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At the base of the Berici Hills, in the small town of Barbarano Vicentino, is the winery of Alessandro Pialli. His grandfathers had adjacent properties where they each produced and sold their own wines. In 1999 both men retired and in 2001 a new generation began the process of merging the two businesses into a single cantina, working organically and concentrating on the vinification of a local grape variety called Tai Rosso. If that sounds like a large-scale operation nothing could be further from the truth as the total area of the vineyards is only four and a half hectares and annual production is around 17,000 bottles. However, this year that target will not be achieved because, as Alessandro explained, a hail storm the day before had cost him 15% of his crop. Yet, for all that, he was in good spirits as we sat down to taste some of his wines.
We first tried Cio Bacaro from 2018, a wine dedicated to one of his grandfathers. The harvest takes place in late October and is done by hand. Fermentation on the skins, using natural yeasts, takes place in steel tanks over a period of 2 weeks before the wine is left to mature in tonneaux of French oak for 18 months. Finally, it rests in the bottle for a year before being ready to meet the public. The colour is ruby with hints of garnet. On the nose, there are cherries with vanilla from the oak, and on the palate, the tannins are soft with a nice acidity and a pleasant pepperiness. This is a wine that clearly will age well and would be a great accompaniment to red meat.
From 2016 we next sampled Due Pleniluni – or two full moons. This is a wine that is the result of much care and thought in its production. The grapes come from 15-year-old vines and, at the time of the harvest, the stalks of the bunches are partially cut through and they are then left for a period of passimento where the sugars are enhanced and the water content reduces. Leaving them on the vine is a very traditional method for this process. Fermentation using natural yeasts takes place during 30 days of maceration on the skins. This extended period gives the wine its name as it crosses two full moons. It then spends two years in used tonneaux before a final year in a bottle. The colour is a lovely full garnet. Because of the age of the tonneau used, there was no vanilla in the bouquet but it was still full and complex with liquorice, balsam, tobacco, and chocolate. In the mouth, the tannins were soft with low acidity and plenty of blackberries and a good finish. This would be a wine to pair with mature cheese.
The final wine we tasted was a 2015 Gregorio named after the other grandfather. This is an astounding 16% ABV! It is made using grapes from 30-year-old vines that are macerated for 3 weeks in steel tanks, using the natural yeasts for spontaneous fermentation, before spending 36 months in old oak. After a final year in the bottle, it is ready. The colour is a deep garnet and on the nose, it is wonderfully complex with vanilla, old books, and tobacco. On the palate, it is sweet and rich almost like a port. For me, this is a true vino di meditazione, a wine to be enjoyed on a cool winter’s evening sitting by the fire whilst contemplating how good life can be.
Alessandro is only a small producer but this is also his strength. He finds the time to innovate and experiment, teasing the best from the Tai Rosso to produce wines of great character and distinctiveness.