On the Road with the Grape Guy

On the Road with the Grape Guy is a on-going feature that follows me from event to event ... I post my thoughts, feelings and reviews of what happened and what I tasted ... basically it is here that I review the events I attend and the things that thrilled me.

Aurelio Settimo - The In-Person Visit (Piedmont, Italy)

16 Sep 2021

(September 2021) ... Back in March of this year I had the opportunity to Zoom-taste with Tiziana Settimo and was very impressed with the wines - so when the opportunity arose to visit her in person, taste new vintages and explore their vineyards, I jumped at the opportunity.

First, the winery farms 7 hectares of land (six of Nebbiolo and one of Dolcetto) and Aurelio Settimo Winery is very proud to be part of what is known as The Green Experience, a voluntary initiative that more than 100 producers in the area have signed on for.

The family came to this land in 1943 and for the first 20 years (or so) the grapes were sold off to local wineries, but by 1962 Aurelio Settimo (Tiziana’s father) decided to make, bottle and label his own wine.

The most "famous” part of the Settimo winery is the cru vineyard Rocche Annunziata, which also has their oldest Nebbiolo vines; they control 3.5 hectares of this 30 hectare plot and are the second largest land holder, which is shared by 22 producers - some who have just one row.

The Old VinesThe winery makes 40,000 bottles of wine a year, and in a strange twist of fate, and because of their position with the Rocche Annunziata Cru, they make more cru Barolo than Classico or Dolcetto. The breakdown in maximums is 8,000 bottles of Dolcetto, 14,000 bottles of Barolo Classico and 24,000 bottles of Rocche dell’Annunziata - if they make a Riserva (last bottling of this wine was in 2012 – next one in 2016) then it comes off of the cru Annunziata bottling.

The vine age on the property range from 7 years (used in the Langhe Nebbiolo and Dolcetto wines - plus the classical Barolo) to 60 years - most of which are in the Annunziata Cru.

Aurelio Settimo is now entering its fourth generation as a family-owned and run wine company/producer - offers have been made, but to this date Tiziana has refused, she feels part of this land and can think of nowhere else she'd rather be (although she did admit that Canada would be on her list of places to go if she were to move) ... As for the family tree of these four generations (based on their relation to Tiziana) it goes exactly like this:

Settimo Tasting RoomDomenico Settimo - Grandfather ... He was a grower first and foremost, but as with most Italian families he made a little wine for personal / family consumption.

Aurelio Settimo - Father... He too was a grower of grapes, but also a self-taught winemaker who created the first label and passed along many words of advice to his daughter about the growing of grapes, the making of wine and the selling of the final product.

Tiziana Settimo ... Describes herself as the “Jolly Joker”, or what we refer to as a Jack-of-all-trades. She worked side-by-side with her father and learned all aspects of the business: "if you don't know how to do it, how can you ask someone else to do it, and know they are doing it right.” – Tiziana (advice her father gave her)

Davida Settimo ... The fourth generation ready to take the reins of winemaking, Tiziana's son went to school in Alba. There are surprisingly only two schools for winemaking and oenology in Italy, and the one in Alba is the oldest of them (150-plus years) - thus making him the first officially taught winemaker of the family.


The Wines ...

Eight wines were tasted in total - four of which were tasted during my Zoom-tasting back in March - they can be found here ...
Did they taste better at the winery? You bet.
Did I rescore the wines? No ... For the reason given above.

2018 Langhe Nebbiolo ... Tiziana continues to make this as an homage to her father, who loved this style; with eight days on skins and no oak this is an interpretation of how Nebbiolo should taste based on its terroir - this is unadulterated Nebbiolo. Subtle coffee aromas with cran-cherry, floral, good tannins (from skins alone) and a nice structure - it's fresh, lively and full of red fruit.  (****)

2017 Barolo ... The hot summer of 2017 drove alcohols up to 14.5% and forced Settimo to abandon their 2017 version of their Langhe Nebbiolo, because they simply could not keep it "light and fresh". This 2017 Barolo has notes of herbal, balsamic, smoke, dark / sour cherry, and is fairly easy-drinking (despite the alcohol heat) with a nicely built tannin structure ... It's young, but it seems ready.  (*** ½+) Barolo Decanted

2016 Barolo ... Aromas of herbs, smoke, cran-cherry, clove, and uncharred oak leads to the flavors of spiced-cherry and dried-strawberry along with balsamic, herbal, oak and powerful tannins that subside with time in the glass, giving way to the more pleasurable notes in this wine. This is a thoroughbred waiting at the gate ... Time will only make this one better.  (****)

2017 Barolo - Rocche dell’Annunziata ... This one kicks off with plenty of red fruit: cherry, strawberry, and raspberry right from the cork pop, and despite the 14.5% alcohol feels light and fresh. The acidity retained in the wine plays with the spice giving it a real “freshness”-factor that you do not expect at all – and as I said before, looking at the alcohol percentage on the label there is no way this wine should taste this fresh and lively. The long finish lingers to such a degree that you actually question when you took your last sip. This is fruit-forward backed by some secondary characteristics where cloves and other spices kick in the on background and the oak is so very well integrated. This truly is a gem of a wine.  (**** ½)


When I asked Tiziana about what makes Annunziata so different and so special, besides the strip of road that separates her vineyards, she points to three factors:

1) Exposure ... The “Barolo” vineyard is southeast facing; while Annunziated is south-southwest facing.  The Road Between

2) Micro-Climate ... The “Barolo” vineyard sits at 320 meters on top of a hill; while Annunziata is at 270 meters, on the middle of a hill, and is completely protected.

3) Soil ... The “Barolo” vineyard grows in calcareous and sandy soils; while Annunziata is calcareous and blue marl, which is of marine origin and does not absorb water, the grapes must then struggle to find water making them stronger and healthier.




Tenuta Santi Giacomo e Filippo (Marché)

07 Sep 2021

(August 2021) ... Tenuta Santi Giacomo e Filippo is a spa/resort with a winery as part of their makeup; it only stands to reason really, as they have 360 hectares of property – so plenty of room for a vineyard, but surprisingly only 14 hectares of grapes are planted ... But on those 14 hectares they have 11 different varieties of which six are red (Petite Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese Grosso, Merlot, Montepulciano and Syrah) and five whites (Incrocio Bruni 54, Biancamé / Bianchello, Verdicchio, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc). They make only 50,000 bottles per year of which 30% is exported.

Marche signThe winery was established in 2006, and their new production area is located in the center of their vineyards - which means, that during harvest the winery is no more than 5 minutes away in any direction - allowing them to maintain the freshness of their grapes, instead of them sitting all day picked and in bins in the sun, and it also minimizes the bruising of fruit, as more trips to the winery can be made and at more frequent intervals.

Traditional harvest is between mid-August (for their sparkling wine) and into the second half of September - this is due to the diversity of grapes they grow. At the time of my visit, the Verdicchio was off and the sparkling wine process had already begun.

The most interesting of these grapes is Incrocio Bruni 54, or Bruni's Cross 54, a crossing between Verdicchio and Sauvignon Blanc, made by a gentleman with the last name Bruni, who attempted crossings multiple times but settled on his 54th attempt as being his favorite (Incrocio means crossing) – he had actually tried more than 54 but this was the one he liked the best - I am also surprised he could not come up with a better name than this, I questioned this no more.

The winery does not use all its grapes, in fact the ones they do not use end up being blended into a stainless-steel tank and sold off as bulk wine to the locals so they can fill their jugs, bottles, etc and use it as their “house wine”.


The Wines (tasted all but one from their portfolio)

"Loving, listening up and respecting times imposed by nature herself, offers us better wines." - Marianna Bruscoli (winemaker)

2020 La Fogliola Bianco
Using mainly Biancamé (a Marché varietal - which also grows in the Emilia-Romagna region) ... it is also known as the grape of Bianchella del Metauro (Marché) and Colli di Rimini (Emilia-Romagna).

This is a simple, fruity and floral wine that is best described as a "daily wine" or "daily drinker". (***+)

2020 La Fogliola Rosso
Made from Sangiovese Grosso.

Another “daily wine”, but this one, unlike its white counterpart, has a little more depth: red and sour cherry with cranberry notes that show themselves through the acidity - fresh and lively - deliciously simple.  (*** ½)

Rose from Marche2020 Ca'Rosella
This is where the Syrah (70%) and Montepulciano (30%) goes - into this estate rosé - and they have made a lovely version in 2020. I was told that the 2019 version was made as an afterthought, was darker and had an intensity to the palate (Tavel colour and rich style), while the 2020 was thought out from the vineyard to the production in the winery (and they have created what today’s international rosé lover is looking for – I am told that dry rosé has not fully been embraced by the Italians yet – and at present is only made in certain pockets).

Lovely watermelon, raspberry, lemon with a nice pith-like note with watermelon-whites on the finish - a lovely freshness, good acidity, dry, gulpable made with a beautiful Provencal like colour – the refreshment factor is a solid 9 (out of 10).  (*** ½+)

NV Isabecta Rosato (sparkling rosé)
A Charmat method bubble made using Sangiovese Grosso.

Fresh and lively with red berry fruit and a touch of lime, it has a refreshment factor of 8 (out of 10) and a quaff-ability factor to match ... This is one of those wines worth drinking, and drinking a lot of.  (*** ½+)

2019 BellantonioBellantonio and Amfora
Wonder where that Incrocio Bruni 54 goes? It sees two of their wines: the Anfora and this one.

Notes of hay, honeysuckle and beeswax, plus a touch of floral (all on the nose), the palate delivers citrus pith and beeswax while replaying hints of grapefruit on the finish.  (*** ½)

2018 Bellantonio Elevato in Anfora
A winery exclusive, of which only 3,500 bottles are produced every year (always and only) - once again made from the Incrocio Bruni 54, which remains in the Anfora for 18 months; it was stressed to me (quite a few times) that this is not a skin-fermented white, it is an amphora white, obviously the winery does not want this wine to be judged in the orange wine category.

Quite the interesting bottle of wine that shows notes of orange peel, lemon peel, floral and honeysuckle. It just might be one of the better amphora-aged wines I have tasted to date.  (*** ½)

2018 Fortercole
Since 2016 this blended red is a 50/50 mix of Montepulciano and Sangiovese Grosso aged 2-plus years in oak barrels.

Smoky, black cherry, blackberry, mocha and earthy - it's a wine to drink with mixed grilled meats ... and from experience I can tell you it works very well with that.  (*** ½+)


As you would expect in Italy, and on any agricultural plantation in this country, there are 400 olive trees planted and olive oil is made, while I never saw the trees I did taste the oil.


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