L’Azienda Agricola La Briccolina, in Serralunga d’Alba, has been in the Grasso family for five generations.
Seeing a bottle of “La Briccolina Barolo di Tiziano Gasso” on our store shelves today reminds me of the interconnectedness of all things and how wine has the potential to bring people together and to preserve memories.
I first met Tiziano in 2001 while I was living in Piemonte. My husband’s best friend introduced us and took us to visit as he knew that, as a newly certified sommelier, we would get along. The Grasso family home is idyllically situated on the crest of a hill surrounded by Nebbiolo vines in Serralunga d’Alba, one of the five most significant villages of the Barolo appellation. This is a special place. Tiziano grew up in the heart of one of Italy’s most prestigious wine growing districts, a region with a rich wine history and culture. Barolo was made famous by Camillo Benso, the Count of Cavour, who was one of the leading figures of the Italian unification and became Italy’s first prime minister in 1861. The wine was enjoyed by the aristocracy of Torino and attracted the interest of the Savoyard family who acquired winemaking estates in the area, notably Fontanafredda in Serralunga d’Alba. It was here at the Fontanafredda estate a young Tiziano worked as a cellar hand, he told us that he was the only one small enough to squeeze through the opening in the tanks to clean them out when needed.
When I met Tiziano, he was no longer working at Fontanafredda, but cultivating Nebbiolo grapes at his bucolic family vineyard and selling them to another prominent Barolo producer, Pio Cesare. As so many wine growers do, Tiziano always held back some of his best Nebbiolo grapes to make wine for household consumption. The farm is surrounded by a natural amphitheater of vineyards that boast a south west and south east exposure and an elevation of 350 m above sea level. The Grasso family has been growing quality grapes for over 50 years to supply Barolo producers and decided to vinify some of their own grapes to produce a limited 3000 bottle a year production. Their first commercial release was the 2012 vintage from grapes sourced from the oldest part of the vineyards. From these 50 year old vines planted on mixed limestone and marl soil, Tiziano Grasso’s Barolo La Briccolina was born. Tiziano’s intention in crafting this wine was to bring to the glass the essence of the land through the Nebbiolo grape; a grape that can wonderfully express terroir.
In May 2017 Tiziano passed away tragically in a work-related accident at the age of 55. Today, his wife Simona and his son Daniele, who works at another Barolo winery by day, continue Tiziano’s fledgling project. Someday, I am sure we will see his daughter, who is still quite young, involved in the family business as well.
Bishop’s Cellar has been importing La Briccolina Barolo for the past three years. We are pleased to have access to a very small yearly allocation of this special wine.
The latest Barolo vintage is the 2016 and in the 2016 Briccolina, you can expect a wine of balance and structure. Pronounced red fruit, violet, rose and tar. The palate has lots of substance, freshness and elegant tannins. Barolos become incredibly ethereal, seductive and silky with age- if you have the patience to wait.
Of course, you can certainly drink them while they are young in which case they are best enjoyed with a special meal.
IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Lush green vines in the foreground with the mountains and steep slopes of vineyards of the Piedmont region of Italy in the background.