Falco which has been operating since 1949. It is made from 80% Negroamaro and 20% Malvasia Nera, a blending grape that enhances aromatics and lessens tannins. With intense fruity aromas and flavors of black cherry, plum, and prune with a distinct dark chocolate note, this dry, soft red is rich and juicy with a savory note and a hint of spice in the persistent finish. 14% ABV
Paco dos Cunhas de Santar is a 17th century manor house in Santar village in the Dão wine region of Portugal. It has an interesting history, it was originally owned by a family named Cunhas who produced olive oil, fruit, and wine. They were connected to the Spanish monarchy. When Portugal regained its independence, the local population destroyed the property in retaliation and it was left empty.
Global Wines, who owns multiple properties and brands in wine regions throughout Portugal, purchased the estate in 2002. Restoring the property has been a long process with the vineyards being the top priority, all of the surrounding 20 hectares of vines have been organically grown since 2007, they launched the first organic wine from the estate in 2012. The original manor house has been restored and now includes a wine shop, event space, and restaurant. It is tourist friendly offering both winery and vineyard tours, along with wine tastings. The tastings are outside on the terrace when the weather permits providing guests with vineyard views along with a classic garden to enjoy. There is another house on the property that will eventually be renovated into a high end guest house.
Our group toured the garden and vineyards which had an old pigeon house on site. After the tour, we went inside to their event space to learn more about Global Wines and do a tasting primarily from their affordable Cabriz brand sourced from another Dão property along with some special premium selections from the Paco dos Cunhas line. We were then treated to lunch at the on-site restaurant. Our guide, Pedro Teixeira, Senior Export Manager, alerted us that the company has a few restaurants, each making a unique style of cuisine, the restaurant at Paco dos Cunhas is known for their sophisticated nouvelle approach.
The Tasting: Affordably priced for under $10 in the U.S., these two wines offer good value for the cost. Cabriz Colheita Selecionada Branco 2017 - Crisp, light, and easy drinking this white blend containing Encruzado, Bical, Malvasia Fina, and Cerceal Branco was aromatic with tropical fruit aromas and flavors with a citrus pith finish. Cabriz Colheita Selecionada Tinto 2016 - This red blend contains 40% Alfrocheiro, 40% Tinta Roriz, and 20% Touriga Nacional was aged for 6 months in neutral oak barrels giving the wine a smooth, round feel with aromas and flavors of mulberry jam and a light toasted note.
These two wines are made from 100% Touriga Nacional and did not see oak, they are priced between $15-20 in the U.S. Cabriz Touriga Nacional Branco 2017 - A very unique wine, this is the only white wine from Touriga Nacional that we tasted while in the Dão. The grapes were harvested early to preserve the acidity. The wine had tart red berry aromas and flavors with a fresh, orange citrus finish. Cabriz Touriga Nacional Tinto 2014 - Young and fresh tasting with blackberry aromas and flavors with a hint of bergamot in the soft, lingering finish.
The Reserva wines are priced just under $20 in the U.S. Cabris Reserva Branco 2017 - This white is 100% Encruzado, it was partially fermented in stainless steel and partially in neutral French oak with three months of batonnage. It is dry, with a medium body, floral citrus blossom aromas and citrus flavors with a hint of nuttiness on the fresh, slightly creamy finish. Cabris Reserva Tinto 2014 - This red blend contains 40% Tinta Roriz, 40% Touriga Nacional, and 20% Alfrocheiro, it was aged for 6 months in French oak barrels, half new and half neutral. This wine had a bigger structure and more complex robust flavors than the similar red blend in the Colheita collection, it was fruit forward with black plum and berries with notes of violet, vanilla, and baking spices with a lingering finish.
These two limited edition wines are made from grapes sourced from Paco dos Cunhas de Santar estate's premium seven hectare Contador's Vineyard. This unique area is recognized for its special sun exposure which creates an exceptional terroir for long-lived wines. These select bottles are only made in the best vintages and each are numbered. Paco dos Cunhas Vinha do Contador Dão Branco 2014 - This dry, full-bodied white blend is Encruzado-based with some Malvasia Fina and Cerceal and is partially fermented and aged in new French oak for one year. It has tropical aromas of pineapple, mango, and coconut with a creamy feel and a persistent nutmeg-laced finish. Priced at 30 euros. Paco dos Cunhas Vinha do Contador Dão Tinto "Grande Júri" 2011 - A red blend composed primarily of Touriga Nacional with Argonez, and Alfrocheiro aged in new French oak barrels for 18 months. Our group sampled bottle #1594. This full-bodied, dry red has rich, complex aromas and flavors of mixed berries, bergamot, spice, and a touch of dark chocolate and toast in the lengthy finish.
Priced at 60 euros in the wine shop.
We also tasted the Cabriz Brut Sparkling white blend and the Cabriz Impar Licaroso fortified wine
at lunch, unfortunately, no notes were taken.
Paco dos Cunhas de Santar is on route 1 of 5 on the Dão Wine Route, it is a recommended stop when visiting the region, reservations are required for the restaurant.
Luís Lourenco met our group at Quinta dos Roques, a 35 hectare property in Cunha Baixa in the Dão wine region of Portugal. He had set up a tasting of his sustainably made wines from that estate alongside wines from his slightly smaller, 25 hectare organic property, Quinta das Mais.
Lourenco's family has owned a portion of the property for generations. In addition to grapevines, they used to farm a diverse array of crops, they determined that to be more profitable they needed to specialize in wine grapes. They bought some surrounding land and the Quinta das Mais property in the late 1990s which is located nearby and continued to focus strictly on growing grapes for wine making.
Lourenco said the family made a choice to only use local grape varieties to make true Dão wines. Their main red grapes are Jaen and Touriga Nacional with some Alfrocheiro, Tinta Roriz, and Tinto Cão. Their main white grapes are Malvasia Fina and Encruzado with some Bical, Cerceal Branco, and Gouveio. "Anyone can grow Touriga Nacional and make a decent wine. Jaen and Alfrocheiro are more difficult to grow and to work with but to forget about these other grapes which are part of Portugal's treasure is a big mistake. They are traditional in the Dão and give a good point of reference to the differences in the Dão compared to all the other Portuguese regions."
He set up our tasting to showcase both the region's traditional style blends and the more modern single varietal style. He felt this was the best way to get an understanding of what each of the grape varieties offer.
The Tasting: Roques Colheita 2017 - This fresh, medium body, high acidity, dry white wine blend composed mostly of Encruzado with some Bical, Malvasia Fina, Cercial and Gouveio. It has fresh aromas and flavors of apples and orange citrus with a mineral-laced finish. Mais Branco 2017 - This medium body un-oaked white blend is sourced from 600 meters up in the foothills of the Serra das Estela mountain range It is composed primarily of Malvasia Fina and Encruzado. It is dry and crisp with light floral aromas and an elegant minerality in the finish which Lourenco stated comes from the granitic sand on which the vines are grown.
Roques Encruzado 2016 - This single varietal white is partially fermented for 7 months in French Oak giving it a slightly creamy texture with light floral aromas of citrus blossom and and a fresh, dry, citrusy mineral-laced finish.
Maias Malvasia Fina 2017 - Fermented partially in Fench oak barrels and partially in stainless steel with technical battonage, this dry white was crisp with bright floral aromas and a fresh finish. Roques Coheita Tinto 2016 - This red blend is composed primarily of Touriga Nacional with Jaen, Alfrocheiro, Tinto Roriz and Tinto Cão. It has floral aromas of violet with mulberry flavors and a slight savory note in the finish. Maias Tinto 2015 - This red blend is composed of Jaen and Touriga Nacional. It was fresh and elegant with juicy blackberry aromas and flavors, a hint of violet, and a lingering spicy cherry finish.
Roques Touriga Nacional 2016 - Floral violet aromas with a rich blackberry flavor, full bodied, bigger tannic structure than the previous blends with good acidity and a persistent finish. This wine was aged 15 months in neutral oak barrels. Maias Jaen 2016 - Fruity aromas and flavors of sour cherry with a soft, persistent fruity, cherry finish. This wine was aged 10 months in neutral oak barrels. Roques Alfrocheiro 2014 - Nicely balanced with fresh strawberry aromas and flavors and a lingering fruity finish.
All of these wines are highly recommended, my particular favorites in this tasting were the single varietal Roques Encruzado 2016, the Maias Jaen 2016 and the Roques Alfrocheiro 2014. Quinta dos Roques is part of Route 2 on the Dão Wine Route. It is tourist friendly featuring vineyard tours, winery tours, tastings and a wine shop.
Our second stop on the Dão media tour was at Caminhos Cruzados. This modern mecca of wine rises out of the vineyards that surround it. The building was just completed last year though the company was started in 2012.
In English, the winery's name means crossroads and the name inspired the building designed by Porto architect, Nuno Pinto Cardoso. The unique modern design has already attracted architecture lovers from the U.S, U.K, Germany and the Netherlands while the wine quality is the draw that will bring them back. Even though it is the first year for the new winery to be open, they have received a lot of wine tourists, the majority have been from Brazil which is a major market for the wine.
The company was started by Paulo Santos who was born in Nelas. His love of wine began with the
small quantities of wine that his family has produced for over 30 years from their own vineyards. He believes in the quality of wine that the area can produce and decided to convert an old agricultural company into a contemporary wine production facility.
Surrounding the modern structure are 17 hectares of land under vine. They also own an additional 23 hectares nearby. They were able to double their production this year upping it to 500,000 bottles. Their main brand is Titular but they also offer some smaller production wines under the Caminhos Cruzados label.
Caminhos Cruzados is on the Dão Wine Route which guarantees that it is a tourist friendly winery. Reservations for tastings are recommended.
The Tasting: Titular Branco 2016 - A blend of Encruzado and Malvasia Fina, very floral with citrus and a mineral
finish. Titular Dão Novo 2018 - Made from Jaen (aka Mencía in Spain), this wine was made using carbonic maceration to produce a light, fruity, easy drinking red meant to be consumed young. It has a Welch's grape juice nuance that tastes best chilled. Ideal for outdoor summertime drinking. Titular Colheita Tinta 2015 - This red wine is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, and Alfrocheiro which was fermented in stainless steel. It has bright red fruit aromas and flavors with noticeable tannins. Titular Jaen 2015 - Fresh, mixed red fruit aromas and flavors with food friendly acidity. The winery also suggests serving this wine at cooler than cellar temperatures. Titular Reserva 2015 - This red wine is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, and Alfrocheiro which was fermented in oak for 12 months. Mixed berry aromas and flavors with vanilla and spice.
Titular Touriga Nacional 2013 - This wine tasted of higher alcohol though the label said not. Light blackberry and plum aromas and flavors with hints of violet. Titular Alfrocheiro 2015 - This wine was partially fermented in stainless steel and partially in French oak where it spent 18 months. It was very aromatic and well structured with velvety tannins, red berry aromas and flavors and a lingering spicy finish. My favorite in this tasting. Titular Dão A Edicão S/ Nome 2015 - This wine is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, and Alfrocheiro sourced from a small vineyard near the owner's home. It had a big tannic structure with dark fruit aromas and flavors, a hint of vanilla, and a smoky note in the persistent finish. It spent 18 months in oak barrels.
Our group was treated to a lunch of traditional Portuguese food where we enjoyed more of the wine. We also tried the Caminhos Cruzados Descarada 2017 - a simple, sweet white wine consumed with dessert.
Our first stop in the Dão wine region of Portugal was at Quinta do Cruzeiro where Julia Kemper Wines are produced. As we headed up to the vineyards, I felt like I was hiking through the woods at camp but the high heeled boots of our leader suggested we were in a more civilized place. All of the vineyards are surrounded by pine forests with eucalyptus and olive trees bordering the edges. There was a freshness in the air that Julia said came from the surrounding mountains, the diverse plant life and colorful mushrooms suggested something more enchanted. Julia shared her history with us as we walked. The farm has been in her family for more than 400 years, it was always taken care of by the men in her family.
In 2000, Julia was a lawyer in Lisbon when her father requested that she take over running the family farm. Why me, she thought. She would have to quit her job and begin a new life and she was not sure that she wanted to do that. She was also hesitant because she knew what a tremendous responsibility it would be and her father stipulated that she could never sell it, it must remain in the family.
She was also surprised that she was chosen. It was always the men who had been in charge. Growing up, she had never even been invited into the cellar to see the process of making wine. The family had always sold the majority of the grapes they produced, they typically only made a small amount of wine for the family and for friends. Their wine making was more of a hobby that they were passionate about but it was not the farm's main business.
After 3 years she finally accepted. She arrived in 2003 to find that things were not as she would have liked. She found piles of old containers from the 1930s, partially buried, that once had held chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. She was horrified to realize how the farm had been run during the previous century. She immediately made the decision to go organic. She also made the decision to stop selling the property's grapes. She wanted to make wine from the farm's grapes and sell that instead.
For the next five years, she began changing things. She chose not to produce wine during that time. In addition to getting the property cleaned up and properly disposing of the chemical mess of the past, she also brought in some French wine consultants. While they helped with the studies of soil and climate to determine where each variety of the native vines should be grown, she was most interested in learning how best to sell the wine that she planned to produce.
While Portugal has long been known for their field blend wines, her consultants advised her to make varietal wines instead. They believed that making wines from single varieties of grapes would be easier to sell on the world market. As consumers became more savvy about the different types of wine available, they would be able to distinguish which varietals they preferred.
Once she had decided on her business plan, she needed to create a brand. Julia joked that as with many Portuguese, she had a long list to choose from as her full name is composed of 14 names. As a lawyer, she was practicing as Ana Julia de Melo Kemper. She decided on Julia Kemper believing it would be the easiest to pronounce in the international market and feeling strongly that the initials JK had been lucky for others throughout history.
"Currently, the wines are being sold from Canada to Beijing", she stated, "It is not only my full time job, it is my full time passion." What she initially construed as a burden has become, "a very pleasant life, though it is a lot of work, it is worth it." She still feels like she is learning how best to handle her new role and she shared she surrounds herself with good people to help her. The 60 hectare estate has 20 hectares under vine. The vineyards sit on soils composed of granite, schist, and quartz on three plateaus. The vineyards are now certified organic using many bio-dynamic principles. Julia summed up her journey, "I became organic because I was organic. I am happy to take care of my family farm and make the type of wines I like and want to drink."
The Tasting Elpenor Vinho Branco 2017 - This white is fermented in stainless steel, it is crisp and fresh with grapefruit and a light mineral finish. Julia Kemper Vinho Branco 2016 - About 25-30% of this white blend spent time in new French oak giving it a slight creaminess to the texture yet still fresh and light with pear and citrus aromas and flavors with a light tropical note in the finish. Julia Kemper Reserva Vinho Branco 2015 - This Encruzado-based wine spent one year in new French Oak giving it a rich, full bodied, creamy feel with vanilla hints mingling with the peach and grapefruit aromas and flavors through the lingering mineral-laced finish. Julia called this one a winter white. Elpenor Tinto 2014 - This red blend saw no oak. The wine is fresh and juicy with black cherry aromas and flavors and a tart, peppery finish. The label for this line was inspired by a picture of a caterpillar taken in the vineyard. It was peacefully living there because the vineyards are organic. Elpenor Reserva Touriga Nacional 2014 - This velvety red wine spent four years in oak barrels. It has fresh aromas and flavors of ripe black cherry and blackberry with a slight almond skin note in the lingering finish. Julia Kemper Curiosity 2012 - This red wine is composed primarily of Alfrocheiro with 10% of Touriga Nacional, it spent 2 months in three year old French oak barrels. It was fruity with raspberry and cherry with a light floral note of violet and hints of fresh herbs through the persistent finish.
If traveling to Portugal, this winery is on the Dão Wine Route. The wineries that are part of this group are tourist friendly, though reservations are required.
Late in the afternoon, Daniela Veglio, Mauro's wife, met me outside of the winery to show me the surrounding vineyards and tell me their story. It all began with Mauro's grandfather, Angelo Veglio. Angelo was a sharecropper and part-time butcher who had a dream of owning his own vineyards and making wine under his own name from the local grapes that he loved. In the 1960's, he was able to purchase his first property located in Gattera and the realization of his vision began. By 1979, he was able to buy a rundown property called Cascina Nuova with a farmhouse which now, after many additions, houses the current tasting room, cellar and winery.
Angelo had three sons but only Mauro shared his dream. Mauro Veglio took over in 1986 when he was 25 years old. He began the restoration of the Cascina Nuova property and started experimenting with different winemaking and vineyard techniques. Mauro Veglio started his own brand in 1992. These were the years that the Barolo Boys began making waves through the region. Daniela shared, "Most of the people here were just farmers, peasant workers, stuck in the hands of the buyers that set the price for the grapes. What could anyone do? You can't hold onto your grapes forever, they have to be sold. Our parents and grandparents had struggled to survive, the Barolo Boys came from the lowest level of society. After traveling and seeing more of the wine world, we learned it was important to work together and share our experience for all to be successful."
They began to improve the quality of their wine faster this way. The winemaking in the region began to change. For the first time, reduction of yields in the vineyards became important as did cleanliness in the winery. "It has been good for everyone, it has become difficult to find a bad wine in the region."
I briefly met Mauro outside of the winery where he was relaxing. They had just completed bringing in all the grapes and the end of a good harvest showed on his face. He kindly went back to the vineyard with me for a quick photo-op before returning to the winery to oversee the clean up.
Daniela and I went into the tasting room and she introduced me to their nephew, Alessandro. Alessandro is the son of one of Mauro's brothers, he began making wine in 2005 under his own name but decided to join Mauro and Daniela in 2017 bringing five additional vineyard hectares to their venture.
As they set up the wine for the tasting, Daniela spoke of traveling to sell their wines in the 1990's. "The first time new people tried Barolo, they were shocked at its structure. They see the list and see the names and prices. They want to taste the most expensive and famous wine from the area but then they were surprised at what it is."
Alessandro expounded, "It is quite strange when I hear about the early years of my aunt and uncle. When they spoke with people as they began to travel, the Barolo name was somewhat known but not many had tasted it yet. Many people found it to be very aggressive at first taste. It is what we have always had, for us, it is not so tannic."
Currently, Mauro Veglio produces 120,000 bottles a year from their 19 hectares of vineyards located in La Morra, Monforte d'Alba, and Barolo. They use no chemical pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers relying on pheromones to confuse harmful insects and limit their reproduction and cover crops composed of beneficial plants and manure. Mauro and Daniela's respect for Alessandro's work is what led to their initially sharing cellar space with him and their hope now is to see him continue their work throughout the coming years.
The Tasting: Mauro Veglio Dolcetto 2016 - Simple, smooth, and easy drinking with fresh black cherry aromas and flavors and a light floral note. Mauro Veglio Barbera d'Alba 2017 - Fresh and fruity with sweet ripe plum aromas and flavors and a touch of minerality in the finish. Mauro Veglio Barbera d'Alba Cascina Nuova 2016 - From older vines than the previous wine sourced from the vineyard around the winery with sweet red fruit aromas and a light spicy finish. Mauro Veglio L'Insieme Langhe Rosso 2015 - A blend of 40% Nebbiolo, 30% Barbera, and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine was created in the 1990's to accommodate the newly initiated Nebbiolo drinker but is still an important wine in the line. Rich ripe red fruit aromas and flavors with vanilla, and spice. Mauro Veglio "Angelo" Lange Nebbiolo 2017 - Named after Mauro's father and Alessandro's grandfather, floral rose and fruity cherry flavors, fresh and aromatic. Mauro Veglio Barolo 2014 - Fresh and round with intense red fruit aromas and flavors with a touch of vanilla; cohesive and elegant with a savory note in the persistent finish. Made from the youngest grapes from the La Morra and Monforte d'Alba vineyards. Mauro Veglio Barolo Arborina 2014 - Elegant, fresh and aromatic with delicate floral notes of rose and fruity raspberry and black cherry flavors, nicely balanced with a spicy, mineral-laced finish. My favorite of the tasting. Mauro Veglio Barolo Castelletto 2014 - Big shoulders, more tannic and intense with more concentrated aromas and flavors of mixed berry jam with dried herbs and a licorice note in the lengthy finish.