The Lo Sparviere estate in Lombardy’s Franciacorta is housed in an ancient country residence dating back to XVIth century. Over the years the family has invested carefully in other wine estates across Italy, in Abruzzo, Tuscany, Piedmont and Trentino–Alto Adige, from south to north, to assemble a group of wineries under the umbrella of Agricole Gussalli Beretta.
The common thread has been to acquire prime vineyard sites, mainly DOCGs with undisputed track records, all of which had great potential, and were likely to benefit from enlightened new management.
All the estates lie in areas with warm days and cool nights. Hence the wines have delicate aromas, refreshing flavours, flexible drinking windows, generous fruit depth, and great potential for ageing in bottle. Elegance is key.
The family produces superior wines with a real sense of place. To do this as successfully as they do, across vineyards 364 miles (586km) apart, is a huge achievement.
Azienda Agricola Lo Sparviere, Franciacorta DOCG Brut Millesimato 2014 – 92pts
Lo Sparviere is an ancient country residence, the place where the first wines were made. The bottle-fermented sparkling wines made here today are in DOCG Franciacorta, Italy’s premier region for the category. Cool soils, warm days and cool nights are vital for these grapes to deliver the kind of just ripe, but still crunchy-crisp, fruit premium Franciacorta sparkling wines require. Brisk airflow off the nearby Alpine foothills and cool, clay soils provide these conditions, throwing in all the soil elements essential for balanced vines for good measure.
The Brut Millesimato 2014 is made from estate-grown, hand-picked, whole-bunch pressed Chardonnay (100%) and is coming into its prime now, with a fine and persistent perlage, a creamy core, and plenty of soft mellow-yellow and crisper white fruit. Drink now–2024 Alc 12.5%
Tuscany – Chianti Classico
Castello di Radda, Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 – 95pts
High altitude Sangiovese vineyards in east-central Tuscany’s Chianti Classico region produce its smoothest, sleekest wines. The Sangiovese vines are in a single spot making picking at optimum ripeness easier. Compact clay and limestone (‘alberese’) soils here give mouth-watering reds with bright, red fruit flavours.
The grapes ferment in a newly constructed, low-energy, winery built into the rock by Gussalli Beretta. The must is fermented on-skin and with pips and has a long maceration after fermentation for the maximum extract. This helps create a smoother-textured wine, not over-burdened with grape tannins. Smaller amounts of Colorino and Canaiolo Nero grapes add colour and spice. The wine shows lovely, light sour cherry fruit; really crisp and clear, with well-shaped tannins for a smooth mouthfeel. Drink now–2030 Alc 14.5%.
Piedmont – Barolo
Fortemasso, Barolo Castelletto DOCG 2016 – 92pts
The Gussalli Beretta family’s Piedmontese estate is located in the hamlet of Castelletto, in the eastern part of the Barolo region’s most prestigious commune, Monforte d’Alba. Barolos from this area are approachable even when fairly young, age beautifully and radiate an innate complexity.
The wines from this single-vineyard location have a suave, silky fruit-flowing signature supported by amenably layered tannins. These enviable characteristics are due partly to sandstone soils which stay cool and moist enough to prevent vine stress. Flavour, complexity and aroma intensity develop well because the Nebbiolo vines occupy the lower part of a vertiginous hill which rises to 450 metres, and off which runs notably cold night air. The inner tension this creates adds the right counterpoint to the rich, ripe fruit. Drink now-2027 Alc 14.5%
Colline Teramane Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOCG Riserva 2015 – 94pts
The Orlandi Contucci Ponno estate is located in the Colline Teramane (Teramo Hills) in the Abruzzo region of central Italy. The estate was at the forefront of the creation of this DOCG in 2003 when lower grape yields were set than for the much larger Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC.
The estate’s Montepulciano vineyards are well-sited, with breezes from the Adriatic coast helping vine health and cold night air descending from the highest mountains in Italy’s hilly backbone, the Apennine range.
The flagship Riserva bottling has tremendous fruit depth in 2015, and smooth supporting oak notes. A super sipper to relish for over two or three days. Drink now–2035 Alc 14%
Pinot Nero Alto Adige DOC Riserva 2018 Hirsch – 92pts
The Steinhaus or ‘stone house’ vineyard and winery is built round an historic stone building in the panoramic setting of Bucholz di Salorno in the Alto Adige region of northern Italy. The 7ha vineyard lies at 600 metres of altitude in a breezy, luminous, almost ethereal space teeming with wildlife such as the hare (Hirsch) after which this wine is named.
Pinot Noir can be a fussy traveller outside Burgundy but here it is obviously at ease. The winemaking is careful, the de-stemmed grapes undergoing a gentle maceration rather than an actively intrusive fermentation. Part-aged in oak barrels before assemblage. The result is a Pinot Noir with a moreish central core and shimmering fruit. Drink now-2028 Alc 13.5%