Giorgio Rivetti is a man on the move, having in recent years added a major vineyard holding in Grinzane Cavour as well as a 70-hectare estate (45 are currently in production) in Tuscany, Casanova della Spinetta. Rivetti makes some of the best and most popular new-style Barbarescos (and now a new Barolo) of the Langhe, working with yields that he typically limits to two tons per acre by doing extensive green harvesting and foregoing the use of fertilizers. Rivetti has been in his airy new winery in Grinzane Cavour since the 2000 harvest (he still makes his Pin, moscato and still white wines in the old facility in Castagnole delle Lanze, just south of Asti), and I tasted his current line-up of wines in the spacious tasting room at the foot of Rivetti's steep Barolo vineyard. He uses rotofermenters for Barolo and Barbaresco, but notes that his fermentations generally last six to ten days, which is longer than most fermentations using this device. (Marc de Grazia; numerous importers, including Michael Skurnik Wines, Syosset, NY; Vin Divino, Chicago, IL; and Estate Wines Ltd. , San Rafael, CA)
($39; barrel-fermented, then aged for 11 months in 50% new barriques Bright yellow color. Aromas of apricot and nuts. Ripe on entry, then distinctly firm-edged, with a dry, nutty, cyanic edge and sound acidity.
($39; sauvignon blanc, aged for six months in 50% new barriques Yellow plum, sage and a whiff of oak on the nose; not particularly varietal. Fresh, intensely flavored and rather stylish, with the strongly herbal sage quality carrying through in the mouth. Fairly large-scaled and savory, with a flinty note to go with the oak. Finishes with good grip. Try this with sage agnolotti with butter.
($33; this is Rivetti's only barbera from the 2002 vintage) Good dark red. Aromas of cherry liqueur and nutty oak could use more verve. Flavors of cherry liqueur, oak and pepper are not particularly fruity. Finishes with very fine tannins.
($28; 14.2% alcohol) Bright ruby-red. Blackberry and cassis aromas display a liqueur-like ripeness. A rich, concentrated fruit bomb in the mouth, with concentrated flavors of black fruits, violet and licorice. Finishes long and powerful. Impressively rich for a barbera from vines less than ten years old.
($50; from 35- and 60-year-old vines) Bright ruby. Sweet aromas of blackberry, violet and bitter chocolate. Rich, lush and impressively concentrated, with the depth and complexity of fruit to support its 100% new oak. Wonderfully fresh barbera that should be approachable upon release but capable of aging. Finishes with notes of tobacco and woodsmoke.
($50; 15% alcohol) Saturated bright ruby. Brooding aromas of pungent spices; less fruit-driven and perfumed than the Gallina. Fat and hugely rich, with impressive ripeness of fruit. Complicated by pungent spices and incisive minerality. Comes across as more tannic than the Gallina, but also very long and ripe, with a late note of bitter chocolate. Rivetti describes his 2003 barberas as between the 2001s and 2000s in style: rich and sweet but also tannic and classic.
($53; 65% nebbiolo, 30% barbera d'Asti superiore and 5% cabernet sauvignon) Bright ruby. Black fruits, cherry, violet and sexy oaky tones on the nose. Bright and vinous, with strong flavors of blackberry and graphite firmed by sound acids. I might have picked this wine blind as cabernet. Chewy and broad, if not showing strong personality today. Finishes with substantial but ripe tannins and lingering notes of dark berries and violet. Rivetti did not make a 2002 Pin, and beginning with the 2003 the cabernet sauvignon will be omitted from the blend.
(bottled in July 2004) Medium red. Red fruits, iron, underbrush and smoky oak on the nose. Supple and reasonably fat, with moderate definition and verve but a distinct edge of acidity. Finishes with dusty, slightly dry tannins that coat the teeth and tongue.
(Rivetti had no hail in his Grinzane Cavour vineyard, but noted that he produced just 70 hectoliters of wine from 8 hectares) Medium red. Floral nose shows an herbaceous note of tree bark. Then sweet and broad in the mouth, with cherry and herbal flavors, as well as an exotic suggestion of dried fruits. The powdery tannins arrive late and coat the front teeth.
($135; from a vineyard in Barbaresco) Medium red. Reticent but sweet aromas of cherry, marzipan and spicy oak, with underlying minerality giving the nose a coolness. Then complex, aromatic and pungent on the palate, with a restrained sweetness, sappy acids and excellent concentration. A classic in the modern style, finishing with very broad, suave tannins, excellent density and a note of tobacco. This really calls for five years or so of patience. Seems a bit less dominated by oak than some recent vintages of this bottling.
(($135; from a vineyard in Neive, but made exactly like the Gallina) from vines of the same age, similar soil, and the same barriques Good full red. Spicy aromas of red berries, tobacco and peppermint. Rich, fat and vinous, with lovely generosity of flavor and balance. Offers a compelling three-dimensional tex ture and complex inner-mouth perfume. Finishes more backward than the Gallina, with a more obvious tannic spine.
($135; from Treiso; this rocky vineyard is more than a hundred meters higher than Rivetti's Gallina or Starderi vines; 14.8% alcohol) Moderately saturated medium red. Highly perfumed aromas of rose petal and marzipan ("like Serralunga Barolo in its perfume," notes Rivetti). Then powerful, vibrant and deep, with an almost Barolo-like density and plushness. Thanks to acidity a half-gram higher than that of the other 2001 Barbarescos the wine maintains superb vinosity and perfume in the mouth, and carries its high alcohol gracefully. Finishes with building, noble tannins and terrific persistence.
($150) Full medium red. Aromas of graphite, rose petal and gunflint. Plum p and full in the mouth, but also highly aromatic, thanks to its floral and mineral components. Still, this rather saline, dry, serious Barolo is a bit youthfully aggressive today, and much less obviously sweet than Rivetti's Barbarescos. Finishes with building tannins. Very promising young Barolo, from chalk-rich soil similar to that found in Gallina and Starderi.
($150) Good deep medium red. Roasted, smoky nose hints at menthol. Fat, large-scaled and powerful; comes across as sweeter than the 2001 but less refined, despite possessing solid underlying minerality. Showing more shoulders today than the 2001. Finishes with lovely ripe tannins and excellent brea dth.