Barbaresco Martinenga from Tenute Cisa Asinari of The Marchesi Di Gresy: a Horizontal Tasting

Today’s article is an opportunity to learn more about the Martinenga vineyard, and some wines produced from grapes grown in this plot, that has belonged to the family of the Marchesi di Grésy since 1797. This historic and renowned vineyard is located in the heart of the production area of Barbaresco D.O.C.G.

Martinenga is an amphitheatre-shaped vineyard from which Marchesi di Grésy obtained three different types of Barbaresco; these wines are the only ones authorised to put the name Martinenga on the label (MeGA – Menzione Geografica Aggiuntiva); therefore, this is a monopoly owned exclusively by the family.

The Winery

The Tenute Cisa Asinari of the Marquises of Grésy is a historical winery in Piedmont, whose origins date back to the late eighteenth century. Today the company’s land ownership covers about 45 hectares of vineyards split between four farms in the Langhe and Monferrato area. In addition to Barbaresco, the winery offers a wide range of wines produced both from traditional grape varieties of the region, such as Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Barbera and Moscato d’Asti, as well as from international ones, such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot.  Alberto di Grésy has been running the company since 1973.

Vineyard and Vine

The Martinenga vineyard has an extension of about 11 hectares, facing south and the soil consists of blue marls; these characteristics have made it one of the best vineyards in Barbaresco. This is a historic vineyard that has been subject to several replantings over the years, therefore, it is unclear what the exact percentages of Nebbiolo biotypes planted here are. However, it is speculated that Lampia is by far the most planted, followed by Michet and Rosé.

Despite being a single vineyard, Martinenga is characterised by very different microclimates, so much so that since 1978 the company decided to seize this opportunity by dividing it into smaller parcels with characteristics as uniform as possible. This process has led to the creation of three different labels of Barbaresco made from the same appelation: Barbaresco Martinienga D.O.C.G, Barbaresco Camp Gros Martinenga D.O.C.G. and Barbaresco Gaiun Martinenga D.O.C.G. In addition, since autumn 2015 the Barbaresco Camp Gros Martinenga D.O.C.G. can also boast the title of “Reserve”.

The Camp Gros vineyard stretches for about 2.6 hectares and is located in the eastern part of the natural amphitheatre of Martinenga with a south/west aspect and an average altitude of 280 metres above sea level. Instead, the Gaiun vineyard has a slightly smaller extension of about 2.3 hectares and is located in the western part, with a southern aspect, at an average altitude of 270 metres above sea level.

Here is a summary of the characteristics of the grape used to produce the wines tasted: 

Nebbiolo: an early budding and late ripening black grape variety. The wines are typically of a pale ruby color that in 3-5 years turns to garnet. They have pronounced aromas of violet, rose, cherry and red plum. The wines show full-body, high tannin and extreme high acidity that make them suitable for ageing. Some of the wines can also be high in alcohol.

Biodiversity and Sustainability

The valorisation of natural resources and the attention to energy saving, to improve the biodiversity and reduce the environmental impact, are the cornerstones that the company has adopted over time.

The cellar for the aging of the wines has been completely buried to reduce the consumption of soil and take advantage of the temperatures offered by natural insulation. Photovoltaic panels were installed on the roof of the cellar to cover the energy needs and an aromatic garden was also built; a natural oasis that helps preserve the microclimate and biodiversity of the vineyards, as well as keep pests under control, through integrated pest management, to limit the use of pesticides as much as possible.

Inside the Martinenga there is also an “experimental vineyard” on an extension of 0.26 hectares, with a south/south-west aspect, at an average altitude of 225 metres above sea level. Several clones of Nebbiolo have been planted here, with the aim of studying their ability to adapt, so that those that offer the best guarantee of quality in a climate change context could be adopted in the future.

The Wine

2003 for Barbaresco was undoubtedly a challenging year, with extreme conditions, which required much attention and skills both in the vineyard management and in the winery. This was a warm year with little rainfall that sped-up the ripening of the grapes.

All vineyard activities are performed manually; each one is carried out according to the needs and time required by the single plot of vineyard or parcel, with the aim of maintaining healthy plants, that are able to produce fruits of the required quality with the ideal level of ripeness for the desired style of wine.

Harvest is carried out in the shortest time possible to minimise the time before grape processing in the winery and avoid any possible risk of oxidation.

The Marchesi di Grésy’s Barbaresco wines are subject to a long and gentle maceration, as well as aging periods in barriques that release subtle oak characteristics and large barrels, in order to enhance the features of the Nebbiolo clones used. Notably, the Barbaresco Martinenga ages for three years, the Barbaresco Gaiun Martinenga ages for at least four years, while the Barbaresco Camp Gros Martinenga is released on the market in the fifth year from harvest and, only if deemed suitable by the producer, is awarded the title “Riserva”.

Gaiun – Martinenga – Barbaresco D.O.C.G. – 2003

The wine was fermented in temperature-controlled vats with maceration on the skins (floating cap for eight/ten days, then submerged cap for another twenty/thirty days). The aging process took place in French oak barrels for twenty-eight months, followed by time in the bottle before being released on the market.

  • Look: pale garnet with tawny reflections on the rim of the glass.
  • Smell: pronounced aroma intensity of violet and rose, followed by fruity notes of red cherry, red plum, blackberry, black cherry and plum. Spicy notes of licorice are also detectable and lastly some tobacco, chocolate, forest floor and herbal aromas are completely perceivable.
  • Taste: dry, medium (+) acidity, high smooth tannin, high alcohol, full bodied, pronounced flavour intensity, long finish.
  • Pairing: mallard breast with balsamic.

Camp Gros – Martinenga – Barbaresco D.O.C.G. – 2003

The wine was fermented in temperature-controlled vats with maceration on the skins (floating cap for eight/ten days, then submerged cap for another twenty/thirty days). The aging process took place in French oak barrels for twelve months, followed by sixteen months in Slavonian oak barrels and a period of time in the bottle before being put on the market.

  • Look: pale garnet with tawny reflections on the rim of the glass.
  • Smell: pronounced aroma intensity of violet and rose, followed by fruity notes of red cherry, red plum, blackberry, black cherry jam and plum. Spicy notes of licorice, black pepper, cloves are followed by tobacco, chocolate, coffee, and forest floor aromas.
  • Taste: dry, medium (+) acidity, high fine-grained tannin, high alcohol, full bodied, pronounced flavour intensity, long finish.
  • Pairing: braised beef with mushrooms.

For more information on the wines tasted, here is the producer’s website: Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Grésy

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I live in a stunning and charming land, where wine culture is a pivotal element in everyday life and has been part of the culture for centuries.
I believe that wine tasting, although requiring a certain rigor, should be fun, and above all it has to be a sensory and enriching journey.

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