After working for many years under the guidance of the legendary Barolo producer Luciano Sandrone, Cecilia Monte set up her own winery in the northern-most cru of Barbaresco - Neive - in 2000. We have been so impressed with the wines we have tasted from this estate we wanted to sit down with Cecilia to find out how she does it! Her single vineyard Serracapelli is really a very special bottle of wine and worthy of any fine wine collector's attention...
What is special to you about the Barbaresco region?
The Langhe in general is an amazing area of Piemonte. There are vineyards everywhere and they change so much during the year. The Barbaresco area has smaller hills than the Barolo area but so there is much more variety of landscape in the different crus.
*Click here to read our interview with Aldo Vacca for a full overview of the varied terroirs within Barbaresco.
What is particular about the Serracapelli cru of Neive and the character it gives to the wines?
Serracapelli is the Northern cru of the Barbaresco area and so, as with any border land, has some peculiarities. It is high in altitude and the soil is very calcareous and easy draining. The grapes suffer more, so the expression of the fruit is to give wines in which elegance is prevailing over power and structure.
What have been your greatest discoveries throughout your experience working in the vineyards of Barbaresco – did any of this go against your previous studies?
I studied Economics so I learned how to work in vineyards by working on the land. I worked for a long time in the Luciano Sandrone winery. He taught me some methods over and above the traditional methods. The main difference between Barolo and Barbaresco is that we are always one week earlier to harvest in the season.
Was there pressure from your father when taking over the winery? What changes did you make?
My mother’s family owned the property for a long time. They used to rent the vineyards to a sharecropper. It was only in the late 70’s that my father, who descended from a family of Moscato farmers, took back the use of the vineyard for his personal hobby. He was a doctor in Turin. He had a big passion for the land which he transmitted to me. So actually I started the winery by myself and he continued helping me only in the vineyards.
You make a point that there are very few females working in Barbaresco – is this changing?
We are not so few but most of them are daughters to a male producer so maybe their names are not yet known. But definitely there are very few of the wineries managed directly by women and I cannot think about another winery in Barbaresco area that has a feminine name. Is there another one...?!!
What are the most important winemaking and viticulture aspects when making Nebbiolo?
In my opinion the most important aspect is to keep the plants healthy so they can grow grapes in the best way. We have minimised the use of chemical products in the vineyards to the minimum quantities and only when it is really absolutely necessary - all in the awareness that their abuse can be dangerous. Healthy plants and fruit allow us to transform grapes into wine in the most simple way.
For wine lovers who visit Barberesco, where do you recommend to visit?
The old town of Neive is very charming and definitely worth a visit. We also have some very interesting and famous restaurants such as La Ciau del Tornavento; Piazza Duomo; Guido da Costigliole but it is also very interesting to discover our traditional cuisine in some trattorias such as Ostu d’djun in Castagnito; and Trattoria Posta da Camulin in Cossano Belbo.
What food matches do you recommend for your wines?
Dolcetto is a simple, fruity wine which is ideal for everyday meals and is also good with salami and cheeses plus for most antipasti in general. Barbera is an important wine which requires more structured food such as Tagliolini with ragù and other pasta dishes. Barbaresco (from the Nebbiolo grape) goes mainly with meat and can also support more strongly flavoured dishes.
At what age do you think your wines are best enjoyed?
Except for Dolcetto, which I try to keep low in alcohol every year and which should be drunk young, it is better to age my wines in bottle for a minimum of one year (and they can also, of course, be cellared for many years). So normally the release of these particular wines is later than my colleagues' wines.
Can you please give us your thoughts on the 2015 and 2016 vintages?
I think that both are really excellent vintages. If I have to say, the 2016 vintage in particular has been a perfect year for the weather, and therefore also for the plants and the grapes.