Oak, vineyards, truffle grounds. Lost biodiversity of the ever more anthropized Langhe.
To find out how the Langhe used to be forty years ago, you must cross La Morra, follow the road that takes you to the top of the Bric del Dente, and reach Giulia Negri’s estate in the Serradenari area. I passed by the Tenuta right before the beginning of the pandemic and found the landscape to be extremely unusual. I had also heard enthusiastic comments about the wines. A friend who contributes to an authoritative Italian wine guide told me that Serradenari stole the show from Monprivato and Bartolo Mascarello in a blind tasting session last year…
The only under 30 Barolo girl that currently manages a winery named after her, Giulia Negri is nothing like the classic “Langhetto” (or “Langarolo”). A native of Palermo, she was raised in Rome and studied in Milan before relocating to her grandparents’ farm in La Morra. Her story is one of generational clash: by the time she decided to pursue a career as winemaker-entrepreneur, her parents had already been producing “modernist” wines at the estate for a few years. His father Giovanni, who’s best known for having been the secretary of the Italian Radical Party, had appointed the globetrotting superstar Roberto Cipresso as winemaking consultant. However, Giulia didn’t like the Serradenari wines at all, so she soon decided to launch her brand. Eventually, the success of her new traditional/post-modern Baroli was such that after two years, her parents decided to cease the “Serradenari” production and leave everything to her. Eight years are gone now, and Giulia’s wines are considered Barolo’s “next big thing”.
The view upon entering the Serradanari estate is breathtaking – a west-facing amphitheater opens on the plains of the Granda, and when the day is clear enough, you see the Monviso in the far back with its pointed shape. Even more striking is the surrounding landscape – chestnut trees and other trees I honestly can’t name flank the vineyards on both sides. This is what the entire Barolo area used to look like before the wines rose to success, and producers started ripping the woods to expand their properties. Luckily, that didn’t happen in Serradenari because the area was deemed too cold to produce noteworthy Baroli. In times of climate change, though, the presence of oaks and the cool mesoclimate are, to say the least, salvific. “ I’m famous for postponing harvest until late October – says Giulia – this year I’m picking on the 20th.”
The Serradanari estate spans across 6,5 hectares in the homonymous area of the La Morra township. . Vineyards range from 380 to 563 meters above sea level, with the Marassio vineyard being not only to peak of the estate but also the highest Cru in the Barolo area. All the parcels lie within short reach from the winery, but the variations in slope and soil composition are mind-blowing. As a result, Giulia’s three Crus are very distinctive from an aromatic standpoint. Briefly:
- La Tartufaia comes from soils rich in both clay and sand that yield big, thin-skinned bunches. This wine exhibits an approachable, fruit-forward profile. Despite being a single-vineyard Barolo, it is often referred to as Giulia’s entry-level Barolo.
- Serradenari originates from a single parcel at the bottom of the country-house. The topsoil there is thin and acid. The mother rock lies close to the surface, so the yield of the plants are lower, and the bunches smaller. The wine is charmingly floral on the nose and tight, taut, firm on the palate.
- Finally, Marassio is racy and austere as you’d expect a high-altitude Barolo from vines on marl-rich, alkaline soils to be. It needs time to shed some of its tannic power, but I would recommend cellaring it for years.
The estate houses two cellars. The first is dedicated to the cone-shaped oak vats and large casks where Nebbiolo and Barbera ferment and age. The second, which is dark and gloomy as a Burgundian cave, houses, instead, the barrels that contain the Serradenari Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. “ Roberto Cipresso planted these two varieties in the cooler areas of the estate – states Giulia – Honestly I have never been a fan of Langhe Chardonnays, so at first I considered ripping off those vines. Then I went to Burgundy and met Pierre Yves Colin Morey, who helped me to find a way to make fresher, more elegant wines from this grape. This wine sees extended lees aging, but I gave up batonnage”. She also had to find a new protocol for the Pinot Noir: “ We treated Pinot Noir like Nebbiolo. We would pick the grapes in October, and then leave the wine on the skins for a very long time. The resulting wine didn’t taste like Pinot Noir at all. Now we pick the bunches earlier, and do shorter macerations – no more than 15-18 days.”
Feminine is a controversial word these days, but it’s one that perfectly applies to her wines. What Giulia seeks is finesse. “ We leave Nebbiolo on the skins for an extremely long time – up to 60 days in some vintages. That way we obtain infusion rather than extraction. The cone-shaped vats ensure that the skin cap doesn’t get too thick.”
Fermentation occurs without any yeast addition, and all the wines but the Langhe Nebbiolo and Barbera d’Alba are unfiltered. Light clarifications are the only adjustments that Giulia carries out. “My importers appreciate my choice not to filter Barolo. Kermit Lynch is especially fond of unfiltered wines. He maintains that filtration hurts the wines’ aromatic profile.”
Langhe Chardonnay 2019 (From barrel)
Almost Burgundian on the nose, offering aromas of nectarine, roasted almond, demi-sel butter, and a hint of struck match. Then fresh, vibrant and refined on the medium-bodied palate. This is the last vintage fermented with selected yeast. “ I started with selected yeasts because I thought that the yeasts of the Nebbiolo could interfere. Now I am moving on…”
Langhe Pinot Nero La Tartufaia 2019 (From barrel)
Very reductive on the nose, offering rust, rose petals, raspberry, strawberry, and a hint of underbrush. Fresh and taut on the palate, boasting lovely inner sweetness along with firm acidity. The tannins are slightly drying in this premature stage, but I’m confident they will integrate.
Barolo La Tartufaia 2018 (From cask)
Quite reticent at first. It slowly unveils delicate scents of wild herbs, wild rose, blood orange, and mint. The palate is quintessentially “lamorrese” in style. You get sweet red fruit along with velvety tannins, and a refreshing acidic bead. It’s approachable right now, and if Giulia chose to release it right now, it would make an outstanding Langhe Nebbiolo.
90 – 92/100
Barolo Serradenari 2018 (From cask)
Redcurrant, violets, lavender, and graphite on the fascinating nose. Then almost Burgundian on the palate, boasting silky tannins and luscious flavors of raspberry and blood orange. It’s just a bit harsh-edged on the finish, but those edges will become rounder with time. Enfant prodige.
Barolo Marassio 2018 (From cask)
Exotic aromas of pine resin and sandal come first. Then scents of redcurrant, raspberry, and violets slowly emerge. Mighty tannins backbone the long, seamless progression… Even more prodige!
Langhe Pinot Nero La Tartufaia 2017
Feminine nose, masculine palate. Suave aromas of lavender, wild rose, wild strawberries, and face powder. Then slowly mounting tannins give power and depth to the racy palate. Better in two years.
Barbera d’Alba 2018.
Produced with grapes purchased from a grower in Monforte d’Alba. This is a medium-bodied, quaffable Barbera that offers sexy aromas of raspberries, violets, and mint. It’s a bit ephemeral on the palate, but it offers lots of early drinking appeal.
Langhe Nebbiolo Pian delle Mole 2018
Sourced from the lowest part of the Serradenari, this is a so-called “vin des copains”. For those who don’t speak French, vin des copains means a wine that lovers could drink effortlessly while flirting. Easygoing aromas of strawberries and fresh herbs dominate both the nose and the crisp, refreshing palate. Floral tones echo on the medium-long, peppery finish.
Barolo La Tartufaia 2016
Unmistakably Lamorrese. Sweet florals and cranberry aromas mingle with rust, damp earth, and dried herbs on the high-pitched nose. The palate is laid-back, approachable; fully resolved tannins underpin the subtle layers of crunchy red and black fruit and give way to mineral and balsamic hints on the medium-long fish. Perfect for medium-term drinking
Barolo Serradenari 2016
Deeper and more exotic than the Tartufaia, showcasing flamboyant aromas of crushed redcurrants, cinnamon, forest floor, a hint of tobacco, and a touch of oriental spice. The palate is at once powerful and suave. Mounting tannins support luscious flavors of raspberry, yellow peach, tamarind, while bright acids and dusty minerals frame the deep, refined finish. Simply outstanding!
Barolo Marassio 2016
Darker, more masculine than the classic Serradenari. Dark berries, game, tobacco, and tar emerge along with a hint of oriental spice as the liquid unfurls in the glass. Then broad, vigorous tannins and a razor-sharp acidic bead shape a rich, racy palate that definitely needs time to become more accesible. The aging potential here is remarkable!
Borgata Castagni, 35
12064 La Morra CN
Imported in the united states by Kermit Lynch
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