In the second installment of our winemaker interview series we were lucky enough to get some time with winemaker Francesco Baravalle of Cascina Bruciata.
Welcome to Cascina Bruciata! The Vineyards: Cascina Bruciata is situated in Rio Sordo, one of Barbaresco’s most prominent and classic crus. Wines from here are known as unique and elegant. Most of Cascina Bruciata wines are from Rio Sordo, but they also produce a Barolo from the esteemed Cannubi cru.
History: The family-owned winery dates back to 1880 when owner Carlo Balbo’s great-grandfather acquired the farm after a jealous neighbor set fire to it, and thus the name was born. You see, “bruciata” means “burned”.
The Wines: Cascina Bruciata’s seven wines span the region’s usual suspects: Dolcetto d’Alba DOC Rio Sordo, Dolcetto d’Alba DOC Rian, Langhe Nebbiolo DOC Usignolo, Barbaresco DOCG, Barbaresco DOCG Rio Sordo, Barbaresco DOCG Rio Sordo Riserva, and Barolo DOGC Cannubi-Muscatel. 2013 Harvest Update: During a visit with Francesco in mid-September he told us that the grapes are looking healthy thanks to wind cooperation and dry conditions. The 2013 Piedmont harvest will be slow, similar to the 2010 Piedmont harvest, suggesting a classic vintage. Though, he cautioned that rainy conditions could change things. We’ll just have to wait and see.
What is a Classic Piedmont Vintage? They show great structure and generally a medium body. The wines are well-balanced and develop beautifully in the bottle for decades. A vintage to lay down.
Harvest started with Dolcetto in late September, then onto Barbera. Nebbiolo, with the longest growing season, should take place in mid to late October.
Winemaker Interview: Francesco Baravalle, Cascina Bruciata
GirlsGottaDrink: As a winemaker is there a vintage that means the most to you?
Francesco Baravalle: Certainly 2001, it was my first vintage after graduation and I remember enjoying beautiful weather in September.
GirlsGottaDrink: What vintage taught you the most?
Francesco Baravalle: 2000 was my first vintage ever and the first time I worked in a cellar during harvest, it was quite shocking and it involved many “fermenting-must showers”, it was a lot of fun.
GirlsGottaDrink: A downpour of grape juice – I dig it! What grape varietal excites you the most to drink and produce?
Francesco Baravalle: Every year fermenting Nebbiolo I learn something unusual and unexpected, in the same way when I drink Barolo and Barbaresco there are always surprises. Burgundy’s Pinot Noir always gives me a lot of excitement, but I never made it.
GirlsGottaDrink: What grape varietal do you find the most challenging to drink and produce?
Francesco Baravalle: Nebbiolo again because when you make it you always need to imagine how the Barolo and Barbaresco will be in 3 to 4 years and usually they surprise you. Barolo and Barbaresco in great vintages can last forever and unless you have a stock of many bottles, you need to find the right time to enjoy the best of them.
GirlsGottaDrink: What is your favorite part of the wine making process?
Francesco Baravalle: Fermentation, of course.
GirlsGottaDrink: What qualities do you look for in the wines you make and drink?
Francesco Baravalle: Balance, complexity, and personality. GirlsGottaDrink: Why does Cascina Bruciata choose to use cork vs other options for sealing bottles?
Francesco Baravalle: Because for Barolo and Barbaresco they are the best and the only kind allowed by the law. For the other wines they are the ones we feel more comfortable for the development in the bottle.
GirlsGottaDrink: What is one piece of advice you’d give a new wine drinker?
Francesco Baravalle: When you sip a glass of wine think about where it is from and who made it, it will give you a chance to learn a lot of interesting things.
GirlsGottaDrink: Sigh, that’s one of my favorite things about wine – especially in Italy. I always feel like I can taste earth in the glass!
How did you fall in love with wine?
Francesco Baravalle: Even if my family is not in the wine business, I grew up with my grandfather who loved making his own wine for family and friends. I fell in love with the happiness that I remember seeing in his eyes when he put a bottle of his wine on the table.
GirlsGottaDrink: Ah yes, I love nothing more than to make people happy with a good wine. What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done for wine?
Francesco Baravalle: I can’t recall one, I’ve done way too many.
GirlsGottaDrink: Love it! Thank you so much for your time, Francesco! Can’t wait to hear what you learn about Nebbiolo this year.
Get your own glass of Cascina Bruciata!
Contact the winery for an importer list in the U.S. and the U.K., as well as other countries. I fell in love with all the wines, but some notes: The Rio Sordo Dolcetto is a unique find as it is aged in barriques while Dolcettos typically only see steel. The Rio Sordo and Rio Sordo Riserva Barbarescos are also amazing. I’ll be holding the Riserva for as long as I can manage!