…spontaneously fermenting

A Tasting Note: 1904 Proprietà Sperino Nebbiolo

2009-10-06_2235Date tasted:  October 6th, 2009 at 17:00

Proprietà Sperino is located in the Northern Piemonte wine region and is owned by the De Marchi family of Chianti’s Isole e Olena. We were greeted and given a tour of the winery by Luca De Marchi, the son of the famed Paolo De Marchi.  Whenever possible, indigenous yeasts are used (which I am told is close to 100% of the time).

2009-10-06_22312009-10-06_2234I felt very privileged to have had the opportunity to taste a wine of this age, especially a wine made from one of my favorite grapes, the Nebbiolo. The bottle has been stored for many years without being touched and this was evident by the amount of mold and dust that had attached itself to the bottle. After cleaning the top of the bottle in preparation for the cork removal,  the cork screw was inserted and rather than using the lever system to pull the cork out, the cork came out with one pull. The cork came out in one piece and was in great shape considering the age.

2009-10-06_22402009-10-06_22412009-10-06_22422009-10-06_22432009-10-06_22442009-10-06_2246Tasting Notes:

2009-10-06_2255Appearance: As Luca De Marchi prepared to pour the wine for us to taste, he warned that the wine would no longer be red, and he wasn’t kidding!  The wine had lost all of the natural red color pigment. The wine was quite clear with orange, brown tones. Like a light colored orange wine, if you will, with brownish tones.  This was my first time seeing a red wine turn “clear” due to age.  Despite the age, the wine was quite clean with a few small pieces of sediment in the glass.  Medium minus intensity.

Nose: Medium intense and medium complex  wine with interesting aromas similar to a clean, young Sherry or Marsala. Slightly oxidized yellow apples, salted almonds. Pistachio nuts.

Palate: Clean and still quite fresh with medium minus acidity, medium minus, but still living tannins. Slightly oxidized yellow apples, with a nutty aftertaste very reminiscent of a Marsala. Reminded me of some of the Marsala’s I have tasted from Marco De Bartoli. Toasted almonds with hints of butter.  A very well integrated and balanced level of alcohol. Good concentration and balance overall. The finish is at least 20-30 seconds. Incredible!

The most incredible thing was that we only had a small glass each, put the cork in the bottle and took the bottle home with us. We popped the cork again at dinner around 4 hours later and incredibly the wine had improved slightly! It had become a bit more complex, but more amazing was the fact that the wine had not died after having been open for 4 hours! Incredible.


Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, Italy, Lessona, Piemonte


Natural Wine Making in Piemonte Part VIII – "All Well!"

Here’s an update from Jørgen regarding our wine:


Sig. Felice

The “Felice” Nebbiolo wine is fermenting perfectly now.   As of today, it’s been macerating on the skins for 3 weeks.  Only one day with (3) pump-over’s.  With 2 pump-overs the next day, and two more the following day… that’s it for the pump-overs.

Then Wednesday of last week (14th of October), the cap was pushed down.  Wooden  4×4 planks were carefully placed on top of the cap, pushing it down a few centimeters, then the must was topped off.  This technique helps the cap stay below the surface to avoid unwanted (volatile) aromas.  The wooden planks were of a special type of wood found in the local river.  This type of wood is not normally found in the area, and is important to mention that it’s neutral and adds no flavors to the wine. The planks were wet with the wine and dried before use.

Felice Vines

Felice Vines

We’re still waiting for malolactic to start and since we didn’t add anything (no sulfur nor selected yeast), it should begin more easily on it’s own. If it doesn’t start now on it’s own, it will start in the springtime. Potential alcohol at this point is around 13.7%  (this is considered low in the area  compared to the other Nebbiolo’s  in the 2009 harvest).   Jørgen visited two other producers and tasted their fermenting Nebbiolo’s. Our Nebbiolo was the most fruity and expressive according to him 🙂

Everyday approximately 10 litters has to be added to the must and topped-up because of the CO2 compacting the cap. The small cement tank has been “svinato”, pressed and the wine from this tank (the same wine of-course) is now being used to refill the to big cement tanks.  Now it’s only the two big cement tanks. Igino Garberoglio is checking on the wine 3 times a day.


Jørgen Ljøstad

Jørgen is overseeing our project since he now lives in Italy. Born in Norway in 1974, Jørgen Ljøstad in my opinion is one of the greatest palates Norway has today.  His interest in wine blossomed while working at the Michelin-starred Bagatelle in Oslo, Norway from 1997-2000.  He studied for and passed his Sommelier exam in 2003 (which, believe me,  is quite difficult in Norway).   He then worked for 22 months in a well-known cellar in Barbaresco.   When Jørgen came back to Norway, he landed a job with a well-established importer, Moestue Grape Selectons where he remained for a year and half until the Wine Monopoly head-hunted him. He went to work for the Wine Monopoly where he was the Portfolio Developer responsible for all wines from Italy, Portugal and Spain.  In 2007 Jørgen left the Monopoly to co-found the Norwegian-based import company Non Dos AS.

Category: 1 WINE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, Events, natural wine (100% living wine), Natural Wine Making in Piemonte


Natural Wine Making in Piemonte Part VII – Basarin Harvest


The very steep Basarin vineyard

Monday October 5th, abortion 2009

Today we woke up around 7:30 to harvest the last of the two vineyards, doctor the Basarin.  The Basarin vineyard is located in Neive, (Barbaresco commune) and is owned by Vittorio and Marco Adriano of the Azienda Agricola Adriano.  The vineyard  is quite steep at 40% and is facing South East.  In total we harvested 2863 kilos of grapes from this vineyard which took us around 3.5 hours.


2009-10-05_20812009-10-05_2082Compared to the Felice vineyard, it was easier to harvest because the grapes were more easily accessible on the vines and there was a little less selecting necessary because overall, they were healthier than the Felice grapes. The Nebbiolo vines in this vineyard are actually clippings from the Felice vineyard and were planted here in around 1993 (compared to 1971 for the Felice). Due to the difference in location and soil and overall “terroir”, we found the grapes from Basarin to be more structured, with more tannins and acidity than the Felice grapes which were more feminine and elegant.



77 Year-old Sig. Adriano helping with the harvest


Frederik Kolderup doing his part

As soon as the fermentation really begins and the alcohol starts to go up a bit, we will pump over (gently) and blend so that the two vineyards are fermented together. In our opinion they will better integrate if they are blending during fermentation rather than blending post fermentation. The idea here is to get the elegance and femininity from Felice and structure and tannins from Basarin. So far we are very pleased with the fact that we’ve had spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeasts without the use of sulfur!

After our lunch break, we put the grapes into the destemer and pumped the grapes into our second cement container of 25 hl. Before doing this, we added about 500 liters of fermenting must from Felice as a starter. The 25hl tank quickly filled up so we pumped the rest of the grapes into a 750 liter open top plastic container, exactly like the one Frank Cornelissen uses in Mount Etna.  To this plastic container we also added about 50 liters of the fermenting Felice vineyard juice.

Basarin grapes pumped into 7000 liter plastic container

Basarin grapes pumped into 7000 liter plastic container


Fermenting Felice Nebbiolo juice


Jørgen tasting the fermenting Felice Nebbiolo juice

We also took the opportunity to taste the juice from the first cement tank containing the Felice grapes… Very good indeed! Hints of alcohol starting to show (most likely only 1% at this point). It was super sweet and even had some mild tannins already.

Harvesting Nebbiolo in Basarin Vineyard in Barbaresco from vinosseur on Vimeo.

Category: 1 WINE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, Events, natural wine (100% living wine), Natural Wine Making in Piemonte


Natural Wine Making in Piemonte Part IV


Friday October 3rd, 2009

Signage on dirt road on the way to vineyard

Signage on dirt road on the way to vineyard

Felice Grasso greeting us after harvest

Felice Grasso greeting us after harvest and looking proud

Today we’re on our way to harvest the Felice vineyard in San Rocco Seno d’Elvio (Barbaresco commune), owned by Felice Grasso. Our part of the vineyard was the part that was higher up. We were to harvest approximately 0.7ha.

It was a beautiful, warm sunny day. Fortunately we had the help of about 4 others, so in total we were 7 people up until lunch time. The grapes were beautiful and extremely healthy. There was barely any rot, 2009-10-02_1981I would say less than 0.5% (perhaps even less). The grapes were juicy, balanced and extremely healthy. Jørgen, one of the leaders of this wine making project, had harvested this vineyard before, but it had been around 10 years ago. In his opinion, it was one of the finest vineyards in the Barbaresco area producing extremely elegant wines.

2009-10-02_1980During the days leading up to the harvest and including the day of the harvest, Jørgen had made numerous phone calls to other wine makers to pose the sulfur question.  They pretty much all had the same thing to say: you should use some sulfur at the very beginning to help the fermentation begin in a healthy way. However, we really wanted to make this wine without the use of any sulfur at all, so during lunch we decided that because the grapes were so healthy, we would take the risk and let the grapes begin fermentation spontaneously without the addition of sulfur or yeast.


After lunch, we headed back to the vineyard to finish the harvest. We finished at around 18:00, carefully piled the containers in the truck and headed to the scales to weight the grapes. We had harvested approximately 3600 kilos of healthy grapes from the 0.7ha vineyard. This would give us about 2800 bottles of wine from this vineyard alone. We then drove the grapes back to the winery where we would make this wine. Since the winery was not in the Barbaresco commune (it was in the Asti commune) we could not label this wine as a Barbaresco DOCG. In fact, this wine is going to be a VdT (Vino da Tavola). On a Vdt wine label you are not allowed to put the name of the grape or the vintage.

2009-10-02_20312009-10-02_2054Once back at the winery we started to dump the containers into the small destemer. This machine removes the grapes from the stems and “crushes” them lightly. The grape must was then pumped down a tube into one of the cement containers. We filled the 30hl container and part of a 7hl with this harvest. The must was beautiful and sweet. We partly filled a wine bottle with the must to be analyzed the next morning for the potential alcohol. Now all there is left to do is to wait for the grapes to spontaneously ferment which should happen tomorrow or the next day.

Harvesting Nebbiolo in Felice Vineyard in Barbaresco from vinosseur on Vimeo.

Category: 1 WINE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, Events, natural wine (100% living wine), Natural Wine Making in Piemonte


Natural Wine Making in Piemonte

Tomorrow I begin my adventure in natural wine making as I head to Piemonte to help make a wine from the noble Nebbiolo grape. Our flight leaves Oslo at a (way too early) 6:30 in the morning through Stockholm then on to Linate (Milano).  Our first stop when we finally arrive in Piemonte Wednesday afternoon will be of course to drop off our bags, then immediately out to the vineyards to taste the grapes. We need to see how they are doing!

On Thursday morning, October 1st we will be up at 4:00 in the morning (again!) to prepare the area of vinification by building a temporary roof (picture a tent if you will) and we will clean and prepare the tanks which at this point I have to assume are made of cement or steel (I will fill you in on the details once I know).  We will be harvesting and selecting the grapes  by hand  from two single-vineyards: “Felice” in Neive (harvesting to begin Friday the 2nd of October) &  “Basarin”  in Barbaresco (Friday the 9th of October).  We will crush and the fermentation will occur spontaneously.  We will do all of this and eventually bottle this wine without (hopefully) the use of sulfur.

I don’t know any other details other than the ones I have shared here. I am not the one who has organized this process, but have been fortunate enough to have been included in it. I hope to be able to update everyone on a daily basis with my natural wine-making process, but I can only assume that the farm we will be staying at will not have internet, and therefore my daily progress may have to be posted after the fact, which I intend to do, photo’s included!

Please check back here as I will try and post here as soon as technologically possible!

In the meantime, enjoy some photo’s of the “Felice” vineyard in Neive:


Category: 1 WINE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, Events, natural wine (100% living wine), Natural Wine Making in Piemonte


A tasting note: 1961 Giacomo Borgogno Barolo Riserva

Before I get to the the tasting note, I just want to start off by asking you to bare with me. I haven’t been posting as often as I would like because  I am still trying to figure out this WordPress thing. The posts on my site don’t show up the way I’d like them to. So, until I figure this out, please be patient with the placement of photos within my posts. Thank you. And without further delay:

Detail from the back label:
“….Barolo will naturally produce a sediment as it matures. Before Borgogno will export any of their mature wines, each bottle is decanted from this sediment, checked, and then topped up from the same vintage and recorked. For this reason the corks in the olders wines will be new, but the quality has been guaranteed by the producer before shipment. DECANTED: JULY 2007”


Opened and NOT decanted. Poured into large Burgundy glasses.

The wine was a light rusty red with rusty brown edges – color still quite “intense” considering the 47 year age of this wine

Sniffed immediately:

slight farmyard scents with some crushed rose pedals
eucalyptus leaves
sour cherries
forest floor
some spice in the background
a little burn on the nostrils from the alcohol.

Tar and roast meat emerging on the nose after some time in the glass. Also
some licorice emerging – more perfumed and more intense fruit

sour cherries and dried sour fruit
gripping tannins (still after all these years) and
high acidity (still after all these years)
finish persisting for 15 to 20 seconds

15-30 minutes after the bottle was opened, the wine started really opening up – fruit was more intense on the nose and on the palate. Acidity more pronounced and tannins a bit softer, but still quite firm. The wine remained well-balance throughout.

A typical aged nebbiolo with classic nebbiolo nose and palate with well defined and firm tannins. Well made, good concentration and balance, but not very complex. I believe that this bottle still hade some life ahead of it – enjoy now or for another 5-10 years.

Although it’s always interesting to taste a mature wine, this wine didn’t leave me desiring more..

And now, the photos:




Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, Barolo, Italy, Piemonte




Vinosseur is the company name of sommelier Joseph R. Di Blasi. is his web page where he writes about wine, food, restaurants and other gastronomic experiences.

Joseph has a special place in his heart for quality wines from the old world, especially France & Italy, with a strong focus on Organic, Biodynamic and Natural wines.

Joseph grew up in Italy and California, but left The States in 2002 and now resides in Poland.

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