Dolcetto & Barbera from Giulio Viglione
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Hello!

Between the Cottian Alps to the west, whose snowcapped peaks are visible above a nebbia (fog)-streaked horizon, the Ligurian Alps to the South where hints of the Mediterranean Sea’s long arms wander inland, & the Tanaro River to the East, Northwest Italy’s famous Piedmont dizzies itself into a dramatic patchwork of hilltop, castle-crowned villages. More particularly, for our purposes, in the heart of Piedmont, we must look at the Langhe, a sub-region of Piedmont’s southeast whose name derives from the bizarre & beautiful, nearly conical, mounds punctuating the landscape in striated drama with their slopes marked by neat rows of Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, & Barbera. Within the Langhe there are evermore famous names – chief among them Barolo – to be found between the mini-valleys cut into the countryside by two tributaries of the Tanaro (itself a tributary of the entire-West-East-country-spanning Po River), the Talloria dell’Annunziata & the Talloria di Castiglione, forming a kind of upside down V. Even this hints at the beginnings of what can make this area so special – the hyper density of diversity, be it climatic, geologic, or stratigraphic. In the micro-valley carved out by the Talloria dell’Annunziata, in the hilltop hamlet Castiglione Falletto, identifiable by its distinctively huge, round tower in the midst of its crenellated, medieval castle – so here, in the heart of Barolo – we can find Giulio Viglione, keeping watch over the last barrels of wine his estate will produce. 2020 was his swansong vintage as he’s embraced retirement, though there are still three back vintages of his Barolo stoically slumbering, awaiting their moment in the sun. 

Started in the early 20th century by his Grandfather Giuseppe, the farm was originally a grape-growing operation sans wine – they’d sell off their quality fruit to local winemakers. It would continue in this fashion until the 1960s when Giulio’s father, Carlo, decided it was time to start making their own wine from their hard work in the vines, beginning the endeavor of “Carlo Viglio e Figlio,” Carlo Viglio & Son. A rarity within Barolo from time immemorial (it is still a recent-ish wine history for the region, so this reference only goes back to the late 19th century), their vines were cultivated in a fashion reflecting organic practice with polycultural elements increasingly introduced in the vineyards as the century waned, Giulio took over the vines, and worked with increasingly old, beautiful vines. Gnarly treasures that in the dread-in-that-polish, well-manicured, vines of Barolo which has been referred to as “Disneyland for Wine,” went unappreciated for so long. They were, for example, the seeming secret Giulio kept in his beloved Cannubi Vineyard. Old Nebbiolo vines that also thrived within a garden of cover crops – the vineyard was, in 2020, reclaimed by the local municipality and explanted, ripping up some of the best Nebbiolo vines in the world, for something that might look a little more sleek to tourists. It tells a story, perhaps one in reverse, considering Barolo is nowadays leaning more into ever-so-slowly, subtler, prettier wines defined by the rosy, peony aromatics of the noble grape, with no real attention paid to oak or funny business in the cellar. Organic cultivation is on the rise with biodynamics not far behind. Giulio & his father, in this way, will be seen (and already should be seen!) as some of the region’s most unsung heroes, the forebearers of what was always the truth with this place and the wines to be made here; wines that endeavored to reach into history’s keep and cull from it the hazelnut-forest-capped ridgetops of Barolo whose slopes nearly pulsed with the biodiversity antonymic to wine-world monoculture, a place beneath a sky swirling with the white flashes of swifts chasing one another through the air, between mountains and what once could, and may again, feel like heaven. 

We couldn’t be more grateful to offer you Giulio’s final vintage of Dolcetto & Barbera – wines with soul. The real thing. Thanks to Alex & Victor of Natty Wines (his importer) for championing Giulio and helping immeasurably with some background info for this letter!

Here all weekend for you, starting tonight at 5 with a tasting of some fun newbies.

Cheers,

Thirst <3

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