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Barbera d'Alba Vigna del Cuculo, Cavallotto 2017

Red Wine from Italy - NW Italy (Piedmont)
80-year-old vines and two years' ageing in Slavonian oak give exceptional depth to this splendid Italian barbera. The limestone clay soil helps produce wine with unusual finesse too. Full-bodied with firm tannins, fresh acidity and blackberry, cherry and liquorice on the finish.
is no longer available
Code: IT29111

Wine characteristics

  • Red Wine
  • Full-bodied
  • Barbera
  • 14.5% Alcohol
  • Oak used but not v. noticeable
  • Now to 2029
  • 75cl
  • Cork, natural

North West Italy

The most renowned of the north western wine regions of Italy is Piemonte, and it is arguable that it is the most renowned of all Italy’s wine producing regions. Home to Barolo and Barbaresco, both made solely from the nebbiolo grape that performs particularly well on the slopes around the town of Alba, Piemonte produces some of the most famous, and increasingly sought after, wines in the World. These are wines that manage to harmonise power and finesse, harnessing the abundant tannins of nebbiolo to richness and concentration but, in good examples, never tipping over into heaviness. They have all the components necessary to make wines that can age for many years and achieve a silky elegance that reminds many of the finest Burgundies. The climate is largely continental with a little influence from the Mediterranean over the hills helping to maintain the long, warm autumns that nebbiolo needs to reach full ripeness on the limestone, clay and sandy soils not far from the Alps to the...
The most renowned of the north western wine regions of Italy is Piemonte, and it is arguable that it is the most renowned of all Italy’s wine producing regions. Home to Barolo and Barbaresco, both made solely from the nebbiolo grape that performs particularly well on the slopes around the town of Alba, Piemonte produces some of the most famous, and increasingly sought after, wines in the World. These are wines that manage to harmonise power and finesse, harnessing the abundant tannins of nebbiolo to richness and concentration but, in good examples, never tipping over into heaviness. They have all the components necessary to make wines that can age for many years and achieve a silky elegance that reminds many of the finest Burgundies. The climate is largely continental with a little influence from the Mediterranean over the hills helping to maintain the long, warm autumns that nebbiolo needs to reach full ripeness on the limestone, clay and sandy soils not far from the Alps to the north.

Besides nebbiolo the Piemontese also make wines from varieties that give them something to drink while the Barolos and Barbarescos mature gracefully in vat and bottle. Dolcetto (little sweet one in Italian) and barbera are the principal varieties, best known for producing fruity, lively reds to match the foods of the region but which are also now being taken more seriously and given the treatment that can turn them into something far more refined and structured through lower yields, better sites and oak ageing. Beside them growers persist with the lesser known but just as fascinating freisa, rouchet, grignolino, brachetto, pelaverga, bonarda, croatina and vespolina, and the white varieties cortese and arneis. Lastly, but these days not necessarily least, Moscato d’Asti and Brachetto d’Acqui are two wines that, when made well, can be a delight – frothy, sweet and fragrant bubblies of low alcohol and gentle fizz for enjoying with a range of desserts when lightness of touch is called for or for drinking in the garden on a warm Summers’ evening.

North of Piemonte is the Valle d’Aosta, the smallest wine region in Italy squeezed into a valley abutting the Alps almost in the shadow of Mont Blanc and reaching out to the French border. Here, on steep Alpine slopes, varieties like petite rouge, fumin, malvoisie and petite arvine sit alongside a few plantings of chardonnay and make characterful wines with a mountain freshness that goes delightfully with the local cuisine. Slightly to the east a scramble of small appellations such as Gattinara, Ghemme and Lessona produce perfumed and fine boned variations on nebbiolo, here known as spanna and sometimes blended with other local varieties, that were once more famous than Barolo.

In the north-east of the region on the border with Switzerland Valtellina Superiore also majors in nebbiolo of excellence, this time within the region of Lombardy. Head south from Valtellina Superiore to the hills around Lago d’Iseo and the méthode traditionelle sparkling wines of Franciacorta are made from pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot bianco grapes. Throughout Lombardy still wines are made from an assortment of varieties in several different appellations without any making a stand as the focal point of regional production. Perhaps the closest to achieving such recognition, besides the increasingly well-known Franciacorta, is Lugana just south of Lake Garda where turbiano (aka verdicchio) can produce some excellent, fragrant whites on a flat glacial plain where the lake acts as a moderator of temperatures, cooling the air with its breezes.

Liguria, famed more for its picturesque and exclusive Riviera resorts than its wines, runs in a strip from the French frontier to the border with Tuscany. Vineyards are small and fragmented due to the rugged terrain as the Ligurian Appenines finally curl and dip towards the sea and because of this Liguria’s production is tiny, if interesting. Vermentino, rossese, sangiovese and dolcetto are all grown but the most famous wine, oft seen by the tourists who consume most of it, is Cinque Terre made from bosco with either vermentino or albarola blended in.

Finally, the wines of Colli Piacentini, Oltrepo Pavese and Gutturnio close to the city of Piacenza on the edge of the Emilia-Romagna, if chosen carefully, can provide much pleasure with wines made from barbera, bonarda and a number of international varieties. However, much of the crop and the wines made here are destined for spumante producers or blenders based elsewhere.
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Tenuta Vitivinicola Cavallotto

Giusseppe, Alfio and their sister Laura have 23 hectares of vines, including a large chunk of Bricco Boschis, a marvelous conical hill in the next south-south-west facing fold of hills after Cannubi and Monprivato.

This is a traditional cellar, sitting at the foot of the Bricco, where the Barolos are made for long aging with three years in immaculately kept wood – and they have a library of old vintages to prove it. All wines spend time in wood except for some of the dolcetto, which sees a period in stainless steel. It is large, traditional botti that do the job of maturing the wine, with not a barrique in sight. The tenuta was one of the pioneers of sustainable viticulture in Barolo and continue to farm that way today.

Italy Vintage 2017

2017 was a year that began with trouble, endured spikes of heat and even drought during the summer, and harvested at low yields – about 25% down on average – as a result. However, these trials have led to some high-quality wines from across the country as those low yields led to good quality fruit.

In the north-east, Barolo and Barbaresco it was a difficult vintage to negotiate. Budbreak was early which gave the devastating frosts and hail storms of April something to get their teeth into. Though the summer was warm and dry, with some drought in places, the harvest was considerably down and both Barolo and Barbaresco rely on good winemakers making good choices to achieve good results. The wines of Barolo, on release in 2021, really showcase the textbook rose, cherry and tar perfumes long associated with the best of the region. The tannins are already well balanced and lighter than the richer 2016s, palates are medium weight with ripe red fruit and a nervy energy; more in line with...
2017 was a year that began with trouble, endured spikes of heat and even drought during the summer, and harvested at low yields – about 25% down on average – as a result. However, these trials have led to some high-quality wines from across the country as those low yields led to good quality fruit.

In the north-east, Barolo and Barbaresco it was a difficult vintage to negotiate. Budbreak was early which gave the devastating frosts and hail storms of April something to get their teeth into. Though the summer was warm and dry, with some drought in places, the harvest was considerably down and both Barolo and Barbaresco rely on good winemakers making good choices to achieve good results. The wines of Barolo, on release in 2021, really showcase the textbook rose, cherry and tar perfumes long associated with the best of the region. The tannins are already well balanced and lighter than the richer 2016s, palates are medium weight with ripe red fruit and a nervy energy; more in line with classic vintages such as 2015 or 2005.

In the Veneto, Valpolicella was not so hard hit by frosts in the Classico area, but yields were nonetheless down after warm dry weather forced an early harvest. The wines are good, in part thanks to low yields.

In Tuscany and central Italy generally it too was a difficult vintage but one that has, by and large, produced rich, intense red wines. The same story prevailed here; frosts, followed by drought-like conditions at times, and low yields. Good winemakers will have avoided overripeness.

The south was hotter still and drought caused difficulties across the region, from Puglia to Sicily. Again, yields were much reduced but quality ended up being very high, particularly for red wines.
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2017 vintage reviews
2016 vintage reviews
2015 vintage reviews

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