Italian vintner Fiorenzo Dogliani has been an evangelist for his Piedmontese family’s Barolos and other wines seemingly forever. He introduced the wines of Beni di Batasiolo to New York in 1979 and he’s still at it today at the age of 68.
Dogliani, president and managing director of the family owned Beni di Batasiolo, stopped in New York recently to showcase his wines. New York is one of Batasiolo’s biggest markets, he says, admitting, however that China is becoming quite important, too. The wines are exported to 68 countries.
Over lunch at Il Postino, a charming eatery near the United Nations, he told me about Beni di Batasiolo, one of the largest privately owned wineries in the Langhe-Barolo region of Piedmont and the Dogliani philosophy used in the production of 5 million bottles annually.
Headquartered in La Mora Cune, Beni di Batasiolo — beni means property in a rural Piedmontese dialect, owns 345 acres of vineyards in nine sites and four growing regions: Barolo, La Morra, Monforte D’Alba and Serralunga D’Alba. It’s one of the largest farming operations in the Langhe.
The Dogliani family has been making wine in the Piedmont for four generations. They started with just 7 1/2 acres of Nebbiolo vines in Barolo. Their business, originally called Fratelli Dogliani, was renamed Beni di Batasiolo in 1978.
The youngest of 10 siblings, Fiorenzo Dogliani entered his family’s wine business at a young age, learning winegrowing and winemaking as the business grew. As a young man, he led the winery beyond the borders of Piedmont, marketing his family’s wines to restaurateurs in nearby Milan. His early efforts helped raise visibility for the company’s long-lived Barolos and Barbarescos. By 1979 he was traveling to New York, introducing the trade and consumers to Nebbiolo in an effort to steer American palates, more familiar with sweet, fizzy Lambruscos, to dry, sophisticated Italian wines. America now is a key market, in part, he says, because of America’s affinity for Italian food.
Dogliani, who does not speak much English, was accompanied by Ricardo March, the winery’s North American director, who is based in Miami and who translated during our luncheon.
Beni di Batasiolio’s vineyards are planted 70 percent with Nebbiolo, which goes into making Babaresco and Barolos. The other 30 percent are planted with Arneis, Barbera, Brachetto, Chardonnay, Cortese, Dolcetto,
Moscato Nebbiolo, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc. In addition to Barolo, Batasiolo produces other sparkling and still wines, including Barbera d’Alba, Dolcetto d’Alba, Moscato d’Asti and Gavi, as well as a number of grappas.
Batasiolo’s flagship wines are its four single-cru Barolos: Corda della Briccolina and Boscareto, both from Serralunga d’Alba; Bofani from Monforte d’Alba and Cerequio from La Morra, each with a different elevation and exposure.
For Dogliani, wine making starts in the vineyard. “One of the most important things to us is the exposure of the hills – the elevation,” he says as we taste his wares.
We start with a straw-colored, aromatic Gavi di Gavi DOCG 2010, produced from Cortese grapes, a white variety that Batasiolo grows at an attitude of 100-200 meters. It offered up a floral nose and peach-citrus palate with hints of minerality. Its crisp acidity made it a refreshing starter. “Acidity is the most important thing in this wine,” said Dogliani. “It’s dry, but not too dry.” It retails for about $19 a bottle.
Our next wine, Barbera D’Alba Sovrana DOC 2009, was made from Barbera grapes grown on 55-year-old vines in Barolo and La Morra at altitudes of up to 450 meters with a southern and southwestern exposure. Its big perfumed nose hits you immediately. On the palate it’s fruity, full-bodied, soft and round with just a touch of heat from the 14 percent alcohol. A baby now, this a wine to age. And, says Dogliani, it can be drunk with anything. $23.
We followed with Barbaresco DOCG 2008, a 100 percent Nebbiolo wine, grown in a hilly area. Aged for one year in traditional Slavonian oak barrels and one year in the bottle, this wine has a concentrated nose, hints of anise, black fruit and good tannins “Barbaresco is the wife of Barolo,” says Dogliani. $36.
Time for a big wine: Batasiolo’s Barolo DOCG 2007, also 100 percent Nebbiolo and also aged in Slavonian oak — but for two years. This $40 bottle was ready to drink and offered up notes of red, black and dried fruits, spice and a touch of tobacco and leather. With 15 percent abv, it seemed a tad hot at the finish.
We weren’t done, however. Sr. Dogliani had two sweet wines for us to try. Moscato D’Asti DOCG 2010, produced from Moscato Bianco grapes grown in hilly Serralunga, was a lip smacker with only 5.5 percent abv. It could pass for a wine cooler, but of course, much better with its bright aromas and flavors of pineapple; melon and hint of oranges. Much more character than many of those Moscatos you find selling in pretty blue bottles. It’s light and sweet without being cloying.
Our last wine, also was dolce. It was a Moscato Spumante Rosé 2010, made from a blend of Moscato Bianco and Moscato Rosa grapes (from Trentino, which is outside the Piedmont. This salmon hued, off-dry bubbly wine is tank-fermented using the Charmat method. It’s an easy quaff with fresh strawberry notes. $17.
Batasiolo’s wines are distributed in New York state by Southern Wines & Spirits.