The word Punset is a Piemontese term for a hilltop that pokes up through the winter mists, and aptly describes Marina Marcarini's winery, perched atop a steep hill across the valley from Neive, one of the three towns in the Barbaresco Appellation. She grew up watching her grandfather make the wines, as a hobby -- he was a builder -- and might have followed a completely different path had he and the cousin slated to take over the family business not both died suddenly in 1982: She didn't particularly like construction, but was next in line, so she decided to take over the winery instead and make a go of it.
A daring leap for an 18-year old, but Marina is nothing if not determined, and Punset's reputation has grown steadily over the years. I tasted her wines, including a number of older bottles, this spring at Vinitaly, and was invited to a vertical she organized in the course of Alba Wines this May, which featured some of the same bottles.
Rather than pick and choose notes, I have decided to post everything, because the setting and the wines tasted previously in the course of an event do have an influence upon one's perceptions and impressions of the wines tasted subsequently.
At Vinitaly I was tasting at a table of her stand, immersed in the hubbub of a trade fair, and taking notes and chatting with her as she poured.
Punset Langhe Arneis 2006
Pale brassy gold with greenish highlights. The bouquet is fairly rich, with floral accents and some spice supported by vegetal notes and honeydew melon. Welcoming. On the palate it's fresh and fairly direct, with bright honeydew melon fruit that gains from some bitter overtones that flow into a clean bitter finish. Direct, a fairly simple wine that will drink well as an aperitif or with simple fish dishes, mild cheeses, or vegetable soups, and also has the wherewithal to work with white meats. In short, versatile and will work without hogging the limelight, and I'm not complaining.
Punset La Dote Langhe Bianco 2005
This is a Chardonnay; the bouquet is fairly direct, with white flowers and some fairly crisp fruit supported by smoky notes and spice. The palate is equally direct, with simple clean white fruit supported by moderate acidity that flows into a clean finish. It's the weakest of the wines Marina poured, but is pleasant in an unassuming key.
Punset Dolcetto D'Alba 2005
Deep cherry ruby with cherry rim. The bouquet is lively, with bright cherry fruit supported by bitter almonds and some graphite shaving bitterness. Pleasant. On the palate it's a touch lighter than I expected, with bright cherry fruit supported by mineral acidity and bright brambly tannins that flow into a clean slightly bitter tannic finish. It reflects the vintage, with its summer rains, quite nicely -- the Italian word that comes to mind is acerba, which means sour but can also be applied to the blossoming beauty of a young teen -- and will drink well with succulent red meats.
Punset Campo Re Dolcetto D'Alba 2004
This Dolcetto is only made in better years, and is deep cherry ruby with cherry rim. Elegant bouquet with considerable red berry fruit supported by warmth and deft spice. Quite pleasant. On the palate it's full, with bright red berry fruit supported by clean acidity and ample tannins with the classic Dolcetto bitter undertones that flow into a clean tannic finish. A fine expression of the vintage, and will drink quite well with hearty pasta dishes or succulent grilled meats. Worth seeking out if you like Dolcetto.
Punset Barbera D'Alba 2004
Deep almandine ruby with cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with acidity and raspberry fruit supported by warmth and some brambly notes. On the palate it's full, and fairly bright, with lively raspberry cherry fruit supported by clean bitter raspberry acidity that flows into a clean raspberry laced finish. A food wine that will drink well with all sorts of things, from succulent red meats to chicken pot pie, and will in any case go quickly. You may want a second bottle.
Punset Dualis Langhe Rosso 2004
This is a 70-30 blend of Dolcetto and Pinot Nero -- some of what the vine salesman told them was Chardonnay turned out to be Pinot -- and is delicate ruby with almandine rim. The bouquet is rich, with tart berry fruit supported by spice and vegetal notes mingled with some sea salt and bitter almonds. Deft, and has quite a bit to say. Intriguing, too. On the palate it's full and smooth with fairly intense red berry fruit supported by clean slightly brambly tannins that flow into a smooth finish. It's a touch dry, but pleasant, and will drink well with foods; I would drink it sooner than later to enjoy its freshness.
Punset Barbaresco 1999
Elegant garnet ruby with almandine rim. The bouquet is quite elegant, with rosa canina and deft green leather with underlying spice from grape. A great lot going on, and very young. On the palate it's full and rich with powerful red berry fruit supported by bright acidity and tart tannins that flow into a clean tannic finish. Again, it's very young, and though it will drink well now (assuming you don't mind committing infanticide) with succulent red meats or stews, it will benefit greatly from more time in bottle, another 5-10 years.
Punset Barbaresco 2001
Garnet ruby with almandine rim. The bouquet is delicate, with almost haunting greenish notes shot through with red berry fruit, spice and green leather. Youth too, and all in all a fine expression of 2001 that has a lot to say though it's like listening to a toddler. On the palate it's full, and quite rich, with smooth bright red berry fruit that has sour cherry overtones and is supported by brisk tannins that flow into a clean bright finish. Classic Nebbiolo di Langa and quite elegant; it is worth seeking out but needs time, and will really begin to shine in 8-10 years.
Punset Barbaresco 2003
Almandine ruby with pale almandine rim. The bouquet is fresh, and very young, with floral accents and spice mingled with some greenish notes. Young, but promises well in a fairly alcoholic hot weather key. On the palate it's full and bright, with considerable warmth and some greenish notes mingling with red berry fruit that does have some strident notes, and flows into a clean finish. It's not as balanced as better years, but in its defense is quite young.
Punset Campo Quadro Barbaresco 2001
This is a vineyard selection, and there's a story behind the bottles: Marina used to bottle everything in bottiglie bordolesi, the Bordeaux-shaped bottles, but decided to change to the Albeisa shape popular in Langa a few years ago. However, her Swiss importer asked her to continue to bottle Campo Quadro in the old bottles, so she did. The 2001 is deep garnet ruby with black reflections, and more charged than the regular Barbaresco. Its bouquet is rich, with deft spice and classic Nebbiolo rosa canina, and though it's quick to write one can swish and sniff at length. On the palate it's rich, with bright tart berry fruit supported by clean rich tannins that flow into a rich finish; the overall effect is quite nice in a very young key, and to be frank it needs time, because it's very much in mid stride. I would give it at least 5 years before opening it with succulent red meats, and expect it to age well for a further decade or more.
Punset Campo Quadro Barbaresco 2003
Almandine with almandine rim. The bouquet is warmer than that of the 01, with spice and clean rich rosa canina mingled with cherries, and some greenish accents and alcohol that derive from the hot summer. On the palate it's full, and softer and less acidic than the 01, with bright cherry fruit supported smooth sweet tannins with some warmth that flow into a clean finish. It's an elegant expression of an over-the-top vintage.
Punset Barbaresco Verticals at Punset
At Punset the setting was quite different: We were a group, and the wines were poured in flights, which gave us the opportunity to work back and forth, comparing the individual vintages. As is usually the case with tastings of this kind, after a brief introduction people tasted quietly, while taking notes, with commentary following.
Azienda Vitivinicola Punset Barbaresco 1974
Marina's grandfather was making the wine then, and continued until his death in 1982. It's delicate almandine with brownish reflections and almandine rim heading towards orange. The bouquet is fairly intense, with balsamic notes, delicate spice, and savory accents with underlying leaf tobacco and some raw beef, coupled with acidity that keeps it very much alive. A lot going on and interesting to sniff. On the palate it's ample, and rich, with powerful brown sugar laced warmth supported by clean acidity and smooth sweet tannins with mineral accents that continue into a long warm finish. Quite nice, and has a lot to say; a fellow taster comments upon the way these wines drop fruit, but maintain acidity and minerality that continues at length, and can go on for years and years. Great depth and elegance. Marina's father was an amateur, and followed local tradition, which included the use of cherry rather than the oak used today, and very long fermentations. Simple push downs, not as advanced as today. They had relatively small casks, probably about 20 hectoliters. At least 2 years in wood, and it was bottled by 1978. The sweetness comes from the alcohol, which is 14.6 -- enough that you feel sweetness. Quite nice, and has a lot to say.
Azienda Agricola Punset Barbaresco 1982
Thos was a great vintage; it's brown almandine with almandine rim. The bouquet is rich, with green leather and acidity mingled with spice and some sea salt, with underlying balsamic overtones and savory accents. A lot going on, and quite elegant. On the palate it's rich, with full slightly sour berry fruit supported by clean warm acidity and smooth sweet tannins that have velvety accents and flow into a clean warm savory finish with deft acidity to keep it alive, and it goes on and on. Very nice, and is one of those wines one can have a long conversation with. Beautiful structure and great depth.
Azienda Agricola Punset Barbaresco 1985
This was the first vintage that they made Campo Quadro, but the bottles were ruined when the Tanaro flooded in 1994. Brownish almandine with brown reflections and almandine rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with warm balsamic accents mingled with some green leather and leaf tobacco supported by considerable freshness and acidity, which is a common characteristic of the wines. On the palate it's full and rich, with bright berry fruit supported by deft acidity, and by smooth sweet tannins that have a velvery feel to them and flow into a clean rich finish. The 74 was more floral, perhaps, while the 1985 is much more powerful. They had hale with huge hailstones that smashed the vines they hit, but left others completely unscathed. Quite nice, and develops beautifully in the glass, though I found it a bit more direct than the 74. This is in part its being younger, and in part a difference in the vintage characteristics. But it is nice. Sweet soft finish, and still very much with us.
Azienda Agricola Punset Barbaresco 1989
About 15,000 bottles made here. In 1993 they made 15,000, reduced after flood, and are now up to 25,000 bottles of Barbaresco. Almandine with brownish reflections and finish. The bouquet is rich, but not as rich as the 85, with spicy balsamic notes and bright acidity mingled with clean spice. On the palate it's ample and soft, with rich fruit supported by clean deft acidity and some spice that flows into a clean bright finish with tannic underpinning. It's pleasant, but not quite as smooth or as rich as the 85. But still has a great deal to say.
Azienda Agricola Punset Barbaresco 1991
Lively brownish almandine with brown reflections and brown almandine rim. The bouquet is rich, with balsamic notes and leaf tobacco mingled with warm spice that has some minty overtones and is supported by clean acidity that adds depth, while there are also savory hints of dried mushrooms. Quite a lot going on. On the palate it's a bit lighter than the others, with fairly rich sour cherry fruit supported by clean acidity and smooth velvety tannins laced with some sugars, and it all flows into a clean warm finish with some acidity. It's a lesser vintage, Marina says -- great burst of vegetation in the spring that led to green harvests, followed by hot summer and some problems with overripeness in the harvest, and a drastic drop in temperature after the harvest that made managing the fermentation dicey. It is elegant, in a slightly lighter key, and has held up vary well, with quite a bit to say. Marina thinks this peaked in 2003.
Marina began farming organically when she took over in 1982, but didn't say so on the label until 1993
Punset Barbaresco 1998
Lively almandine with brownish reflections and almandine rim. The bouquet is rich, with fairly powerful floral accents and rosa canina mingled with sea salt and spice, and pleasant savory balsamic accents. It's more powerful than the 99. On the palate it's full, with powerful slightly savory berry fruit supported by clean sweet tannins that have clean savory accents, and velvety tannins. By comparison with the 99 the 98 is more fruity, and a little more direct, whereas the 99 has more complexity, and more facets to discover.
Punset Barbaresco 1999
Deep almandine with black reflections and almandine rim. She is selling this now. Bright bouquet with lively slightly greenish acidity supported by tart berry fruit, some greenish accents, and green leather. A lot going on and quite elegant. On the palate it's full, with powerful berry fruit supported by clean sweet tannins, while direction derives from clean acidity; there's considerable balance and it flows quite nicely into a clean finish with fruit and some tannic overtones that gains depth from acidity. Beautiful balance and depth, with great complexity, and it will develop very well with time; expect it to hold for a decade more.
Punset Barbaresco 2001
Almandine ruby with black reflections and almandine rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with rosa canina and some underbrush mingled with saddle leather and some greenish accents. Quick to write, but a lot going on. On the palate it's ample and smooth, with deft cherry fruit, with warm slightly balsamic acidity and a fair degree of minerality supported by clean sweet tannins that have a slight burr to them, and flow into a clean rich berry fruit finish. Quite elegant, and though it is still a touch immature it shows great potential and it will evolve beautifully for a decade or more.
Punset Barbaresco 2003
Livley ruby. Elegant bouquet with lively red berry fruit supported by clean acidity and some greenish accents; it's quite fresh and surprisingly so for a hot vintage. On the palate it's ample, with rich fairly sweet red berry fruit supported by clean sour berry fruit acidity, and by smooth tannins that have a warm burr and flow into a clean fruit laced finish. It is quite nice, a surprisingly good wine for a 2003 say fellow journalists, and will drink quite well with succulent meats or light stews. Impressive for the vintage. Lively bright acidity and finesse even in a hot vintage!
Punset Barbaresco 2004
Deep black almandine ruby with black reflections and almandine rim. The bouquet is fairly intense, with cherry fruit laced with floral accents and underbrush, and wilder elements that are a factor of youth and will fade with time. On the palate it's ample and rich, with powerful cherry fruit supported by lively acidity and by clean tannins that have a warm youthful splintery burr that flows into a clean savory finish with tannic overtones. Quite elegant, though it needs at least a year and perhaps two to get its bearings, and more to come into its own. It will be very long lived.
Punset Campo Quadro Barbaresco 2001
Deep almandine ruby with black reflections and almandine rim. The bouquet is rich, with berry fruit mingled with some cedar mingled with underbrush and bright acidity. Quite elegant, and one of those wines one can sniff and sniff again. On the palate it's full, and quite smooth, with rich cherry ftu that gains direction from lively strawberry acidity, and is supported by clean sweet tannins that flow into a clean strawberry acidity laced finish. Very young, but ready to drink, and one could, though it will reward those with the patience to give it a few more rears. Great depth and elegance.
Punset Campo Quadro Barbaresco 2003
Lively almandine with black reflections. The bouquet is fairly rich, with sweet berry fruit supported by spice and some cocoa, with pleasant greenish vegetal overtones. On the palate it's rich, with bright ripe berry fruit supported by clean spicy tannins that are supported by clean deft acidity, and flow into a clean warm berry fruit finish with some citrus accents. It has delightful freshness, which is unusual for 2003 -- Marina thinks low temperature fermentation at temperatures of less than 30 C are important for maintaining freshness -- with considerable grace as well. Very elegant, and has a great deal to say; it will age nicely for many years. Most impressive for a 2003.
Punset Campo Quadro Barbaresco 2004
Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and almandine rim. The bouquet is very young, and has some sulfur that will blow off with time; shaking the wine clears this, and red berry fruit emerges mingles with some spice and deft acidity; there's great finesse, more than in the basic Barbaresco, and this is true in general with the Campo Quadro with respect to the Barbaresco. On the palate it's full, rich, and quite smooth with powerful red berry fruit supported by clean rich fruit, and the finish is clean and long with berry fruit that gains definition from acidity, with support from tannins. Quite nice, and will drink very well with foods.
Winding down, my impressions from the Alba Wines tasting, which is again in flights, but a very different atmosphere from a vertical: You know you will be tasting 80-90 wines in the course of the day, and therefore work through them faster than you might in a less structured setting. The resulting notes tend to be more cursory, at least for me, and I also tend to be more critical than I am in a more relaxed setting, especially as fatigue sets in.
Punset Barbaresco DOCG 2004
Black almandine with black reflections. The bouquet is a bit wild, with animal tang -- horse stable straw -- mingled with underbrush and a fair amount of acidity. On the palate it's full, with bright tart cherry fruit supported by bitter accents and ample tannins that flow into a clean bitter finish with savory overtones. If you like fairly aggressive (in youth), traditional wines, you will enjoy it, but you have to like this style. It will work well with succulent red meats, and do interesting things with time.
Punset Campo Quadro Barbaresco DOCG 2004
Deep almandine ruby with Moroccan leather reflections and almandine rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with bright sour berry fruit supported by greenish accents and some vegetal notes. Traditional. On the palate it's full, with bright sour cherry acidity and sour berry fruit supported by moderately intense tannins that have a youthful greenish Nebbiolo burr to them and flow into a warm tannic finish. It's quite traditional, and if you like the style you will enjoy it; expect it to become lacy with time too, improving considerably over the next 10-15 years.
Bottom line? Fine wines. and, having said all this, if you want more information on Punset, Marina has a fine website.
Almost Wordless Wednesday: Between Here And There - I took this shot during the Pelleginaggio Artusiano in the spring of 2011. The mirror is somewhere between Castrocaro Terme and Portico di Romagna (on the ...
4 years ago