A referral from one great producer often leads to another equally exceptional producer who, more often than not, shares our particular philosophy. In the case of the Cappellano estate in Serralunga d’Alba in the Langhe, we were introduced to Augusto Cappellano by our friends at the Podere Le Boncie (Giovanna Morganti and family and friends) in Tuscany. Le Boncie and Cappellano participate (along with the Bea family of Umbria and others) in a group known as “Vini Veri”, producers who share an ethic about viticulture and viniculture that is as much philosophical as it is about organic farming. After months of multiple conversations and correspondence amongst and between the participants, we gathered at the Cappellano cantina in late November, 2011 to taste and get to know one another. The result is that we now happily and proudly represent the wines of the Cappellano estate on an exclusive basis in the United States.
Augusto Cappellano is the fifth generation of the family to produce wine from vineyards in Serralunga d’Alba. His great-grandfather, Filippo, acquired substantial acreage there and, in 1870 established the azienda. At his death, his son, Giovanni, an oenologue, continued his father’s work, selling their wine to clients from Liguria through Piedmont. Giovanni’s brother, Giuseppe, was a pharmacist who created the family formula for their famous (then and again now) Barolo Chinato, the Barolo infused with a variety of “medicines”. Giovanni died in 1912 from a tropical fever contracted in Tunisia, perhaps while he was looking for vines that were not susceptible to phylloxera. Giuseppe then retired from his pharmaceutical chores to run the estate and he decided to sell his grapes to the Gancia company, one of the major wine producers in the Langhe. To continue the story, Giuseppe passed away in 1955. Shortly thereafter, Augusto’s father, Teobaldo, who was born and raised in Eritrea, returned to Serralunga to revive the azienda. He rebuilt the cantina and the image of Cappellano as well – this time much smaller in size (four hectares) but far more grand in quality. In his turn, he also produced once again the extraordinary Barolo Chinato using the ancient family recipe, all the while becoming one of the most admired and respected figures in the Barolo district. Augusto now takes the reins and will now place his special mark on the wines of this estate. We are very pleased to begin our collaboration with Augusto Cappellano.
The four hectares of vineyards owned by the Cappellano family are principally in Serralunga d’Alba and are supplemented by a small parcel in the neighboring village of Novello from which Cappellano produces his Nebiolo d’Alba. The vineyards in Serralunga are situated in the Gabutti cru which is on the western slopes of Serralunga at approximately 300 meters altitude. The land is farmed according to organic principles and the production of the wine is accomplished following the credo of “Vini Veri”: indigenous yeasts are relied upon, the use of sulfur is strictly limited, vinification is traditional (long fermentation, extended aging in large, old botte) and the wine is not filtered prior to bottling. The Barolo Chinato is produced by following the family recipe handed down generation to generation. The “medicinal” herbs and spices are ground using a stone mortar and pestle. Both the recipe and the process are family secrets.
Barbera d’AlbaThe situation for the Barbera is similar to that of the Dolcetto: grapes are sourced from a small parcel within the Gabutti cru in Serralunga d’Alba and production is exceedingly limited. In this instance, the wine is aged longer prior to release to give it additional time to define its identity.
Nebiolo d’AlbaNotice that the Cappellano family has always referred to this grape variety with a single “b”, thus “Nebiolo”. The vines for this wine are in the neighboring village of Novello. Again, there is a very small production that complements the two stellar examples of Barolo that are produced at the cantina.
Barolo “Otin Fiorin Rupestris”This is the principal Barolo of the estate, at least in terms of quantity produced. The vineyard is the Gabutti cru and the exposure is south to southwest. After an extended fermentation and considerable aging in the classic “botte” of the region, the wine is bottled without filtration. The rhythm of the release is usually four to four and one-half years after the harvest. Stylistically, the wine is an honest and pure reflection of the terroir of this small but important cru: earthy, truffled aromas marry to a full-bodied, occasionally rustic character backed by rugged, classic tannins. The Barolos of Serralunga are known for their generosity and warmth and the “Rupestris” is as fine an example as one can find.
Barolo “Otin Fiorin Pie Franco”Cappellano produces a limited bottling from vines that are original pre-phylloxera rootstock. Although planted in the same Gabutti cru, the wine itself can be dramatically different than the “Rupestris”, its brother wine, all this due to the difference between the “pre” and “post” phylloxera origins of the vines. There is an “exoticism” perhaps to the “Pie Franco”, an ethereal element to its aromas and flavors that make this a unique offering … clearly a rare and special experience.
Barolo ChinatoOne cannot say much, certainly not enough, about the Chinato from Cappellano since the production and recipe are closely held secrets within the family. Suffice it to say that the family has produced an iconic version of this wine infused with spices, herbs and other earthly elements that make for a ravishing sensory experience. Here are a duo of ways to enjoy the Cappellano Chinato …
- As an aperitif: 4 parts gin, 4 parts Campari, 2 parts Chinato, a touch of ice plus a slice of orange.
- As a “thirst quencher”: cold sparkling water plus 10% of the volume in Chinato with the juice of a freshly squeezed lime accompanied by a slice of lime.And, Augusto Cappellano reminds us: don’t forget the pleasure of drinking the Chinato accompanied by the best chocolate one can find!