Visit to the Giacosa Winery with Bruna & Bruno Giacosa
@ 52 Via XX Settembre, Neive, Piedmont, Italy (7/6/2016)


After our visit with Gaia Gaja and lunch at Trattoria Antica Torre, Ezio and I got in his car and drove to Neive to visit the Bruno Giacosa Winery. This is the Fine Wine Geek's favorite winery in all the world. The Fine Wine Geek's first pages were his Giacosa pages.

For each image, I have posted a compressed (and possibly cropped) version. Click on it to see the original, much larger image.


Here is the route from Barbaresco to the winery, which is a little south of the historic town of Neive in the frazione of Borgonovo:
Original map photo © Google Maps.

Going toward the old town on the SP3 (Via Tanaro here), then entering the commune just south of the old town center:

The winery as seen from above (outlined in red). The smaller building
on the left (northwest) side of Via XX Settembre is used for offices,
storing bottled wine, and shipping. Across the street is the winery,
much of which has been rebuilt in the last few years.
Original map photo © Google Maps.

The office building where Bruna first greeted us:

Details of the entrance to the office building:

The shipping area inside the office building:



Winery History

Bruno Giacosa's father Mario and his grandfather Carlo were commerciante. These were men who worked as grape selectors for the few large wineries that dominated Barolo and Barbaresco in the first half of the 20th Century. They decided which were the best grapes for the winery to buy. Through this they had a great knowledge of the vineyards in both regions and where the very best grapes were grown.

Bruno Giacosa was born in 1929 and began working in the family business in 1944. By 1960, he decided to bottle his own wines. The first wines bottled and sold by the Bruno Giacosa Winery were a Barolo and a Barbaresco from the 1961 vintage. While not stated on the label, the Barolo was from the Falletto vineyard and the Barbaresco was from the Santo Stefano vineyard. Wine had been made by Bruno's grandfather Carlo and his father Mario as far back as the 1890's. Most of this wine was sold to customers in demijohn as was common practice in the region at the time. Bottling at smaller wineries was not at all common until well after World War II.

For the first two decades, Bruno made wine only from grapes purchased from a small set of vineyards. He became particularly famous for his Barbaresco from Santo Stefano in Neive and his Barolos from Rionda and Falletto in Serralunga d'Alba.

1964 was the first year that Giacosa bottled a single vineyard wine with the vineyard name on the label, a 1964 Santo Stefano Riserva. In 1980, he recognized the growing trend toward estate bottling and bought the entire Falletto vineyard in Barolo. Then in 1996, he purchased plots in the Asili and RabajŠ vineyards in Barbaresco.

Giacosa is also famous for his Arneis which is still made from grapes purchased from two growers in Roero. He and Mario Vietti were pioneers in replanting this local grape and bringing it back from near extinction.

Over the years, the winery has produced Barbera from estate and non-estate vineyards, as well as an excellent Nebbiolo d'Alba from the Valmaggiore vineyard in Vezza d'Alba since as far back as 1971. Starting in 1983, they have produced a white, and sometimes rosť, sparkling wine (Spumante). Both are made from 100% Pinot Noir grown in the village of Casteggio, in the Oltrepo Pavese zone, in the Province of Pavia, in the Lombardia Region of Italy.

Dante Scaglione is the winemaker at Giacosa. Around 1990, Dante worked at an enology center owned by Giuliano Noť. There he performed various tests for Bruno who was very impressed with his abilities and his understanding of winemaking. In 1992, Bruno asked Dante to work for him full-time. Dante was thrilled to accept. There was a temporary lapse in this relationship when Dante resigned on March 7, 2008. He was replaced by Giorgio Lavagna, son-in-law to the manager of Giacosa's Falletto estate, who had worked as a winemaker at Batisiolo. In early 2011, Dante Scaglione came back as winemaker. The winery said there were some misunderstandings, but now all is well.

In January 2006, Bruno Giacosa suffered a stroke. He was in the hospital until late October 2006. He continued to improve and was eventually able to walk again with some help. Unfortunately, during the 2011 harvest, he fell and broke his femur. He has been in a wheelchair ever since. At the end of our visit we had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with him.

Our host for our visit was Bruno's older daughter, Bruna Giacosa. Bruna and I had met multiple times at wine dinners in New York City. This was my first time meeting her at the winery and she was a very gracious host. Bruna has been managing much of the business affairs of the winery for many years.


Winery Tour

We head across the street for a tour of the winery and a tasting. All Giacosa wine is made in this winery. The building at the top of the Falletto vineyard in Serralunga d'Alba (seen at the top of the labels of Giacosa's estate-bottled Barolo) is living quarters for workers.

Just next door to the Bruno Giacosa winery is Giacosa Fratelli,
but there is no connection between the two wineries.

Google Street View (2016). The building on the left is an apartment building and is not part
of the winery, but everything behind it is part of the winery all the way back to the next street.
Photo © Google Maps.

Google Street View (2011). This building was replaced by the new entrance to the winery in 2013.
Photo © Google Maps.

Ezio and Bruna crossing the street to enter the winery:

The winery has been substantially renovated in a series of steps beginning around 2007. The architect is Luigi Duretto in Costigliole d'Asti. Most of it was complete at the time of my visit, but Bruna said there were still a few more things to finish.

This is the primary winemaking building. All the reds are made here. We will tour the inside later.


Temperature-controlled, stainless steel fermentation tanks at the back of the winery.

The main winery building from behind:

A second part of the winery behind the main winery building. This building is used only for whites, specifically the Arneis and the Spumante. It was built by Bruno around 1970 when he first started making Arneis. The roof is new, a part of the recent renovations.

A crusher/destemmer for the white wines.

Workers solving a plumbing problem in a nice, shady spot:

Francesco Versio entering the tasting room behind the winery just ahead of us:



Tasting

Bruna prepares for our tasting, while Ezio looks on with anticipation:

All the bottles were only labeled with hand-written stickers like these:
These photos courtesy Dan Moritz.


Non-Estate Wines

Barbarescos from Asili

Barolos from Falletto
Notes posted from CellarTracker.


While we were tasting, there was a group of young people tasting with Francesco Versio:

Francesco Versio has worked in the winery for several years. He left a few months after our visit:

Looking back toward the winery from the tasting room entrance:



Inside the Winery

Entering the main winery building from the back side:

Fermentation tanks on the right:

Fermentation tanks on the left:

Stairs and a catwalk that go over the fermentation tanks on the right:

Ezio checking out a newer Stockinger botte of 2014 Asili Riserva. An older 110 hectoliter Gamba botte of 2015 Rocche Riserva.

Lots of big old Gamba botti:

The new part of the winery with (mostly) Stockinger botti:

Botti with 2013 Rocche Riserva, 2014 Rocche Riserva, and 2015 Asili Riserva:

All the botti I looked at refer to the wine inside as "riserva". This is a formality in case they want to make it a riserva, but a final decision on that is usually made around the time of bottling. For example, the 2013 Rocche was bottled a week after my visit. It is not a riserva. It has a white label. In fact, they are not thrilled with 2013 in general and there will be no Falletto in 2013, only Le Rocche del Falletto, which is now labeled as "Falletto Vigna Le Rocche" because of the new labelling laws.

Heading back across the street to meet with Bruno Giacosa:



Visit with Bruno

Bruno Giacosa is my favorite winemaker in all the world. I have twice as many bottles of Bruno Giacosa wines as of any other producer. At my request, Bruna set up our visit when it was most likely that we would be able to meet with him.


Bruno is in a wheelchair and his movements are limited by his stroke in 2006 and a fall in 2011, but his handshake was strong and his eyes were keenly observant. His face is still expressive. I told him that I thought he was the greatest winemaker in the world and that his wines had given me more pleasure than any other. When he heard this, there was a clear sense of pleasure in his eyes.

He didnít say much, but Bruna said that was not because of his stroke. She said he was always like that. The adjective most commonly used in profiles of Bruno Giacosa is "taciturn". Even when she was a girl, Bruna can remember her mother Cristina complaining that Bruno spoke so rarely. Her mother was very outgoing just like Bruna. She passed away on Christmas in 2014. Understandably, Christmas has never been the same for them.

I asked Bruno if I could take some photos with him. He seemed pleased to do so.
But he did seem to wonder exactly who this crazy American is:
Photos taken by Ezio Biglieri.

I asked Bruno what was his favorite of the wines that he made. He said it was the 1964 Barbaresco Riserva (made entirely from the Santo Stefano vineyard).

For my friend Rico, I asked whether he liked the 2000 vintage or the 2001 vintage more. He said that he liked 2000 and 2001 equally, but that they are very different from each other.

We did not want to overstay our welcome, but Bruno did seem sad to see us go.
Or perhaps that is just what I was feeling at this moment.


As we were leaving, Ezio asked about the Rose Spumante, which he likes very much. Bruna said 2013 was the last vintage they will ever make. There was just not enough demand for it, and it is hard to make. As we left, she gave Ezio a 6-pack (disgorged March 2015).


We drive past the old town of Neive on our way back to Barbaresco:

Approaching Barbaresco:



Next

Next, I made a quick visit to the Produttori del Barbaresco.

 

 


All original content © Ken Vastola