An exploration of wine

Marchesi di Grésy: monopolising Martinenga

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Book 3 Wine 402

The 1998 Gaiun Martinenga label, signed by Jeff, Alessandro and Valentina

Marchesi di Grésy – or, to give it its full title, Tenuta Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Grésy – is a landmark Barbaresco producer. It merits that not only by being one of the noteworthy, quality producers, but also by owning outright the landmark cru vineyard of Martinenga.

The 11Ha Martinenga cru – strictly a Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntiva or MGA – surrounds their winery in a concave amphitheatre, just a couple of kilometres outside the Barbaresco village, and bordering the famous Asili and Rabajà crus. This relatively steep, folded hillside faces mostly South and South-west, at altitudes around 2-300m.

Marchesi di Grésy then split the total Martinenga cru into 3, by identifying 2 particularly fine sub-sections. Gaiun-Martinenga, is 2.3Ha on the Western side of the amphitheatre facing mostly South with some South-easterly exposure. Beyond the Eastern side and facing South-south-west is the 2.6Ha Camp Gros-Martinenga parcel.

They can therefore produce Martinenga, Gaiun-Martinenga and Camp Gros-Martinenga Barbareschi in any given vintage, with Camp Gros typically matured as a Riserva. When quality doesn’t merit it, Gaiun and Camp Gros fruit is blended into the straight Martinenga bottling, as is the fruit of young vines. Having previously had the 2001 and particularly the 1998 Gaiun-Martinenga pictured above, it was clear to me why this vineyard is so well-regarded.

Historically, until the di Grésy family took back the production of bottled wine, Martinenga fruit was sold to the excellent Produttori del Barbaresco co-op. The Produttori have for a long time produced a set of single cru bottlings from their members’ best fruit, celebrating the different terroirs of 9 crus, including Asili and Rabajà. But it used to be 10, with Martinenga regularly featuring, reinforcing the reputation of the vineyard.

In 2017, thanks to an introduction by Ronan Sayburn MS, to Marchesi di Grésy’s long-time, Kiwi winemaker, Jeff Chilcott, we visited in 2017 and had a chance to explore more of their portfolio as well as the Barbarescos. By chance, two of the family members actively involved in the winery’s business, Valentina and Alessandro di Grésy, joined us during our tasting, having just got back from an extensive sales and marketing trip to the US.

Remarkably, when we arrived on 27th September, having walked from Gaja, they had already wrapped up the entire harvest the previous weekend, including Nebbiolo. Whilst it is typical for Barbaresco harvests to be 2 weeks ahead of Barolo, it was still an exceptionally early finish. Despite that, Jeff was encouraged by the balance of acidity, tannin and fruit that had been achieved.

By the end of August, they had harvested their Moscato, Chardonnay, Barbera d’Alba and Barbera d’Asti vineyards – including fruit from holdings beyond the home vineyard of Martinenga.

Fruit comes into the winery at Martinenga. In the 2000s, they excavated a new cellar into the hillside to have more barrel space and a bottling line. Their barrel maturation regime is a balance of the ‘traditional’ and the ‘modern’, using both small French oak, with a relatively modest 25-30% new wood each vintage, and also large botti. That perhaps reflects the overall styles of the wines, which deftly incorporated elements of both.

We discussed more of the winemaking specifics in the context of the individual wines tasted. This included Jeff endorsing Valter Fissore’s approach to Dolcetto at Elvio Cogno, of early-pressing to stop extracting too much rustic tannin. That showed clearly in the rather attractive Monte Aribaldo Dolcetto d’Alba 2015.

The Barbareschi showed nice balance and some finesse of tannins, with the Barbaresco Martinenga 2014 certainly outperforming the vintage as a whole, which I have found to be somewhat dilute for many Barbaresco and Barolo wines. Both the Camp Gros Riserva 2011 and especially the straight Camp Gros 2007 showed great density with likely longevity too.

Marchesi di Gresy L'Altro Moscato Passito 2010

L’Altro Moscato Passito with dessert at The Harrow

I left with a bottle of their passito Moscato L’Altro 2010, which I was fascinated to open shortly after writing this up, at a Christmas lunch with wine friends at the excellent Harrow at Little Bedwyn. That tasting note has now been added below.

It was particularly enjoyable because the couple of Moscato Passito wines I had tasted when visiting Asti had carried a degree of oxidative character that didn’t work so well; this wine, by contrast, was harmonious and pleasant.

 

Wines

Marchesi di Grésy Langhe Sauvignon 2016 (16.5 / 20)
North, South and West-facing vineyards. 2017 was very variable so having multiple vineyards helped. Stainless steel vinification. Fine lees with battonage. 2016 vintage bottled April 2017.
A: Pale lemon
N: Earthy pungency, boxwood, subtle spice, some green fruit beneath. Flinty, smoky tones
P: Sweet-ish, spicy, fresh earth flavour. Greengage fruit. Long, slightly warming finish. Hints of salt. Richness of battonage

Marchesi di Grésy Grésy Chardonnay 2015 (16.5 / 20)
Spring rain, then a hot July, followed by a cooler August. Less juice in the bunches, so more concentration.
A: Pale-medium gold
N: Creamy vanilla-spice oak tones. Yellow peach. Chalky, stony overtones. Dense. Hint of dill emerges
P: Rich entry. Full bodied. Crisp acidity. Ripeness balanced by acidity. Chalky / flinty mid-palate. Plenty of oak richness, but good pear fruit to balance. Medium-long length. More richness than the 2014 I had previously tasted when skiing

Marchesi di Grésy Monte Aribaldo Dolcetto d’Alba 2015? (16.5 / 20)
From Monte Aribaldo estate, around 2km from Martinenga in Treiso, at 360m altitude on calcareous soils. To handle Dolcetto’s firm, rustic tannins, they allow tannins to build to a maximum level and then press early, even if alcoholic fermentation is not complete, preferring to finish it off the skins – and take a similar approach with young-vine Nebbiolo fruit. Dolcetto can be fickle when growing, and in the winery, needs more frequent racking off lees, to prevent reduction.
A: Vibrant, mid-deep ruby
N: Bright, vibrant, direct aromatics. Berry fruits – black & blue. Very overt. Hint of bitter almond scent
P: Ripe black fruit entry. Supple tannins. Spicy mid-palate. Bitter-herb aromatic touch to finish. Very nicely done

Marchesi di Grésy, Martinenga Langhe Nebbiolo 2016 (16 / 20)
Young vines, designed for early drinking. Some whole berries from de-stemming. Short skin maceration and press early to keep suppleness.
A: Mid-deep ruby
N: Scented sour & ripe red cherry. Dried herb aromatic touches and fresh leather, but fruit dominant
P: Juicy red & black mixed fruit. Bright. Good acidity but not high. Rich. Moderate, slightly furry tannins. Easy drinking. Medium-long length

Marchesi di Grésy, Monte Colombo Barbera d’Asti 2012 (16.5 / 20)
2Ha, South-facing, Monte Colombo hilltop vineyard at 280m by La Serra in Cassine, Monferrato. Higher density planting than their neighbours do. Same winemaking as Barbaresco with up to 1.5 years’ ageing in botti.
A: Mid-deep ruby with some purple glints
N: Hint of vanilla over rich, dense red & black cherry fruit. Some subtle spice
P: Rich, ripe red cherry. Powerful. 15% ABV shows, but with enough fruit to hold it. Medium intensity, maximum, but fine tannins. Juicy, brisk acidity. Medium-long to Long. Good complexity

Marchesi di Grésy, Merlot daSolo Monferrato 2010 (16 / 20)
Initially blended with Barbera, but they rapidly split this into separate wines, hence “da Solo”. €20 / bottle.
A: Mid-deep garnet
N: Stewed plum and prune fruit. Menthol character. Creamy vanilla. Ripe
P: Ripe, slightly balsamic prune fruit. Juicy, bright not brisk acidity. Light-moderate, fine tannins. Warming, with a spiced touch to the finish

Marchesi di Grésy, Barbaresco Martinenga 2014 (17 / 20)
They are progressively delaying releases of their Barbareschi and starting to release, step-wise, by vineyard. The 2014 vintage has been talked down overall, but Jeff believes it is important to taste each wine to know its own quality. Lots of spraying was done up to harvest, to manage the cool, damp conditions, then a severe selection was made at harvest.
A: Pale ruby-garnet
N: Scented, floral, some balsamic, plenty of density. Ripe red cherry. Meaty, savoury overtones
P: Dense red cherry fruit. Rich, with crisp acidity and fairly-firm, but fine tannins. Medium-long to long. Very well made

Marchesi di Grésy, Barbaresco Martinenga 2013 (17.5+ / 20)
Slow maturing, long growing season vintage.
A: Pale-medium ruby-garnet
N: Floral rose. Nutty and fresh earth minerality. Subtle spice. More density and intensity
P: Schisty mineral savoury undertow to dense red cherry fruit. More powerful red cherry and balsamic touches

Marchesi di Grésy, Barbaresco Gaiun Martinenga 2011 (18 / 20)
Bottled 2013.
A: Pale-medium garnet, with a brick rim
N: Intense, powerful and ripe entry. Ripe orange peel and floral tones. Aromatic liquorice tones. Attractive. Ripe. Forward. Spice and flint in the background
P: Minty, liquorice entry. Ripe orange and red cherry; blood orange. Tangy. Crisp acidity. Some smoky flint on the mid-palate. A little over medium body. Firm to high, chalky tannins. Fantastic length, with a gentle cinnamon touch

Marchesi di Grésy, Barbaresco Riserva Camp Gros 2011 (18+ / 20)
12 months in 30% new French oak, then 18 months in large botti.
A: Pale-medium garnet, with a brick rim
N: Orange peel, but more earthy, graphite notes are more marked. Nutty. Dense. Complex. Multi-layered
P: Ripe, powerful, spiced with touches of orange peel. Dense and powerful. Long. Elegant, fairly-firm tannins. Needs time

Marchesi di Grésy, Barbaresco Camp Gros 2007 (18.5 / 20)
Tasted blind.
A: Pale-medium brick-garnet
N: Black tea and truffle, but no overt VA. Dried cherry and orange peel. Dense. Aromatic.
P: Supple, supple, supple. Great acidity, and beautifully elegant tannins. Juicy orange peel and cherry

Marchesi di Grésy L’Altro Moscato Passito 2010 (16 / 20; 90 / 100)
Drunk with dessert at The Harrow at Little Bedwyn in December 2018.
A: Deep burnished gold
N: Creamy vanilla and honey, then dried and fresh apricot and orange peel. Almond toast notes
P: Sweet, but balanced by brisk acidity. Dried orange-peel fruit, with a long, cream-floral finish

 

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