The great traditionalist estate of Francesco Rinaldi e Figli is one of the greatest names in Piemonte. Located in the town of Barolo itself, the domaine of Francesco Rinaldi has a long and illustrious history in the region. Founded in 1870, when Francesco Rinaldi inherited a vineyard and house in Barolo, inducing him to leave behind his work with the very large Mirafiore estate and set out on his own. His family at that time also had ties to the then greatest estate in the Barolo region, Barale-Rinaldi. Francesco was the cousin of Giuseppe Rinaldi, and together these two superb family wineries have marched down through time side by side, both upholding the unique, traditional style of Barolo that has also been championed by other great names in Piemonte, such as Bartolo Mascarello and Bruno Giacosa. One hundred and thirty years later, much of the same techniques are still used in the Francesco Rinaldi cellars to produce some of Barolo’s greatest wines. The current head of the family estate is the spry, eighty-something Luciano Rinaldi, who took over the reigns of the family winery all the way back in 1938. Today he is ably assisted by his nieces, Paola & Piera Rinaldi, and they continue to make beautiful wines within the great traditions of Barolo, with no new oak, long macerations and long aging in large Slavonian oak botti prior to bottling. In fact, about the only thing that has changed here is that Luciano no longer crushes the grapes by foot himself, as a new press is one of the only nods to modernity in these great old cellars.
However, all of the traditions that continue to be embraced here does not mean that this is a winery lost in the past, as their beautiful wines have never been better than they are today. While the estate of Francesco Rinaldi is most famous for its long-lived and brilliant Barolo bottlings made from two of the regions greatest vineyards, Brunate and Cannubio, the entire lineup of wines up and down the quality hierarchy are made with the same painstaking care and commitment to excellence. The lower level wines are superb examples of their genres, with impressive depth, complexity and classic structures, whether they be the deep Nebbiolo d’Alba made from younger vines not destined for the Barolo or Barbaresco bottlings, the tangy and red fruity Grignolino which drinks beautifully in its youth (a rarity amongst the cellar-worthy Rinaldi lineup) or the round, full-bodied and surprisingly serious Dolcetto d’Alba “Roussot”-from vineyards located within the cru of Cannubi. Francesco Rinaldi e Figli makes two non-cru denominated bottlings, one of Barbaresco and one of Barolo, made from a blend of different parcels. The Barolo is made from vineyards in the towns of Barolo and La Morra. The superb Barbaresco is aged for two years in botti prior to bottling, while the standard Barolo bottling is aged for three years in large cask before it is bottled and made available for sale. Both wines are built for aging, and typically will be at their best from six to ten years out from the vintage. Like all of the wines from Giuseppe and Paola Rinaldi, they are beautiful, classic expressions of their underlying terroirs, with well-integrated tannins, tangy acids and beautiful complexity and balance. Both improve immeasurably if decanted an hour prior to serving.
The two flagship bottlings at Francesco Rinaldi e Figli are the single cru Baroli, Brunate and Cannubio. Brunate is one of the greatest vineyards the Barolo region, lying on the border between La Morra and Barolo proper, with each village sharing the vineyard (though with the lion’s share lying within the village boundaries of La Morra). Wines from the Brunate vineyard are prized for their depth, power and brilliant balance, and the example from Francesco Rinaldi e Figli is one of the very greatest examples of Brunate made. In a great vintage it demands at least a decade to really begin to soften, and generally is not in full bloom until its twentieth birthday. The other single vineyard bottling is the Cannubio (or Cannubi as it is also known), which is made from the single greatest vineyard in the village of Barolo, as well as the most famous individual cru in the entire region. Cannubi was the first vineyard name to be famous in the Barolo region, and to this day a bottle of 1752 Cannubi is still treasured by the wine-producing family of Manzone, and is considered the oldest, extant bottle of Barolo still in existence. The vineyard is most famous for the fabulously perfumed wines that it produces, for Cannubio is not the most powerful cru in Barolo, and much like Romanee-Conti in Burgundy, it is cherished for the fabulously complex aromatics and round, suave palate impression that it provides when fully mature. This is not to say that Luciano and Paula Rinaldi’s Cannubio is a delicate wine, for it is a deep, intensely-flavored and concentrated Barolo of great pedigree and elegance- once it is fully mature. Like the Rinaldi Brunate bottling, ten years is required in top vintages, and the wine is really at its blazing best at age twenty.