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Dispatch: Cavallotto

The vineyards of Barolo are impossibly beautiful.  My first morning, I woke up to the legendary fog that gives the local Nebbiolo grape its namesake.


Driving the vineyard roads as they hairpin through the fog, I found easy to see why so many people have become enchanted by this region.

I was very excited to go and taste at Cavallotto. A very interesting estate in the region that has been focused on farming the same small parcel of Barolo vines for generations, the Bricco Boschis.


This is Alfio Cavallotto.  With his brother, Giuseppe, Alfio keeps the traditions of his family alive and reveals a classic expression of Barolo that is dark, intense, and brooding, but which presents itself with real elegance.

Alfio is super energetic and was extremely generous with his time.  You can tell immediately that he feels blessed to have inherited such great vines and he is working hard to maintain the already strong reputation of the family winery.


This is the view from the top of Bricco Boschis.


You can clearly see the quality of the fruit.  Normally, Nebbiolo is growing in big tight bunches like this.


But in the Bricco Boschis (and most of the best sites) you find very loose bunches with tiny berries.  This has the benefit of allowing air to pass through the bunch, which makes it less susceptible to mold or fungus and also has the added bonus of increasing the skin-to-juice ratio, which brings texture and complexity to the wine.

The classically styled wines of Cavallotto are vinified in temperature-controlled, stainless steel vats with roto-fermenter attachments that were custom designed by Alfio’s father.


After alcoholic fermentation they are aged in Garbellotto Botti.


A dwarf bunch.   So cute.


They have a tiny parcel of Pinot Noir that they vinifiy to white.  This was extremely interesting and among the most delicious whites I tasted in Piemonte.


Only thing missing from the picture is a couple of vintages of Vigna San Giuseppe.  The ‘06 is showing great right now.

A quick aside about Piemontese wine politics:

In Piemonte, it is easy to get caught up in the classic traditional vs. modern debate.  But what I found, tasting at domaines considered both “classic” and “modern,” is that the best wines are made by folks who understand and respect tradition but are not bound to it. The best wine is still made 99% in the vineyard and the techniques in use to turn those grapes into wine are sincere efforts on the part of those vignerons who seek to reveal the most honest and delicious wine possible.

For some purists, roto-fermenters and other “modern” implements are a big no-no. This comes from a myopic obsession about technology tainting some perceived idea of purity in wine. In truth, there is always the influence of technology and humanity one way or another in winemaking. What the true vigneron, as well as wine lover, is concerned with is wines that capture a clear portrait of a unique terroir, and if controlling temperature or using a roto-fermentor or - god forbid - different-sized barrels, helps the vigneron achieve that, so be it.

We can all make decisions about what we like and dislike in terms of what we want to drink.  Indeed, wines that are too extractive, too alcoholic, and over-oaked are never going to be to my taste.  But the debate about modern vs. classic Barolo is a bit tired.  We must always approach tasting wine with an open mind and recognize quality where it deserves to be recognized.

The wines at Cavallotto are certainly classic in style but not necessarily in production. However, most importantly, the wines are really delicious. They are coveted by serious collectors and casual Barolo drinkers alike.  When young, they are so tannic and structured as to almost be impossible to taste.  With time, they reveal that dark, earthy, floral, intense Barolo experience that we love and that is all that really matters.  These are serious wines made with love and care and if you don’t know them already, they are worthy of your attention.