Piedmont (Castiglione Tinella), Italy
Apart from getting almost hopelessly lost on the twisting hillside roads, the first thing I remember about my visit to Ezio Cerruti was the warm welcome I received from this gracious and generous winemaker. After moving beyond the initial greeting Ezio took me on a tour of his winery, which is in a cellar underneath his house. While showing me around the facilities, Ezio spent almost as much time talking about wines that his friends made, pointing to this or that bottle sitting on a shelf. To be clear, Ezio’s friends are many of the who’s who in the natural winemaking scene, including Bepe Rinaldi of Giuseppe Rinaldi, Maria-Theresa of Bartolo Mascarello and many others. Ezio is very proud of his friends and the wines they make. And he is in good company, for his are some of the most profound expressions of Moscato I have had the pleasure to drink. With seven hectares of vines surrounding his home in the commune of Castiglione Tinella, about halfway between Asti and the Langhe, Ezio tends his vines with great care and precision. Here Moscato vines up to sixty years old are planted on steep slopes about 400 metres above sea level.
Unlike many others in the area, Ezio works organically, preferring to add as little as possible that may interfere with the vines. He favours biodiversity and allows long grass and wildflowers to grow between the rows. And from these vines Ezio makes only two or three wines, all from Moscato. The first is the passito. When the grapes destined for this elixir are fully ripe, Ezio cuts the shoot which connects the bunches to the vine, leaving the fruit to wither, dangling in the autumn sunshine for a couple of months. The grapes are then pressed immediately and fermented with wild yeasts in old wooden casks. Fermentation can last over a year and the wine spends a minimum of three years in old barrels before release, until he feels it is ready. The wine is profound, with a light amber colour, lifted aromas of dried apricots, peaches, freshly roasted nuts, raisins and a brilliant florality, all carried over to the long and luxuriant palate, which is balanced by extremely refreshing acidity. This is passito as only Ezio could make!
More recently, Ezio decided to try his hand at a dry Moscato, which he calls Fol (or “crazy,” in the local dialect). Like the passito, the dry Moscato is fermented in cement with wild yeasts and then matured in old barrels. Bone dry, the wine is bottled unfiltered with just a tinge of SO2. It is absolutely delicious, with lots of citrus, flowers and gorgeous minerality. It’s almost impossible to drink just one bottle. Bravo Ezio!