Winefriend by David Way

Writing about the wines of Piemonte, Italy and France

La Berta

La Berta – Sangiovese back at home

We visited Podere La Berta, in Brisighella just outside Faenza, in the spring of 2013, one of the wettest on record.  As mentioned elsewhere on these pages, the soils here are limestone, chalk and clay and given to subsidence on the slopes and hills which are to seen all around.  The picture on the right is the result of such a slippage on the metalled track which goes past the farm.  Needless to say, the fields looked damp and green, which may come in useful if it turns into a dry summer.  The history of this 40-year-old, 14-hectare, estate is one of the Poggiali family from Ravenna first buying the famous Chianti Classic estate Félsina and then, after it had been successful, buying this property in their native Romagna.  It comes as no surprise then that the ‘home region’ winery concentrates on Romagnian varieties: Sangiovese, Pagadebit, Trebbiano and Albana. Many thanks to Andrea and Carla who made us feel very at home on this special estate. 

Podere La Bertaclay slipping

In our tasting, we started with the dry whites.  Pagadebit (2011)  which even in English sounds a bit like ‘pays the debts’ is a typically high producing, fairly neutral variety, more loved by the hungry peasant than by the connoisseur. it is made in a fairly traditional if clean style with 10-12 days of maceration on the skins to give a bit of texture to the palate.  it is very like Trebbiano to taste though this high-quality example has very pleasant mild stone fruit and grassiness on the nose and the palate. In a similar vein, the Trebbiano (2011) has a slightly perfumed nose and fine mineral touches.  By contrast, Albana (2011) stands out with its peach, almond and stoniness underpinned with brilliant acidity.  A part of the wine is has a short stay in French oak.  These are clear, robust, food-friendly wines which would grace the table on many everyday occasions. 

But of course, the real deal here is Sangiovese.  There are three bottlings:

Sangiovese di Romagna 2011 – being 100% Sangiovese, picked by hand, and then macerated on the skins for 12 days, quite a long period for a supposedly simple first wine.  Aged in stainless steel for 6 months to preserve the fruit freshness.  Fragrant, sour and black cherry fruit, hints of earth and minerality, refreshing acidity, fine, medium tannins.  A perfect partner for salumi, tomato sauces and a whole range of robust food. 

Solano, Sangiovese Superiore 2010 – also Sangiovese in purezza, but from the named single vineyard and aged in French barriques of 1st, 2nd and 3rd-year use, for 12 months.  2010 was a cooler year with less concentration but better freshness in the wines.  Darker berried fruit, smoky oak notes, medium-bodied, brisk acidity, very fine if marked tannins and good length.  A serious wine for drinking or medium-term ageing. 

Olmatelo, Romagna Sangiovese 2009 – being a selection of the best fruit of the year then treated to two years in barriques, 80% new. Big, concentrated nose of blackberry and sour cherry with rich clove and vanilla notes, similar fine palate with a great tannic structure, mineral and meaty.  Drinkable now if you like to admire the elements of a wine, keep for two to three years for better integration. 

Finally, there is also, of course, a sweet wine from La Berta, though this is made from Malvasia and not from the usual Abana. Malvasia 2010 is the product of the traditional semi-drying process.  Half of the raisining of the grapes takes place on the vines, half having been picked, 20-25 days in total. Malvasia is related to Muscat that is what you experience first on the nose, then honey notes and marmalade.  The acidity-sweetness balance is well struck and the wine finishes on a sweet note in keeping with this whole enterprise. 

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