Tom Hyland is one of the many uniquely qualified and talented wine pros in my life- a gentleman whose work I have admire for years. He is passionate about Italy- especially Piemonte, and he’s written a book about it! What a brave and noble pursuit, and I couldn’t be happier to share a bit of his work here.
I’ve read a preview of Tom’s book, and I can’t wait to see the finished product. In my opinion, the world always needs another book devoted to the subject of Piemonte and Italian wines. I am in awe of the people like Tom who have the courage to write what they feel, and the dedication to publish a book. Bravo.
“The following excerpt is from the upcoming book The Wines and Foods of Piemonte by Tom Hyland. The book will be published by the University of Nebraska Press and will feature 28 pages of full-color photos by the author.”
Danilo Drocco is the winemaker at Fontanafredda , a position he has held since 1999, after moving from the Prunotto firm in Alba. He combines both traditional and modern techniques in his cellar practices and is considered one of the most talented enologists in the area; his work with wines as varied as Barolo, Moscato d’Asti and Alta Langa are testament to that.
Tom Hyland: For your Barolos today, you start the aging process in barriques and then finish matuaration in botti, correct?
Danilo Drocco: “Yes, when I arrived I had to make a difficult decision because Fontanafredda was known around the world as an ancient traditional winery. There was the movement of the Barolo Boys. It was very easy to follow the commercial direction of the Barolo Boys, so wine with a lot of new oak, wine with a lot of fruit. The problem is that it was not the right “dress” for Fontanafredda. So I tried to find a middle road. Because people had an idea of Fontanafredda as a traditional winery.
“So I decided to use my knowledge of using the oak and for having cleaner wine, with richer fruit, but not too oaky. The first approach for me at Fontanafredda was to age all the Barolo in barrique for the first year and then in big casks for the second year. Then to go immediately in the bottle as soon as possible.
“I decided to follow this technique because the proper was of using the barrique is to keep and increase the color of Nebbiolo. And if you use the barrique properly, you can also increase the taste of fruit. Thanks to my experience at Prunotto, I could understand how much better it was to use barriques of second or third passage, so immediately I started to buy barriques that I used for Barbera and the second year, I started to use them for Barolo. I used perhaps 25-35% new, but primarily used barrique. It depends also on the vintage; the richer and more powerful the wine, the higher precentage of new barriques you can use.”
Are the Barolos of today better than in the past?
“Yes, generally the wine is better because thanks to journalists that permitted us to know that in the world and in our area there are people that can make wine better than me! I remember 20-30 years ago, every producer used to taste only his own wine; there was not the habit of doing comparison with others. Now we taste and compare Barolos as well as other wines of the world. This is an exercise that permitted us to understand where it was possible to improve.
“The knowledge – everybody talks about the increase of the quality of the wine, but the increase in the quality of the wine depends in my opinion of at least 90% of the increase in the quality of the grape. We did a great job with the grapes. The grapes I crushed 15 years ago are completely different now in terms of talking about quantity of grape per vine, maturation of the tannins. Now it’s much much better, as now we have more knowledge of these qualities.”
Tom Hyland is generously offering a pre-order price for his new book, hardcover, full color photos, at $25 inside the US, and $35 outside of the US (including shipping) to the readers of this blog. After that point, the retail price of the book will be $40.