Gianfranco Alessandria Barolo 2016 Releases

Gianfranco Alessandria is one of the most consistent, reliable producers in the Langhe. These wines simply never disappoint. ANTONIO GALLONI

While the rising star of Barolo is creating uber super stars of a select few producers in the Langhe hills (often for no discernible reason) I always find special pleasure in drinking the wines of smaller - yet no less quality conscious - producers that epitomise both winemaking excellence and still communicate the original feelings of hospitality and dedication I felt when I first starting going to the Piemonte over 20 years ago.

Gianfranco Alessandria is one such estate and behind the doors of their unpretentious cantina on the road between Barolo and Monforte, beats an infectious passion for their craft and their region. The Alessandria holdings are only small and they have no big name crus in the stable but what they do produce is simply brilliant. All their wines have generosity and a real connection to the Monforte terroir. Much like their creator, they talk softly and carry a big stick in terms of their innate complexity and surprising level of quality.

These days the entire family is fully engaged in the business from Nonna, who still works in the vineyards in her late 70's, through to Gianfranco and his wife Bruna and now their two daughters, Vittoria (who runs the show) and Marta who has completed her oenology studies and is working beside her Dad in the cellar. In fact, Marta has now added a wine to the range, EnPiasi (a pleasure). This wine shows how the talent hasn't fallen far from the tree. It's not the same as Gianfranco's wines but it's no less compelling in its stylistic difference.

I have now tasted the 2016 wines on a few occasions in the past two years and they are, like so many others from this vintage, superb. But this is no surprise as I am sure Gianfranco could produce excellent wine from a bucket of curdled milk! Every year, despite conditions he turns out wines of quality. The old maxim of producer, producer, producer was invented for this guy.

As I alluded to earlier the Barolo DOCG is one of the best value wines made in the genre. To paraphrase my notes: freshness, energy, balance. So transparent with a dark Monforte personality of balsamic, Amaro and ferrous mineral. The San Giovanni is a richer and more deeply pitched wine. Again to my notes: Wow wine. Bigger, more complex. Oak is there but the fruit is a match. Balanced and super long. Finally, to the new wine, Marta's EnPiasi. This wine is made in miniscule quantities and is only bottled in magnum. It differs stylistically to Gianfranco's wines. Marta hand destems the fruit and fermentation takes place in tino (10 hectoliter vat) and the maceration is 15-20 days before being aged in third passage barrique. It's more ethereal in the aromatic and shape of the wine in the mouth is more gentle lithe than a Gianfranco wine.

All the wines in this stable show the benefit of incremental tweaking to suit both the season but also to follow his own evolving knowledge of his fruit. The main changes is the use of new oak which has diminished hugely in recent years. The wines are fresher and more direct for it and while Monforte fruit always handles oak better than other communes, the change up is welcome and noticeable. EnPiasi is perhaps a window to the future direction of the estate.

I know for many of you much of this is a well played record from me. You've accompanied me on this journey and loved the wines, as I have, over the past years. These 2016s build on an already brilliant track record from this family. They are also some of the bets value. I highly recommend them to you.

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