Rivetto – Barolo
ABOUT THE BAROLO WINE REGION
The small, premium quality wine region of Barolo is situated in the Langhe hills, southeast of the town of Alba in Italy’s north eastern province of Piemonte. It is famous for producing long-lived, delicate but tannic red wines from the Nebbiolo grape which, with some age, can provide some of the most sensual and hedonistic wine experiences in the world. Not for nothing is Barolo wine known as “the king of kings”!
Enrico Rivetto’s winery lies at 400mts altitude on top of the Lirano hill, in the famous commune of Serralunga on the eastern border of the Barolo wine zone. Here, the ancient soils are a mix of marl, silt and clay, which retains rainwater deep underground and allows the vines to flourish even in the driest of summers. There is always a fresh breeze blowing across the hillside, and the air is pure and clean, giving the wines intense aromas and natural freshness. Serralunga’s wines are highly esteemed for their firm structure and long ageing potential; vineyard land here is amongst the most highly sought after in Italy, now costing between 2 – 3 million euros per hectare!
The view from the winery is breathtaking, looking out over vines and fruit trees to the medieval hilltop villages of Serralunga 1km to the west and Castiglione Falletto in the distance. The place has a special energy, positivity and natural charm – when you meet owner and winemaker Enrico, you begin to understand the reasons for this.
Enrico is 44 years old, a passionate basketball player, and the 4th generation of the Rivetto family to be responsible for the winery since its beginnings in 1902. It seems that all the energy which he put into basketball in his youth is now focused on his vineyards. Over the past 10 years he has gradually turned “his” Lirano hill into a complex, living ecosystem, teaming with bees, birds, insects and even the occasional donkey!
Two hectares of fruit trees, vegetables, rosehip, lavender, corn and wheat are planted in and around his 15 hectaresof vines. A large, freshwater pond outside the winery collects rainfall for use in the irrigation of his young vines and biodynamic sprays. And several acres of land are taken up by mounds of fermenting natural compost – a mix of cow manure and waste from his cellar, vegetable gardens and fields – which Enrico believes is crucial to maintaining his soil’s fertility.
Rivetto was certified biodynamic (by Demeter) in 2019; so far the only certified biodynamic winery in Barolo. According to Enrico, most other producers in the area can now make money so easily due to the recent rise in demand for top Barolo that they don’t need to go the extra efforts which biodynamic farming involves. But Enrico does not seem motivated by profit. His long term goal is to communicate his “eco-friendly” philosophy through the high quality of his wines, and to build a complex “vine-garden” where young people can bring and share their eco-friendly ideas and knowledge; deep and different thinking, particularly in this most traditional of wine regions!
HOW THE WINES ARE MADE
Rivetto produces around 120,000 bottles of wine per year; 90% red and 10% white and sparkling.
All the grapes are hand-picked and destalked on arrival at the winery to reduce any unripe tannins in the wine. After two days of being left in contact with the skins at room temperature to increase structure and fruit intensity, the juice is fermented using natural “wild” yeasts which live in the vineyards. Enrico does not believe in the taste of oak dominating his wines and therefore raises his Nebbiolo grapes in a mix of large old Slavonian or Hungarian oak casks of 3,000 or 6,000 hectolitres, which he believes are the most “neutral-tasting” oak maturation vessels available. His Nebbiolo “Langhe” spends 6 months in cask followed by a further 6 months in bottle before being released for sale, whilst his Barolo Serralunga spends two years in cask, then at least one more year in bottle before sale.
The Barbera grape on the other hand generally benefits from the extra fullness and structure which smaller oak barrels give, so Enrico ages his Loirano Soprano Barbera for two years in traditional French oak barriques of 225 litres, followed by a further year or more in bottle before release. All his wines are bottled un-fined and with minimum filtration to preserve maximum flavour and personality.