Elio Grasso is one of the best producers of Barolo. The estate vineyards and cellar, located outside the town of Monforte d’Alba, are surrounded by improbably steep vineyards on the eastern side of the Barolo appellation. The winery uses only estate grown grapes from varieties traditionally grown in the Langhe hill country near Alba. Elio works mostly in the vineyards, leaving the cellar work to his son Gianluca and wine consultant, Piero Ballario. Grasso farms Nebbiolo for the Barolo from 3 vineyards in Monforte – Ginestra Vigna Casa Mate, Gavarini Vigna Chiniera and Runcot, all with their own unique qualities. These south facing vineyards are planted on relatively loose-packed calcareous soil at elevations between 918-1,312 feet. All the grapes are vinified separately, according to the vineyard of provenance. The cellar displays an assortment of stainless steel tanks, where all the grapes are fermented, with the exception of Chardonnay, as well as 25 hectoliter Slavonian oak barrels and small 225 liter casks of French oak. At present, their annual level of production enables Grasso to remain family managed, as well as continue their meticulous control over all stages of winemaking, from vineyard to cellar. The wines combine structure with elegance, aromatic finesse, solid character and exceptional aging potential.
Wine maker notes
Municipality of production: Monforte d'Alba
Number of bottles produced each year: 12,000
Vineyard area under vine: 2.2 hectares
Aspect and height above sea level: south-facing, 380 metres
Soil type: moderately loose-packed, slightly sandy, limestone-based
Vine training system and planting density: Guyot-trained at 4,500 vines per hectare.
Average age of productive vines: 15 years
Grape yield per hectare at harvest: 60 quintals
Harvest period and method: last 10 days of September and first 10 days of October, manual harvest. The vinification procedure for Barbera d'Alba Vigna Martina involves fermentation for 12-15 days in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, with daily pumping over. After malolactic fermentation in steel, the wine is racked into half-new, half one-year-old French oak barriques to mature for 12 months. After bottling, the wine stays in the binning cellar for at least 8 months before release.
The vineyards owned by the Grasso family are the estate’s greatest assets. The area where they are located has always been considered outstanding wine country, as is demonstrated by the inclusion of our holdings in the map of the finest vineyards drawn up by the great historian, Lorenzo Fantini, in the early 20th century.
Recognising the overriding need to respect and enhance the unique characteristics of the vineyards, we look on these sorì, as well-aspected hillsides are called around here, as magical places where we can rediscover our own roots.
In fact it was in the early 1980s that we decided to go back to our origins as grape growers, well aware that our work did not stop at the end of the row of vines. We had no illusions that we were inventing anything: we merely wanted to comply with the best in the traditions and work of our predecessors, without any preconceived ideas.
The first logical consequence was the decision, from 1978, to vinify and bottle separately grapes from our various vineyards. Our goal was to enable the estate to find its own space in a market where excellent producers were already operating. Our one-step-at-a-time policy began with the successive replantings of our Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto. In 1986, we added a small plot of a non-native variety, Chardonnay, ”educating” the fruit to express the terroir into which it had been introduced. At present, our average annual output does not exceed 70,000 bottles, a level that enables us to maintain the family-managed orientation of our work, as well as meticulous control over all stages of winemaking, from vineyard to cellar.