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We first met Francesco Versio at Giacosa; he’d started there as cellar master soon after finishing school. As a mutual friend told us, “Bruno recognized Francesco”, meaning that Giacosa thought Francesco was a kindred spirit. When Dante Scaglione left Giacosa, Francesco took over as winemaker. In 2017 he joined Scaglione at Luigi Oddero* – among other temptations, Francesco says that the chance to work with Vigna Rionda was irresistible. One of the other temptations was his new employer’s supportive attitude about Francesco making his own wine; since 2013 he’s been bottling Barbaresco from two tiny family plots, now farmed organically. The very old vines in Curra had to be almost entirely replanted, so the 2015 comes from San Cristofero (also in Neive), with just a little from Curra. There are a few bottlings of San Cristofero - Punset’s “Campo Quadro” is the one I’m familiar with, but otherwise it’s not an easy cru to find wine from. In 2015 Francesco made 2800 bottles (if you do the math you can see he needs that day job!). With Giacosa and Scaglione as mentors it’s no surprise that the vinification is old-school, with long macerations in 20HL Slavonian oak; Francesco uses quite low levels of sulphur, and is bottling without filtration. More exciting wine! Jamie Wolff
*You read it here: with enlightened ownership and absolutely top management in the vines and cellar, Luigi Oddero is going to be one of the next big deals in Barolo as everything finally aligns at this historically very important cantina.
Francesco describes San Cristofero’s soils as being very high in chalk, producing very fresh and aromatic fruit. Tasting the wine also confirms Masnaghetti’s description of San Cristofero giving “wines of good structure though at times a bit austere in character which require some years of bottle age to fully amalgamate and unwind”. A rush of aromas carry orange zest, iron, chalk, herbs (including an intriguing suggestion of carraway), all of which follow through on the palate. Savory, very long, obviously young and somewhat austere, this is a brilliant, classic wine. Jamie Wolff