Malcolm Jolley spends a Tuesday morning on Zoom with some very special wines and company…

Tiziana Settimo called it a “Barolo breakfast tasting.” A dozen or so Toronto journalists logged into Zoom at 10 o’clock on a Tuesday morning to taste through some of the wines her family’s winery, Aurelio Settimo, have released into the world market currently, and are in or coming to Ontario through their agency, Profile Wine Group. The breakfast meeting was hosted by Profile’s sales manager Drew Walker, and before Tiziana walked us through the wines below, she talked generally about the four vintages we were about to taste. She explained that the 2015 and 2018 vintages were alike in the Langhe in that they had relatively hot summer that were preceded by relatively colder and wetter winters. In turn, the 2012 and 2016 vintages were preceded by a drier and milder winter and a more moderate summer.

Before we got into the wines, Tiziana also gave us some background on the winery, which she explained was purchased by her grandfather Domenico Settimo in the 1940’s as a multi-purpose farm. When Domenico died in 1962, Tiziana’s father, Aurelio focused the farm’s production to wine and created the label that bears his name. Since Aurelio Settimo’s death in 2007, Tiziana Settimo has been in charge of production and sales. Settimo is situated between 200 and 300 meters up the great hill of La Morra, and has six hectares under vine, five of which are dedicated to Nebbiolo, the remaining to Dolcetto. Settimo only grows these two red grapes, and their properties are contiguous to the winery. Unlike many producers who have plots and parcels all over the Langhe, Tiziana told us she was not interested in having to get into her car to look at her vines; she prefers to be able to see them at all times.

Finally, before the tasting got on in earnest, Tiziana Settimo declared that she, like her father, was a “traditionalist”. She meant it in the specific way of Barolo: she did not use barriques. She explained that she strove for freshness in the Aurelio Settimo wines, and tried to avoid excessive tannic dryness. Above all she strove for “balance”.

Here’s what we tasted with notes below…

Aurelio Settimo Dolcetto D’Alba DOC 2018
Late spring arrival (consignment) $38.99 Licensee / $39.99 Retail

Made from vines planted in 1978, the Dolcetto was fresh and lively at just 12.5% a.b.v. with vibrant notes of cherry and cranberry and a long finish. This wine made me dream of a lunch of agnolotti al plin on the sunny Piazza Duomo in Alba. If we’d ended right there, I would have said the tasting was a success. I used to complain that Dolcetto didn’t get enough respect as a great red wine, but now that prices are climbing quickly as the world discovers the Langhe’s ‘everyday wine’, I keep quiet.

Aurelio Settimo Langhe Nebbiolo DOC 2016
Late spring arrival (consignment) $38.99 Licensee / $39.99 Retail

The move from Dolcetto to Nabbiolo was pronounced as the tannins gripped firmly despite the age of the wine. I was a little surprised when Tiziana explained that the Settimo Nebbiolo sees absolutely no wood. The wine is made from younger replanted vines: Tiziana explained they typically wait 10 to 12 years before classifying vines to make Barolo, and the last replanting was in 2014. The wine had a big nose and rose and violet aromas over pure dark cherry notes. I went back to this wine later in the day and had it with dinner, where it really opened up and sang.

Interestingly, Tiziana told us that she does not make the Langhe Nebbiolo, as she believes it should be at 14% or less alcohol by volume to maintain balance. The super hot summer of 2017 precluded production, for instance. “Langhe Nebbiolo is a really important wine to show our terroir,” she said by way of explanation.

Aurelio Settimo Barolo DOCG 2015
In STOCK (consignment) $54.99 Licensee / $54.99 Retail

Now it was time for the big boys (or great girls): first the ‘regular’ Barolo from 2015. Tiziana showed us drone footage of the Aurelio Settimo estate on the La Morra hill taken by her husband. Looking downhill from the winery you could see the vineyards bifurcated by ridge, almost like a spine. To the left of the ridge were vines that produce the Settimo Barolo, facing southeast.

The 2015 Barolo was a classic expression of Nebbiolo. Still young and gripping with tannin, Tiziana explained that the wine is left for a long maceration on the skins between 15 and 20 days, in the traditional matter. The 2015 Barolo performs that great Nebbiolo trick of being big but light at the same time, balancing concentration of dark cherry fruit with freshness. I went back to this wine a few days later, after keeping it re-corked in my cellar, which at 10-12C is a little bit warmer than a fridge, and it had opened up but was very, very much alive.

Aurelio Settimo Barolo DOCG Rocche dell’Annunziata 2015
**VINTAGES release**, September 14th 2021   $55.95 LCBO

Going back to the drone video, on the right of the ridge that divides Aurelio Settimo’s part of the great La Morra hill, is the family’s parcel of the named vineyard, Rocche dell’Annunziata. Their vineyards face southwest and the Rocche dell’Annunziata slope curves into the form that winemakers love so dearly, a natural amphitheatre. Spicier notes mixed in with deep dark red fruit, and the tannins were ever firm, and yet Tiziana Settimo’s emphasis on balance was evident, finding harmony between the wine’s power and its elegance.

Aurelio Settimo Barolo DOCG Rocche dell’Annunziata Riserva 2012
Private Order (consignment)  $134.99 Licensee / $134.99 Retail

Tiziana explained that she makes the reserve wine from a particular parcel of 40 year old vines on Rocche dell’Annunziata when the condition’s of that vintage allow it. This wine was a great pleasure. Our tasting began at 10, but it was closer to noon when we got to the 2012 Riserva and I was very tempted to spend the rest of the afternoon sipping it. Nine years old but lively and fresh, vibrating with rich dark red fruit and sandy tannin, the 2012 Aurelio Settimo Barolo DOCG Roche dell’Anunziata Riserva had a distinct and enchanting note of licorice.

While I didn’t spend the rest of the day sipping Tiziana Settimo’s wines, they all left a long finish, and some very pleasant memories. They also made for some very delicious sipping at dinner at my house all week.