An exploration of wine

Fontanafredda and Casa E. di Mirafiore: fine Barolo sister estates

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Mirafiore POTG dinner wines

Display of the wines served at E. di Mirafiore dinner at POTG

Fontanafredda and Casa E. di Mirafiore are sister estates in Serralunga d’Alba, both owned by the same Italian entrepreneur, and we got to know them within days of each other, through separate wine dinners. The below profiles are in the order of those dinners: Fontanafredda first then Casa E. di Mirafiore.

Fontanafredda

We got to know the wines of this long-standing, major estate based in Serralunga d’Alba at a late-2017 dinner hosted by Great Western Wine, the retail arm of Fontanafredda’s UK importer, Enotria&Coe. Luca Martini, their brand ambassador and Best Sommelier in the World for 2013 introduced the wines at Santini Italian restaurant, Pimlico.

As he confided later, he did not have control over the menu, which was hit and miss in terms of food matches and whose vast portions detracted from the overall experience. He was also reliant on their service staff for pouring, which resulted in a lot of sediment in glasses for the older wines and on my first glass of the 1996, cork crumbs covering almost the entire surface of wine!

Nevertheless, this dinner was a great way to appreciate the development capability of great Barolo, as the vintages shown were all good, including the very fine 1996 and highly reputed 1982.

The estate has 85Ha over 350 parcels in Serralunga d’Alba and Barolo communes, with a monopole on the Vigna La Rosa cru that is contiguous with the property. Parcels are vinified separately, with fermentation 50% in stainless steel and 50% in wood. Maturation is in a mix of smaller and larger oak due to variation in parcel sizes.

 

The Wines
From the dinner, in order tasted. A = Appearance, N = Nose, P = palate; scores are out of 20.

Fontanafredda Gavi di Gavi 2016 (16 / 20)
Served as an aperitif in the downstairs bar, before we moved up to the private dining room.
A: Pale lemon
N: Neutral, chalky, faintly toasty apple pip
P: Crisp acidity. Yellow apple. Flint. Fair length. Good example of the style

Fontanafredda Barolo Riserva 1982 (18- / 20)
Served blind. Served undecanted “to allow the wine to live and develop in the glass”!
A: Mid brick-garnet; heavy sediment
N: Black tea, nail varnish maturity then truffle and earth. Pot pourri emerged
P: Brisk, dried cherry. Spiced. Moderately firm elegant and fine tannins – resolved by age! Long and earthy finish. Black tea. Very long. Dies a bit in the glass

Fontanafredda Barolo Riserva 2007 (17.5 / 20)
Served blind.
A: Mid-garnet, with a brick rim; no sediment
N: Fresh earth. More youthful. Riper cherry fruit. Some chocolate and oak spices emerge. Chalk. Scented cherry. Some hints of leaf
P: Crisp acidity. High, fine tannins. Scented & primary. Some black tea. Hints of spice. Smoky. Firm; still quite tight. Tannins still quite primary. Long. Not as long as the 1982

Fontanafredda Barolo Serralunga d’Alba 2013 (17+ / 20)
Served blind.
A: Pale-medium ruby-garnet
N: Primary. Coal smoke, spice, black cherry; ripe fruit. Dense. Touch of herb. Touch of fresh nutty oak
P: Ripe black cherry. Spice. Power, cocoa, juicy, crisp acidity. Peppery alcohol. High, chalky tannins. Smoky. 14.5% ABV. Fairly long, but not as much as 1982 or 2007

Fontanafredda Barolo Vigna La Rosa 2013 (17.5+ / 20)
Served blind.
A: Pale-medium garnet
N: Tea leaf. Nutty. Vegetal. Tight. Compote and bruised fruit. Develops truffle and black tea. Rounded. Opening in the glass
P: Crisp, high acidity. Meaty, tea, spice, earth. Aromatic. Very tarry mid-palate. Smoky. Tight, medium-to-high, chalky tannins. Long, tarry, savoury finish

Fontanafredda Barolo Vigna La Rosa 1996 (18 / 20)
Served blind.
A: Mid-deep brick
N: Black tea. Truffle. Fully developed. Mushroom and old leather. Old tobacco. Baked earth
P: Balsamic, meat, black tea. High, resolving, fine tannins. Warming mid-palate-to-finish. Meaty. Long

 

Casa E. di Mirafiore

By complete coincidence, a matter of days after getting introduced to Fontanafredda, we went to a Planet of the Grapes dinner for the wines of Casa E. di Mirafiore (as shown in the above photo)…which turned out to be the sister property of Fontanafredda! These are both now owned by Oscar Farinetta, the entrepreneur who founded the Eataly chain.

Alberto Frea, Brand Ambassador for E. Mirafiore and Fontanafredda introduced the estate and the wines.

The first King of Italy bought 2 estates – Fontanafredda and E. Mirafiore – for his mistress. Mirafiore was originally a hunting lodge, then vines were planted and winemaking began in 1878, including such innovations as the first concrete vats in Barolo. Mirafiore was inherited by the mistress’ son – Emanuele of the Mirafiore family, hence E. di Mirafiore.

Emanuele’s son Gastone inherited and bankrupted the estate. With phylloxera in 1920s compounding the misery, the estate was sold. For 70 years, the brand was not used until bought in 2009 by Farinetta and resurrected.

The Estate has 80Ha primarily in Serralunga d’Alba, with some in Barolo. They also have Dolcetto in Serralunga – in the Jori del Matina vineyard, which is East-facing so catches the morning Sun.

They will have organic certification from 2019 and have for some time not used artificial pesticides. Their vineyards are relatively windy, so it is easier to keep the humidity down and manage fungal pressures. They are trying to avoid using metals, so are adopting algae derivatives instead of copper for fungal treatments – though this means additional labour and treatment costs of around €2m per year.

They have managed a 40% reduction in SO2 as acidity, alcohol and tannins are high enough.

The Mirafiore style is aiming to be classical and to take time to drink. They don’t decant so the wine can change in the glass.

 

The Wines
From the 2017 dinner, in order tasted. A = Appearance, N = Nose, P = palate; scores are out of 20.

Casa E. di Mirafiore Dolcetto d’Alba 2014 (16 / 20)
A: Deep ruby-purple
N: Rich berry fruit. Plenty of bitter almond and herb. Dense. Appealing
P: Juicy, dense. Fairly firm, but not rough-textured tannins. Middle ground. Moderate length

Casa E. di Mirafiore Barbera d’Alba 2013 (16.5 / 20)
A: Mid or mid-deep ruby
N: Bright, smoky / slatey; hints of bitter chocolate. Savoury, smoky, red cherry
P: Crisp, brisk red cherry. Moderately-light, fine tannins. Some spice. Moderate length but elegant

Casa E. di Mirafiore Langhe Nebbiolo 2013 (16.5 / 20)
Earlier harvest than Barolo and younger vines, for a Pinot Noir style. 1 year in oak and 1 year in bottle, pre-release.
A: Pale to pale-medium ruby
N: Sweet, ripe, red cherry core, with sandy mineral and gentle tar. Almost camphor. Some tinned tomato in a nice way. Scented almost mint-herb. Quite complex
P: Fresh, crisp, red cherry. Some flinty smoke. Moderately-firm, chalky tannin. Medium-long length. Supple and appealing without being overripe.

Casa E. di Mirafiore Barolo 2012 (16 / 20)
Mid-October to mid-November, traditional harvest date. Just 20 days skin contact, post-fermentation, to avoid over-extraction, then 2 years’ wood maturation and 1 year in bottle.
A: Pale garnet
N: More floral rose petal and ripe cherry. Earthy base tones. Deeper. Sweeter
P: Toasty, ripe cherry & spice. Earthier. Moderately-firm tannins. Medium-long length – but shorter than the Langhe Nebbiolo

Casa E. di Mirafiore Barolo Paiagallo 2010 (17 / 20)
Paiagallo is a Barolo cru that officially became an MGA in 2010, and whose 8m year old limestone and sand soils give a riper, more fruit-forward style. 8 months’ maturation in 2nd and 3rd use oak barriques, to give rounded tannins.
A: Pale-medium garnet
N: Earth, spice, truffle; cedar oak, slightly baked, ripe cherry fruit. Powerful. Dense. Scented red cherry
P: Savoury, smoky red cherry and some dried cherry. Firm, fine tannins. Heady, spicy with plenty of alcohol. Long

Casa E. di Mirafiore Barolo Lazzarito 2008 (17.5 / 20)
Key cru in the heart of the Serralunga d’Alba commune. 400m altitude and the highest point. Mainly calcareous clay and grey marl, giving tannic structure
A: Mid garnet
N: Dried and oxidative fruit. Some marked VA. Fresh earth and spice. Reserved. Savoury – very earthy / spicy. No cinnamon sweetness. Nutty
P: Crisp acidity. Ripe fruit and fresh. Just opening with some floral notes to dried cherry & spice. Earth. Compact, firm, very fine tannins. Still has plenty of time ahead. Well crafted. Fine. Long

Casa E. di Mirafiore Barolo Riserva 2004 (17.5 / 20)
First Riserva made by the estate, with 2005, 2007 and 2010 made and to be released.  Outstanding vintage for the region. 3 years in old oak then 1 year in concrete for oxygen-free ageing, giving equivalent of bottle ageing but in large volumes. 1 year in bottle, in addition to that. Intention for a 10-year post-harvest drinking window to open. Multi-vineyard blend, with selection pre-fermentation. Up to 60 days’ maceration, as fruit and tannin quality is high enough.
A: Deep (!) garnet
N: Deep, still plenty of blueberry and black cherry fruit. Smoke and struck flint. Old tobacco and leather. Broad, slightly tarry rich tobacco. Dense
P: Fresh, but rich cakebread fruit and dried fruit. Spice, smoke. Masculine scented touch. Long. Spicy / meaty finish. Very dense and fine. Firm, resolving tannins

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