After visiting Gaja I headed to the adjacent village of Neive to meet Bruna Giacosa and her wine maker Giorgio Lavagna. Bruna runs the family winery alongside her 80-year-old father Bruno. Founded in 1960 as a negociant, Bruno Giacosa today manages 44.7 acres of vineyards, producing about 400,000 bottles per year. As can be expected their yields are low, with between 4,500 and 5,000 vines planted per hectare. Bruno Giacosa’s focus is of course nebbiolo, but barbera, and dolcetto are also planted on the estate. From purchased grapes, Bruno Giacosa also bottles arnais and pinot noir sparkling wine. To describe the Giacosa family wine making philosophy in a nut shell, Bruno’s quote taken from Robert Parker’s book World’s Greatest Wine Estates is clear and concise, stating that “Traditionalist philosophy for us means making wines that strongly convey the varietal properties of a native vine and its terroir.” I must say that this matches nearly to a tee the response given to me by Bruna herself. She further added, that also very important to the style of their Barolo and Barbaresco wines are the up to 36 months of ageing in large oak casks, without the addition of barriques. All wines are bottled without being filtered.
To provide a quick history of the Giacosa family and estate, Bruno is the third generation of Giacosa wine makers. He worked in the vineyards of Piemonte since 1944. In 1960 he purchased his estate and began making wine as a negociant, producing wines solely from grapes purchased from other vineyards. However, in 1982 Bruno purchased the Falletto vineyard and began the tradition of Bruno Giacosa estate-bottled wines. Further expanding the family holdings, in 1991 Giacosa purchased the Asili vineyard. Bruno’s daughter Bruna Marina Teresa Giacosa (she made me promise not to include her full name so I hope I don’t get in trouble) joined the team at the age of 20 and has been on board ever since.
I asked Bruna about the economic crisis and how it’s affected their sales. She mentioned that without question sales have been affected, but she’s not overly worried. Although Bruna did note that the United States has always been their number one customer in terms of overall sales, at least until last year. Germany is now their number one customer. Not wanting to end on a sour note, I asked Bruna what she was currently drinking on her own time. Her response was quick and to the point… “Bubbles!” Bruna said that bubbles give her energy and that there’s nothing better than a sparkling wine after a day of work. She further mentioned that she prefers Italian sparkling wine over Champagne. She finds some Champagne to be overly acidic. However, she certainly didn’t bash Champagne; she was just clearly loyal to her land and local style.
Giorgio, the wine maker, joined the team just about one year ago, after the unexpected departure of the estate’s long-time and well respected wine maker Dante Scaglione. Giorgio’s previous job was as wine maker at Batasolio, in between Barolo and La Morra. I asked Giorgio about the 2008 vintage and he noted that it was fresh, with good structure, minerality and balance. He noted that 2001 was probably their best vintage, followed by 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2004. 1997 and 2003 were also good, but not for ageing, as the years were too hot and lacking rain, resulting in grapes that were too ripe. No Barolo was produced during the 1991, 1992, 1994, 2002, and 2006 vintages.
I hate to feed into the eminence and overuse of Parkerism, but just to steal another quote from Parker’s book, this time from Parker himself, “there are no wines in the world I buy without tasting first, except for those of one producer—the Professor of Nebbiolo (Bruno Giacosa).” I certainly wouldn’t go this far, as I only spent 2 hours at the Giacosa estate and it was my first experience tasting Giacosa wines. However, I must say that these were two wonderful hours and I did leave with three bottles in hand, a Falletto Barbaresco and Barolo, and a Pinot Noir Spumante. All three were phenomenal!
Here’s what Bruna, Giorgio and I tasted …
2005 Bruno Giacosa Classic Method Spumante Extra Brut
Blend: 100% pinot noir
Vinification: Aged 30-36 months in bottle, 13% ABV
Tasting Notes: Crisp and citric nose with raw dough, yeast, toast and minerality. Very fruity with balanced acidity and raspberry flavors.
Price: 13€ wholesale
2008 Bruno Giacosa, Roero Arneis DOCG
Blend: 100% arneis
Vinification: Aged 4 months in stainless steel and 3-6 months in bottle, 12.8% ABV
Tasting Notes: Crisp and dry nose with apple and peach aromas. Light with good acidic balance. Flavors of apple juice and green apple skin.
Price: 10€ wholesale
2007 Azienda Agricola Falleto, Barbera d’Alba DOC
Blend: 100% barbera
Vinification: Aged 12 months in foudres and 3-6 months in bottle, 15.5% ABV
Tasting Notes: Electric purple in the glass. Game, sour cherry, barnyard, and dirt aromas. Very fruity, juicy, full-bodied, and rich, with sweet light tannins. Jammy ripe fruit, alcohol, and plum flavors. A little unbalanced.
Price: 16€ wholesale
2005 Azienda Agricola Falleto, Barbaresco DOCG
Blend: 100% nebbiolo
Vinification: Aged 24-30 months in foudres and 12-18 months in bottle, 14% ABV
Tasting Notes: Elegant and pretty nose with barn, earth and violets. Very balanced and harmonious in the palate with firm but controlled tannins and a refreshing acidity. Fruity flavors, including sour cherries. Drink through 2024.
Price: 50€ wholesale
2005 Azienda Agricola Falleto “Le Rocche del Falleto”, Barolo DOCG
Blend: 100% nebbiolo
Vinification: Aged 30-36 months in foudres and 12-24 months in bottle, 14% ABV
Tasting Notes: Spice, rocks, oak, leather and earth on the nose. Sweet, moderat tannins and ripe fruit in the mouth with sour cherry flavors.
Price: 65€ wholesale
To be continued …