A new round of releases from the fabled Cappellano estate in Serralunga d’Alba is always a cause for celebration. We began our partnership with this family five years ago, and each year we and our clients eagerly await the arrival of these soulful, personal, ultra-traditional expressions of one of Barolo’s greatest terroirs. In a region not known for its responsible farming practices, the Cappellano clan—led by the bold, beloved, late Teobaldo, and headed today by his warm, intelligent son Augusto (pictured left)—have worked their parcel in the famed Gabutti cru without chemicals for decades. While much of Barolo rushed to modernize throughout the 1990s, Cappellano stayed the course, never bowing to trends or to the temptations of the market. To this day, the wines undergo long, natural fermentations, and rest in enormous old oak casks of Slavonian origin for three full winters before bottling—never fined or filtered, of course. Cappellano’s wines are great not for their grandiosity. but for their personality and transparency—for the kind of beauty that only comes through steadfast adherence to tradition, and through sensitivity to the magic of wines that are allowed to live and to breathe without the heavy hand of man.
The 2012 vintage in Barolo was an interesting one, full of ups and downs: uneven flowering, occasional hail, early-season rain, and a gorgeous July and August which accelerated ripening and paved the way for a successful harvest. Cappellano’s 2012s are a bit less powerful and structured than they sometimes are, but they offer mouthwatering balance, an attractive harmony of acidity and fruit, and a sense of openness and ease that promises early pleasure. Furthermore, they are unmistakably Cappellano in their sense of transparency, grace, and charm. The wines below will reach our shores the final week of April.
2012 Barbera d’Alba “Gabutti”
Always a profound wine, Cappellano’s Barbera d’Alba hails from the same plot in Serralunga as their epic Barolo, and is aged in exactly the same manner—no brief, simple elevage here. Given the nature of the vintage, 2012 is a bit more open and accessible than usual in its relative youth, having tensile acidity, plush and supple red fruit, and a firmly savory core. We have enjoyed Cappellano’s Barbera with quite a few years under its belt, and it never fails to deliver a deep, satisfying Piemontese complexity—truly a wine of terroir rather than a wine of grape type. The 2012 will drink well early, but it will also continue to unfurl and reveal greater treasures with some cellaring.
2013 Nebiolo d’Alba
No, that is not a misspelling, but rather the way the family has always spelled the grape variety—the Cappellano clan has always marched to the beat of its own drum. Their Nebiolo d’Alba comes from a small parcel in the nearby village of Novello, and it easily bests the majority of Barolo in its sense of energy and purity. As with all the wines, it is aged three winters in large Slavonian oak, and bottled without fining or filtration. The 2013 bursts from the glass with high-toned, lifted, mouthwatering aromas of strawberry fruit-leather and savory spices. Lithe and pure on the palate, it offers a vibrancy that is alive and thrilling. Drinking beautifully even now, it is a perfect showcase for Cappellano’s unmatched touch with this noble grape.
2012 Barolo “Pie Rupestris”
As one might expect from a slightly cooler, compressed growing season, the 2012 “Rupestris” is less intense and structured than it can sometimes be. However, what it lacks in horsepower it more than makes up for in elegance—and, it must be said, it is a treat to encounter a Cappellano Barolo that is highly enjoyable even at a relatively young age. The nose of this 2012 is open and seductive, with warm, foxy aromas framed by sandalwood, black pepper, and a gentle and appetizing herbal-tonic note. Though its youthful structure is evident on the palate, it marries this power with a lithe, bright core of fruit, and the tannins are appropriately firm yet not at all forbidding or dominant. A lovely, delicious, and relatively understated Barolo.
2012 Barolo “Pie Franco”
One of the most rare and coveted red wines in all of Piemonte, Cappellano’s “Pie Franco” is made from ungrafted Nebiolo in the prime part of their parcel in Gabutti. Planted in 1989, these vines act differently in the vineyard from their grafted counterparts, and the wine they produce—while clearly a close cousin to the “Rupestris” above—is strikingly different. There is more depth to the aromas, more lift and spice on the nose, a more interwoven and profound sense of minerality, and a different overall spirit—more feminine, more serious, more indescribable. One cannot help but wonder if this is what great Barolo tasted like before the ravages of phylloxera. Those fortunate enough to obtain a bottle of this 2012 will be rewarded with an exceptionally beautiful and accessible version of this legendary wine.
Barolo Chinato [2010 base-vintage]
Not many people know it, but the Cappellano family actually invented Barolo Chinato. Giuseppe Cappellano, a pharmacist by trade, developed this uncanny mixture of vintage Barolo with herbs and spices steeped in alcohol back in the late 1800s—literally as a digestive aid and stomach-settling concoction. The recipe has remained unchanged since the earliest days, transferred ceremoniously via handwritten letter during each generational shift. Augusto still crushes the herbs and spices by hand with the family’s ancient cast-iron mortar and pestle, and the steps to creating the perfect mixture are complex and difficult (as well as being equally secretive)—Augusto told us it took him years, beginning as a young child, to master the technique. Our current stocks are based on the 2010 Barolo, one of the greatest vintages in modern history. The nose is a sensory blitz, a kaleidoscope of aromas that begs the taster to try and guess what’s in the stuff. Is that cardamom? Clove? Chamomile? Did they stealthily melt bittersweet chocolate into each bottle? And on the palate, there is plenty of sweetness, but it’s framed by natural vinous acidity and a boatload of high-toned spices and herbs. Cappellano Chinato is one-of-a-kind, and not to be missed.