150 years of Piedmont history with Enrico Serafino: Barolo, Roero, Gavi, Alta Langa and more | Per on Forbes

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In the small town of Canale in Piedmont, right in the town centre, you find the Enrico Serafino winery. It has a long history going back almost 150 years. But today, the business is very modern and belongs to a US family business. They make an ambitious range of wines, starting with a selection of interesting “everyday” wines from indigenous grape varieties up to some very exclusive vineyard barolos. And, of course, also some Piedmontese sparkling wines, which is the origin of the winery.

The Enrico Serafino winery was founded as a wine business in 1878, when Enrico was only 24 years old. Perhaps one should call the winery Serafino Enrico instead, since Serafino is the first name and Enrico the family name. At the time, Piedmont was not the rich region that it is today but a quite poor region. But Enrico had ambitious plans. It was a busy time for Piedmont’s wine industry, shortly after the unification of Italy in 1861.

This is a longer version of an article published on Forbes.com.

The wine cellar at the Enrico Serafino winery in Canale, Piedmont, with medium-sized vats
The wine cellar at the Enrico Serafino winery in Canale, Piemonte, with medium-sized vats, copyright BKWine Photography

Enrico wanted to create a winery that made a kind of wine that the traditional small grape growers could not make at home, so early on, he decided to start making sparkling wine, what may have been one of the first spumantes in Piedmont. That’s a tradition that continues still today. His vineyards were on the Barolo hills, but he placed his winery in the centre of the small town Canale, where it still is.

Enrico Serafino produces quite a large number of wines, including six sparkling in the Alta Langa appellation, four barolos and barbarescos (with more coming), and a series of Piedmont wine from other indigenous grape varieties.

Zero Alta Langa, riserva pas dosé, sboccatura tardiva, 2013, Enrico Serafino
Zero Alta Langa, riserva pas dosé, sboccatura tardiva, 2013, Enrico Serafino, copyright BKWine Photography

Today, Enrico Serafino is still family-owned, though not by the same family. It went through a period of big corporate ownership, as part of the Campari Group, a period that ended in 2013 when the Krause family from Iowa bought it. But perhaps that’s not that far from “big corporate”. The Krause family business is called the Krause Group and had, according to Forbes, $2.8 billion in revenues in 2019. Their primary business is a chain of some 400 convenience stores. In Italy, they now own the Enrico Serafino and the Vietti wineries, as well as the Parma Calcio 1913 football club and a luxury hotel in Piedmont (to be opened in 2021).

The grapes still come from Barolo, Langhe, Roero and Monferrato. These are wines that should be combined with food, says Nico Conta, CEO of the winery. That is why he thinks acidity is vital to the wines. “Acidity, the best thing to pair with food – the mouth stays clean”, he says. We totally agree.

Nico Conta, CEO of the Enrico Serafino winery in Piedmont
Nico Conta, CEO of the Enrico Serafino winery in Piemonte, copyright BKWine Photography

We start with two wines that have recently been launched in Sweden, and then we take a look at the rest of their range.

Alta Langa DOCG Metodo Classico Millesimato 2016, Enrico Serafino

A fresh and crispy sparkling wine with citrus and green apples. There’s complexity, toasty aromas and a pleasant mouthfeel. (~25 euro)

Alta Langa is a small region for sparkling wine that received its DOCG in 2011. It has quickly become very appreciated in the world of wine. The wine is always made with the metodo classico, the traditional method, that is, with the second fermentation in the bottle. This method was first used in Piedmont (and in Italy) in 1850. Not long after, Enrico Serafino made his first sparkling wines in the same underground cellar that the vineyard uses today.

Alta Langa DOCG Metodo Classico Millesimato 2016
Alta Langa DOCG Metodo Classico Millesimato 2016, Enrico Serafino, copyright BKWine Photography

In the 1990s, a project started with the aim to find the best plots for pinot noir and chardonnay. It turned out to be in the highlands just behind Barolo and Barbaresco, in Alta Langa. The result was the creation of the Alta Langa DOC (now DOCG). This is where the grapes used for Enrico Serafino’s Alta Langa come from. 85% is pinot noir, and 15% is chardonnay.

The rules for an Alta Langa DOCG require that the vineyards are planted at an altitude of at least 250 meters. The wines must always mention the vintage, and the ageing on the lees is at least 30 months. However, this wine was disgorged after 36 months on the lees.

Nebbiolo d’Alba Tovasacco 2016, Enrico Serafino, Piedmont

The wine is light in colour and style, with an elegant, fruity and a bit spicy character. Some tannins give it a good structure. This is a nebbiolo that you drink now and enjoy the youthful fruit. The wine has been aged for 12 months in big oak barrels of between 2500 and 4000 litres. (~15 euro)

Nebbiolo d’Alba Tovasacco 2016, Enrico Serafino, Piemonte
Nebbiolo d’Alba Tovasacco 2016, Enrico Serafino, Piemonte, copyright BKWine Photography

Nebbiolo is the prestigious grape in Piedmont, but it is only planted on around 4,500 hectares, which is no more than 10% of Piedmont’s vineyard surface. It is appreciated by many wine lovers thanks to its elegance and intensity. The grapes for Nebbiolo d’Alba Tovasacco come from Alba and the villages of Canale and Priocca, which are just northwest of Alba, where they mainly grow on sandy slopes that give an aromatic and slightly lighter style of nebbiolo than in Barolo.

More wines from their portfolio:

Roero Arneis ’19 Poggio di Caro, Enrico Serafino

Light, elegant, flowery, good freshness, pears, apples, a bit perfumed, a touch of astringency in the end. This slight bitterness in the end is typical for arneis, according to Paolo Giacosa, the winemaker.

Paolo Giacosa, winemaker at the Enrico Serafino winery in Piedmont
Paolo Giacosa, winemaker at the Enrico Serafino winery in Piemonte, copyright BKWine Photography

Gavi di Gavi Grifo del Quartaro 2019, Enrico Serafino

Tighter and more astringent in structure but also more body, melon, long finish, peaches, nice and clean and delicious.

The wine is made from the cortese grape variety, a “semi-aromatic” grape variety with interesting flavour components in the skin.

Zero Alta Langa, riserva pas dosé, sboccatura tardiva, 2013, Enrico Serafino

Quite shy on the nose, good body and volume, melon and citrus, good structure and astringency.

As you can guess from the name it is a “late disgorged” wine, 72 months on the lees, high altitude vineyards (280-600 m).

Barbera d’Alba superiore San Defendente 2016, Enrico Serafino

Fresh but ripe fruit, elegant, cherry. Relatively light body with cherries, a little spiciness, clean and elegant.

A wine from an individual vineyard, a single-vineyard San Defendente. The wine has fermented in steel tank and has kept on the skins for 18 days. Then aged in large oak barrels.

Barbera d’Alba superiore San Defendente 2016, Enrico Serafino
Barbera d’Alba superiore San Defendente 2016, Enrico Serafino, Piedmont, copyright BKWine Photography

Barbera d’Alba Pajena 2017, Enrico Serafino

Ripe fruit a touch oak on the nose, plums. Nice, smooth tannins. A hint of oak also on the palate, tannins have a herbal character, elegant and clean.

Pajena is, I am told, the name of a bird. The wine has been aged for 14 months in large oak barrels.

Picotener, Langhe nebbiolo 2018, Enrico Serafino

Elegant and floral nose. Good structure on the palate, elegant but quite rough tannins. Long. Fairly light body, tobacco. Lots of character.

Picotener is an almost forgotten sub-variety (or “biotype”) of nebbiolo that is difficult to grow, but that is interesting to grow since it gives lower yields, more spicy aromas and more colour. Few producers use it. The first release at Enrico Serafino was in 2017.

There are three main “sub-varieties” (biotypes) of nebbiolo: lampia, michet, and picotener. A fourth one is often mentioned, rosé, but winemaker Paolo Giacosa points out that this is not truly a nebbiolo.

Sometimes, in particular in Italy, grape varieties are thus structured in:

  1. variety (nebbiolo, in this case)
  2. sub-varieties (also called “biotype”, picotener)
  3. clone (there are three picotener clones)
Picotener, Langhe nebbiolo 2018, Enrico Serafino
Picotener, Langhe nebbiolo 2018, Enrico Serafino, copyright BKWine Photography

Nebbiolo d’Alba Tovasacco 2016, Enrico Serafino

Elegant, cherries, quite distinct tannins, still feels very young, liquorice, a whiff of alcohol in the finish.

And then, to finish, three single-vineyard barolos. Barolo is traditionally a blended wine with components coming from different parts of the appellation. For about a decade, it has become popular to make “single vineyard” barolos or from the sub-region denominations, sometimes called “cru” but more correctly called MGA (menzione geografica aggiuntiva).

Barolo Monclivio 2016, Enrico Serafino

Full-bodied, tobacco, distinct tannins, quite elegant, rough at the edges.

The grapes for this barolo come from Serralunga d’Alba, La Morra, Monforte. An effort is made to extract a lot from the skins, 28 days maceration with both a submerged cap and with délestage (rack-and-return). Twenty-two months on medium-large oak vats. Yield 8000 kg/ha (i.e. approximately 50-55 hl/ha).

Conical oak vats for fermentation at the Enrico Serafino winery in Canale, Piedmont
Conical oak vats for fermentation at the Enrico Serafino winery in Canale, Piemonte, copyright BKWine Photography

Barolo Serralunga 2016, Enrico Serafino

Elegant, riper fruit, a touch of smoke, lots of tannins especially in the finish, a touch of bitterness, a powerful barolo.

A partial cold-soak is done before fermentation (cooling of the crushed grapes and then left to macerate for some time) which can increase fruit and extraction. Vinification is otherwise similar to Monclivo with 28 days maceration with both a submerged cap and délestage (rack-and-return). Part of the wine is aged 12 months on tonneaux (500/600 l) and part on medium-sized vats (2500 l). Yield 8000 kg/ha (i.e. approximately 50-55 hl/ha).

Barolo Briccolina Catena Vecchia 2016, Enrico Serafino
Barolo Briccolina Catena Vecchia 2016, Enrico Serafino, copyright BKWine Photography

Barolo Briccolina 2015, Enrico Serafino

More full-bodied, more ripe fruit. Excellent balance, lots of tannins but with a full body that keeps it in check.

The wine comes from a 4000 m2 vineyard in Briccolina, a so-called “cru” or MGA in Serralunga d’Alba. The vinification is similar to the Serralunga, with cold-soak and extensive extraction. It is aged for 28 months in medium-size oak vats (2400 l).

Barolo Briccolina Catena Vecchia 2016, Enrico Serafino

Restrained on the nose, spicy, more tannins than the Briccolina, intense acidity, heaps of cherries of the fresh rather than sweet type, lots of fruit, compact.

This is currently an experiment on 0.6 ha with an old training system (catena vecchia, old chain), to be commercial in 2 years’ time.

A carving on an oak vat at the Enrico Serafino winery, Piedmont
A carving on an oak vat at the Enrico Serafino winery, Piemonte, copyright BKWine Photography

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