Hidden away in the little known Barbaresco village of San Rocco Seno d’Elvio, just outside Alba, is the single plot of 4 hectares (of Nebbiolo, Barbera & Dolcetto) farmed by Manuel Marinacci. A mere 1.5 ha of which lies in the Barbaresco MGA of Rocche Massalupo.
Manuel’s a young wine producer whose biggest claim to fame to date is as a class-mate of Giuseppe Mascarello at Alba’s viticultural school Umberto 1, which he left in the mid 1990s. Upon graduation Manuel worked abroad & locally for both large and small cantine/wineries before taking on the lease of the San Rocco Seno d’Elvio vineyard in 2002. Vintage 2004 was his first release. Manuel makes three wines: Dolcetto d’Alba, Barbera d’Alba and Barbaresco. Refreshingly Manuel immediately adopted the traditional approach to winemaking; Giuseppe’s influence perhaps rubbing off on him! His Nebbiolo for Barbaresco is vinified in either fibre-glass or cement without temperature control using selected or wild yeast. As he explains: ‘as a two-man operation I need the comfort of knowing that the ferments will happen when I’m away from the cantina’.
The Barbaresco is then aged in large slavonian botte for two years. Importantly he only vinifies that which is going into bottle with his name on it (rather than making wine out of all the crop and selling off any surplus as bulk wine); the rest is sold as fruit. So currently production of Barbaresco is at a third of capacity, circa 500 cases per annum. The style of Manuel’s wines are grounded in tradition, showing a kirsch purity & minerality normally associated with the comune of Treiso above.
From 2017, his Barbaresco will feature the MGA/vineyard name of (Vigna) Rocche Massalupo.
> Converting to organic. Bottling at 60mg/litro total & 30mg/litro free sulphur.
Barbaresco Riserva (vigna Rocche Massalupo from vintage 2017!)
2018 Dolcetto d’Alba, San Rocco Seno d’Elvio – a gorgeous violet tinted & scented, graphite & blackberry coulis, rich but refreshing, reminding us that this area is famed for Dolcetto!…retasted May 2019- to be botted in August 2019, and ready in September. Fermentation in stainless steel and then bottled. Classic, balanced vintage. Very fresh, lovely violet perfumed nose, succulent juicy blueberry. These are Manuel’s oldest vines planted in 1968. 7/8000bts produced. 14% alc….retasted by CR & DBG on 15Jan’20, deep blueberry colour, the nose is broad, inviting, with lush blueberry, pepper poise, stuffing, vibrant old vine fruit, with scented violet freshness too…not clarified nor filtered, Manuel’s left all the goodness in the wine. Bottled with 60mg total/30mg free sulphur.
2017 Barbera d’Alba, San Rocco Seno d’Elvio – as tasted by CR & DBG on 15Jan’20, from stainless-steel tank prior to May/June ’20 bottling (of 3k bottles), 14.5%, the fruit still comes from that heavenly full south shoulder of 17yo vines that look at the Elvio valley towards Mango above. Manuel only uses cement & stainless-steel nowadays, in order to preserve the wild, briary, garriguey character of his fruit. And in vintage 2017, the nose is fine, pure, perfectly poised, with griotte, prune/mulberry richness, so silky & cleansing, so much of a fine wine that most Barberas!
2017 Barbaresco Rocche Massalupo, San Rocco Seno d’Elvio – harvested 27 Sept, tasted from botti July’18, 15%abv, TA5.6, vintage required few (3/4) treatments, bright, fresh, juicy, blueberry violet cream fondent, crushed minerals, such clarity, so pretty & alive….retasted Nov’18, such was the vintage that Manuel’s yield was down 40% in 2017 (i.e. 4200 bts instead of 7k). No surprise then at the ripe red ‘bonbons’ fruit character, charming even now from botte, but still fresh & puro! To be bottled in summer 2021!
2016 Barbaresco Riserva, San Rocco Seno d’Elvio – later harvest than 2017, mid Oct, 14%abv, intriguing layers of red/black, rosemary & thyme, profondo, layered vs 2017, kirsch violets, ‘garriguey’ (as my Norwegian customer & friend Lars from Arendal Vintners accurately described it!) Complex….retasted Nov’18, unsurprisingly more tightly wound (than 2017), shades of kirsch cherry crunch, sapid, promettente/promising…re-tasted by CR & DBG on 15Jan’20, Strepitoso!’ is how Manuel described the vintage when I videoed him during the harvest. No surprise then that he should elevate his Barbaresco to Riserva in this vintage! From 1.5ha of vines planted in 1990 & 2000 on white sandy marne, talc bright & powdery; 14.5%abv, 7k bts to be bottled in May/June 2020; An intense colour of low pH bright red rose; the nose is pent up, tense, with menthol, briary fruit, poise, kirsch, glacier Visciolo cherry, rose creams (Charbonnel), refreshing, tension, direction, detail, crunch, compact, formidable, sapidity, cinato, cold tea, coiled there’s a kernel of something pinpoint about Manauel’s wine in 2016, shows great potential & reserve (ovviamente!) Reminds me a bit of Barbaresco Rombone, whose vines are located on the ridge behind that of Rocche Massalupo. Ultimately, I love the seamless fluidity of this 2016, the second phase roll, rose/cherry fragrance, & juicy too! Tonico. Approx. Total Acidity 5.8g/litro; pH 3.6; total sulphur will be c. 60mg, 30mg free.
2015 Barbaresco (Riserva), San Rocco Seno d’Elvio – tasted July’18, 14%, lighter red garnet, frutta puro, charming, pretty lampone, delicate, Pinot -esque……retasted Nov’18, starting to blossom just in time for a Jan’19 bottling (!), it’s gorgeously coloured, with pale red rose, the nose beguiles with flowing, haunting, ethereal, it’s pure rose petal, so cleansing, so pretty, so much at ease in its own skin (just like Manuel!). Rosewater essence. Pinch yourself, this is di-vine! Vertical press, 1 month maceration, 30months in botte grandi. 14% alc. About 7000bts produced. 30yo vines.
2014 Barbaresco (Riserva), San Rocco Seno d’Elvio – harvested 28 Oct, TA5.9, 30 days on the skins in cement, 10% less quantity, tasted Dec’17, & Feb ’18 from tank prior to bottling in April’18; 14.5% abv, benefitting from the recent arrival of two new botti grandi, & from the more clement conditions enjoyed by Barbaresco in 2014 (50% less rain than in Barolo, & no hail!); 3 years affinamento in legno/botti, racked once a year, before being bottled with c. 60 mg total & 30 mg free sulphur; suave, refreshing, & fine racy nose of rose-mary, glacier Amarena cherry & alpine herbs; very fragant, cool crunch taste, with crystalline cherry, juicy wild ribes, the finest of tannins, mouth-wateringly pure, cosi limpido, delicious even now, Pinot-esque…bravo Manuel..retasted July’18 from bottle, complex, fascinating, leaf litter, black tartufo, quinine, leather, walnut, earth, a mesh! Needs time to overcome bottling.
2013 Barbaresco (Riserva), San Rocco Seno d’Elvio – 14.5%, bottled July 17, tasted Sept ’17: astutely, Manuel made the right call in 2013 & waited for as long as possible before harvesting his Nebbiolo for Barbaresco fruit, to ensure the phenols were ripe. He then vinified/macerated the fruit in cement for a very sensible 20 days, followed by 36 months in large Slavonian botte. The result is a pretty, crystalline translucent, red rose garnet with mandarin tints; focussed on the nose, tranquil, serene, with camphor cassis, warm rose, strawberry incense & spice, suave, molten, happy in its skin; to taste, smooth, silken, porcelain tannins, inviting, delicious ripe red fruit, fragrant strawb, salty, cleansing, an effortless touch, such refinement, light on its feet, accomplished…
2012 Barbaresco (Riserva), San Rocco Seno d’Elvio – bottled Sept ’16, lovely pure expression of Barbaresco, coming from the little known village of San Rocco Seno d’Elvio just outside Alba. Fermented in cement, followed by new & used botte grande, Manual has captured the vintage perfectly: glacier black cherry fruit, relaxed, fresh, pure, fine fruit tannins, a joy even so young.