In the 19th century Count Cavour promoted viticulture in Piedmont. Very soon Barolo became the "wine of kings" at the court of that time. Crowned heads are no longer in demand today, but people like Elio Altare are: winemakers who know how to make royal wine. His private wine cellar resembles a royal treasury. In the racks Barbera and Barolo of all vintages are stored. Even 20-year-old Dolcetto, which one should actually drink young. "Not my Dolcetto", smiles Elio Altare mischievously, "recently I tasted the 90s with friends - a dream!"
The lively vintner has been through 50 vintages. For decades, he has kept a diary with bookkeeping accuracy, with entries about weather, grape stages, and tastings. The wines in his cellar represent the life's work of a man who has achieved cult status. He waves it off modestly. "Ma no, I'm a simple winemaker." His home is located below La Morra, high above the Langhe. Adjacent is his world-class vineyard, Arborina. An amphitheater with an excellent microclimate, as if made for Nebbiolo grapes. Elio's father cultivated hazelnuts, fruit and peaches here. "Back then, I plowed with a team of oxen," he recalls. In the working-class neighborhoods of Turin, he sold apples and wine in large demijohns on the street. The added value was low, the competition fierce. The bright young man traveled to Burgundy, studied the great wines and their clever marketing. Back home, to the horror of his parents, he took a chainsaw, cut down all the fruit trees and switched to viticulture.
"I am a farmer. As a 20-year-old man, I still ploughed the land with the oxen. I learned to respect the land and the work."
Elio Altare, Winemaker
When he then also reduced the grape yield and slept in the cellar at night in order to be close to the wine during the fermentation process, his father declared him to be completely crazy. If he had not acted like that, the world would be poorer of top wines like the Barolo Brunate. In 2004, the deep red drink of the gods was awarded with 97 points by Parker and received tre bicchieri by Gambero Rosso. We could also not enjoy the excellent Larigi Langhe Rosso. Not to mention the Barolo Arborina. And the tartar that often pours into the glass, especially with older wines? "It's cutting-edge medicine. No pharmacy sells a better sedative!" the Barolo king enthuses enthusiastically.
Text: Damian Zingg | Source: Vergani Magazine 5