The growing season 2023 - Towards the harvest
The agrarian calendar, the point of reference for the farmer, ends and begins on 11 Novembre, Saint Martin’s Day – a day that concludes the old agrarian year and inaugurates the new. That day, in our vineyards, all the leaves had already fallen from the plants.
The winter 2022-2023 was very cold at times, yet constantly dry and sunny. Relevant precipitation, mostly in the form of snow, was limited to two occasions: the first one on December 15 and the second one between February 26 and March 2, 2023. Indeed, rain and snowfall were so scarce that at the beginning of spring, the amount of precipitation registered since the end of the harvest was less than half compared to that of the previous years.
With the arrival of May, what could have been considered risks, that is, the low water reserves and the early budding, were no longer considered such thanks to abundant rainfall in the second half of May and the first of June. The rains were calm, fine and evenly distributed, without any heavy downpours or extreme weather events. This, combined with the decrease in temperature, helped the grapevine resume its normal development.
From mid-June onwards and for the rest of the summer, the weather alternated between periods of great heat and cool rain showers. The high temperatures in August, which surpassed average values, became one of the distinguishing characteristics of the season.
Just in time, the much hoped-for rain came to alleviate the summer drought. It requickened the plants, permitting them to reach an optimal balance. The grape clusters are now continuing their ripening process under ideal climatic conditions.
Followed closely by the viticulturist throughout its various phases, the grapevine has once more affirmed its defining attributes: resistance and resilience.
Likewise, the decisions made by the Sandrone family in the past, the fruits of experience and reasoning, have proved themselves right and capable of responding to the current issues linked to climate change.
Now all there is left to do is wait patiently for the plants to finish the journey they embarked on last winter.
Barolo Icon Luciano Sandrone Dies at 76
Luciano Sandrone, a vintner who was part of a movement to elevate quality in Barolo for more than four decades, died yesterday after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 76.
Sandrone built his wine business from a tiny 2.5-acre parcel in the appellation of Cannubi to 67 acres stretching from Barolo to Serralunga d’Alba and neighboring Roero. He manged to achieve global success while he oversaw a family business that now spans three generations.
"We lost not only a great winemaker but a very good man," said Chiara Boschis, owner of E. Pira winery in Barolo and, like Sandrone, one of the group of young winemakers who shook up the region with new techniques and ideas in the 1980s and ’90s. "I always had great respect for Luciano, and admired him a lot for his focus on quality that gave him incredible achievements. He has been an important example and inspiration for me and many other winemakers."
Sandrone came from a family of carpenters in La Morra, one of the 11 communes in the Barolo denomination. An allergy to sawdust and an interest in agriculture led him to start working at the Borgogno winery at the age of 17. It was there he met his wife Mariuccia. After military service, Sandrone joined the Marchesi di Barolo winery, where he eventually became the cellar master.
In 1978, he acquired a small parcel in Cannubi Boschis; after the harvest, he and Mariuccia made 1,500 bottles in a garage under their home. During the Vinitaly international wine fair in 1981, he met importer Marco de Grazia, who was impressed with the wines and offered to buy the entire production for the U.S. market. Sandrone sold him half, selling the rest to a Swiss importer. Despite the success of his first vintage, Sandrone continued to work at Marchesi di Barolo until 1990.
Sandrone gained acclaim as one of the so-called "Barolo Boys," young Barolo producers who tried new ideas and learned from other wine regions. The group, corralled by de Grazia, included Elio Altare, Domenico Clerico, Giorgio Rivetti and Enrico Scavino of Paolo Scavino. Sandrone may have not been bound by tradition, but he didn’t opt for modern techniques like rotary fermenters and small barriques for aging.
"Luciano and I worked together from day one and for roughly 25 years," de Grazia told Wine Spectator. "He was an innovator, and yet curiously attached to, and reluctant to criticize, many expressions of tradition, particularly those tied to the vineyard management of fine elderly vignerons. Gifted with a fine palate and a deep vision, he crafted a balance in his wines very early on, and neither wavered nor ever lost his way. His wines always expressed power and tenderness."
Today, in addition to the original Cannubi Boschis, the winery produces a Barolo Le Vigne, a blend of parcels from the communes of Novello, Monforte d'Alba, Barolo, Serralunga d'Alba and Castiglione Falletto; a Nebbiolo d’Alba from the Valmaggiore vineyard in Roero; a Barbera and a Dolcetto. Sandrone’s last project, the result of 30 years of research and experimentation, is Barolo Vite Talin, made from a biotype of Nebbiolo he discovered in the Le Coste MGA in the 1980s. He planted cuttings over the years and was finally satisfied enough with the results to release the 2013 vintage.
"Luciano was a wise person, humble but sure of himself and with his own ideas," Scavino told Wine Spectator. "Together with him and other producers we often met to discuss and taste our wines and wines from other regions of the world together. There was an honest exchange of views that helped each of us broaden our horizons. His judgment mattered a lot."
As much as he loved his vines and making wine, Sandrone was at heart a family man. His brother Luca joined him in 1992 to manage the vineyards, and daughter Barbara manages the commercial aspects of the business. With the 2013 vintage, Sandrone dedicated his beloved Cannubi Boschis bottling to his grandchildren, Alessia and Stefano, relabeling the Barolo "Aleste," a contraction of their names.
The business will continue under the leadership of Luca and Barbara. Alessia has joined Luca in the cellar and Stefano is studying business at university in Turin.
ALESTE Barolo - Our family´s flagship wine, rededicated
Heart and continuity. ALESTE is the natural continuity of Luciano's first wine, the Barolo Cannubi Boschis. Giving all the experience, knowledge, patience and passion of his many harvests, Luciano pays tribute, with boldness and sensibility, to the next family generation: "ALESTE" is in fact the combination of the names of his grandchildren ALEssia and STEfano.
An iconic wine. From the very first bottling in 1985, Luciano always believed in the unique and distinctive potential of the Cannubi hill, and that he wanted to express this potential by way of a separate vinification. This bottling pays homage to the richness and elegance of the favored Cannubi site in the heart of the Barolo. The optimal soil and climate conditions, harvest after harvest, have brought forth a wine that has drawn international attention since its first release.