Very excited to share these wines with you, I’ve been collecting them for a while, now, in small quantities. Over the past year, I’ve been turned on to some teeny-tiny Piemontese producers, just as some of the small-to-medium houses have released some of their best wines in a decade (indeed, I’ve already written about some of them, including my potential W.O.T.Y. Albino Rocca Barbaresco Ovello). I’ll have one major “Back-Up-The-Truck” Barbera arriving in the next few weeks, but in the meantime, I’d like to tell you about some of the smaller lots of Piedmont I’ve accrued of late:
Cappellano. Although the Cappellano story goes back 5 generations, it was Teobaldo Cappellano, Italian by heritage but born and raised in the horn of Africa, who put the family back on the map when he arrived in Barolo after his father’s untimely death in 1955. Although the Cappellanos had been famous/notorious for making Barolo Chinato in the late 19th century (Chinato is when crazy people add quinine bark and herbs to Barolo, placing it somewhere between “Aperitif” and “Potion”), the wartime years saw the family sell off their grapes to bulk producers, and adopt the “if it grows, spray it” mass-agricultural ethics of the more industrialized countries.
What Teobaldo did makes sense in a 21st century fine wine context, but it seemed like mad abandon to contemporary 1960s common-sense viticulture: he reduced the family’s vineyards to only 4 hectares (madness! How will you eat?), sold off the French Barrique barrels in favour of large, neutral Botti (are you crazy? The Americans won’t buy it!), ended the use of pesticides and herbicides in the vineyards and stopped adding sulphites in the winery (but chemicals are fine! – cough). Perhaps the most notable act that Teobaldo did towards cementing his crazy-hermit-cave-kingdom reputation was to ban all wine journalists from his property unless they agreed to never assign a numerical score to his wines. Teobaldo passed away in 2009, but his son Augusto carries all these traditions on to this day.
Cappellano still makes only 800 cases of wine per year, and it’s incredibly hard to get, to my knowledge only Quebec and B.C. get any in Canada, and the U.S. is largely ignored – the majority of their production is sold locally and in France and Germany. Augusto carries on his dad’s traditions of long macerations and fermentations with no added yeasts (no added anything, unless you count bottles and corks), and I’m proud and honoured to offer their wines:
Cappellano Barolo “Otin Fiorin” Pie Rupestris 2013. From the Gabutti cru in Serralunga d’Alba, in fact the labels used to say “Gabutti” on them but Teobaldo removed the name in protest of the cru’s expansion (and instead included the name of the land’s previous owner, Otin Fiorin). This is surprisingly drinkable and generous considering the Pre-WW1 methods, the fruit is present and vibrant in a way that resembles Grand Cru red Burgundy – crystalline precision of fruit and concentration that (at least right now) outshines the considerable tannins. Let’s not confuse “traditional” for “funk”, just because Augusto makes his wines the way The Lorax would doesn’t mean there’s any barnyard going on – there’s a purity of fruit and earth that is direct and piercing. 2 6-packs available, $107.99 +tax
Cappellano Barbera d’Alba Gabutti 2012. Planted in the non-southwest-facing parts of the Pie Rupestris vineyard (the parts where Nebbiolo isn’t planted), this firecracker of a Barbera is a study in balance: the softer fruits and medium body are electrified by the streak of glorious acidity, but they also keep the acidity from taking the paint off your house. Floral and spice elements invade the red-fruit-driven nose, and the body vibrates with energy – see for yourself when we pour it in the River District Vintage Room at 3pm this Saturday. 2 cases available, $57.49 +tax
Elio Filippino. The 50th anniversary of the Filippino family’s winery this year was enough to propel the charming but hermetic Elio to travel the world – I met him in the springtime here at the store. Elio contains 0% English so he travels with a translator, an impeccably dressed older Italian lady who seemed forlorn that she couldn’t smoke anywhere. Also following the ethic of not submitting for numerical scores, Elio largely makes wine from only two hills near Nieve, Serra Capelli and San Cristoforo, and practices a vineyard management style so brutal it’s lucky for him that grapes can’t have lawyers. Concentration and longevity are his goals, and his Barbarescos are statuesque and powerful, especially:
Elio Filippino Barbaresco Serre Capelli Riserva 2013. Hide your kids. Reminds me of the Elio Grasso Runcot Barolo, in that it’s unapologetically aged for 2 years in new French Barriques and it drinks like it just wrestled a bear and won. The nose is gorgeous, floral and generous, and drinks at the upper limits of what body you can wrest from Nebbiolo – a loooooong finish with fireworks. Shades of minerality persist and the acidity checks the weight, this is, in fact, in balance, but the glory days for this rock star start in 2025. Stellar vintage from a stellar vineyard, what more can one ask? First time ever in B.C. 2 wooden 6-packs available, $74.49 +tax
Beni di Batasiolo. The Dogliani brothers started Batasiolo in the 1950s, and have specialized in bringing wines from the Barolo DOCG to us at reasonable prices – in fact they’ve been in our market so long, it’s likely that the first Barolo you ever tried was by them. We’ve managed to find some back vintages that have both feet in the zone, drinking-wise:
Batasiolo Barolo Vigneto Boscareto 2006. The notoriously tight Boscareto cru in the Serralunga d’Alba commune generally takes several years in bottle to lose its baby teeth, but the nice folks at Batasiolo have done that for us. This Boscareto is firmly in Act One, there are tertiary notes of leather surrounding the primary bright red fruits and spicy beef broth, with cigar box, dried flowers and happiness. The body and finish are still bulletproof. 92 points Wine Spectator, 2 6-packs available, $75.49 +tax
Batasiolo Barolo Riserva 2007. All hail the Lord Mayor of Gulp Town. This gathering of various Barolo crus is drinking like an elephant hug right now – the grip is perfect and the nose is amazeballs. Dried fruits, dried lavender and Cherry Coke beneath some dusty topsoil and burnt orange. Enough tannin to remind you that it is, indeed, Nebbiolo, but nothing is poking out past the supple body. Fully in the zone, not sure why it’s this cheap. 95 points Decanter Asia, 2 cases available, $54.99 +tax
I’ll be back tomorrow with a Back Up The Truck California Cab!!
Postscript: Rome doesn’t get a lot of rain, so the nice Italian folks that built Rome’s Airport forgot to tell their roof what to do with it. My right foot found a puddle on the floor of an airport walkway (we Vancouverites have 26 words for puddles – it didn’t occur to me to avoid this one) and it kept sliding, my left foot stayed in place but twisted in a way that feet don’t. The resulting sprain didn’t keep me away from the store when I got home, but it should have cuz I think I made it worse by walking on it.
To point: I won’t be in the store much in the coming days (I’m here today only briefly), but I’ll still be writing emails – I have too much great wine to tell you about and frankly I get bored just sitting at home with my stupid foot in the air. My overworked but understanding team here at Everything Wine River District will be helping me out by getting your orders ready – if you want some of these (or other) wines please reply by email (not phone) so I can instruct them on what to put together. Thanks, and Ow.
Post-Postscript: Decanter Asia is an adjudication put on by Decanter Magazine in Hong Kong, considered to be the top wine competition in Asia (and judged by the top Asian wine experts), but distinct from regular Decanter points, which are awarded in London.