- Written by Pietro Ramunno
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Two and a half million bottles produced every year, of which 230 thousand are Barolo; 133 hectares (329 acres) of property throughout the municipalities of La Morra, Monforte d’Alba, Barolo, and Serralunga d’Alba; nine farmhouses for the same number of crus (Cerequio, Brunate, Morino, Boscareto, Briccolina, Bofani, Tantesi, Bricco di Vergne, and Zonchetta): these are the numbers of Fiorenzo Dogliani’s wine estates, the Beni di Batasiolo, where the past and future live together in a dynamic present.
Signor Dogliani, for you, wine is...
Leaving rhetoric aside, wine is a way of being. It’s not simply sustenance, much less a commercial product, even less just a job. Wine is culture, a symbol, a sense of belonging. In whatever situation, wine has always represented people being together: even in the poverty of times past, it was a bridge between people. It brought out the need to converse, the desire to soften the rough edges of fatigue or worry. It’s rooted in our culture as much as nature itself: it takes you back to a way of living, to balanced rhythms that, even today, never mind the progress, survive and flower along with the marvelous colors of the hills during harvest.
Do you remember your first glass of wine?
At one time, the demijohn of wine was a constant presence in farmhouse kitchens, practically a part of the family. Even in the conditions of poverty at that time, on Sunday we never lacked for a plate of raviolo ris e coi (pasta with rice and cabbage), a slice of boiled meat, and a glass of good wine… We were all together at one happy table. I must have been ten years old, and I believe it was a Nebbiolo, because it was Sunday. Half a century has passed, and I still remember the scene as if it were right in front of my eyes.
Speaking of times past...from the time of patriarch Antonio up to today, what has changed in the way wine is made?
Life as it is today is absolutely different, but one thing that’s remained the same is the importance of nature, which is decisive in determining the quality of the year of a wine. Certainly, today the vines are thinned out, and the wine is produced with modern logic: where the market was once barely local, today it’s absolutely global. Fortunately, however, today as it was in the past, it’s always and only the earth and nature that create the wine.
The Langhe have an almost unique characteristic: they’re thrilling even to the people who see its landscape on a daily basis.
Is there one person who has influenced you more than any other in your career as a wine producer?
I’d say without a doubt my father. This is a career that you live, even before you learn it. The ties to the world of wine, now almost sacred like those with the earth, I literally absorbed from him. And not so much from his words as I did from sharing a life with him. For me, looking at the Langhe and seeing my father is the same thing.
The Langhe: what ties do you have with this land? From La Malora by Beppe Fenoglio to possible recognition by Unesco, you’ve come quite a long way.
The Langhe have an almost unique characteristic: they’re thrilling even to the people who see its landscape on a daily basis. In the past the land was victim to a terrible poverty, while today it’s opened up to people from all over the world, but – in its essence – it’s thrilling just the same. Even when it takes on a melancholy appearance, like during a foggy day, you can’t help but to love this land and carry it in your heart wherever you go.
The label you hold closest to your heart...if you had to choose, what would it be?
It’s difficult to say, because with wine there aren’t sons or stepsons…La Batasiolo has, anyway, a notable fortune with an arrangement of Nebbiolo properties located in the most historical and famous production zones: Monforte d’Alba, Barolo, Serralunga d’Alba, La Morra. But, if I really had to take one apart from the others, I’d choose Vigneto Corda della Briccolina, harvest of 1990: extraordinary. Without taking anything from the other wines, I mean. But when there’s an exceptional vintage, you know... it’s something that you feel is happening day after day, all the way to winter. It’s as though in spring you have the certainty that unseasonal hail, or rain, or cold spells won’t happen. I believe the harvest of 1990 is unrepeatable in the perfection of its entirety. But no harvest will ever be the same as another, whether good or bad.
Let’s talk about your estate: what are your reference markets?
We can say without self-congratulation that we’ve had a truly satisfying evolution. After blazing the trail of Piedmontese wines in several markets (mainly Brazil, where we’ve exported since 1978, and Switzerland), today we sell in 68 nations. Clearly, without perseverance, nothing holds up: between sleeping on your laurels and frustrating any effort, the road is short. And the situation is very different from what it was a few decades ago. The market has expanded and, notwithstanding the global crisis, this differentiation permits us to always have new possibilities. Today as always, our principal markets are the United States, Canada, Brazil, and Asia in general.
What characteristics distinguish the terroir of your wines?
Exposure to sun in the first place, a tendency that allows the grapes to absorb sunlight and heat while letting the rainwater run off, while preserving the essential parts of the grape bunches and seeds. The earth is chalky and marly [with clay and lime, ed.], ideal for Nebbiolo. And then, every zone has its peculiarities: La Morra produces a structured and “long” Barolo, but slightly less complex, while the Barolo of Serralunga has a structure that expresses itself after at least 7-8 years of aging in the cellar.
We’re looking ahead towards new methodologies of production. The day when a winery thinks they’ve definitely learned how to produce wine, from that moment they begin an inexorable decline. Every wine has characteristics under constant change...let’s look at Barolo: this wine’s past is as great as its future is destined to be. Its characteristics are, and always have been, inimitable, and whoever drinks it finds exactly what they’re looking for, without compromise. Barolo can’t be produced elsewhere, and in the world people drink it and search for it exactly because of how it’s born and developed, here and nowhere else. A privilege that we have to allow ourselves, though, is to continue to demonstrate credibility and coherence.
As more people are interested in tasting wine directly in its place of production, wine tourism is growing bigger. In fact, “wine” and “tourism” are two words that seem to go together particularly well in these parts.
Absolutely true. We’ve been able to adapt in very difficult times. Up until the 80s, this zone was still closed in its own territorial logic, far from the concept of French hospitality. But once it became a destination of international tourism, it was able to express what it offered very well in culture, gastronomy, hospitality, and history, and this gap was bridged surprisingly well. Drink a wine, and ask about its history: physical, ideological, human. This is tourism at its highest level!
VIGNETO CORDA DELLA BRICCOLINA - Barolo DOCG
This wine, made from the Nebbiolo grape in Serralunga d’Alba, is produced in the traditional method with fermentation in contact with skins for 15 days. Aging follows for a period of at least two years in the barrique and one year in the bottle. It’s spicy on the nose with notes of ripe fruit, and has velvety tannins that make it smooth and balanced.