I first encountered Ettore Germano as one of the Barolo brands stocked by Planet of the Grapes, and I had enjoyed their riper, more approachable style. Matt kindly helped us arrange an appointment. We met Elena the wife of the husband-wife owner team briefly, and she left us in the capable hands of Davide, a member of the winemaking team, for a short tour before tasting. This included some unusual expressions such as their venture into sparkling Nebbiolo and Rieslings.
Subsequently, in March 2018, POTG held an Ettore Germano winemaker’s dinner.
Husband Sergio Germano – Ettore’s son presented the wines, which included the chance to re-taste some of the wines tasted in September 2017 and other vintages of others. These notes combine both events.
Sergio began making wine in 1985 and gradually took over from his father. The estate increased its Nebbiolo production in the 1980s and 1990s, following the Barolo Boys revolution, but Sergio is also interested in white grapes, so looked for cool, mineral-heavy, stony soils in the Alta Langa on the Ligurian border (a DOC only in 2002) and there planted Chardonnay and Riesling.
Nevertheless, the modern, recently completed winery is in Serralunga d’Alba, as are most of their 10Ha vineyards including several surrounding the property, in the Cerretta cru:
Interestingly, a chunk of the Cerretta cru is planted with 45-year old Barbera that Sergio intends to retain as long as he can, as he believes it shows the quality that Barbera can achieve in the right sites and with the right winemaking. These vines are the source of the Vigna della Madre, which proved a convincing bottling – especially the 2015 served at POTG.
The view from their recently-built tasting room with balcony, is a beautiful backdrop to taste against:
Serralunga has relatively few wine-making producers as traditionally was an area that bigger firms bought grapes from, to fill-out their regional Barolo blends. This is because Serralunga is high-calcium clay dominated, giving Nebbiolo concentration, structure, more dark fruit, salinity and earthiness.
For maturation, they are now using varying sizes of older oak, with many barriques and 500-700L tonneaux within that mix. New barrels are often untoasted, to minimise the flavour addition, whilst delivering the required micro-oxidation that supports tannin polymerisation and maturation.
Their 2009 Lazzarito cru bottling was sufficiently compelling that we bought a bottle of the 2006 from their back-catalogue, available at the winery. Tasting the 2009 again at Planet of the Grapes confirmed its quality above the other wines (and, I’m pleased to say, that my independent scoring was pretty consistent for each wine, within 0.5 in each case!).
From the tasting room visit, in order tasted and supplemented by those served at Planet of the Grapes. A = Appearance, N = Nose, P = palate; scores are out of 20.
Ettore Germano Rosanna Spumante Rosé Brut VQS 2014 (16.5 / 20)
A final, late ‘green’ harvest of Nebbiolo yields grapes that are then used for sparkling, with 1 hour skin contact in the press, to capture Nebbiolo aromatics without phenolic pickup. Stainless steel fermentation, followed by chill-prevention of MLF. However, up to 10% is matured in barrel using only an antibacterial agent that is less effective at blocking MLF, meaning a small proportion does undergo malolactic. Second fermentation in bottle, followed by 18 months’ lees ageing. 10 g/L TA and 12.5% ABV
A: Very pale onion skin
N: Strawberry marked fruit. White flower. Hint of peach. Some creaminess rather than toastiness from lees
P: Sweet strawberry fruit entry then ripe citrus. Fresh but not searing acidity. Light phenolics. Some flinty / chalky minerality. Medium-long finish. Firm. Salty
Ettore Germano Rosanna Spumante Rosé Brut VQS 2014 (16+ / 20)
Tasted at Planet of the Grapes dinner. Nebbiolo harvested early in beginning September, with 10-11% pABV. Grapes spend 24 hours in basket before pressing, to begin to break down. Delicate pressing, with some skin contact in the press over 3 hour pressing cycle and first pressing juice (50-55%). 18 months on lees to express primary fruit first. Dry, in order to be a good food accompaniment. Named after mother.
A: Pale onion skin.
N: Vegetal and flinty tang to ripe red cherry tones, over lean lemon citrus. Some nutty lees
P: Dry, structured, crisp acidity and lots of chalky texture and flint minerality. Lean lemon and some subtle toasty lees through the finish. Smoky. Needs time
Ettore Germano Riesling Hérzu 2016 (15.5 / 20)
100% Riesling, made from 2-3 harvests – 1st for acidity and 3rd for some botrytis to give complexity and a little RS. Stainless steel fermentation, then 6 months’ lees ageing in tank with stirring, to stabilise and add richness. Screwcapped.
A: Very pale lemon
N: Slightly reductive lentil notes. Austere, stony reduction. Lime beneath
P: Crisp acidity. Rounded sweetness (3 g/L RS only). Stony lime. A little simple
Ettore Germano Langhe Riesling Hérzu 2016 (16 / 20)
Tasted at Planet of the Grapes dinner. Riesling. Aiming for a food wine. Wanted altitude for crispness, so Alto Langhe. Serralunga clone. Gold medal from Italian Riesling competition. 4 g/L RS to enhance varietal character. Cork-sealed, unlike at the estate. Corks being phased out!
A: Pale lemon
N: Chalky minerality. Gentle toast. Subtle lime peel and lime pith. Restrained. White flower. Much less reductive than in September!
P: Rounded entry. Somewhat tight with brisk acidity. Creamy mid-palate. Chalky minerality and chalky texture. Lime and stones with a grapefruit pith pleasant bitterness at the finish. Decent length. Not up to the 20+ 2016 Grosse Gewächse tasted 2 days before, but pretty good.
Ettore Germano Riesling Hérzu 2012 (16 / 20)
Screwcap – used to permit lower SO2 levels and to avoid TCA. However, Italian customers accept only cork, so have to bottle with different closures depending on the market.
A: Pale lemon
N: Kaffir lime. Hints of TDN. Toasty / waxy development. Slate tones.
P: Petrolly, slatey lime juice. Rounded dryness (4 g/L RS). Lime cordial. Floral finish. Medium to long
Ettore Germano Langhe Nascetta 2016 (16 / 20)
100% Nascetta from Alto Langhe to the south of Barolo, made since 2004. 20% fermented in amphora on skins, and 80% stainless steel with a 5-day pre-fermentation maceration. Fermentation up to 17-18C.
A: Very pale gold
N: Toasty, nutty reduction touches. Sage / herb. Some stone fruit?
P: Spicy, reductive. Waxy, rich. Some phenolic bitterness at the finish. Stony minerality. Good character. Long
Ettore Germano Langhe Nebbiolo 2016 (16.5 / 20)
Stainless steel-only fermentation and maturation, with 5-6 days on skins for lower extraction of tannins. Designed to promote a drinkable Nebbiolo with floral tones and fresh fruit
A: Pale ruby-rose
N: Stewed wild strawberry. Hay touch. Scented floral.
P: Supple tannins! Crisp acidity. Bright red fruits. Juicy. Very approachable. Strawberry and blackberry flavour
Ettore Germano Barbera d’Alba Germano 2016 (15.5 / 20)
Tasted at Planet of the Grapes dinner. Limestone soils give power to Barbera. 2 selections including Vigna della Madre. 10-15 year old young vines in stainless steel for approachable, easy drinking. But hold for 8-10 months to soften before release.
A: Mid-deep ruby, with some purple tones
N: Primary, lifted red cherry fruit. Lots of berries. Cool fermentation tones. Dusty mineral overtones. Straightforward
P: Crunchy red fruit with some sweetness of cherry. M- fine tannins. M(+) brisk not crisp acidity. Juicy. Spiced mid-palate. M+ length gives plenty of presence.
Ettore Germano Barbera d’Alba Superiore Vigna della Madre 2013 (16+ / 20)
100% Barbera from a South east-facing plot that gives good ripeness, so apply a longer 15-20 day post-ferment maceration. Stainless steel fermentation and MLF, then 18 months in barriques over 10 years of age, for micro-oxidation and tannins.
A: Mid-deep ruby with some purple glints.
N: Background nutty / almond oak breadth. Blackberry fruit. Hint of dried herbs
P: Pure, ripe blackberry fruit. Some herbal and gentle spice hints. M+ to long. Peppery, M tannins. Slightly warming, but rich enough for it. 14.5%?
Ettore Germano Barbera d’Alba Superiore Vigna della Madre 2015 (16.5+ / 20)
Tasted at Planet of the Grapes dinner. Older 45 year old vineyard, planted by Ettore Germano. Cerretta cru – so not all planted to Nebbiolo, to show the depth and character that Barbera can deliver: power, minerality and slightly lower acidity. Not intending to replant with Nebbiolo. Old vine selections were traditional for Barbera to make wine for keeping. 1 year in untoasted tonneaux oak to refine the wine without adding significant flavour, then blend. Hold 6 months in bottle pre-release. 2015 very good vintage for the region.
A: Deep black-purple with a narrow rim
N: Gently toasty, slightly papery oak overtones. Hints of vanilla cream, but not dominant. Sweet black cherry and subtle chilli spice. Dark chocolate. Dense and deep.
P: Powerful black cherry. Full-bodied for a Barbera. Spice, hints of creamy oak, some crème de mure tones. M very fine-grained tannins. Bright-ish acidity. Weighty. Good length. Perhaps a little closed?
Ettore Germano Barolo di Commune di Serralunga d’Alba 2013 (16 / 20)
Nebbiolo from outside the Crus and young vines from Cru plots, but all in the Serralunga commune. Large French oak botti, with 30 days post-fermentation skin-maceration.
A: Pale garnet
N: Hint of stewed cherry. Fruit forward. Vegetal hint. Chilli spice. Dense and rich. Some black tea
P: Sweet red cherry. Spice. Richness. Firm chalky tannins. Ripe. Rounded. Approachable style. A little warming. Somewhat simple. Drink now-5 / 7 years
Ettore Germano Barolo di Commune di Serralunga d’Alba 2013 (16.5 / 20)
Tasted at Planet of the Grapes dinner. Young vines separated from older with older making Cru bottlings. Young vines blended, but all within Serralunga, so can carry the regional name. Intended to be more approachable. Blend of Cerretta, Prapò and Lazzarito fruit. Winemaking similar to Barbera, but aim for traditional maceration 20-30 days. 2 years in neutral wood (5-10% new oak), mainly untoasted French oak of 2,500L, for micro-oxygenation for tannin polymerisation plus 50% old tonneaux. 1 year in bottle. 14% ABV.
A: Pale-medium ruby
N: Delightfully-scented primary, floral cherry. Touch of chalky, papery oak. Faint hints of balsamic and fresh leather development
P: Crisp acidity, vibrant cherry fruit, toast, spice and hints of fresh earth. M+ very fine tannins. Some burnt sugar complexity. Youthful, but approachable. M+ to long
Ettore Germano Barolo Ceretta 2013 (17 / 20)
No sand in the plot, only limestone-clay so produces a heavier style that needs smaller barrels for maturation. 30 day skin maceration, then 500 & 700L barrel maturation
A: Pale-medium garnt
N: Ripe black, mixed fruit nose. Deep, dense. Some old tobacco hints.
P: Rich, ripe, black fruit entry. Hint of spice. Smoky touch. Ripe, sweet style. Firm, chalky tannins. Brisk acidity, max. Rich
Ettore Germano Barolo Cerretta 2012 (17 / 20)
Tasted at Planet of the Grapes dinner. First to bottle Cru Cerretta. Older vines. Longer, 40-50 days maceration, providing very ripe polysaccharides and phenolics. Delicate stems so easy to break and release green, bitter character. 2012, elegant vintage, drinking young. More powerful tannins, so 100% 700L un-toasted, older French oak to increase micro-oxygenation. 14.5% ABV.
A: Pale-medium ruby with garnet tones
N: Aromatic, sweet, almost candied red and black cherry. Some fresh liquorice touches. Fresh earth and cinnamon spice. Inviting. More expressive than the Serralunga
P: Cassis and mint. Sweet and rounded fruit. M+ fine tannins. Brisk acidity. Rich for a 2012. Forward. Touch of alcohol through the peppery finish
Ettore Germano Barolo Prapò 2013 (17+ / 20)
5-15% sand in the soil of this cru, so less firm structure that works with large French oak botti. Also 30 day skin-maceration
A: Pale-medium ruby with some garnet touches
N: Plum fruit. More scented and delicate. Some chalk touches. Hint of stone and beefy touch. Faint balsamic. More aromatic
P: Crisp acidity, crunchy, scented red fruit. Peppery, high tannins. Spice. Leaner and lighter, but more structured. Long
Ettore Germano Barolo Prapò 2009 (17- / 20)
A: Pale-medium garnet
N: Tired sample – VA notes. Bruised cherry fruit and some tar. Some tomato leaf
P: Tomato leaf, balsamic, dried fruit, old leather. High, grainy tannins. Fairly long
Ettore Germano Barolo Lazzarito Riserva 2009 (18+ / 20)
South-west exposure, so higher ripeness. More sandy soils in the renowned Lazzarito cru. 60 day post-fermentation maceration, then 3 years in larger botti and 2 years in bottle.
A: Pale brick-garnet
N: Truffle, subtle caramel-spice maturity. Hint of balsamic and tea. Deep. Semi-dried forest fruit beneath. Clove. Dark chocolate. Complex and inviting
P: Sweet-savoury red cherry and dried fruit with balsamic notes. Spice. Herb, black tea. Long. Firm to high, chalky tannins
Ettore Germano Barolo Riserva Lazzarito 2009 (17.5 / 20)
Tasted at Planet of the Grapes dinner. Bought from mother’s family in 2003. 1Ha of 12Ha; 6 other owners including Fontanafredda as major producer. Some sand to give more salinity and iron taste, and more elegance. Believe the density of the wine needs Riserva ageing – 6 years in barrel and bottle. Holds freshness.
A: Pale-medium garnet
N: Rose petals, pot pourri, and gentle cinnamon and earth spice. Savoury. Deep and complex. Maturing. Dried and ripe blackberry and red cherry beneath. Rich
P: Brisk acidity. Spice, earth, rose, dried red cherry and blackberry. Long, spicy finish. Plenty of M+ slightly sandy tannins. Warming touch to the long finish.