Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Renato Ratti Barolo Masterclass

Ponti Wine Cellars, Central
24th May 2010

Vinexpo Asia
is about to start in Hong Kong has been inundated with visiting winemakers, wine tastings, wine walks, wine dinners, wine fairs, 'crazy wine sales' and I'm guessing quite a few people drinking beer. The excitement is almost too much to handle, but amongst it all I was particularly taken with the round of 'master class' tasting offered by Ponti Wine Cellars. Unfortunately I couldn't make the Chianti and Burgundy ones (that whole working thing), but I managed to make the two latter tastings, the first of which was the Barolo's of Renato Ratti.
The tasting was hosted by the charismatic Pietro Ratti, son of the founder and current proprietor. Pietro enthusiasm for his wines and Piedmont in general was unmistakable. His Italian passion was obvious as he briefly outlined the company's history and walked us through his wines. By chance I've tried their Langhe Nebbiolo previously, but the Barolo's of this tasting were a marked step up.

First on the tasting table were three vintages of their Renato Ratti Barolo Marcenasco. Marcenasco is a sub-region of Barolo near the town of La Morra where their winery is and this (in theory) is their entry level Barolo; though there is nothing 'entry level' about the quality. These wines see 25% new oak, with the fruit coming from three vineyard sites. The 2006 was simply delicious with plenty of cherry, liquorice and of course tannin. The 2005 was similar though I detected mint and aniseed on the nose and the tannins seemed a bit grippier. The 2004 had sign of developing with additional gamey notes on the nose and slightly softer tannins. All three wines were all fantastic, and while the tannins were big they were accompanied by acidity and red fruit aplenty.

The Renato Ratti Barolo Conca 2006 comes from a tiny vineyard right in front of their winery. This was a lot more complex than the Marcenasco, with the noticeable floral aromas. The nose was perhaps slightly more closed, but there was still cherries, smoke and violets. The more savoury palate of course had cherries, but also liquorice and dried herbs. Again this was a case of amazing tannin, balanced with plenty of acidity.

Pietro sees the single vineyard Rocche wines as his 'grand crus' and the quality of his Renato Ratti Barolo Rocche 2006 & 2005 were amazing, but distinct. The 2006 was a tale of tar, flowers, cherries and lots of liquorice with a somewhat withdrawn, but integrated palate and all consuming tannin. 2005 still had the cherries, but there was game, mint (something to do with this vintage perhaps?) and an overwhelming seductive, floral perfume.

I walked away from this all about Barolo. The wines themselves were outstanding and Pietro's friendly, knowledgeable comments added to the experience. Ponti Wine Cellars did a good job of hosting the event.

Visit winery website.

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