“Giovani Produttori Incontrano Giovani Consumatori” — Part 1

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At Vinitaly this year, I was invited to a conference called “Young to Young.” The idea was to get young Italian winemakers in front of a group of young wine bloggers. Despite – obviously – being delighted to have been invited to join this small committee of just ten people, I was also pretty chuffed to still be considered young!

The session was presented by two well-known Italian journalists, Paolo Massobrio and Marco Gatti, grandi uomini who were both, incidentally, wearing very old-fashioned bow-ties. It made for a rather marked contrast from the three winemakers sitting alongside them on the panel, who were each sporting differing lengths of facial hair.

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Because this is all about being young, I’m going to embrace this newly rediscovered spirit to the full and be uncharacteristically petulant. I was probably also the youngest person in that room (yeah, I know!) It also struck me as strange that for such an event targeted at apparently wild young things, the panel format with question-and-answer sessions was so unnecessarily stilted. Not to mention the guided tasting (“so first we assess the colour… “) which was nothing short of a WSET wet dream.

Anyway, onto my interpretation of the wines. The first winery was Cobelli, which is apparently in the wild Avisiane hills of Trentino. There are three brothers, who, so we were told, learnt everything from their father. The winery has been in the same family for 150 years and the 36-year-old winemaker, Devis Cobelli, speaks fondly and at length about his father’s influence on his work.

We try their Aldo Brut Natur 2010. It’s a spumante – metodo classico – made from 100% Chardonnay grapes. It supposedly came about as an attempt to recreate the type of wine that his grandmother used to drink. It’s spent 48 months on the lees.

Gosh, on first sip, the bubbles are over-powering and it leaves my tongue feeling rather violated. Upon returning for another onslaught, I’m able to appreciate a nice balance of acidity. It’s also smartingly dry – partly due to the limestone soil, but also the zero dosage apparently. I’m not totally convinced by this wine, if I’m to be honest. I would never in a million years have guessed that this is a Chardonnay. Despite his spiel about how the parte prima is the most important in making good wine, the classic (read: boring) French selected yeasts take over.

We move onto the second winemaker: Giacomo Altrettanto from the La Basia winery, in Lombardia. Apparently, it’s a very emotional story. I roll my eyes. He speaks of his mother, Elena, of her death and how this spurred the family to start making wine. (Yeah, I didn’t quite follow that connection either…) The winery is just a small azienda agricola, apparently, comprising 25 hectares in total but they also make polenta and the like. The word artisanal is repeated several times and when pressed, he claims that they are “More than just natural. We go further than that.”

Giacomo is the youngest of all the winemakers present at a tender 31 years old and is the second of five brothers.

“I’m personally quite happy with how this wine has turned out. Especially given how bad 2014 was. The summer was really horrible.”

2014 is actually their first vintage and the wine has been dedicated to their mother. It’s a Valtenesi DOC (I had to look that up too – apparently it’s an appellation not too far away from Lake Garda) and is made from a blend of Groppello, Barbera, Sangiovese and Marzemino. 12.5% ABV. Their terroir is the classic clay and limestone combo.

It’s a very, very light salmon pink colour. Aromatically it’s rather delicate with prominent light, fresh raspberry. I appreciate the acidity at the end. It is fresh and also very refreshing. A masterful finesse. The more I drink, the more I realise that I would quite happily have this as my go-to wine throughout the summer.

It’s then time for the third and final winemaker to take the floor. It’s 36 year old Giorgio Meletti Cavallari who makes a Bolgheri Superiore, in Tuscany. He also speaks about his father. Another thirty-something man talking about his family. Is there something in the water here??

He feels strongly that there is a new generation of Bolgheri producers coming through, who are building upon the success of the previous generation. It’s true that his modern label is a country mile away from the classic style that wine drinkers who decide purely upon the look of the bottle would go for.

The wine, Impronte, is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc. It’s 2011 and 14% ABV. His vineyard is situated on a hill of galestro stone, in Castagneto Carducci. On the first sniff, I suddenly realise that it’s been a really long time since I last drank a wine like this. It’s an old-school-style, old-world-wine.

Despite that introduction, the wine is very young. Possibly the youngest thing in this room, actually! It’s without a doubt made with selected yeasts and I get the impression that this is a wine whose destiny was already set in stone before veraison had even occured.

On the nose, it’s full of fresh frutti di bosco. Lots of them. Dark berries. Morello cherries. Classic. Elegant.

As I said at the start, it’s really young. It is naively fresh, but there’s a vivacous acidity too. At the end, the tannins win through for a strong and sustained finish. This wine grows on me. It makes me think of a perfect kid at school who always turns up without any creases in her uniform, with her hair perfectly in place and not a single scuff on her shoes. You don’t want to like her because she always gets top grades but actually, by the end, you appreciate her for who she is and you don’t mind hanging out some more.

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