Tasting of La Spinettas
The best wine shop for Italian wine in the Bay Area – Biondivino – hosted a small tasting of Giorgio Rivetti’s wines, La Spinetta, with, whom else, Giorgio Rivetti. As many of you know, La Spinetta is just about my favorite winery in the world. The wines, overall, were a bit of a let down, but the overall tasting was wonderful.
2005 Barbera d’Asti Ca di Pian: Typical Spinetta Barbera nose of purple fruits, plumbs, and brown spice. But on the palate the wine was thinner than I expected and was that a touch of green that showed up near the finish? Yes! It was, I went back and took another sip. More herb-y than green tobacco, but still… This was the leanest Spinetta Barbera I have ever tasted. Not bad; a good Barbera, in fact. But not up to his standards. 88
2003 Sangiovese ‘Sezzana’: A good Super-Tuscan. This has more in common with a very good Chianti or Super-Tuscan made by a Chianti producer than it does with the great wines produced in and around Montalcino. Actually, the wine this most reminded me of was a Tua Rita Perlato del Bosco. Medium-toned red fruits with bright fruit accents (strawberries) as well as some blueberry accents. A little tar and leather both on the nose and palate. About a 30 second finish. Impressive wine, just not a style of wine that I really go for. To be honest, the only $30+ Sangiovese-based Super-Tuscan (outside of a few IGTs produced by Brunello-makers such as Piccolomini’s Ateo which has some Sangiovese in the blend) that ever consistently impresses me is San Giusto a Renenanno’s Percarlo, and this wine did nothing to change that tune. Still, a nice wine, but I’d spend less and get a nice Rosso di Montalcino. 89
2005 Barbera d’Asti Bionzo: From the first whiff, this is the Bionzo which I have always found to have a burt quality to it that I really enjoy. Like the Ca di Pian, this is leaner than any previous experience I’ve had with this vineyard or with Spinetta’s Barberas in general. And, like the Ca di Pian, near the finish, there is an herbal quality. Here, it comes in mostly as dried herbs du Provence, so depending upon what you are looking for, it could actually be a good thing. The finish lingered and there was a nice structure to this. A very nice Barbera, but still no match for the heights I have had from previous vintages. 89.5 – 90.
2005 pin: The very first La Spinetta I ever tasted was the 1999 pin which was the last vintage that Cabernet was blended in; this is now exclusively a Barbera/Nebbiolo blend. (As an aside, Giorgio was seriously impressed I had recalled that he blended Cabernet into the ’99.) Up to this point in the tasting this was easily the best wine – perhaps this speaks to the question of how Nebbiolo faired in ’05 compared to how Barbera fared. The wine had impressive purple fruits and dried herbs du Provence on the nose. The palate had good structure – this is not super-lush, but definitely has some fruit to it, as well as some brown spices. The finish was impressively long with good acidity and tannic grip, but the tannins are reasonably soft. It is hard to get a lot of complexity in a tasting environment like this, but I was impressed with the lavender notes on the nose and palate. 91.
2004 Barbaresco Valeirano: This is wine! The color was lighter than any previous wine but the nose more powerful. The aromatics were of flowers, lavender and rosemary along with mostly high-toned and medium colored fruits. The palate was medium-bodied with medium-colored fruit, lavender, rosemary, and maybe a little orange zest. Long tannic finish. This will improve for at least 5 years. 92.5(+)
2003 Barolo Campe: Who poured Cote Rotie into my Barolo?! This just blew everything else off the table. Seriously, WTF?! This is awesome juice, but I have never seen such a deep purple Barolo before in my life. And, without decanting, this was lush and expressive and SOOO good. I heard a guy who was pretending to know a lot about wine tell a woman he was trying to impress about how much better this would be in 20 years. A very nice man standing next to me also heard this and started chuckling… he turned to me and asked me if I thought this would be getting better in 20 years. No. It won’t, it will be on the serious decline. (This prompted a very nice half-hour long conversation about the enjoyment and place of both the more modern style a la La Spinetta and the more traditional style a la Giacosa.) But, this is amazing now and I can only imagine what it would have been like were it decanted! The nose is of deep purple fruits, blackberries, black raspberries, and maybe a hint of brown olive and rosemary. The palate is super-lush with purple fruits galore and a ton of brown spices. This reminded me of a great, well made Syrah in how lush it was, how incredibly tannic it was, yet how the tannins were soft enough to let the fruit just power through. And that fruit definitely reminded me mostly of Syrah fruit. The finish carried on nearly a minute with said fruit powering through the tremendous amount of soft-enough medium-fine tannins. 94+
2007 Moscato d’Asti ‘Bricco Quaglia’: Maybe the finest Moscato d’Asti I have ever tasted. Nose of orange blossoms, honeysuckle, acaia flowers. Similar palate with perfect Spatlese-level sweetness and enough acidity and fizz to provide great lift. This could be consumed before a dry red wine with reasonable ease. Very long, lingering, tasty finish. 91.5
It was at this point that StephP from the Chowhound boards came up to me and asked me if I posted online because she had heard my conversation with the other guy and said I speak with similar style to the way I post. Ha ha ha!... I would say, “I wonder if it is true, that I speak similarly” but the fact that she was able to recognize me from my speech patterns alone pretty much answers that question!
I have to say, it was an amazing honor to meet Giorgio. He was SUCH a sweet guy and really seems to care about the wine he makes and the people who enjoy it. It was also interesting how gracious he was to other winemakers of the region. When I told him that it was the 1999 Barbera Gallina that changed my view of the heights Barbera could achieve, he told me that it was actually not he, but [Iforget his name off the top of my head, but the guy who owns/makes Braida] who first pioneered ‘Barbera as a world-class wine’ – I quickly responded telling him that the wine I had tasted immediately before the ’99 Gallina was the ’97 Braida Ai Suma (RP 95, FWIW) -- which is completely true. Giorgio gave me a huge grin, but would not comment on what I had just said. A class act.
Whiner, I really enjoyed your report as La Spinetta is one of my favorites also. However, I am puzzled by your report on the ‘Sezzana’ Sangiovese. It is 95% Sangiovese and 5% Colorino, which I think makes it a Sangiovese not a Super Tuscan, but perhaps I don’t understand the classifications. The Sangiovese grapes come from the Sezzana Vineyard in Casciana Terme, Province of Pisa near the Mediterranean coast on the edge of the Chianti DOC. This is nowhere near Montalcino, so I didn’t understand the comparison. As you know, this is a brand new La Spjnetta winery, Casanova della Spinetta, Terricciola, Tuscany and this is the first release. I wondered if there would be some rough edges. Maybe I didn‘t read it quite right, but I really enjoyed the report.
As I noted in my title for the wine, it *IS* a Sangiovese. I just use the term "Super Tuscan" generically to describe basically any Tuscan wine that is not linked to a specific sub-region; but you are right, this is classified as a Sangiovese. And you are also right about where it comes from; Giorgio's assistant told me the plot is almost equidistant from Pisa and Siena.
I was comparing the wine to those from Montalcino just as a reference to my own palate. Other than Percarlo (which does come from close by) and those made by Brunello producers, I cannot think of any Sangiovese-based Tuscan wines in the $30+ that I enjoy from a value perspective. That is all I was trying to say. So if you are naturally a fan of those wines, you may like this more than I did.
I Googled to find a definition of “Super Tuscan” and found the following quote on kenswineguide.com, which correctly describes “Percarlo”, I believe.
“Generally, the grapes will come from low-yielding vineyards & will be picked when they are very ripe (giving the wine a thicker, more syrupy texture). Super Tuscans are also most often made using new small French oak barrels, which leave a powerful imprint of oak & vanilla. All in all, Super Tuscans are the exact opposites of Chiantis.”
So I understand now that the La Spinetta “Sezzana” is more like a Chainti. Thank you for helping me out. I have a bottle of 2005 “Il Nero di Casanova” from that winery, which I don’t want to open yet and didn’t know what to expect.
Very nice report!
I remember my visit there about 3 years ago. Impressive.
Wish I could have made it into the city, but I was Wine Auction-ing,
and drinking some pretty good library swill up here. Whiner, let's do
a tasting soon. I'd like to know how a young pup like yourself
knows so much about wine -- my God, were you weaned on Gaja?
re: maria lorraine
Absolutely! (I mean to doing a tasting soon, not to the Gaja part... I wish!) I'll be at Pinot Days (I may volunteer, but I think I'll just be drinking) and we can talk then if you are going. Otherwise, feel more than free to e-mail me at email@example.com and we'll figure something out.