Wed 27 Apr 2011
Coppo made its reputation, from the early 1900s, with Moscato, the ubiquitous low-alcohol, lightly-sparkling sparkling wine of Piedmont’s province of Asti. Located in the city of Canelli, the center of Moscato production, Coppo chugged happily along also producing Barbera d’Asti) until the family’s third generation busted the traces in the 1980s and began growing the “international” varieties cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay and using French barriques for maturing their wines. Quel difference, n’est-ce pas? as they say in Italian. So many producers of Barbera wines have succumbed to the lure of French oak since Giacomo Bologna launched his Bricco dell’Uccellone 1982 (released in 1986) that the question whether aging in 225-liter French barriques actually makes a better wine or just a woodier and therefore more structured wine never arises. Still, whatever caveats apply to intention and method, I was impressed by these examples of Coppo’s wines made from barbera and nebbiolo grapes, both contemporary and respecting their heritage. (For the record, I tasted the range of Giacomo Bologna’s recent releases last year in Asti, and I found the reds undrinkably oaky and tannic, but, man, people were standing in line to try them.)
Coppo recently changed American importers — now with Folio Fine Wine Partners, Napa, Ca. — giving me an opportunity to try several of their products, two Barbera d’Asti wines and a chardonnay from 2007 and a Barolo from 2005. There’s also a Moscato, but I’ll save that for a post on that genre — “Is Moscato the New Prosecco???” — coming soon or at least on a time-line that embodies in fitful episodes the concept of sooniness.
The Coppo L’Avvocata 2007, Barbera d’Asti, was made from 100 percent barbera grapes (as it must be by law) and aged six to eight months in 2,500- to 5,000-liter French oak casks, that is, barrels that are much larger than 225-liter Bordeaux-style barriques. The color is dark ruby with a slightly lighter rim (where the wine touches the curve of the glass if you tilt the glass). Scents of black currants and plums are packed with dried spices and flowers with a backnote of oolong tea, for an effect that’s intense and concentrated as well as being, in the mouth, smooth and mellow. Still, there’s a structure of firm, dusty, fairly chewy tannins; earthy, graphite-like minerality; and vibrant acidity wrapped around ripe and dried black fruit flavors permeated by lavender and potpourri. Quite attractive in a manner that blends seriousness with sensual appeal. Now through 2013 or ’14. Alcohol content is 14.5 percent. Very Good+. About $15.
The Coppo Camp du Rouss 2007, Barbera d’Asti, on the other hand, matures in French barriques, 20 percent new barrels, for 12 months, and one feels more oak and tannin in the wine from first flush to final finish. The color is a little darker ruby, even unto ebon, than its cousin The Attorney, and the bouquet is amazingly fragrant with flowers, black olives, black tea and licorice, black currants and plums, all framed by woody spice that makes no pretense of nuance. Drenched with flavors of spiced and dried black and red fruit, Camp du Rouss 07 is vigorously earthy, notably dry to the point of some briery and underbrush-like austerity on the finish, and it certainly bears a more rigorous tone and sense of dimension than its cousin. While it’s no old-fashioned manifestation of the grape, with all the flaws and favors that old-fashionedness implied, this is a Barbera d’Asti of some class and distinction, best to drink from 2012 through 2015 to ’17. Alcohol content is 14.2 percent. Excellent. About $20.
While Camp du Rouss may be a modern interpretation of Barbera d’Asti, the Coppo Barolo 2005 is a relentlessly traditional model of the genre. The nebbiolo grapes for Coppo’s Barolo come from around the commune of Castiglione Falletto, whose soil tends to produce fruit that adds weight, vigor and longevity to the wines. Coppo Barolo 2005 fermented in stainless steel tanks and aged 30 months in 2,500-liter French oak casks. The wine seems a compound of ink and dust and granite and tar; traces of dusty potpourri, dusty fruitcake and dusty dried baking spices offer mitigating softness amid the intense and concentrated, macerated and roasted black fruit scents and flavors and the unassailable buttressing of (yes) dusty, shale-like tannins. It’s a wine of character and dignity, brooding but not truculent, enlivened by essential acidity and a few nuances — after an hour’s coaxing — of (yes) dusty rose petals, smoke and violets; an earthy wine, but clean and somehow fresh and invigorating. Best from 2012 or ’13 through 2020 to ’22. Alcohol content is 13.5 percent. Excellent. About $85.