Exploring Barbaresco with Enrico Dellapiana of Rizzi Estate

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Barbaresco may be a household Italian wine name. But, how much do you know about this marvelous wine appellation and the producers behind it?

Through a fascinating interview on the Italian Wine Podcast Clubhouse, Nevada-based Italian wine professional Jodie Hellman explored the brilliance of Barbaresco with Enrico Dellapiana – second generation winemaker of Rizzi Estate.

Who Is Enrico Dellapiana?

Enrico Dellapiana is the winemaker of Rizzi, a winery in the Langhe, Piedmont. Born in 1978, Enrico is founder Ernesto Dellapiana’s youngest child. Enrico grew up with a passion for the land and the wine, channeling it into his career. After receiving his degree in History in 2001, he continued to study Viticulture and Oenology in Turin. He finished his studies and became an oenologist in 2004. Today, he is the head winemaker of Rizzi, prioritizing the longstanding tradition of expressing the quality and uniqueness of their family’s vineyards and estate.

Where is Rizzi Estate?

Rizzi Estate is found in the heart of the Langhe, a renowned wine zone of Piedmont. More specifically, the winery is near the village of Treiso, on the Rizzi cru (where it gets its name). It’s sheltered by Barbaresco vineyards and the idyllic rolling hills of the Langhe.

Grapes to Know

Rizzi Estate produces multiple spectacular wines, primarily those produced with Nebbiolo, Barolo, and Barbaresco. However, it is also a producer of Barbera and Dolcetto, to other Reference Italian Wine Unplugged 2.0

Why Jodie Loves Enrico Dellapiana

There are many reasons why Jodie adores Enrico Dellapiana and the wines he produces. She was part of the import team that launched Rizzi wines nationally in the USA. After a trip to the property in 2017, she felt inspired by Enrico. 

“Enrico exudes joy and passion in everything he does, not just in speaking about his family’s wine, but also in championing the region of Barbaresco,” explains Jodie during the IWP Clubhouse interview. She also enjoys his perspective on Barbaresco and answers to what makes it different from Barolo. He provides incredible insight into the differences between Barolo and Barbaresco, such as topography and soil, along with the other types of wines produced there. He also loves telling people why Barbaresco might be better than Barolo.

5 Things About This Producer

All Q&As are from Episode 657 of the Italian Wine Podcast, featuring the Clubhouse Interview between Jodie Hellman and Enrico Dellapiana.

1:

JH: So everybody in the family is still a part of what happens there. And you mentioned that Ricci is not only the name of the winery, but it’s also a crew vineyard where the winery is located. Why is that important to the quality of their wines and how many producers of the crew are out there?

ED: So at this moment we have to explain a little bit about the Barbaresco region, these are just three, very small villages: Treiso, Barbaresco, and Neive, plus a little part of Alba. All the area is subdivided into 66 micro cru or zones – one of these is Rizzi. More or less of the crew is more than 60 hectares of vineyard. We own more or less 50 percent of the cru. It is not a monopole, unfortunately. We own more or less 27 hectares in Rizzi.

2:

JH: Of course we know that Nebbiolo is the grape that everyone thinks of first when talking about Piedmont, but you are passionate about growing other varieties of grapes and producing different styles of wines, especially Dolcetto. Can you talk about why you feel it is important to you to continue to produce a wine like Dolcetto, that may not have the cache of Nebbiolo.

ED: In general, we produce red wines Dolcetto, Barbera, and Nebbiolo, and the white wines Chardonnay and Moscato. But, for me, Dolcetto is really a particular and historical wine of the region. I like this kind of wine because it represents Piedmont and at the same time it is really important for Treiso. Just until the eighties Dolcetto was the most important wine and variety. Then, the Nebbiolo took over as the most important grape.

[Dolcetto] is very historical of the region in particular for Treiso. Treiso is very well known for producing Dolcetto with a crisp fragrance, particularly in the hills around our winery.  It’s important to maintain Dolcetto for its quality and history. Another thing that’s funny about Dolcetto, for the color of the leaves in the autumn. Dolcetto’s leaves are red in the Fall, while Nebbiolo’s leaves are yellow. So when you see the red and the violet, you know this is Dolcetto and this is Barbara. I promote always Dolcetto and I believe in this wine. It’s an easy, everyday wine that is really enjoyable and goes with all kinds of foods. It’s great.

3:

JH: You decided in 2013 to start producing  Alta Langa Pas Dose. What was the inspiration for you to take on this challenge?  

ED: I actually started to make bollicine in 2007. My first wine was an experiment, producing spumante with metodo classico. I believe I am the only producer of Alta Langa in the Barbaresco area at the moment. For me was it was a challenge because I never made bollicine before. So, it was important that – from 2007 to 2013 – I experimented and started to learn more about bollicine. 

We decided to start with bollicine because my father – who can be a little crazy – told me in 2005 that I needed to start making bollicine because it’s the future. It’s funny because my dad doesn’t do aperitivo or go out to restaurants. Finally, I decided to start to make sparkling wines and finally, now Alta Langa is one of the most sold wines in the region. It’s very trendy. I suppose in the future there will be opportunities for export. For now, it’s still a young appellation. The next step will be more and more wine exported.

4:

JH: It is stated on the Rizzi website, from a geological point of view, the Barbaresco area is not fundamentally different from Barolo.  In simple terms, it can be divided into two parts according to the prevailing soil types. Let’s talk a little about the two parts and where they differ in the type of wines they typically produce.

ED: I’ll try to explain the geology of Barbaresco easily. All the soil is sedimentary soil. So, what does that mean? 15-20 million years ago this was the sea. All the area you see now was underwater. Then, there was a shift of land that pushed up the land that is now the Langhe. And, the Langhe is quite young. So, all the soils that are in the Barbaresco area are the sedimentary soil of the bottom of the sea. 

In Barbaresco, we have two kinds of soil: Servigliano and Tortigliano. The characteristic of all our soil is more or less 50% silt, while the rest is clay and sand. More clay is found in the North, towards Barbaresco, and more sandy in the direction of Trieso. This soil is similar also in Barolo. More or less we have the same soil and geological period. More specifically, we have the Formazione di Lequio in Trieso and Marne di Sant’agata in the direction of Barbaresco.

5:

JH: You produce 2 Cru wines, one from Nervo and one from Pajore.  What are the differences in terms of soil, elevation, and exposure and how do they affect the flavor profile of the 2 wines?  

ED: To memorize the wine’s character, it’s easy to remember from the names [of the wines.] So, Nervo you have to remember it is older soil, higher in altitude, and more sand – it has more tension and is more vertical. Remember – Nervo means ‘nerve.’ It’s a more nervous wine; not so rich and powerful. It’s more tense and straight. The other one is Pajore. It’s still in Treiso, but still on the limit of Barbaresco. There’s more Tortigliano soil here that’s richer in clay. This makes the wines more rich and powerful. So think Pajore – powerful. Then, there’s Nervo, nerve.

Rizzi Wines to Know

Rizzi Alta Langa DOCG Pas Dose

Rizzi Barbaresco DOCG ‘Nervo’

Rizzi Barbaresco DOCG ‘Pajore’

Rizzi Dolcetto D’Alba DOC

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