The Ascheri family has been making wine for a long time -- there's a locality called Ascheri in La Morra, which marks their original holdings -- and they're sharp on the uptake: Matteo, Giacomo Ascheri's father, realized that making good wine is only half the battle; you then have to sell it, and this is much easier to do if you're not in an isolated town. So in 1880 he moved the family's cellars to Bra, down in the valley astride the trunk road to Torino, where they still are today.
The winery is now run by Cristina Ascheri, Giacomo's widow, and their son Matteo, who have rethought and reapplied the Elder Matteo's convictions to the modern scene: Making good wine is still essential, but it's no longer enough to be on a transportation route: You have to work with the territory as well, and get consumers involved -- with the wines, but also, if possible with the land, and therefore establish a rapport.
With this goal in mind, when they rebuilt the winery they transformed much of what is above ground into an elegant hotel, whose patrons can look down though glass floors in the common areas to see what is happening below. An interesting idea that captures guests' attention, and brings them closer to the wines. And they have opened a restaurant, the Osteria Murivecchi (Osteria Old Walls; it's in the vaulted brick rooms that were part of their old cellars), which had gotten some very nice reviews.
But the wines remain paramount, and Matteo nicely sums up the philosophy behind them: "In a world where, generally, the wines are made using the same grapes, the same technology, mature in the same woods, and especially are made with the advice from the same consultants, our goal is to obtain wines that express the vineyards, the grapes that they're made from, and most importantly, our ideas."
As one might expect from Matteo's comment, they work almost exclusively with indigenous varietals: Cortese and Arenis for whites, and Dolcetto, Barbera, Nebbiolo, and Pelaverga for reds, all of which are used to produce traditional Piemontese wines, ranging from Gavi through Barolo.
Almost exclusively; they also have some Viogner and Syrah, which they are experimenting with -- testing their ideas, I expect Matteo would say -- and which become Langhe DOC. They're quite interesting, and show what innovation built upon solid foundations can lead to.
Cristina Ascheri Gavi DOC 2006
Lot 06 GG1
Pale gold with brassy highlights. The bouquet is fairly rich, with honeydew melon and delicate floral accents. Pleasant. On the palate it's full, with rich honeydew melon fruit supported by clean bracing honeydew melon acidity that flows into a clean deft fairly acidic finish. It's not as acidic as some Gavis, though it does have depth and structure that work quite well, and it will drink well with fish (antipasto or entrée) or white meats. Expect it to improve for a year, and hold well for at least 3.
Cristina Ascheri Langhe Arneis 2006
Lot 06 LA1
Brassy gold. Herbal bouquet with underbrush and honeydew melon supported by moderate acidity and some cut flowers. Gives an impression of fullness. On the palate it's ample and soft, with considerable body and rich green apricot laced white berry fruit supported by deft greenish acidity; a fellow taster says it has more body than he's ever found in an Arneis, and I'd tend to agree. Pleasant, in a fairly charged key, with savory overtones, and pleasant to drink, with white meats or hearty sops and such.
Ascheri Montelupa Langhe Bianco 2004
Lot 04 VI1
This is a Viogner, and their goal in making it is "to do something different," Matteo says. It spends time in both oak and steel, and spends several months in bottle following assembly. It's brassy gold with brassy reflections. The bouquet is rich, with tropical fruit -- pineapple and mango with some overripe overtones, and some herbal notes and hints of sweetness as well. On the palate it's full, with fairly rich white berry fruit supported by warmth and a fair amount of alcohol, which flows into a fairly tart finish with long bitter accents. Powerful, and pleasant, and gives an impression of being in a holding pattern -- very young, and will go places. In terms of accompaniments, I'd think about white meats or flavorful fish, and (in the West) with intensely flavored cheeses. It will also work well with Chinese dishes that aren't too spicy.
Podere di Rivalta Dolcetto D'Alba Nirane 2006
Lot 06 NI1
Deep ruby with cherry rim. The bouquet is quite young, with bright berry fruit supported by acidity and bitter almonds mingled with some spice. Quite nice. The bouquet is fairly rich, with clean red berry fruit supported by moderate acidity and tannins that are clean and brambly, and flow into a clean bitter finish. It's direct and up front, and will go very well with foods, ranging from pasta dishes through simple grilled meats and light stews. Expect to open a second bottle.
Podere di Sorano di Serralunga D'Alba Dolcetto San Rocco 2006
The bouquet is surprisingly rich, with violets and some almond blossoms; though it is clearly developing it is richer than that of the Rivalta Dolcetto. On the palate it's smooth, and deft, with elegant berry fruit supported by smooth sweet tannins. Quite promising, and will add considerable joy to a table where it's served.
Podere di Rivalta Barbera D'Alba Fontanelle 2005
Deep ruby. The bouquet is shut tight, though some red berry fruit emerges with swishing. On the palate it's quite promising, with bright red berry fruit supported by clean deft berry fruit acidity that flows into a clean tart finish. It will be quite nice in a fairly traditional key.
Podere di Rivalta Nebbiolo D'Alba Bricco San Giacomo 2004
Lively almandine ruby with almandine rim. The bouquet is rich, with floral accents and sour berry fruit mingled with some rosa canina and spice. On the palate it's full, and fairly rich, with tart strawberry fruit supported by clean acidity and deft sweet tannins that do have a Nebbiolo fell to them. Elegant, in a graceful way, and will drink well with grilled meats or light stews; it's quite approachable, and though it will drink nicely now it will also hold well for 3-5 years. Worth seeking out if you like the more traditional style.
Ascheri Podere di Montelupo Langhe Rosso DOC 2004
This is a Syrah, and spends 20 months in old wood. It's deep black almandine ruby with almandine rim, and has a fairly rich bouquet with red berry fruit mingled with spice from grapes, and some underbrush. Deft, and does nice things as it opens in the glass. On the palate it's full, with rich red berry fruit supported by smooth sweet tannins that have some dusky overtones and gain direction from moderate acidity that keeps things firmly on track, and flows into a clean savory fruit laced finish with tannic underpinning. The vines are young, or so it would seem from the astringency fo the tannins, but it is interesting, and the astringency will work well to balance richer meats. It will be interesting to follow the wine through future vintages.
Podere Rivalta Barolo Vigna dei Pola 2003
Almandine with almandine rim. The bouquet is warm, with spice and smoke mingled with rosa canina, and underlying alcohol and leather. On the palate it's full and fairly rich, with bright sour fruit and acidity carried by peppery spice that flows into a clean peppery finish. Lively, and a bit atypical for the vintage, I thought -- there's more acidity than in many others. Drink it with succulent roasts or steaks, and expect it to age well for 3-5 years.
Do Ut Des Verduno Pelaverga 2005
Lively ruby with black reflections. The bouquet is fairly rich, with sandalwood and spice mingled with berry fruit; it's classic Pelaverga. On the palate it's medium bodied, with bright sandalwood-laced red berry fruit supported by clean acidity and deft spice with lean dry tannins that flow into a clean spicy finish. Pleasant, and unusual in the way Pelaverga often is; it will drink well with light stews (including giblet stews), vegetable flans, and other dishes that are often difficult to pair. Quite refreshing, and a nice change of pace.
Barolo Sorano 2003
They used the old submerged cap fermentation technique, and macerated the wine on the skins for 40 days. The wine is lam ruby with almandine rim, and has a clean bouquet with bright spice and quite a bit of alcoholic warmth, mingled with greenish smoky accents. Charged. On the palate it's full, with powerful berry fruit supported by greenish tannins that flow into a clean rather green finish. It's pleasant, though it does reflect the vintage.
Barolo Coste Bricco e Sorano 2001
This is a wine made from a couple of parcels in the Sorano vineyard, and only in good vintages: No 2002, or 03, or 05. It's almandine ruby with almandine rim, and has an elegant bouquet, with green leather and spice mingled with warm berry fruit, some rosa canina, and underlying peppery notes. It's quite young, but there's a lot going on and it's pleasant to sniff. On the palate it's equally nice and equally young, with elegant red berry fruit supported by clean bracing acidity and smooth tannins that are just starting to shift towards velvet. It's a toddler, needs time to grow, and will richly reward those with the patience to give it time. Expect it to climb for a decade at least.
We close with a brief Barolo vertical Cristina Ascheri treated Scott Clemens and me to when we visited the winery in the course of Alba Wines.
Barolo Sorano 1996
Delicate almandine ruby with almandine rim. The bouquet is delicate, with rich green leather and some Moroccan leather mingled with leaf tobacco and pleasant spice. What Nebbiolois all about, and one can get lost in it. In other words, great finesse. On the palate it's delicate, with fairly rich leathery berry fruit supported by savory accents and bright sour berry fruit acidity that flows into a long clean bitter finish, and though it's quick it's write, there's tremendous vibrancy to it and it's a great delight to sniff and to sip. It's also tremendously young, and though one could drink it now it will greatly reward those who can afford to give it time.
Barolo Sorano 1997
Deep garnet ruby with almandine rim. The bouquet is rich, with leaf tobacco and spice mingled with some green leather and warm acidity, with underlying tartness and some rosa canina. A great lot going on, but more mature than the 96. On the palate it's full, and rich, with intense cherry fruit that is supported by clean bitter acidity and smooth sweet tannins that flow into a clean bitter finish; it's quite nice, but by comparison with the 96 is less vibrant, and has less depth. While the 96 has a long road ahead of it, the 97 is pretty much here, and though very good won't climb much further.
Barolo Sorano 1998
Deep almandine with almandine rim. The bouquet is dusky, with leather and savory accents mingled with some smoke and tar, and some mushroom as well, laced with alcohol and some truffle notes,. A great lot going on, and considerable finesse, though not as much as the 96. On the palate it's full, with elegant red berry fruit supported by clean rather bitter acidity and smooth sweet tannins that flow into a clean bitter finish. Great finesse, and it is climbing, and is very much a child who needs to grow. With respect to previous tastings of the 1998, I find it more interesting, and think that it will evolve very well -- this is a distinct revision with respect to my previous opinion of the vintage.
Barolo Sorano 1999
Almandine with black reflections and almandine rim. The bouquet is elegant, and quite fresh, with rich green leather laced with leaf tobacco and warmth, mingled with rosa canina and some red berry fruit. Great finesse, in a youthful key, and a great lot going on. Very young, and a lot to discover upon sniffing. On the palate it's delicate, with rich, young berry fruit supported by deft leathery tannins that gain definition from bitter accents and is supported by deft bitter acidity as well; it's frightfully young, and has a long, long road ahead of it; it will climb to great heights in the future, though it is quite nice now. If one were to use an Italian word, it would be Grande. If you have patience, it will reward you richly.
Barolo Sorano 2000
Deep almandine ruby with black reflections and almandine rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with green leather and spice mingled with some greenish accents and alcoholic warmth, with underlying resin and some balsamic overtones. Pleasant, though it doesn't display the depth that the earlier vintages display. As a Scott says, however, "very nice." On the palate it's ample, and rich with warm soft berry fruit supported by clean bitter acidity and fairly rich fruit; it's ready, in a slightly brambly key, and by comparison with the earlier vintages shows less depth. In short, the heat of the vintage reveals itself. It's nice, but clearly the product of a hot vintage, and suffers thereby.
Barolo Sorano 2001
Deep garnet ruby with black reflections and almandine rim. The bouquet is quite young, and rich, with red berry fruit supported by deft berry fruit acidity; it's very young and quite deft, with rich berry fruit supported by some greenish accents and deft rosa canina; it's quite deft, and very young -- vibrant, even, and supported by tannins that still display a youthful brambliness and flow into a clean slightly bitter finish. It's quite nice, but woefully young; it brings to mind looking into a nursery school and trying to decide what the toddler in question will do. Great depth and potential, but it has a long way to go to reach it.
For more information on Ascheri, see http://www.ascherivini.it/
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