Thursday, September 14, 2006

Elvio Cogno: Fine Wines from Piemonte

I first met Nadia Cogno and her husband, Valter Fissore, on my first trip to Piemonte more than 10 years ago, and much enjoyed both their wines and the dinner Nadia cooked for us, which involved a mixture of fine foods and fascinating conversation that was absolutely delightful. And since then I've made a point of tasting their wines every year at Vinitialy, and stopping to say hello if I happen to be driving through Novello -- their winery is just below the town, and the views are spectacular.

We began with Nas-cëtta Langhe DOC, which is made from Nas-cëtta , an autochthonous white varietal very few have. Up until last year wine was called Nas-cetta, and was bottled as a Vino da Tavola, but the Piemontese wine bureaucracy ruled that one cannot give a table wine a varietal name, and they were therefore forced to reclassify the wine as a Langhe DOC. The 2005 Nas-cëtta Langhe DOC is pale papery yellow, and has a delicate bouquet with floral accents supported by bitter almonds, citrus fruit, and some white pepper. Pleasant, and it's equally pleasant on the palate, with lively citric fruit supported by deft acidity that flows into a long citric finish that gains depth from some bitter overtones. Quite nice, and will work well as an aperitif with cheese or egg-based antipasti, with creamy risotti, or with simple fish.
2 stars

Elvio Cogno Dolcetto D'Alba DOC 2005
Barrel sample
This is from a truly ancient vineyard; it's impenetrable pyrope ruby with deep cherry rim, and its bouquet is fairly rich for a barrel sample, with bitter almonds mingled with warm cherry fruit, some underbrush, and savory overtones. On the palate it's full, and softer than some vintages, with rich cherry fruit supported by smooth rich tannins that have dusky overtones, and by lively acidity that flows through into a long cherry finish. By comparison with previous vintages I have tasted it's softer and more graceful, and will drink quite well with grilled meats or hearty meat-based pasta dishes. Worth seeking out.

Elvio Cogno Barbera D'Alba 2004
Barrel sample
Deep black cherry ruby with ruby rim. The bouquet was closed, though some promising berry fruit emerged with swishing. The palate better shows what the wine is about, with full, rich, powerful cherry fruit supported by considerable acidity and by smooth sweet tannins that reveal some oaky notes (youth at work) and flow into a clean deft finish. Quite promising, and will be an elegant wine by the time it reaches the stores (this fall, most likely). Seek it out, and enjoy it with succulent grilled meats.

Montegrilli Langhe DOC 2004
Barrel sample
This is a blend of Nebbiolo and Barbera, and was deep ruby, with a shut-tight nose when I tasted it. The palate was however rich and full, with cherry and forest berry fruit supported by a nice balance of bright acidity and fresh steely tannins -- both varietals contribute to the structure -- that flow into a clean berry fruit finish. Elegant, and will drink very well with red meats, for example roast leg of lamb or roast beef. Well worth seeking out.

Elvio Cogno Barolo DOCG 2002
Nadia and Valter did make some Barolo in 2002, carefully selecting the best bunches of grapes and putting them all together; it's simply labled Barolo because they didn't think it was up to Ravera's standard. It's pale almandine with almandine rim, and has a delicate bouquet with rosa canina and elegant red berry fruit with some underlying green leather and leaf tobacco: Proof that even in a poor vintage one can obtain nice things. On the palate it's rich, with fairly powerful red berry fruit supported by tannins that are weaker than they would be in a better vintage, but nicely balanced and not splintery, while the finish is warm and bright. It displays considerable grace, and will drink nicely with roasts or stews.
2 stars.

Elvio Cogno Vigna Elena Barolo DOCG 2001
This is named after Nadia and Valter's daughter Elena, and the label is based on a fun drawing she did when she was about 6. It's deft almandine ruby with almandine rim, and has an elegant bouquet with delicate rosa canina and hints of leaf tobacco mingled with berry fruit and slight savory overtones. Calssic Nebbiolo. On the palate it's rich and full, with powerful cherry fruit that's supported by steely tannins that still have a youthful dusty overlay I found a touch distracting, but that will fold in beautifully over the next year or two as the wine comes into its own. Those fortunate enough to come across a bottle will be happy indeed; it will add great pleasure to a meal built around a thick steak or rich braised meats in the short term (3-5 years), and be something to enjoy with friends as it ages into its second decade.

No comments: