Mario Olivero, from Marchesi Alfieri in Piedmont, reveals all his secrets about the Costa Quaglia, “one of the standout wines of the year”, according to Matthew Jukes, wine expert
Have you always known that you would make wine for a living?
As a child, I didn’t think I would become a winemaker. However, I followed my father’s path, who was an oenologue, and attended the historical Oenological High school of Alba followed by a university graduate degree in Agricultural Sciences.
If you were not making wine for a living, what would you be doing?
If I hadn’t chosen to become a winemaker, I would have liked to work within Forestry Sciences or in any other field where I would have been immersed in nature.
What is your first memory about wine?
I remember, when I was seven or eight years old, stomping grapes with rubber boots! My first “garage wines”!
How would you describe your wine making philosophy for the Costa Quaglia? What were your setting out to achieve?
First of all, I needed to assess the position and the right terroir where to plant the vines. The hill of Quaglia had all the characteristics I was looking for and I thought they could complete the maturation of Nebbiolo grapes. During the refining phase, the goal is to keep intact all the vine’s features, using the right wood and providing a time in the bottle that adjusts to the vintage.
What is the process for producing the Costa Quaglia?
Grapes are harvested when they exhibit a complete phenolic ripeness without overripening, but with tannins of the skins and grape seeds fully ripened. The grapes are handpicked into crates and selected on the sorting table. Fermentation of the skins takes place at a max. temperature of 28°C followed by delestage (rack and return) with a few and soft pumping over during the second part of maceration.
Malolactic fermentation takes place in wood and the following refinement using 5hl of already used tonneaux for about a year. The refining in the bottle is from one to two years before the wine is put on the market.
What’s the best dish to accompany your Costa Quaglia?
Meat dishes such as stuffed capon or roasted pheasant, goat medium-aged cheeses.
What is your biggest challenge as a winemaker?
To make elegant wines with personality so that they will fully represent the character of the vine and the land from where they originate.
Can you explain your terroir in a few words, what makes it so special?
The terroir is a complex concept and it consists of the interaction among territory, climate, vine and the people of the area. All of these natural factors have to be present and come together in the glass.
Our vineyards are exposed to the South face on steep slopes with a scarce water stagnation and excellent sunshine. The geological origin is from a marine environment with the peak on the hilltops presenting a higher percentage of sands and limestone that decrease towards the bottom where the composition of the territory tends to be sandier and not as rich in nitrogen.
The result is mature healthy grapes with elegant tannins designed to last over time.
Is there a winemaker or a wine region that has been your stylistic guiding light?
After my university studies, the work experience with oenologue Donato Lanati. For Costa Quaglia, the inspiration has been Nebbiolo Valmaggiore of Luciano Sandrone.
And personally what’s your favourite grape variety?
Nebbiolo , Sangiovese – Brunello di Montalcino, and Barbera.
What do you drink if it is not your own wines?
Red wines from Piedmont and Tuscany and white wines from Trentino and Friuli.
And a craft beer with a pizza!
The best way to taste & enjoy your wine? (friends, family, along with special music)?
A meat dish followed by a medium-aged cheese with music of Paolo Conte, who is also from Asti.