Friday, May 18, 2012

Elio Grasso: In The Spotlight

It was a bottle of Elio Grasso’s 2000 Gavarini Vigna Chiniera that started me on my path to loving Barolo. The Grasso family has been making great Barolo in the township of Monforte d’Abla since 1978. All of the Baroli are estate-grown; in fact, the Grasso family takes pride in being considered farmers first and winemakers second.

Borrowed from Elio Grasso's website
With holdings in some of the most well-known Barolo vineyards, including Ginestra, and Gavarini, the Grasso family turns out three single vineyard Baroli that are each unique and worthy of the lofty scores that wine pundits have bestowed upon them. However, it wasn’t always this way. For the longest time, the name Elio Grasso seemed to fly under the radar, with my initial purchases of the 2000 Barolo averaging in the $45 range. Now, with Gavarini Vigna Chiniera averaging at $69, it is still an unbelievable value for top-shelf Barolo.

Borrowed from Elio Grasso’s website
The style varies depending on the bottle, with the Ginestra "Vigna Casa Maté" and Gavarini Vigna Chiniera being more traditional in style, having been aged in large Slavonian oak botte. The Rüncot (a Riserva bottle from a parcel in the Gavarini vineyard and made only in the best vintages) takes a more modern turn with a sheen of oak from aging in new Franch barrique. Otherwise, the wines are made very similar, with manual harvesting, 12 – 16 days of maceration and fermentation in stainless steel.

Borrowed from Elio Grasso’s website
Below are my notes from some recent experiences with Elio Grasso’s Baroli, where even the Rüncot, with its new French oak, managed to turn my head with its purity of fruit and complexities. Also check out my notes on the '09 Dolcetto, which I had to include here because the wine was simply beautiful. These are all wines worth checking out, but with the press that the ‘08 Baroli are receiving, you may not want to wait too long.

On to the notes:

2008 Elio Grasso Barolo Gavarini Vigna Chiniera - The nose show crushed red berries with rose and floral notes, spices and dusty minerals. On the palate, it was tight and focused yet wonderfully finessed with an almost weightless quality to its expansive presence. Intense red fruits and hints of spice lingered into its long, palate-staining finish with fine tannin making an appearance in the close. (96 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2007 Elio Grasso Barolo Gavarini Vigna Chiniera - The nose was classic, showing floral rose and stem notes with strawberry and tree bark. On the palate, I found juicy, bright red fruit, which turned darker with time in the glass. Its structure peaked out on the long finish. (93 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2007 Elio Grasso Barolo Ginestra "Vigna Casa Maté" - This bottle was drop-dead gorgeous with its first glass. It was very feminine and pretty with fresh strawberry, sour cherry, roses, cedar, cinnamon stick and little of its structure poking through. The palate was nearly weightless. Then it shut down through the next six hours, only to reemerge as a beautiful bruiser with a ripe dark fruit and spice profile. The nose was marred slightly by the noticeable presence of heat, but it was still lovely. On the palate, it was firing on all cylinders with wonderful focused red fruit. At every taste, the finish was amazingly long with staying red fruits that seemed to penetrate and saturate the taste buds. (95 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2001 Elio Grasso Barolo Rüncot - This wine was painfully young, but there was such potential in the glass and, after time in decanter, a glimpse of what it may become shined through. At first, the nose was full of oaky vanilla and even a hint of nail polish, but this faded over the course of three hours, and what remained was dark red fruit, a dusting of brown sugar, and menthol. On the palate, I found an elegant and more feminine structure than expected with lush cherry fruit, herbs and cinnamon. The long finish showed fine silky tannin that left my palate dry but not fatigued. I’m very excited to think of what this may be in another ten years. (93 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2000 Elio Grasso Barolo Gavarini Vigna Chiniera - The nose showed black cherry, rose, leather and a bit of heat that was moderate enough to not get in the way. On the palate, I found cherry and currant on a medium-bodied frame and a moderate amount of silky tannin. This wine balanced between ripeness and elegance. The finish carried sour red fruit to the close and stayed with me for what seemed like a full minute. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

This may be a blog post about great Barolo but I would be remiss not to mention the excellent Dolcetto made by Elio Grasso. Dolcetto is one of my favorite weeknight wines. It's not for everyone, but that's okay, because then there will be more for me. You owe it to yourself to check it out.

2009 Elio Grasso Dolcetto d'Alba dei grassi - The nose showed ripe blackberries, with floral undergrowth and a hint of bouillon. On the palate, it was soft and enveloping in a mid-weight style with blackberries, a hint of sweet spice and a touch rustic with juicy acidity. The finish was pleasant and fresh just as a Dolcetto should be. I thoroughly enjoyed it over the course of two days. (89 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!


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