Discovering Barolo wine with the Brezza family

Enzo Brezza with his father Oreste in their historical cantina. Photo courtesy of Azienda Agricola Brezza

“Per fé del vin bon, ogni rapa mordie eun con” – A saying in Piemontese dialect

We find ourselves in the Italian region of Piemonte, nestled within vineyard-covered hills next-door to the medieval village of Barolo which lies within the 2014-declared UNESCO World Heritage Vineyard Landscape of Piedmont: Langhe-Roero and Monferrato. Following UNESCO recognition, global awareness of the exceptional quality of food and wine products of the region has increased, including the prestigious ‘King of Wines’, Barolo wine, and the celebrated Tartufo Bianco di Alba (the White Truffle of Alba).

Here in Barolo, the award-winning family-owned and operated Azienda Agricola Brezza – owners of vineyards, Hotel Barolo, and Ristorante Brezza – invite you to discover Barolo wine and traditional Piemontese dishes while enjoying the best of Piemontese hospitality and panoramic views over the charming village of Barolo! Vineyards comprise sixteen and a half hectares of 22 hectares of the Brezza estate from which the Brezza family has been making exquisite and terroir-driven wines since 1885.

Gen Pezzimenti of ExG interviews Enzo Brezza, principal winemaker for Azienda Agricola Brezza since 1989.

The Brezza family have been a family of winemakers since 1885. A tradition spanning 4 generations! How was Azienda Agricola Brezza born?

Azienda Agricola Brezza was started by my great grandfather. My grandfather Giacomo Brezza, for whom the company was named, was the first to put our wine in the bottle around 1910. My decision to continue in the family tradition as a winemaker was a natural consequence of always being immersed in the world of wine. Since I was a little boy I breathed and was immersed in the perfume of the must which I always loved. I even pressed the grapes with my feet before going to school. It was a wonderful experience.

“The crus”: Brezza’s single-vineyard wine offerings

What are the prestigious labels of the Brezza wine collection that you produce with so much passion?

Barolo is the most important of the wines we produce and all our wines meet DOC and DOCG standards. Barolo and Barolo Reserve DOCG wines are produced entirely from the Nebbiolo grape variety which is indigenous to Piemonte and they are aged for a minimum of 38 months for the base wine and 62 months for the “Riserva” wine (at least 18 of which in wooden barrels). Barolo DOCG is produced in 11 Comuni (municipalities) in Barolo and in the vicinity of Barolo. We produce 5 different expressions of Barolo: Barolo Riserva Sarmassa Vigna Bricco, Barolo Sarmassa, Barolo Cannubi, Barolo Castellero and Barolo Classico. Barolo Classico is an assemblage of all the different vineyards on our property. The great French winemaking region of Burgundy inspired the production of single-vineyard wines or cru around the 1960s to 1970s when the Barolo region was experiencing a renaissance. We produce 3 single-vineyard wines from vineyards within the Comune di Barolo: Barolo Canubbi, Barolo Sarmassa and Barolo Castellero. Canubbi is the historical and prestigious vineyard that is renowned worldwide for the excellent wines produced from this vineyard. Wines produced from Cannubi were the first to be given the name ‘Barolo’ around the 1860s. Even 100 years before this time, superior wines labelled as Nebbiolo wines were produced from the Canubbi vineyard. I myself am particularly partial to wines from the Sarmassa vineyard! Barolo Riserva Sarmassa Vigna Bricco is produced from a selection of grapes from a part of the Sarmassa vineyard exposed to the south and is vinified separately. Production of this label is dependent on whether there is a marked difference in quality between this selection and Barolo Sarmassa according to blind tastings by other enologists and clients.

What is your winemaking philosophy? How would you describe your Barolo wine?

Fruits of the harvest: Nebbiolo grapes from the Canubbi vineyard

We make Barolo in a traditional style. With the specific methods we employ in the vineyard and in the cellar, our aim is to let our unique terroirs express themselves through our wines. In the vineyard we work harmoniously with the terroir. We have a saying here in Piemonte in our dialect: “Per fé del vin bon, ogni rapa mordie eun con”. It means, “to make good wine, taste every bunch of grapes”. That is, you can make good wine from good quality grapes but you can’t make good wine from poor quality grapes! Thus in the vineyard we use organic farming and viticulture practices that enhance soil quality, we use light machinery and harvest by hand to create the best conditions possible for the vine to thrive. In the cellar our wine undergoes spontaneous fermentation from natural yeasts, they are aged traditionally in untoasted large Slavonian oak casks and they are not filtered or refined. The classic aromatic profile and tastes of Barolo that you can find in our wines include violet, licorice, balsamic notes, mint, red berries including raspberry, and rhubarb, which contribute bitter aromas. Barolo is very expressive on the palate with refined, mature tannins, which originate from the Nebbiolo grape itself.

A wonderful thing about your wines is that they accompany delicious Piemontese dishes that we can enjoy at your restaurant, Ristorante Brezza. What are the standout dishes of your Menu?

At Ristorante Brezza you can taste authentic Piemontese dishes prepared with passion. I can’t recommend just one dish from the menu! Barolo wine pairs excellently with the rich cuisine of Piemonte throughout the seasons. For example, typical pasta dishes such as Tajarin con tartufo bianco di Alba, tarjarin being a type of Tagliatelle, and Agnolotti del Plin, a type of Ravioli unique to Piemonte, match well with Barolo. These delicious pasta dishes are handmade in-house. Game dishes including hare and pheasant, white meats including rabbit and chicken, and red meat dishes such as veal, accompanied by truffle or mushrooms pair wonderfully with Barolo.

Fresh, handmade in-house Agnolotti del Plin

You organize guided visits and tastings in your wine cellar. We invite all those passionate about good food and wine to visit you here nestled amongst the vineyards!

Of course! We invite you to visit us for a tasting of Barolo and suggest that you make a booking beforehand. Often visitors will come into the wine cellar for a tasting, stimulate their senses and appetites with the wine aromas, then enjoy a lunch of typical Piemontese dishes paired with our delicious wines at our Ristorante Brezza. Visitors may stay in our Hotel Barolo and spend more time experiencing and enjoying the wine, food, hospitality and the unparalleled views over Barolo from our property.

Autumn in Barolo: the view from Ristorante Brezza

What impression of the Barolo region and wine would you like a visitor to take home with them?

In my opinion, one needs to approach Barolo wine with patience, particularly those new to Barolo. Barolo wine is elegance and class. It is a wine of high quality and finesse that a more evolved palate may appreciate fully. Barolo is a wine that is in constant evolution – even in the glass – so that from one minute to the next you get different impressions of the wine on the nose and in the mouth. You will never get tired of drinking Barolo, it always reveals new secrets!

To find out more about Azienda Agricola Brezza and their wines, go to www.brezza.it

Salute! Cheers!

Interview and photos by Gen Pezzimenti

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