Gaja might grab all the headlines when it comes to Barbaresco but near-neighbour Marchesi di Gresy is home to some stunning wines as well, as Geoffrey Dean discovers on a trip to Piedmont and also at a tasting dinner in London when he could re-acquaint himself with owner Alberto di Gresy and an awesome flight of Gaiun Martinenga, a wine that is only produced in the top vintages.
Apart from the stunning Barbaresco it produces, Marchesi di Gresy is a hidden gem in Piedmont and owns one of the DOCG’s finest vineyards.
Tucked away in the Langhe and Monferrato hills east of Alba in north-west Italy can be found, not without some difficulty, the Marchesi di Gresy winery. Or to give it its full name: Tenuta Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Gresy.
It is something of a hidden gem, both physically and metaphorically, for it produces some of the best wines of Barbaresco.
Angelo Gaja may be the denomination’s flag-bearer but Alberto di Gresy quietly oversees an estate that is never far behind its more famous near-neighbour in terms of quality.
Having visited Piedmont and Marchesi di Gresy four years ago, it was a delight to renew acquaintance with its wines when Alberto, his daughter Ludovica and son Alessandro came to London for a pre-Christmas dinner.
The latter two, both involved with sales and marketing, possess matinee film star looks, no surprise given that Alberto resembles an Italian version of Michael Caine.
Like the celebrated English actor, Alberto talks a good game too, with lines such as “intensity must create a circumference.” Whether anyone knew what he meant was a moot point, but it did not matter.
The wines spoke for themselves.
In fact, they did better than that – they positively sang.
Eight vintages of Nebbiolo from the family’s Gaiun Martinenga vineyard were unfurled, the youngest being 2012, and the oldest 1998.
Gaiun is produced only in the best vintages, and is matured in French oak barrels (a third new, a third first year, and a third second year). Nebbiolo is naturally high in alcohol, acidity and tannins, rendering it something of a challenge to make. All the wines, though, possessed that key concomitant: balance.
Only two – from the years 2011 and 2008 – were above 14%abv (being 14.5%) while 2005 was 13.5%. Crucially, the tannins were integrated either very neatly (2012, 2010 & 2005), beautifully (2011, 2006 & 2001) or seamlessly (2008 & 1998).
The 2001, a classic vintage, was a personal favourite. The fruit was still so fresh and alive, with marked intensity of flavour. At the same time, it was a wonderfully elegant wine. Extremely long, the first adjective in my tasting notes is ‘fabulous’.
The 2005 was a short head behind, although with its more overt tannin structure, it needs more time. So did the 2010, a very elegant wine with stunning fruit and very persistent length.
A little more on the Martinenga site would be pertinent.
Famous in ancient Roman times when the estate was known as ‘Villa Martis’, the 11 or so hectares of Martinenga (all of it planted to Nebbiolo) is one of the Barbaresco DOCG’s greatest single vineyards.
Marchesi Di Gresy own all of it, splitting it into three sections – Gaiun (2.3ha south-facing), Camp Gros (2.6ha south-west facing) and Martinenga (6.5ha facing south/south-west).
This ideal exposure, an altitude of 250-280m and a very special soil composition of blue marl (a blueish/white mix of clay, chalk and limestone) all help combine to produce wines of exceptional class, structure and finesse. The favourable micro-climate allows high quality grapes even in difficult vintages, such as 2012.
The family have three other vineyard sites in the region at: Monte Aribaldo (where Dolcetto, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are all grown), La Serra and Monte Colombo (Moscato, Barbera and Merlot).
The 2014 Chardonnay, aged on the lees for 16-18 months and comfortably absorbing 50% new oak, showed very well. So too did the Virtus 2006, a blend of Barbera (60%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (40%).
Alberto di Gresy, 64, began vinifying his own wine soon after graduating but has handed the winemaking over to Matteo Sasso.
An affable New Zealander, Jeffrey Chilcott, cellar master since the new millennium, helps make up a highly capable team that is passionate about their product. Boutinot is the UK importer.