Pietro Ratti: He’s a Well-Respected Man
Nov 08, 2017
Director of Fine Wine Rob Griffin Delves into what makes Pietro of
It’s always interesting when the man and his moment meet. For Pietro Ratti this seems to be happening right now. As his eponymous winery in La Morra continues to rack up high scores from leading critics, his presence in the market and his credibility as a spokesperson for the appellation are both growing. It’s pretty clear Pietro Ratti is emerging as one of the leaders in contemporary Langhe Hills wine-making circles.
So what does a Langhe Hills leader do these days you might ask? Making smart decisions is a big part of the role. Making great wine is an even bigger part. Recognizing the interests of other estates and producers and seeing how these align together to make Langhe the amazing place it is may be the most critical leadership criteria of all. Pietro is a natural at all three. He’s a walking, talking trifecta of leadership for this moment in time, a fairly critical one for the home team.
Growing up things were a bit more complicated for Pietro Ratti than they were for many of his friends. Some came from notable families and a few had well-known fathers, brothers, uncles, etc. but only Pietro was the son of the larger-than-life Langhe producer Renato Ratti, the legendary cartographer of the Barolo Cru boundaries.
As Renato’s only son, Pietro had a pretty large shadow to fight his way through and when Renato died at an unexpectedly young age it very suddenly disappeared. Ready or not 22-year old university student Pietro had to step up big time. So he did!
This involved more than dealing with dad’s legacy. There was also the enormous challenge of managing a growing estate during the late 1980s, an uneasy time for an appellation still in a tug of war with itself over new vs. old methods. Pietro Ratti succeeded by never stopping his own forward progress. He just kept moving in one direction – straight ahead.
As he did things got tougher. Uncertain land values began to appreciate quickly in the wake of a turning point for the region’s best wine, Barolo. As the wine market “discovered” and more importantly started buying modern Barolo things began to change. High cranes arrived in Piedmont and soon started dominating the skyline while earth moving equipment rearranged cellars and vineyards all over the hills. Money started flowing, making real estate deals inevitable. All of this built over the years and brought us to where we are today, a time when land, even virgin land devoid of vineyards has never been so princely valued (or over-valued, some may argue). Managing growth by expansion vs. selling out (such as the influential Vietti estate that recently sold for a reported record price in the dozens of millions) is the dinner table debate in many Langhe households these days.
Pietro Ratti is too busy moving forward to get bogged down with that conversation even as he recently has completed another term as president of the Barolo consortium (like father, like son).
Pietro has known for a long time what to do and that’s exactly what he is doing – expanding in a controlled way by buying really good land arranged with smart financing and quickly making it profitable by producing highly drinkable (hint, hint), superior wine at a super competitive price.
One wine in particular is making this equation work like a charm: Ratti Langhe Nebbiolo D’Alba DOC Ochetti. Like the man himself, Ratti Langhe Nebbiolo Ochetti is a wine that matches its time perfectly.
Speaking of time, like it or not climate change has come to the Langhe Hills altering critical things like harvest dates, picking patterns and grape phenolics. Together with other innumerable recent developments in the vineyards and cellars, the production of wines with greater commercial appeal based on an “easier drinking experience” has been the result. In a way these developments have forced a reckoning in Langhe Hills wine making circles in recognition of the ironic fact that although Barolo and Barbaresco are the undisputed top wines of the region, many wine drinkers rarely get to experience them due to cost and lack of consumer confidence (they should have apps for that). What to do?
This is where Langhe Hills Nebbiolo comes in.
Essentially, Langhe Nebbiolo wines are young versions of Barolos at a fraction of the price. They are perfect entry or cross-over wines for those new to the grape or the region or for just good old everyday drinking. For a savvy producer like Pietro Ratti with his smart collection of owned, leased and managed vineyards and his respectful, soft touch in the cellar this translates into delicious, drinkable wines with very wide appeal. Always fresh and fruit centered, Ratti’s Nebbiolo Ochetti is a crafty, modern expression of one of Italy’s oldest and hardest to tame grape varieties. Bravo Pietro!
Many ask about the label for Ratti’s Nebbiolo. “Ochetti” is a reference to a soldier from an earlier time. Throughout its history the province of Piedmont has endured geographic exposure in the middle of a European continent full of lusty, conquering types. The province’s five borders required constant defending. Over many generations this led to the development of a strong militia tradition. Renato Ratti sought to pay homage to Piedmont’s historical soldiers by artistically reflecting different generations of their uniforms on the labels for a range the winery calls its “soldier wines.”
These days Pietro has a brand new winey to help him keep moving forward and to process the grapes from his historic crus in La Morra along with those from the newer properties in nearby Mango and Costigliole d’Asti. Ratti’s wines alone are proof of Pietro’s vision and dedication but when you add to that his personal story all doubts are removed. My advice – run, grab a corkscrew and see what I mean. Cheers!
BARBERA D’ ASTI 2015
89PTS WINE ADVOCATE
“Barbera from the Asti region tends to show a bit more acidity. This is a centered and complete red wine with fruity succulence followed by dark flavors of blackberry, dark cherry and toasted nut.”
NEBBIOLO LANGHE OCHETTI 2015
90PTS WINE ADVOCATE
“Delicate and floral expression of the grape. Fruit comes from the Roero zone where light, sandy soils tend to reinforce aromas of violets, wild raspberries, bitter almond and mild cinnamon.”
BAROLO CONCA 2013
94PTS WINE SPECTATOR; 94PTS WINE ADVOCATE
“Rich, textured, delivering cherry, strawberry and floral flavors, backed by power and finesse. Tobacco, mineral and tar notes peek through as this this plays out on the lingering aftertaste.”
BAROLO ROCCHE DELL’ ANNUNZIATA 2013
95PTS WINE ADVOCATE; 94PTS WINE SPECTATOR
“A powerful, earthy version, with plenty of richness married to cherry, licorice, eucalyptus and tobacco flavors. Dense and verging on chewy, with a long, savory aftertaste.”
BAROLO MARCENASCO 2013
95PTS WINE ENTHUSIAST
“Wild berry, crushed herb… scents lift out of the glass along with a whiff of menthol. Focused and elegantly structured, the palate doles out ripe cherry.”