02/13/2012

Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesy Marchesi di Grésy

MARTINENGA TASTING NOTES FROM PAST VINTAGES

Stunning Barbarescos: Marchesi di Grésy’s Martinenga
2012 FEBRUARY 6
tags: 1978, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1989, Acquerello, Barbaresco, Camp Gros, Gaiun, Mannie Berk, Marchesi di Gresy, Martinenga, Nebbiolo, Rare Wine Co.
by Richard Jennings

RWC’s Mannie Berk and longtime RWC customer Kate FitzGerald

RWC MARCHESI DI GRÉSY’S MARTINENGA BARBARESCO DINNER – Acquerello Restaurant, San Francisco, California (1/25/2012)

This was another delicious and enlightening Rare Wine Company dinner, this time focused on wines from one particular, and very special, Barbaresco vineyard–Martinenga. Martinenga sits between the more famous vineyard sites of Asili and Rabaja. Rare Wine Company owner Mannie Berk collected the wines for this event for eight years. These are tremendously impressive Barbarescos, with delicious, detailed fruit; lacy texture and elegant structure. I found myself especially admiring the Camp Gros bottlings from year to year, but all of the wines were surprisingly consistent, with wonderful perfume and complex, detailed and delicious fruit. And Chef Suzette Gresham-Tognetti created a fabulous all-truffle menu that went beautifully with our wines.

Barbaresco is the smaller of the two sources of great, ageworthy Nebbiolo. Like Barolo, Barbaresco is blessed with numerous hillside vineyards, planted on a soil of calcareous marl–a mixture of chalk and clay. The neighboring Barolo appellation, separated from Barbaresco by the Tanaro River and the city of Alba, is almost three times as big as Barbaresco. It also has a longer history of great wines, having mastered the secret of fermenting Nebbiolo all the way to dry some decades earlier than Barbaresco. Nebbiolo ripens earlier in Barbaresco than in Barolo, perhaps because of the warming influence of the nearby river, and the minimum aging requirements are less, only two years instead of three as in Barolo, one year of which must be in oak. Barbarescos therefore tend to be approachable at a younger age and do not typically last for as many years as Barolos.

The Martinenga vineyard is solely owned by the Marchesi di Grésy, making it the only monopole cru vineyard in Piedmont. The current Marchesi is Alberto di Grésy, and he only started bottling wines from the family vineyards in 1973. For generations before that, his family sold the grapes to other producers. The grapes from Martinenga then sold for a higher price than any other Barbaresco vineyard.

The full name of the family’s wine estate is Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Grésy. The family acquired Martinenga in 1797, adding it to Monte Aribaldo in Treiso, a hilltop property overlooking the valley, which they had previously acquired in 1635. They also own vineyards in Cassine that Alberto’s grandmother Giulia Pellizzari brought to the family as her dowry. In all, they produce about 16 different wines, including Langhe Chardonnays; a Sauvignon Blanc; a few “everyday reds” (a Dolcetto, a declassified Nebbiolo Martinenga, and Barbera d’Asti); a quartet of international red blends (a Merlot, a Cabernet/Barbera blend, and two Barbera/Nebbiolo blends); a couple of sweets (Moscato d’Asti and a Moscato passito); and several single varietal grappas.

Martinenga totals almost 24 hectares, of which nearly 12 are planted to Nebbiolo. The Nebbiolo planted consists of two subvarieties or clones, Lampia and Rosé, and not the more common Michet clone found throughout Barolo and Barbaresco that tends have lower yields and to produce more darkly colored wines. In favorable vintages, three different Barbaresco bottlings are produced from this vineyard: Martinenga Barbaresco DOCG (since 1973), Camp Gros Martinenga Barbaresco DOCG (since 1978) and Gaiun Martinenga Barbaresco DOCG (since 1982). Camp Gros is a 2.58 hectare southwest facing parcel lying directly under Rabaja. Gaiun is a 2.3 hectare south facing parcel continuing down the hill from Asili.


Martinenga vineyard (Camp Gros parcel is on the hill showing on the right)

They use a mix of traditional and modern methods on their Barbarescos. All the Barbarescos see extended fermentation of eight to 10 days with floating cap followed by five to 10 days with submerged cap. The regular Barbaresco bottling then goes into 225 litre French barriques for a few months, to stabilize the wine and fix its color, followed by 12 months in 25 hectolitre Slavonian casks. It then ages 12 more months in bottle. The Camp Gros spends a “brief time” in barriques followed by 24 months in Slavonian oak barrels and then 15 months in bottle. The Gaiun currently is aged in French barriques for 30 months followed by 15 months in bottle.

According to Marchesi di Grésy Cellarmaster Jeffrey Chilcott, whom I met at the Golden Glass Slow Food wine event in San Francisco this past weekend, the domaine first started using French barriques in 1984, which was unfortunately a poor vintage in which neither a Camp Gros nor Gaiun was produced. The first Gaiun in barriques, then, was the 1985. At this weekend’s tasting, I also got to sample the 2006 Camp Gros and the 2008 regular Barbaresco. Both are, again, stunning Barbarescos, with a long life ahead of them.

For more on particular wines, see the summary of each flight and the tasting notes below.

Young Flight


compressed lamb wrapped in black truffles

This was a delightful opening flight, with all of the wines showing better than I would have expected at this stage. The 2007 Martinenga was contributed to the event by the domaine’s U.S. importer, Dalla Terra. It was showing very well already. But the real stars of this flight for me were the two Camp Gros bottlings. The 2005 in particular is complex, whole and complete. It only needs several more years of age to be a spectacular Barbaresco. The 1996 Camp Gros, although substantially older, comes from a vintage with very firm tannins, and itself needs a few more years of aging, but was almost as gorgeous as the ’05. It had one of the most beautiful and floral noses of the evening.

2007 Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Grésy Barbaresco Martinenga – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
Medium dark red violet color; lovely, tart cherry, cranberry, redolent, dried berry nose; tasty, poised, vibrant, very youthful, tart cherry, dried cherry palate with sweet tannins; needs 8-plus years; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
2005 Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Grésy Barbaresco Martinenga Gaiun – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
Medium red violet color with pale meniscus; intriguing, subtle spice, raspberry, floral nose; very tight, tasty, tart raspberry, tart cherry palate with finesse and delicacy, and near medium acidity; needs 7 years; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
2005 Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Grésy Barbaresco Martinenga Camp Gros – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
Medium red violet color with pale meniscus; beautiful, appealing, dried cherry, essence of raspberry, light sandalwood, exotic spice, baked orange nose; tight but delicious, tart cherry, tart raspberry, subtle spice, tart baked raspberry palate with integrated oak; needs 5 years; long finish 95+ points (95 pts.)
1996 Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Grésy Barbaresco Martinenga Gaiun – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
Bricking dark red violet color; aromatic, oak, burnt sugar, spun sugar, dried cherry nose; tasty, creme brulee, tart cherry, dried cherry, French oak palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (on a faster evolutionary track than the Camp Gros from the same year, hints of some oxidation on the nose) (91 pts.)
1996 Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Grésy Barbaresco Martinenga Camp Gros – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
Bricking medium dark red violet color; appealing, intriguing, dried cherry, rosemary, peonies nose; still tight, lacey textured, rosemary, dried cherry palate with sweet, firm tannins; needs 3 years; long finish 94+ points (94 pts.)
Late ’80s Flight


Chanterelle and truffle raviolo with Parmesan crema and Portobello brodo

In this flight, we enjoyed maturing Barbarescos. The Camp Gros bottlings continued to dominate for me, with their amazing completeness, from entrancing aromas to complex and sometimes flamboyant palates, and long finishes. Our first bottling was apparently a one-time production by a Swiss company from what was basically regular Martinenga fruit, from the 1989 vintage, under the fanciful name Maggiore. It came in a very unusual, tall bottle. It was an appealing Barbaresco, although lacking the depth and complexity of the domaine’s bottlings. The oak influence was noticeable on the ’89 Gaiun, but is integrating beautifully with its still ravishing fruit. The ’89 Camp Gros was elegant, complex and delicious, definitely one of the wines of the night. The ’86s were very similar in style, if a touch more flamboyant. The ’86 Gaiun suggested a collection of dessert essences all in one glass. Absolutely stunning wines. And our raviolo paired beautifully with them.

1989 Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Grésy Barbaresco Martinenga Maggiore – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
Bricked medium brown red color with pale meniscus; maturing, VA, tart fig, dried berry, baked cherry, baked fig nose; maturing, sweet, dried berry, dried cherry, dried fig palate; long finish (thought to be the only vintage of this bottling, for a Swiss producer, in an unusually tall bottle with a very modern label) (92 pts.)
1989 Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Grésy Barbaresco Martinenga Gaiun – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
Bricking medium red color with pale meniscus; appealing, sexy, dried cherry, subtle baked cherry, baked raspberry, oak nose; very tasty, rich, raspberry, integrated wood spice, tart cherry, baked cherry and sour cream palate with firm sweet tannins; needs 5 years; long finish 93+ points (93 pts.)
1989 Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Grésy Barbaresco Martinenga Camp Gros – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
Bricking medium red color; lovely, appealing, elegant, dried cherry, baked cherry, baked raspberry, light white chocolate nose; youthful but delicious, floral, dried cherry, tart raspberry, hibiscus, ripe blood orange palate; needs 3 years and should go for 20+ years; long finish 95+ points (95 pts.)
1988 Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Grésy Barbaresco Martinenga – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
Bricked, slightly cloudy, light medium red color with pale meniscus; mature, VA, baked sour cherry, oak spice nose with a little oxidation; tasty, tart cherry, tart red plum, light hoisin sauce, spiced cherry palate; ready now, and should go 8-10 years; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
1986 Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Grésy Barbaresco Martinenga Gaiun – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
Bricking medium red color with pale meniscus; roses, dried roses, spicy, creme brulee, chocolate cherry, anise nose; unusual, integrated oak spice, tart chocolate cherry, sandalwood, French vanilla palate, and distinctive sweetness, like a collection of dessert essences in a glass; long finish (94 pts.)
1986 Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Grésy Barbaresco Martinenga Camp Gros – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
Bricking medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; appealing, sexy, baked cherry, graham cracker, dried cherry, dried fig, chocolate nose; tasty, flamboyant, complex, sandalwood, dried cherry, baked cherry, baked plum, light chocolate, dried cherry, dried raspberry palate with distinctive sweetness; long finish (95 pts.)
Early ’80s Flight


Chicken breast stuffed with dark meat with black truffle, mushroom puree, chanterelle and maitake, tiny turnips, carrots, onion and radish blossoms

This flight was a wonderful opportunity to compare mature versions of the Gaiun and Camp Gros bottlings, from two excellent vintages, and to contrast wines from the era when both bottlings were still more traditionally aged (1982) to the first year that French barriques were employed to age the Gaiun (1985). The ’85 Gaiun was the most closed of the flight, needing 40 minutes or so in the glass before it really started to open up. It also seemed to have a touch of brett that I didn’t pick up on any of our other wines. Interestingly, the oak treatment really didn’t stand out on the ’85 Gaiun in comparison to the ’82. The two Camp Gros bottlings were as delicious as the rest, and both should continue to age beautifully for two more decades or longer. The ’82 was surprisingly youthful. Again, Camp Gros stood out for me in this flight, but the Gaiuns were also quite delicious.

1985 Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Grésy Barbaresco Martinenga Gaiun – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
Bricking medium red violet color; restrained, tart cherry, sandalwood, cedar nose, that begins to open after 40 minutes in the glass; restrained, tart cherry, tart strawberry, sandalwood, light brett palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
1985 Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Grésy Barbaresco Martinenga Camp Gros – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
Bricking medium red color; appealing, subtle, dried cherry, dried cranberry, white truffle nose; tasty, subtle, dried cherry, tart cherry, sandalwood palate with firm tannins; needs 2-3 years and will go 25; long finish (95 pts.)
1982 Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Grésy Barbaresco Martinenga Gaiun – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
Bricking medium dark red violet color; soapstone, dried cherry, light graham cracker, sandalwood nose; restrained, tart cherry, tart strawberry, sandalwood, soapstone palate; long finish (93 pts.)
1982 Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Grésy Barbaresco Martinenga Camp Gros – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
Bricking medium dark red violet color; appealing, dried cherry, autumnal, light sandalwood nose; youthful, elegant, dried cherry, dried berry, light sandalwood palate with firm tannins; needs 3-plus years and should go for 20-25 years; medium-plus finish (94 pts.)
Oldest Flight


Italian cheeses (Castelmagno, Moliterno, Sola Val Casotto)

Our wonderful final flight included the regular bottling from one of Barbaresco’s greatest vintages, 1978, and one of two very rare Produttori del Barbaresco Martinenga bottlings (the other being the 1970). I was completely wowed by the mature, elegant ’67 Produttori bottling, with its still resolving tannins and complex, autumnal beauty. The 1971 Ceretto bottling seemed at first like it might have TCA, but that cleaned up after time in the glass, although it was still advanced, showing volatile acidity, compared to our other samples. The 1978 was very appealing and impressive, and should go at least a few more decades.

1978 Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Grésy Barbaresco Martinenga – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
Bricking medium dark red violet color; appealing, mature, redolent, dried cherry, dried berry, autumnal, light cedar nose; tasty, mature, mahogany, autumnal, dried berry palate with firm tannins; will go 30 years; long finish (94 pts.)
1971 Azienda Ceretto s.r.l. Barbaresco Martinenga – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
Cloudy, bricking, brown red color; VA, dried cherry, walnut nose; mature, tart cherry, dried cherry, mahogany, earthy palate; medium-plus finish (initially so reticent and musty on the nose that I was thinking it might be corked, but that blew off) (92 pts.)
1967 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Speciale Martinenga – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
Bricked medium red color with pale meniscus; very appealing, dried cherry, autumnal, light brett, sweet meat jus nose; mature, delicious, dried cherry, dried berry, tart raspberry, sandalwood palate with still resolving tannins; long finish 97+ points (97 pts.)
White and Black Truffle Gelato