TENUTE CISA ASINARI DEI MARCHESI DI GRESY
The wines of the Marchesi di Gresy are some of the most beautiful you will experience. The Nebbiolo of their famed Monopole Martinenga, produces wines of incredible colour, perfumes, intensity and elegance. I have been tasting there for over 25 years and have deeply, and even a little jealously, admired these wines. You can only imagine my response when, after more than two decades of tasting visits, Alessandro di Gresy asked me if I would represent their interests in Australia (and yes, I did say “Il Papa e Catolicco?” or vernacular to that effect).
The di Gresy family have been in Barbaresco for centuries. They record taking ownership of the Monte Aribaldo property in Treiso comune in 1650 and in 1797 they were gifted Martinenga itself, site of the first Roman settlement in the area, known then as Villa Martis.
The Martinenga Monopole
Over the years I’ve often ordered a Marchesi di Gresy Barbaresco at restaurants in the general area (including Barolo), even if I am with people who came from, or I wanted them to be impressed by, my allied producers – the guys we essentially came to see. For while a Martinenga is the equal of any Barbaresco, even of the fellow Grands Cru I so adore, Rabaja and Asili, it is quite different, quite particular in a number of a ways and I just love this particular expression of perfumes, layering and finesse in Nebb.
In their seminal book ‘Italy’s Noble Red Wines’ (1985) – a must-have text – Sheldon and Pauline Wasserman rated Martinenga as the greatest of Barbaresco vineyards, one step higher even than Rabaja and Asili, or Albesani/Santo Stefano. This was based mainly on their summary or survey at the time, of the opinions of local experts and producers, rather than anything official or codified. In fact this repute would have partly been based on wines made by others, as it wasn’t until 1973 that Alberto di Gresy started to vinify Martinenga for themselves. In 1971 eg, he sold his grapes to the Ceretto brothers and in 1967 Produttori del Barbaresco made the quite celebrated Barbaresco Riserva Speciale Martinenga. Before long and rightly, Martinenga was joined by Asili and Rabaja in the top division.
From the outskirts of Barbaresco township you can look down onto the magical natural amphitheater of 12 ha of Martinenga. The soil here is the classic Tortonian blue-grey limestone marl that constitutes most of the Barbaresco zone. A beautiful companion garden adds a lovely touch, which is aesthetic, but really intended for encouraging bio-diversity and the activity of insects, especially of pollinating bees. While there is bit of Barbera, Cabernet, Chardonnay and Sauvignon planted, the main game is Nebbiolo, which provides all the material for the beautiful Langhe Nebbiolo and for the three separate Barbaresco bottlings. It is the two famous sub-plots at opposite ends of the Martinenga property, each of which adjoin one of the other of the two acknowledged Grands Cru, that make this the heartland of Barbaresco. You’ll see from the little map above, that the Martinenga sub-plot of Gaiun adjoins the great Asili and sub-plot Camp Gros rolls into Rabaja. While I would add the Santo Stefano sub-plot (lieux dit in French) of Albesani (Neive) and others would propose nearby Paje and Rio Sordo, the three recognised (albeit unofficial) Grands Cru each produce wines that underline the equal status of Barbaresco with Barolo. Any day. The fascinating and clearly different, yet of course related natures and personalities of Martinega Gaiun and Martinenga Camp Gros (always released as Riserva), are explored more in notes and attached reviews, but suffice to say they each echo their respective neighbours, Asili and Rabaja in both aromatics and feel.
Winemaking at Marchesi di Gresy has remained essentially unchanged, apart from new oak being dialled right back, since vinification started here from 1973. While Langhe Nebbiolo now contains a little fruit from Rio Sordo and Marcarini Crus, it is still a shorter ferment/maceration job of 5-7 days, and cement until bottling and has the typical fragrant and zingy Martinenga personality. The 3 Martinenga Barbaresco wines use around 25% new oak, and of various types along with varying splits of time between barrique and botti. Ferments for the Barbaresco are around 10 days under floating cap and another 30 days maceration with submerged cap. All in all, the maxim here has been to let the location talk through the medium of Nebbiolo. It works for me!
"Considering the antiquity of this sizeable estate – it has been in the hands of the Marchesi di Gresy for over 200 years – and the excellence of their vineyard sites, wines of greater impressiveness have been expected by some than have been delivered. Perhaps the disappointed tasters have been overlooking subtelty and grace in their wish for power and intensity, a common enough trait in our times."
From book ‘From Barolo to Valpolicella’ (1999) by Nicolas Belfrage MW
"…Asili, Martinenga and Rabaja. These last three are the true grand crus of the Barbaresco commune."
From book ‘Italy’s Native Grape Terroirs’ (2019) by Ian D’Agata
"La Martinenga is considered the number one vineyard in the Barbaresco zone by many authorities and producers."
From book ‘Italy’s Noble Red Wines’ (1985) by Sheldon & Pauline Wasserman