Bra, Piemonte

Matteo Ascheri, Bra, Piemonte Barolo, Dolcetto and Viognier

Matteo is a bear of a man with great energy, integrity and humour. His family have built a remarkable business and home in an old courtyard near the railway station in Bra. There is now a small, stylish hotel above the rebuilt winery, the vaulted buildings that flank the road have been beautifully restored and house ‘Murivecchi’ an Osteria (restaurant) run by his sister, Maria Terresa and her husband Paolo. I suspect the only parts of the borgo (courtyard) that haven’t changed are the family’s own homes.

There is a distinct style to Matteo’s wines, they have purity and never make unreasonable demands on the drinker. The Dolcetto is never forced; Barbera touched and Nebbiolo untouched by barrique; whites are fresh and experiments are reserved for experimental wines. Over the years that we have bought Matteo’s wine we have seen things just always get better in a straightforward, understandable way. Giuliano Bedino has been the winemaker for as long as I can remember, in fact few faces have changed, it is a happy ship and it is easy to understand why Matteo’s son worried that there would be nothing left to achieve if he entered the family business. Happily, he (also Matteo) has joined his father, and I suspect his arrival is invaluable with Matteo having accepted the honour of chairing the Consorzio of Barolo and Barbaresco, a prestigious and thankless job.

It is perhaps worth going into a little more detail with regard to the Nebbiolo wines. In the past it ‘wasn’t cricket’ to make enjoyable Barolo, some saw it as some sort of modern trickery, whilst in truth it is down to vineyard management and the way that the wine is made. Matteo’s Baroli do not rely on barrique to soften and sweeten the fruit, no micro-oxygenation or reverse osmosis, just straightforward hard work producing ripe, healthy grapes and thoughtful winemaking that is untouched by consultants, Matteo’s successes fall on his shoulders alone.

The wines accurately represent their vineyards and the vintage. The winemaking philosophy is to guide rather than enforce any particular style. This is important, as when the wines of Barolo shifted emphasis to vineyard, Matteo was ready with wines from ‘Pisapola’ and ‘Sorano’, instantly individual and recognisable with the silky, fine characteristics of Verduno and La Morra (Pisapola) and the energy and weight of Serralunga (Sorano). These wines have now been joined by ‘Coste e Bricco’ and ‘Ascheri’, a newly recognised cru, conveniently sharing the family’s name. The ‘Ascheri’ finds unusual depth and structure from the Pisapola vineyard, the ‘Coste e Bricco’ has a rare elegance from Sorano - definitely twins, blonde and brunette