We first met Andrea Faccio in 2003 and have imported his wines ever since.
The family home and cellar are in the hamlet of Ceriole just north of Canelli, where they have worked the vineyards for over 200 years.
The original 7 hectares of vineyard has steadily expanded to 25 hectares, the most prestigious acquisition being Cascina Dani (1999), a farm that used to house Andrea’s collection of rusting motorbikes and is now a restaurant with rooms as well as being his home.
The bikes have gone (mostly) and have been replaced by an old Range Rover and yes, he is a bit of a petrol-head and has had the hardship of supplying the Ferrari F1 team.
Andrea stubbornly supports the wines of his territory with an unerring belief in their qualities.
By dint of study and hard work he has fine-tuned the qualities of each individual wine and carved out a niche for each one.
His work is meticulous in the vineyard and he has earned his reputation for being ‘a bit of a geek’ (rough translation) in the cellar.
His friends Giordano (La Montecchia) and Sergio (Rocca di Macìe) recognise this strength and allow responsibility to fall on Andrea for the final stages of their joint wines, the Primo Volo and Tre per Uno.
All of the estate’s grapes are hand picked by locals who have helped the family for many years.
Spraying and treatments are kept to an absolute minimum. The energy and funds that could have been wasted on certifications have been spent on real benefits to the environment, the petrol-head thing may not quite fit, but nobody is perfect.
The lifeblood of the estate is Barbera and Andrea makes five versions, each one recognising the potential of the vineyard.
The opening wine ‘I Surì’ epitomises Barbera d’Asti, vibrant and fresh it is made to be enjoyed the second it leaves the cellar.
Fermentation and ageing are in temperature controlled steel tanks.
The Ajan is a beefed up Surí and then come the prized wood-aged wines.
These can compete in terms of power and complexity with their illustrious cousins to the west, the mighty Barolos and Barbarescos.
The first is the Quercia (The Oak), this is aged in large ‘botti’, traditional barrels that hold 4000 litres.
We buy it in exceptional vintages as for a little bit more you can have a Nizza in Bricco Dani whose barrique flavours are irresistible, or the ’Dedicato’, whose power and elegance is supreme.
The oddball of the estate is ‘Gamba di Pernice’, it is one of Piemonte’s oldest vines and is a ‘recovered varietal’ with real promise. We have imported it for years on the understanding that yet more years are required to soften out the aggressive tannins, 2012 was the first vintage which may be quite popular, it is now eccentric rather than insane. Other red wines are from Merlot and Dolcetto and more recently, a Nebbiolo called Tre Ponti which is already truly exceptional.
Of the whites, the most important is Moscato d’Asti; it is a wine that requires precise technical skills and perfect fruit, in many ways it is the most difficult wine of all to make.
Where it succeeds is in keeping a bright freshness to the fruit, so even though it is technically sweet, there is nothing cloying about it.
There are two other white wines, the Surí Bianco, which is based on Cortese and the Mané, which is an old vine Chardonnay, both are expressive and beautifully made.
The last wine Andrea insists on calling Rosé, I prefer to call it Monferrato Chiaretto; it is a Barbera with a little Nebbiolo and after a few years of experimentation is becoming an accomplished wine.