Today we initiate our campaign of the latest Barolo vintage with one of its undisputed stars, Elio Grasso, whose 2017s are amongst the greatest triumphs of this somewhat challenging vintage. While 2017 was a warmer and drier year than the blockbuster 2016 vintage, Antonio Galloni had plenty of praise for the vintage in his recent Vinous report, “the 2017s are mid-weight Barolos with the classic structure of Nebbiolo. They are often intensely aromatic. Acids and tannins are prominent in many wines. The fruit profiles are ripe, often distinctly red-toned, but not cooked or over-ripe. Perhaps most importantly, the 2017 Barolos are very true to site, which is always a concern with vintages marked by warm weather. The best 2017s are exceptionally polished, vivid and flat-out delicious.” While the extraordinary 2016s will reward those with patience, the 2017s should be embraced by anyone seeking Nebbiolo that is perfumed, complex and alluring even in its youth.
There is no question that the wines of Elio Grasso are considered amongst the best of the vintage with Galloni making the unequivocal claim, “Gianluca Grasso made some of the most thrilling wines of 2017. The wines stand out for their exceptional finesse. Grasso is one of a handful of estates with 2017s that approach the level of the 2016s. That is the highest compliment I can pay the wines.” We are thrilled to be able to offer their outstanding pair of Crus, the Gavarini Chiniera and Ginestra Casa Mate today at the opening release price of just £325 per case of six IB, offering some of the most outstanding value in all of Piedmont. Each has already been awarded 96 Points by Galloni who is equally blown away by their distinctive expressions of Nebbiolo, describing first the Gavarini Chiniera as, “fabulous. In fact, the Gavarini is easily one of the wines of the vintage because it retains all of its classic signatures, which is also the sign of a first-class vineyard. Bright and vibrant in the glass, the Gavarini pulses with energy. Crushed red flowers, mint, chalk, white pepper, cinnamon and orange peel give the 2017 a super-classic Nebbiolo profile, as expressed in a relatively high-altitude site. The precision and finesse of the tannins – so hard to find in 2017- elevates the Gavarini into the realm of the sublime” while finding the Ginestra Casa Mate to be, “a dark, mysterious wine. Black cherry, menthol, tobacco, licorice, spice, new leather and pine meld together in a super-classic expression of Ginestra. Deep, rich and enveloping, the 2017 is so impressive in the early going. Here, too, the finesse of the tannins is remarkable.” We highly recommend securing this complementary set together to better understand the unique terroir expression they so beautifully exemplify in 2017.
The 42-hectare Elio Grasso Estate is sited in the municipality of Monforte d’Alba, with just 18 hectares under vine while the remaining 24 of their hectares are planted with forests and meadows, designated as a World Heritage site. The vineyards themselves were included within the great historian, Lorenzo Fantini, ‘World’s greatest vineyards’ in the early 20th century, highlighted as great then and now great in posterity. Indeed, the Grasso family have been instrumental in establishing Monforte d’Alba as one of the finest subregions in Barolo and their Cru holdings Gavarini Chiniera and Ginestra, are majestic exemplars of the finest terroir in the world.
Elio Grasso was sent to school in Turin by his father, who gave him orders to work hard and not come back to the struggling post war Langhe life. He did just this, advancing into a successful career in banking. Though eventually the call of his family as leading grape grower brought him home to the rolling hills of Barolo. In 1978 he established the eponymous Elio Grasso Estate in the township of Monforte d’Alba and he and his son Gianluca, who joined in the early 90s set to creating a wine dynasty. Indeed, they decided immediately to vinify and bottle grapes separately from their various vineyards.
During the period since, Barolo has had a transformational 30 years. Which begun with a handful of winemakers introducing French oak and shorter maceration times, coining the modernist winemakers and the ‘Barolo Wars’. There became two waves of winemakers, the traditionalists and the modernists. The traditionalists use large Slovenian oak casks and produce wines with big tannins and beguiling aromas, requiring longer ageing, with noticeable spice aromas such as cinnamon. The modern winemakers use rotary fermenters and shorter maceration times; they also use much smaller new French oak barrique (225 litres). As a result, the wines tend to have oak, vanilla and toast flavours, are more fruit forward and can be consumed younger. Though the factions to some extent still exist, the lines have blurred and wine lovers have benefited from a middle way. Elio Grasso arrived and stayed clear of the conflict yet saw the potential of modernisation, thereon investing heavily in technology yet keeping a traditional style. As such, Elio Grasso straddles the two schools beautifully, famous for being aromatic, exhibiting class and stunning finesse.
The Gavarini vineyard is 100% owned by Elio Grasso and is sited 430 metres above sea level where the soil is sandier, though mainly limestone. The Ginestra vineyard (Casa Mate) also boasts sandy soils but has distinctively more clay in the vineyard. It is a wine of intense structure and perhaps a little more masculine. As two of the finest wines in Barolo they consistently sell out upon release and so we strongly suggest that you follow the advice that Galloni gives to his readers for the 2017 vintage of Barolo, “It’s a great vintage to pick up a few extra bottles of your favorite Barolos, something that might not be possible in more hyped years” and secure your set without delay.