Let's talk about Vietti

I bought my first Vietti because I had enjoyed a few bottles of Seghesio Arneis from California and I found a bottle of the Vietti Arneis at Zachy’s with that crazy label. I then found bottles with grasshoppers, chestnuts and other fun doodles to buy. Luca Currado, the winemaker at Vietti, comes to New York from time to time and I have spent some time talking to him and discussing his wines. I like his wines and buy them on occasion. I suppose that must mean they are not “classic” Barolo and might be way too modern for the traditionalists, but for me, they are quite good. Now comes Monica Larner rating the “Down Goes Barolo” 2012 vintage in the most recent issue of TWA released last night. Not wanting to step on her copyright, I will just say that she uses the word “wallflower” and seems to think it is a non-distinguished (neither notably great nor notably bad) vintage. However, she rated the Vietti Barolos at the high end of her spectrum for the vintage.

Vietti doesn’t get the column inches here that favorites like Giacosa or Conterno, or even the likes of Sandrone, get, which I think is unfortunate. So what say you?

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As you may know, Alfredo Currado was instrumental in reviving arneis as a grape.

I haven’t had the Barolos for a number of years as the prices have been so high. Like many producers, they treated the different crus differently – some (Rocche and Lazzarito, as I recall) got new oak, while others didn’t. I always found them all balanced, though – not extreme.

Indeed, the first time I ever grasped the different profiles of the different villages was tasting at Vietti in 2002. Steve Tanzer had been there the day before so they had all their 98s and 99s Barolos and Barbarescos open, along with the barberas and dolcettos. A light went on: “This is a Serralunga, this is a Castiglione.” The terroir definitely showed through even though some had more oak than others.

Someone (here?) said that Luca has dialed back the new oak in recent years.

I’m not sure why Vietti doesn’t get more attention, particularly since Luciana and Alfredo were great ambassadors for the wines even before Luca took over.

Sometime back in the 90s I bought a bottle of the Vietti ‘Tre Vigne’ Barbera d’ Asti from Crossroads. When we opened it, my wife and I looked at each other and said “ugh”. It seemed off. So we poured the wine back into the bottle and a day later took it back to Crossroads. We told George that we thought the wine was bad. He said he generally didn’t taste wine that people brought back because they put weird stuff in sometimes, but he trusted us and he’d taste the wine and see if it was bad. He went into the back and came out with the dirtiest glass I’d ever seen. He poured some wine in, smelled it, tasted it, and said it wasn’t bad, but we just didn’t like it. He told us to pick something in exchange and he proceeded to finish the bottle with a corned beef sandwich he had just started on.

Subsequently we’d buy that Barbera from time to time. In blind tastings with other Barbera, it never did very well - much oakier for one thing, and while I’m not at all averse to oak, I never thought it helped much in this case.

I thought the same about the Barolo every time I tried it. I didn’t know that the different bottlings had different treatments, since I never explored them fully. Maybe I should have.

But for me, and it’s been a few years now since I’ve had any, the wines were never more than just OK. That is also said from having had only a few with any real age on them.

I think the prices of the Barolos are hard to justify, but find the other wines to be well priced and delicious. I really like the entry level Barberas. I find them to be on the rustic side and superior to wines from Braida and the other modernists.

I always find the Arneis to be too oxidised.

Overpriced swill [stirthepothal.gif]

Jay, I think there are a couple of factors at play here. The first is a degree of “inconsistency in the winemaking approach” over the past 20 years that sometimes ends up with folks being surprised by oak signatures with certain releases and even with certain vintages. Similar in that regard to Aldo Conterno, I think when the consumer doesn’t really know what to expect from an elevage perspective, a lot of folks just tend to take a pass because there are so many other options out there.

The 2nd issue, at least IMO, is that their distribution has been much more haphazard over the same time period, so it also takes some effort to find and buy their wines (in this respect, perhaps similar to Roagna).

I think the combination of those two factors is why you don’t see a lot of discussion on Vietti. FWIW, you also don’t see a lot of talk on folks like Roagna, Voerzio or La Spinetta either.

In honor of the upcoming July 4 weekend, I note that we fought a war against British oppression sot hat you would have the right to be wrong. [cheers.gif]

As to the Barbera, I find it to be OK, not great. I thought the Giacosa was better.

You must be confusing it with the Lafon Arneis. I have always found it to be bright, sharp and the essence of tart granny smith apple with ZERO oxidation characteristics.

Jay, to me Vietti are not one of the great wineries of Piemonte. They’re one of the world’s great wineries.

Last year I visited the winery and tasted through the '11s. Last week I did the same and tasted the '12 range. There are definitely some poor '12s around Piemonte but IMO Vietti is not among them. They somehow hit the sweet spot that is somewhere between traditional and modern styles as is appropriate for their sites (and they have some very good sites). So for example their Ravera I really like, which they handle very traditionally.

My dinner wine of the trip, where we tasted a number of old Gajas, Cavallottos etc, was a 1996 Vietti Villero.

Viettis are a little more expensive than a lot of Baroli but their QPR is pretty good compared with similar quality in Burgundy.

Cheers, Howard

I like the wines whenever I try them, but I don’t see them much.

“Swill”? Really?

I’m not familiar with much of their range, but the Perbacco Nebbiolo is consistently a fantastic value, comparable to many entry level Barolo bottlings that cost far more.

It’s a very nice wine, but I would not go that far, not at all.

Jay - I attended recently an amazing vertical of Vietti Rocche that was put on by Vinous. I will post my notes below which I had posted over on the Vinous boards. I was really impressed with the overall quality. As to modernist - Luca had mentioned at the event that he started experimenting with modernist techniques on the Ravera Barolo in the late 90s because he couldn’t sell his wine. But he admitted that he wasn’t thrilled and dialed it back, though he allowed for Ravera to be his most experimental cuvee. Here’s my notes on the vertical:

My wife and I were very fortunate to attend this event. I would describe it as “once in a lifetime.” Just sensational. First, a huge thank you to Antonio and James for setting it up. Everything was flawless. The restaurant was wonderful and chef Michael White even stopped in to say hi. And what can you say about Luca and Elena, two remarkable people. Such passion and love for their craft, and you can also tell for one another. Just a downright pleasure to be in their company.

Now as for the wines, I’d say in a vertical like this, that fact that there were no outliers on the bad side is pretty remarkable. It was just varying degrees of good to great. Antonio grouped several flights that were very thoughtful, as he noted above. I had so much fun I left my notepad at the restaurant, but I’ll do my best to give my impressions from memory.

First flight - 86/88/95/11 - it was clear to me immediately that 86 was the star of the flight. I think being served in this flight as opposed to the other flight with the 80s wines helped it to distinguish itself. I recall it having the early stages of tertiary development with a lovely finish. 88 had similar characteristics on the nose but was not as much of a blockbuster on the palate, so a step down. 95 had very firm tannins still, so for me was the least enjoyable to drink from the flight. 2011 was really voluptuous. Pretty sexy wine that is in a nice drinking spot.

Second flight - 96/99/01 - for me this flight was a battle between the 96 and 99. both great. If I had to quibble, I’d probably rather drink the 99 now and hold the 96, which seems like it has the stuffing to go for years, but I’d be very happy to own either. The 01 was my least favorite of the group. Not bad, but I thought outclassed by two terrific wines.

Third flight 04/06/08/10 - what I found so interesting about this flight, more than any other flight, you could really see a thematic similarity between all the wines. Smelling them all side by side, these wines were all Luca, all the time. Each one excellent, and really showing similar characteristics. For me the 04 was the star of the bunch. Just absolutely dynamite. The 06 was very much closed on the palate, despite wonderful aromatics. 08 and 10 were tremendous as well. Bright future for all of these.

Fourth flight - 82/85/89/90 - now we are getting to my favorites, the 82 was the WOTN for me. Crazy, wild, animalistic nose. Just wild. Awesome powerful palate. Sick wine. 85 showed great, but nothing like the nose on the 82. 89 beat 90 today, though both really solid. A great flight.

Fifth flight - 61/67 - this is my jam! I love wines of this age. For me, I preferred the 61. It smelled like the Papa of the 82. Similarly animalistic and wild nose. Really cool. Elegant palate. Luca said it was like dancing with a refined old lady. The 67 was totally closed when I first tried it, where I initially thought it might be flawed. However, after a while it really blossomed into a lovely wine. Would have benefited from extended aeration I think. Really great flight and the 61 for me was my second favorite wine of the night after the 82.

Overall just a wonderful evening. Thank you again to Antonio, James, Luca and Elena for a truly memorable experience. Was also great meeting a bunch of other members from the board. Looking forward to drinking more with you all.

Funny that some on here talk about difficulty in finding them. I can almost always find at least one barbera and one Barolo when I go to my normal buying grounds. I usually have the problem of not being able to find wines people on this board mention.
Tip for restaurant owners, put a Vietti barbera on the menu for $6-$8 a glass, you make money, I’m happy, we all win…

I’ve started thinking of my wines as “food” or “drinking” wines. The flavor bombs I’ll call drinking wines and the more acid driven ones I’ll call food wines. Their barberas are firmly in the food camp for me.

I am with the seeming majority here. I find the Barbera and Nebbiolo to be excellent values and buy them often. The more expensive Barolo bottling I just can’t seem to pull the trigger due to price - and they are every bit as expensive in Europe as in the US. I sat at Luca’s table for 2014 La Festa del Barolo and he was a great guy. The wines were solid, including the 96 Brunate I brought. But given the choice, my wallet says I prefer others

When I mentioned availability/distribution, I was really referring to Vietti’s flagship Baroli. I do think their Arneis has reasonable availability, but it’s not a grape variety I often “target” when I think about Italian whites.

Something like his Rocche is not easy to come by - if your “local” store stocks that, you are very lucky.

Can you give us more info on the 96’ Villero? I have a 6 pack resting and would be interested to hear how its aging.

I jest. But they are above my price range. I thought the Perbaco at 20-something wasn’t bad (2010 or 11), varietal character without makeup, but - if I were going to spend the dinero on these - why would I but Vietti when I could get the Mascarello’s for around the same price?