Wine tasting: Piemontese grapes need an individual approach, says Jeffrey Chilcott
Burgundy lovers often progress to Piemonte in their vinous journey. Both regions share similar traits in the wealth of micro-climates producing wines with great individual personalities. Piemonte is also a gourmet capital, and home to the famed white truffle. Jeffrey Chilcott, a New Zealander, is the cellar master at Marchesi di Grésy. Serendipity brought him to Piemonte. In 1990, he was travelling and working his way around Italy. Tuscany was his next destination. He took the wrong train, and ended up in Piemonte, where he has remained ever since. His time there has given him local insight to the region and its wines.
In making wines, he aims for consistency. It is also important that the wines should taste of the place. Climate change has given him a helping hand: the slight increase in temperature has helped the grape ripening process and has resulted in a number of great vintages.
The Marchesi di Grésy family has been growing grapes for over 200 years. But it was only in 1973 that Alberto di Grésy, the current steward, decided to produce wines under the family's own label. Chilcott says that Piemontese grapes need an individual approach. Like people, the grapes can be overachievers or underachievers, and they need to be coaxed and be given individual attention to reach their full potential. The single-vineyard Martinenga is used purely to produce Barbaresco made from the nebbiolo grape. The vineyard is has three subzones to produce three wines. Each Barbaresco expresses its own personality and style.
Chilcott believes that nebbiolo deserves time and cannot be pushed. He says wine ageing is a complex story. Each year in bottle is another page in the story, he says, so patience is needed.
Grésy Chardonnay Langhe DOC 2011
Chilcott takes a contrarian approach with chardonnay. Usually, white wines are aged for shorter lengths of time than red wines. He says that the Langhe Chardonnay has weight, so treats it like a red wine.
Previously, the chardonnay spent about nine to 10 months in oak; now, the wine is matured for 20 months in barrel to integrate the oak and wine. Creamy, nutty, pear notes on the nose.
On the palate it has intense fruit, rich with well-integrated oak tannins and a long finish. HK$320
Camp Gros Martinenga Barbaresco DOCG 2005
Only made in the best vintages. 2005 was a difficult vintage and produced a small crop. Barbaresco offers elegance and can be enjoyed early in its youth.
Starting to show some maturity with savoury, meaty notes. Full body with discreet tannins and finishing long. HK$800
Monte Colombo Barbera d'Asti DOC 2007
Barbera is the most planted grape variety in Piemonte. It is known for its deep colour and its high acidity. Its forward fruitier nose and soft tannins makes for an inexpensive and cheerful wine, but when grown at higher densities with lower crop yields, Barbera is capable of producing a serious wine with ageing potential.
Fresh plum, red fruit, cherries. Medium body with crisp acidity and very soft tannins. Easy drinking and a refreshing wine for current drinking. HK$300
Wines are available from wellspringwines.com