Tucked away in the frazione/hamlet of Santa Maria di La Morra is (eventually!) found the family cantina of Crissante Alessandria. Both family names, Crissante & Alessandria, originate from Santa Maria, & their 6 hectares of vines (+ 5ha of hazelnuts), of which 5 are planted to Nebbiolo, lie an ox-drive’s distance from the cantina, surrounding the frazione; notably the vineyards of Roggeri, San Biagio, Bertolotti, Capalot, & Galina.
The cantina’s story began in 1958, with the first commercial bottles produced in the 1970s when the estate was a tiny 2-3 hectares. Skip forward to 2005 when 8th generation Alberto Alessandria (nato 1985), owner & winemaker, graduated from Alba’s Enological School Umberto 1. He then joined his family in 2007, triggering a series of investments in the cantina – notably the introduction of new Garbellotto botti grandi. In 2008 his ‘nonno’ Crissante passed away, & in doing so passed the baton to Alberto.
Their 3ha vineyard of Roggeri surrounds the cantina, is comprised of Lampia vines planted between 1957 & 2012, is situated at 210m asl, facing SE, & the soil is composed of a heavy grey & brown calcareous clay, cool & humid. Their prime plot of 0.4ha Capalot is situated further up the hill, faces S, just above the Santa Maria to La Morra road, in a natural amphiteatro, at 320m asl on sand & clay; the vines date from the 1970s & more recently from 2003; ‘La Punta’ dei Capalot sits just up from the road, behind the outsized red bench/pachina, & is home to some of Crissante’s oldest vines, many ‘pie franco’ that each year produce c. 200 magnums of late harvest, late release Barolo ‘La Punta’! Just below the same strada, over looking Santa Maria, is their tiny 0.8ha Galina at 300m asl, facing SW, on a poor, white calcareous clay (similar to Bricco Ambrogio in fact); 0.2ha was (high density) planted in the 1922 & then in 1945 on original rootstock (piede franco), while the rest was replanted using Michet clones in 2014, with final old vine vintage being 2016; it was first released as a Barolo ‘cru’ in vintge 2007; from vintage 2018 Galina will be aged in a 40HL botte grande. They also own vines in Bettolotti (facing Verduno) & (sandy) San Biagio (opposite the cantina), which are blended into their Barolo del comune di La Morra.
Vinification is traditional, using static, vertical stainless-steel fermenting tanks, light pumping over for delicacy (not submerged cap, that extracts more), classic maceration times of c. 20 days, malolactic in the steel tanks before transfer to botti grandi & barriques (to accommodate Galina’s tiny production). Pressed wine is all but excluded as Alberto prides himself on making one of the region’s finest & smoothest Grappa!
They also produce a Langhe Rosato, Dolcetto d’Alba, Barbera d’Alba & Langhe Nebbiolo
From 2013 converting to organic but non certificate. Min. 22 mg/litro free sulphur.
Barbera d’Asti, Montegrosso d’Asti
Barolo del comune di La Morra
Barolo ‘La Punta’ dei Capalot (magnum only)
Grappa Barolo Barrique
Grappa Barolo Giovane
2019 Dolcetto d’Alba – tasted from tank by CR & DBG 17 Jan’20 (bottling May/June’20), 12.8%, TA6.20, Total sulphur 73mg/litro. Alberto’s inaugural (2018) Dolcetto became an overnight star, perhaps on account of its excellent pedigree & juicy vintage: a blend of fruit from two Barolo vineyards, 65% from Roggeri, 35% from old vine Capalot, below their Villa – the former providing the freshness & fruit, the latter the pretty aromatics & sweet spot! You’ll be relieved to hear that he hasn’t dropped the baton with vintage 2019! The vintage has given more vim & intensity to the wine; the nose pinging with crushed violet, blackberry & pepper notes; to taste it’s still young & tense obviously, a baby, not giving much away at present bar cool sapidity, a distinct blackberry coulis fruit intensity & crunch, taut & exciting…alas only 2.5k bottles…retasted 1 June’20 just bottled (with DIAM3), swooning Santa Maria cherry, violet & black pepper notes, Roggeri again supplying the cool core & TA6.20 of acidity, so balancing out the Capalot ripeness. For 12.8%, it over-delivers with a juicy pulpiness! (‘Pian delle Masche – legend has it that witches/streghe/masche were camped close to Villa Crissante, & that the old vineyard behind had been planted with Nebbiolo…only to find it was actually Dolcetto!!)
2019 Barbera d’Alba – tasted DBG 1 June 2020, just bottled at 14%, TA7.20!, total sulphur 80mg/litro. Compared to the 2019 Dolcetto, Alberto’s 2019 Barbera d’Alba seems lighter & more linear, even at 14%! But then it comes from nearby, more precisely from La Morra’s MGA Santa Maria, that faces north/east, hence the refreshing, racy acidity! Sealed with an Amorim technical cork, the nose is tight & bright with fresh brambly, forest-floor & warm cherry notes. The palate is supple, sunny & sublime! Very bright & tidy, no oak, the acidity of 7.20 gives this summery wine a streak of freshness, of zip, so balancing out the crushed cherry & strawberry fruit. All very linear & juicy!
2017 Langhe Nebbiolo – tasted by CR & DBG 17 Jan’20, 3k bottled July’19, 14%, vintage 2017 brings a notable change & improvement in Alberto’s approach to this Nebbiolo: still from the same Bettolotti down the road in Santa Maria, but out go the small French oak, as the Nebbiolo was aged for 12 mths in 25HL Garbellotto. The result is a great wine, whose fine fruit has been framed, reductively, by the big oak, rather than being compromised (as in 2016) by the oxidising efefct of french small oak! The pretty red, curry plant & tea leaf fruit stands out; the palate is just as exciting & clearly defined, sapid, delicate yet compelling, moreish. The slightly earlier harvest in 2017 has also given the wine a sunny, but fresh & crunchy disposition!
2016 Barolo del comune di La Morra – as tasted by DBG & Chloe on Friday 17th January 2020. 14.5% abv, bottled July’19, as per 2015 this remains a Santa Maria di La Morra blend from vineyards Roggeri (60%), Bettolotti (20%), San Biagio (20%), so effectively a clay/sandyclay/sand mix! But compared to the very ‘easy-on-the-eye’ 2015, with its soft red fruited overtones, vintage 2016 is altogether more closed, compact & reserved! Given the quality of the vintage/fruit, Alberto felt empowered to extend the pumping over skin contact to 25/30 days in 2016. Slightly darker blue in colour than the red 2015, the nose is all about focus, poise, composure, a weave of Roggeri blue-marne, glacier cherry, but also San Biagio red rose fruit & Bettolotti incense & La Morra spezia. Taut to the taste, San Biagio rose-tinted, compact, fragrant but restrained, netto/neat, giving very little away at this stage but showing huge potential. Coiled, but expect it to blossom in the spring! Ageing/affinamento/elevage was in four x 30HL Garbellotto botti (5-12 yo). Not fined, nor filitered prior to bottling at c.65mg total So2, & 32 mg free. 14k bts produced.
2015 Barolo del comune di La Morra – as tasted on Tuesday 15th January 2019, 14.5% abv, bottled July’18, a Santa Maria di La Morra blend from vineyards Roggeri (60%), Bettolotti (20%), San Biagio (20%), so effectively: clay/sandyclay/sand! A very pretty, translucent, red pink blush; the nose caresses & charms with naturally complex perfume that weaves together the attributes & characteristics of each of the component vineyards (parts!). It’s dreamy with red berry, rose & sandy/sandalo warmth, pretty & extremely ‘easy on the eye’. To taste: a gorgeous roll of suave, small berries, lots of highlights, delicate yet persuasive, agrumato/mandarin notes even, sapid, haunting. 20+ days on the skins (in stainless steel), then affinamento/elevage in Garbellotto botti of 12, 9 & 6 years old.
2014 Barolo del comune di La Morra – tasted March’18; 18k bts bottled Aug’17; 14.3% abv; this wine opens an exciting new chapter in the story of the cantina Crissante, as it’s the first time they’ve bottled a Barolo del comune di La Morra! Importantly, it’s a blend of three different vineyards: at its heart the clay rich East-facing cool Roggeri vineyard (60%) that surround the cantina itself; plus 20% of the fruit comes from their south facing sandy San Biagio that sits below the cantina; & finally 20% comes from Santa Mari’s Bertolotti vineyard, that looks across at Verduno. Fermented separately, then blended in March 2015 before being aged for 24 mths mostly in botte grande. Classically shaped, naturally complex thanks to the vineyard mix, it’s reassuringly composed, poised with roses, strawberry & tea leaves; the palate likewise, with a clear foundation that comes from Roggeri, plus some incense & curry spice (Bertolotti?), while the sandy San Biagio gives a sprint of sweet red fruit joy! Bravo Alberto!
2013 Barolo Roggeri – tasted Oct/Nov’17 & then in March’18, 14.5%, bottled in Aug ’16; fresh, dried rose petal, even notes of Turkish delight; concreto, broad, suave, cool, sapid, crystalline purity, orange skin, minty eucalypt. There’s volume & flesh, but it’s also got ethereal mandarin fruit ripeness, supported by an emphatic, maschile, structure. Needs time in bottle.
2015 Barolo Capalot – as tasted by DBG & Chloe on Friday 17th January 2020. 14.5% abv, bottled July’18, it’s interesting to see the positive effect an extra 12 mths in bottle can have on the wine, compared to just six months for the classic Barolo 2016 (above): more relaxed & together, the 2015 vintage Capalot displays that inimitable soft red focus with a dash of rose tint, so beautiful to behold, the nose pings with sunny red, strawberry, tarocco blood orange, sandalwood & a whiff of talc. The veins of sand in Capalot, along with the fine S exposure of their 0.4ha vineyard at 320m asl, give the 2015 vintage a soft, juicy swirl of charming summer fruit, a ‘sweet spot’ that comes from being in the heart of this fine vineyard & amphitheatre. Plus there’s a balsamic note; it’s both fleshy but also sapid, & showing good tension for further development. Only 2k bts + 200 magnums produced!
2014 Barolo Capalot – tasted March’18, bottled Aug’17, prior to release in 2019, 14.%abv, pretty red, bright, sandy summer fruit, sandalwood, dried rose, restraint. Slender, strawberry, balsamic, taut, tapered, salato…..as tasted on Tuesday 15th January 2019 14.5% abv, bottled July’17, from the 0.4ha prime plot of Capalot, just above the curve in the road at 320msl, in its own little anfiteatro facing full south, the vineyard is underpinned by calcareous clay & veins of sand. A more intense, profound red garnet, with hints of orange & sand; the nose is closed/cupo, introverted, profondo, a sense of prune/cougnà gives way to the scent of red berries, of warm sand & of joy! To taste: there’s volume, presenza, plenty of stoffa/material, it’s gleaming with a coiled red berried heart, but the door is firmly closed! Needs 10 years! 2k bottles produced.
2013 Barolo Capalot – tasted Oct/Nov’17 & then in March ’18, 14.5%, bottled in July ’16, completely different to the Roggeri, world’s away indeed, yet in fact only half a kilometre! Notably scented, with strawberry, roses, thanks to the presence of veins of sand in the clay La Morra soil. It’s got a sweet heart, an extra gear of ripeness, thanks no doubt to their excellent plot that located, amphiteatro like, just above the bend of the Santa Maria-to-La Morra road, so plum south & sheltered, blessed also with a higher sand content (vs Roggeri). Crystalline pure, a noticeable red sweet spot & the finest of tannins. Sandalwood spice, very pretty, gorgeously transparent, feminile, snello/slender, such detail & flow…
2015 Barolo Galina – as tasted by DBG & Chloe on Friday 17th January 2020. 15% abv, bottled July’18, so different to the richer ‘Dundee Cake’ vintage 2104, the 2015 version is racier, more translucent & very exciting! The plot remains the same: 0.8ha located just the road (above which lies their Capalot), of which 0.1ha was planted in the 1940s (piede franco), while 0.7ha was replanted in 2014. But for the 2015 vintage Alberto replaced the barriques with tonneaux, so giving the fruit & wine’s provenance a pedestal on which to shine…& that it does, in spades! Brighter, a paler red, more transparent, it glimmers with a lower pH & higher acidity versus Capalot, thanks surely to the vineyards limestone rich clay soils. Where Capalot is charming, Galina is tigher, more linear, with a cool wet-stone sapidity & cleansing purity. Wow! Bravo Alberto! Only 700 bts & 100 magnums produced.
2014 Barolo Galina – tasted March & April’18, prior to release in 2019; from the white calcareous clay slope that sits above Santa Maria, below the road, boasting 0.8ha of 1922 planted vines (producing all of 900 bts/annum!) 14.5%, richer, darker, smokier (from 4 barriques), kirsch intensity & concentration but not extracted; 28 grams of dry extract. Quinine, leaf litter, autumn fruits, succulent & tannic structured, powerful, a bambino…as tasted on Tuesday 15th January 2019, the penultimate vintage of 100% ‘piede franco’ planted in 1922 & 1945, vinified (on account of the tiny volume) in used barriques & tonneaux. Darker, depper, old vine & calcareous, water-rich clay, the nose is rich with toasty & tamarind notes, even of fruit cake. The palate is gleaming, profound, with crunchy, layered fruit that’s still relatively impenetrable. Needs time. Only 900 bts & 14 double-mags produced.
2013 Barolo Galina – tasted Oct/Nov’17 7 then in March ’18, 14%, bottled in July ’16; the last vintage of the high density, predominantly 1940s planted vines! Aged in barrique due to the low production, yet the ‘pie franco’ intensity seems to complement the small oak. Unsurprisingly compact, an impenetrable block of highly tuned fruit structure, yet rich & powerful at the same time; tight rose, cassis fragrance, white stone coolness that stems from the calcareous clay soils just below the Santa Maria-to-La Morra road, packed with tiny red fruit, incredibly detailed & intense, yet light on its feet & wearing the French barriques well. Sumptuous, packed glacier cherry fruit, suave, fantastic depth, hard to fathom but it’s all there, deep..deep down!
2011 Barolo ‘La Punta’ dei Capalot (magnum only) – tasted April ’18, 16.5% abv, only 172 magnums made, first vintage 2008: caspita! A beautiful, richly expressive Barolo that shares the same slender, pretty rose/strawberry/sandy profile as the Barolo Capalot, yet so much more! The ‘more’ is supplied by old vines (planted in 1952) hence naturally low yields, located at the ‘Point’/La Punta of the Capalot vineyard, pure South, late harvest of 31st Oct in 2011 (for freshness & intensity), hand destemmed, foot-trodden, giving a wine with 31 grams of dry extract (vs 23/27 for the normal Barolo), aged for 5 years in one new French barrique (due to low yield). It’s a ‘super’ Capalot, with racy, sweet cerise, surmature yet not hot, finely woven, lacy, really seductive, Capalot summer/strawberry fruit heart, Clos des Beze esque (?), a gorgeous, hedonistic but not laboured, richly textured, fantastically refined palate! Very much the ‘Punta’ of Alberto’s range!