Tag Archives: Massimo Benevelli

A visit to the Langhe: for just one night…

Late afternoon in Treiso.
Late afternoon in Treiso.

It has been a busy trip this year with lot’s of stops for just one night. Throw in lunch and dinner with producers and suppliers and it normally means that eating dinner is the last thing you feel like at 8pm.  However as I have mentioned previously, sitting down one on one is by far the best way to work together especially considering Australia and Italy are so far away, so the opportunity to do this is very rare. Most of the time just once a year!!

Pizza at Per Bacco in La Morra
Pizza at Per Bacco in La Morra

After leaving Parma we drove up to La Morra first for lunch and were craving a proper VPN Neapolitan Pizza. The go to Pizza place in the Langhe is Per Bacco in the heart of La Morra and the pizza’s did not let us down. We ate five pizza’s between three of us and they were as good as I have had anywhere outside of Naples.

Old bottles from a cellar in Alba.
Old bottles from a cellar in Alba.

From lunch we headed to Alba where I do a bit of business buying bottles from old cellars. It is always good togo and see what is available from the treasure chest of old Barolo and Barbaresco. Yesterday the cellars were full with many old bottle of Monfortino and Produttori available to buy.

Dinner at La Ciau del Tornavento in Treiso.
Dinner at La Ciau del Tornavento in Treiso.

It is crazy how time flies when you are on the go and before we knew it, it was 8pm and time for dinner at La Ciau del Tornavento in Treiso. This amazing restaurant produces some of the best food in Italy and last night we were not disappointed. At La Ciau we caught up with Paolo Saracco and Massimo Benevelli. Two producers that we represent with pride in Australia. Whilst sales of both these wineries have gone through the roof in the last year (we have just done our first full container between the two wineries!!) I know that they are happy regardless of sales, as it is more about relationships than sales budgets. When I catch up with Paolo and Massimo in Barolo or Barbaresco I know the drill: plenty of fantastic wine and lot’s of food! Last night was exactly that and we did not arrive back to our hotel until close to 1am.

Dinner with Paolo Saracco (centre) and Massimo Bennevelli (right).
Dinner with Paolo Saracco (centre) and Massimo Bennevelli (right).

After just quick stop in the Langhe (less that 24 hours), today we headed in Milano for lunch with our Australian shipping agent (Vito Bonino!!) who has been with us for most of our trip and our Italian contact. More on that later!!

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A whopping 97 points the the 2011 Benevelli Langhe Nebbiolo

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Over the last few years I have written a lot about Massimo Benevelli and his wines. We import them with pride and the wines speak of Massimo and Monforte.

So today when we found out that his 2011 Langhe Nebbiolo was the top wine with 97 points in the latest Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine Nebbiolo Tasting, we couldn’t have been any happier. Once news broke of this score, all the stocks we had were gone within a couple of hours.

Whilst this wine has sold out, the. 2012 is on the water and should be available in Oz in around a month.
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Piero Benevelli Langhe Nebbiolo 2011: the eagle has landed…

If there was one wine that bowled be over on a trip to the Langhe earlier this year, then hands down it was the Piero Benevelli Langhe Nebbiolo 2011. This wasn’t the most expensive wine I tasted on the trip: in fact it will retail for $30 in Australia. What blew me away is that this wine has serious complexity, structure and Nebbiolo fruit tannins that made me do a double take when I tried it.

It was amazing wine and as soon as the wine past my lips I twisted Massimo’s arm for a large allocation for the Australian market.

Massimo Benevelli knows how to make wine. He has been running the winery for many years and at 35 years old, he is an old head on young shoulders. He is not a person who wants the limelight. Rather he is crafts some amazing wines and let’s the wines do the talking. The 2011 Langhe Nebbiolo certainly does that and this wine highlights just how talented Massimo is.

The historical town of Monforte.

My notes on the 2011 Langhe Nebbiolo winery visit was brief but to the point:

Perfumed, intense, underlying power, intense red savoury fruits, benchmark tar and roses balanced by bright acidity.

This wine has just landed in Australia and it will be interesting to see this wine now in Australia and I can’t wait to see it in four or five years bottle age.

Piero Benevelli: one of the shining lights of Monforte…

After a fantastic morning at the winery of Paolo Saracco and then lunch at Antica Torre Trattoria in Barbaresco, I drove to the cellars of Piero Benevelli in Monforte and tried all the upcoming vintages for Langhe Nebbiolo, Barbera Superiore, Barolo and his Barolo Riserva.

Trying so many different wines showed me just how good a commune Monforte is and also how talented a winemaker Massimo Benevelli. Whilst he already has a fantastic reputation in Barolo and around the world already, I believe he will be considered one of the shining lights out of Monforte in the future.

His wines show a common theme of perfume, complexity and power. They are made with a gentle hand, but a hand that knows site, soil and style of Piero Benevelli.

Denise and Massimo Benevelli

At the winery of tried the following wines:

2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 Barolo plus 1993.

2009, 2010 Barbera Superior

2009, 2010 Barolo Riserva

2011 Langhe Nebbiolo

Common theme is these wines will age long term. All the different vintages of Barolo have very similar structure. The main differences between the wines are the variation in years. Vintage 2008 sits in between the structure of the 2006 and the ripeness of 2007. Today the 2007 Barolo looked amazing.

2011 Langhe Nebbiolo was the big surprise for me. Heaps of complexity, layers of plush dense fruit. Perfumed with plenty of capacity to age.

2010 Barbera Superior (due in 8 weeks) was up there with the 2007 in quality and complexity.

Piero Benevelli Monforte Barolo 1993

The 1993 was amazing. Still primary with balance, poise and structure. Fruit and tannins now perfectly integrated. This wine was made by Massimo’s father, Piero and it showed for me how well the Barolo’s of Benevelli will age.

My tasting note on the wine was as follows:

Fantastic colour; still a beautifully perfumed nose. The amazing is still fresh with amazing power, beautiful acidity and benchmark tar and roses.

Whilst Massimo is young and does not have the history of many of the superstars of Monforte, he has the site, the winemaking talent and the personality to achieve greatness in the area.

If you have not tried the wines of Piero Benevelli, it is well worth the experience, either in Italy or the rest of the world.

Two great men and an amazing restaurant in Piemonte: Guido da Castigliole

In Piemonte there is no such thing as a casual dinner. Last night I met up with Massimo Benevelli and Paolo Saracco for a ‘casual dinner’. This dinner was held at Guido da Castigliole which is located inside the San Maurizio monastery.

The place of agnolotti
For half a century the undisputed benchmark for haute cuisine of the Langhe territory, the Guido da Costigliole restaurant is set in the ancient wine cellar of the San Maurizio monastery. Underground recesses and tunnels decorated with works by contemporary artists, this site holds a trove of more than 2,500 different wines, from Piedmont, France and the rest of the world. These wines have been collected over the years by Andrea Alciati, the young chef who picked up where Lidia Alciati left off, running the restaurant with Monica Magnini and Luca Zecchin and creating dishes that blend traditional flavors with modern fine dining skillfully using the region’s famed produce.The restaurant is open every evening but on Tuesdays it is only open to hotel guests. It can seat 80. www.guidosanmaurizio.com

It really has to be seen to believed. The restaurant and food was amazing. We drank old vintages of Paolo Saracco Pinot Noir matched against Burgundy and the Saracco held it’s own on all fronts.

Paolo Saracco (left)

Paolo and Massimo are very similar people. Both quiet and unassuming and do not talk for the sake of talking. They let their wines talk for them.

Massimo Benevelli (left)

Maybe as a sign of the times in Italy, the restaurant was unusally quiet, with just a few tables being used and because of this, after dinner we had a tour of the cellars. I have never seen more Gaja or Conterno in my life.

Today after another ‘casual lunch’ with Paolo Saracco, I will head to Monforte to the cellars of Benevelli to try the upcoming vintages.

Massimo Benevelli: a true gentleman from Monforte (Barolo)..

In my work, I am constantly surrounded by people working in the wine industry. Whether it be sales representatives, winemakers or journalists. So it makes sense that some of my closest friends are individuals who work in the wine industry. Sometimes, you will have an instant connection with a person and understand on all levels exactly what they are thinking and the direction they want to take. It doesn’t have to be about wine. It might be about politics, life or sport. You just understand each other.

For me, Honesty and simplicity are two traits I think are pretty hard to go past in life and most of my closest friends have this in spades. I am not a pretender: what you see is what you get. I am like that in life as well as in business. If you can’t be yourself, then what is the point of it all?

The same goes with the wineries we represent from Italy via Mondo Imports in Australia. Whilst we have a fantastic relationship with all the wineries we import (if we don’t, then we don’t import their wines) there are certain people that you feel you have known them since birth. Massimo Benevelli is one such person and every individual that has met him at his winery in Monforte or on his visit to Australia to do vintage this year understands what I am talking about.

Massimo is quiet and shy. When he talks, he talks for a reason. The same goes with the wines he makes. They are a reflection of Massimo and his Langhe Nebbiolo, Bricco Ravera Barbera and Monforte Barolo all share his stamp. They are not tricked up. They are not smothered in oak. They speak of Monforte, they speak of Massimo and importantly they speak of the vintage. They are not trying to be something they are not.

In Australia, Massimo’s wines have had an incredible response. More than I would have ever imagined.  These wines have sold themselves and are on the wine lists of some of the best restaurants in Australia. I know for Massimo, if we had sold 2, 200 or 2000 bottles of his wine in Australia, his opinion of us would not have changed. That is the sort of person he is and the people we like to represent.

It is an honour selling his wines in Australia and knowing Massimo on a personal level. He is truly one in a million.

The 2007 Monforte Barolo will be released on the 1st of November, it again is a great reflection of Massimo, Monforte and the year.

One of the joys of importing: forging lifelong friendships.

The wines of Piero Benevelli from Monforte deserve a separate post and this post is not about his wines, but the person that he is. Three years ago at Vinitaly we met Massimo and his wife Denise after my father kept at me to try the wines of Benevelli. When I finally wilted and tried the wines, I was flabbergasted with the quality he was churning out and each day during Vinitaly I went back and tried his wines to make sure I wasn’t overlooking something. Well I wasn’t and the success we have had via Mondo Imports for his wines in Australia is a reflection of this quality across the board.

More importantly, in the fifteen or so years I have spent in the wine trade, I have never come across a person so kind, warm and genuine as Massimo. Last year, my younger brother Stefano (pictured to the right in the picture above) spent time with Massimo in Monforte and this year he returned the favour by doing vintage at our winery Hoddles Creek Estate in the Yarra Valley.

Whilst the vintage was slow to begin with and we only really started picking towards the end of Massimo’s stay in Australia, it was amazing to spend time with him and introduce Massimo to some of Australia’s greatest winemakers (Rick Ginzbunner) and best journalists (Jane Faulkner). It is testament to the person that the other two people who did  vintage at Hoddles this year, Sam Barry from Jim Barry Wines and Yukiyasu Kaneko from Salt (Toyko) are heading to Monforte to do a Barolo vintage with Massimo and his family this year.

Next year, I will definitely head back to Monforte (the picture below was at the Barolo Bar in Monforte from our visit last year) return the favour.