Posts tagged ‘cascina roccalini’
It’s early of course, but it appears that 2009 may be judged a great year for Italian wines throughout the country. I’ve written earlier posts about the white wines and now that I’ve tasted a few dozen reds from this vintage, I’m beginning to think that you really can’t go wrong with just about any 2009 Italian wine type.
The Italian whites from 2009 are first-rate, offering the depth of fruit of the 2007s with the structure and acidity of the 2008s. I’ve tasted several dozen of these wines, predominantly from the regions of Friuli and Campania and many of the top examples show the potential to drink well for 3-5 years. Among the top 2009 whites I’ve tasted so far are the following:
- Edi Keber Biano (Collio)
- Gradis’ciutta Sauvignon (Collio)
- Livio Felluga Sauvignon (Colli Orientali)
- Isidoro Polencic Ribolla Gialla (Collio)
- La Tunella “Biancosesto” (Colli Orientali)
- Zuani “Vigne” (Collio)
- Feudi di San Gregorio “Cutizzi”
- Mastroberardino Greco di Tufo “Nova Serra”
- Colli di Lapio Fiano di Avellino
- San Paolo Greco di Tufo “Montefusco”
- Marisa Cuomo “Fiorduva”
- Coffele Soave Classico “Ca’Visco”
- Guado al Tasso Vermentino (Bolgheri)
- Lunae Bosoni Vermentino Lunae “Etichetta Nera” (Liguria)
- Malvira Roero Arneis “Trinita”(Piemonte)
- Planeta Fiano “Cometa” (Sicilia)
Of course, many of the top whites, especially the blended whites and selezioni from Friuli, Campania and Alto Adige are yet to be released, so the list should dramatically expand.
As for the reds, a few 2009s have been released, ranging from Dolcetto and Barbera in Piemonte to Valpolicella from Veneto and Chiantis of all types and Morellino di Scansano in Toscana. I love the purity of fruit, concentration and acidity of these wines. It was a warm year, especially in Piemonte, so there is an explosion of fruit in these wines. Yet as there were several cool spells during the growing season, there is beautifully defined acidity, as the grapes experienced a long hang time. Among my favorites so far are these:
- Cascina Roccalini Dolcetto d’Alba
- Cascina Roccalini Barbera d’Alba (arriving in the US market in a few months)
- Pio Cesare Dolcetto d’Alba
- Fontanabianca Langhe Nebbiolo
- Motta Morellino di Scansano
Of course, most Italian reds from 2009 have not been released and in some instances, such as Barbaresco, Barolo, Amarone, Taurasi and Brunello di Montalcino, we will not see them in the market for at least another 1-5 years. But based on what I’ve tasted so far, Italian wine lovers should be in for several years of finds from the 2009 vintage – white and red.
Stanko Radikon (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Here is a partial list of my selections as the best Italian producers of the year. I’m only including a few in this post, given space limitations, so I have balanced the list according to several factors, including region as well as the notoriety of the wines produced (famous versus famous):
RADIKON • Friuli
Stanko Radikon makes wines with a fierce independent streak and it shows in his whites and reds, such as the marvelous 2005 Ribolla Gialla with its orange color and baked pear flavors and his 1997 Merlot (yes, that’s the current release!), a wine that spent two and one-half months on the skins and was then aged in 5 year old barrels. The wines are singular!
CA RUGATE • Veneto
Ca’ Rugate has been one of the leading producers of Soave Classico for several years now; the fruit from their beautifully managed organic estate is superb. The simple “Monte Fiorentine” bottling is always one of the best values of its type (generally priced about $16 or $17), while the “Monte Alto” bottling takes a different direction, as it is aged in barrique. Also, once again their Recioto di Soave “La Perlara” is among the very finest of this marvelous dessert wine.
Lately winemaker Michele Tessari has been crafting some gorgeous reds as well from the Valpolicella district. For those who think Amarone has to sacrifice fruit aromas at the sake of spice, you need to taste the current 2007 Ca’ Rugate Amarone, a bright, fruit-driven wine with elegant tannins and subtle spice. Tessari also makes a lovely regular Valpolicella (labeled Rio Albo) that is fresh, fruity and delicious! (It’s becoming more and more difficult to find a well-made Valpolicella these days that isn’t in the ripasso style, so look for this bottling.)
CASCINA ROCCALINI • Piemonte
I’ve written several posts about this new producer in Barbaresco; owner Paolo Veglio used to sell his grapes to Dante Scaglione, when he was winemaker at Bruno Giacosa – now the grapes are used for Paolo’s own wines. Amazing 2008 Barbera d’Alba and gorgeous 2008 Dolcetto d’Alba. I’ve tasted the 2009s and they are equally as good – in fact they may even be better! The 2008 Barbaresco, to be released next year, is subllime with lively acidity, rich persistence and a beautiful sense of terroir. The common theme here is minimal influence by the winemaker and no barrique aging – either aging in steel or in botti grandi. These are wines of great structure that communicate a sense of place.
ANTONIO CAGGIANO • Campania
Nino Caggiano continues to produce vibrant wines from Avellino, including Fiano, Greco and of course, his beloved Taurasi. Credit to him for making such a reasonably priced Aglianico in “Tauri”, a nice introduction to this grape and place. His signature “Vigna Macchia dei Goti” Taurasi is always excellent and he made a particularly first-rate bottling from the 2006 vintage, a less than stellar year. Medium-full with excellent persistence, the wine has rich, ripe black cherry and chocoalte flavors with subtle oak and beautifully balanced tannins.
BELLAVISTA • Lombardia
One of the great houses of Franciacorta, Bellavista really delivered the goods this past year. Every example of Franciacorta here is excellent, especially the Gran Cuvée bottlings. The Gran Cuvée Saten, made from 100% Chardonnay, is vibrant, bright, delicious and beautifully structured. The Pas Opere, a blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Nero, takes things up a notch; this has remarkable persistence and richness on the palate.
Most impressive is the “Vittorio Moretti” bottling; named for the winery owner, this is made only in the finest vintages. I tasted the 2002 bottling (only the sixth time this wine had been produced, the first was in 1984) and was in a word, stunned at the quality of this wine. Made from equal part of Chardonnay and Pinot Nero sourced from the finest estate cru, the wine has a brilliant look in the glass with very fine bubbles and a persistent perlage. My original notes refer to the amazing aromas of yeast, lemon rind, dried pear and quince; the finish is extremely long with lively acidity. From start to finish, this offers excellent complexity.
I tried this with winemaker Matteo Vezzola at VinItaly this past April and told him that while I think Franciacorta should stand on its own, I couldn’t help but compare this to Taittinger Blanc de Blancs; he was quite pleased with my assessment! While I am not in the practice of writing that one wine is the “best” of anything, this bottling stands out as one of the most complete and complex offerings of Franciacorta I have ever tried!
Last time, I listed a few of my favorite value white wines from Italy in 2010; now for the reds:
TORMARESCA “NEPRICA” 2008
This is a beautiful blend from Antinori’s wine project in Puglia, cleverly named for the first two letters of the three red varieties: NEgromaro, PRimitivo and CAbernet Sauvignon. It displays tasty black fruit and good spice with moderate tannins. It’s eminently rinkable right now with all sort of foods. In other words, a fun and uncomplicated wine! Priced anywhere from $8-12, how can you go wrong?
MASTROBERARDINO AGLIANICO “RE DI MORE” 2008
Aglianico is the wonderful red variety of Campania that is used to produce the classic Taurasi, one of Italy’s most distinguished wines. Many wineries produce a lesser, fresher version of Aglianico that is released earlier for younger enjoyment and Mastroberardino generally produces one of the most consistent bottlings. This 2008 Re di More is from an older clone of Aglianico and the wine delivers excellent complexity with flavors of black raspberry and mocha. Medium-full with polished tannins and light black spice, this can be enjoyed with lighter game and most red meats (especially grilled) over the next 3-5 years. (note- this wine is not imported in the US at the present time, so look for the winery’s Aglianico Campania IGT offering, which is also quite good at $20.)
CASTELLO DI VOLPAIA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2007
There are so many beautiful examples of Chianti Classico from this excellent vintage; this from one of my favorite producers, is a steal at $20. Red plum and currant aromas, light black spice, very good acidity and moderate tannins combine to make a very typical and very drinkable Chianti Classico that will be a fine match with pastas, pork and veal dishes over the next 2-3 years.
PIO CESARE DOLCETTO D’ALBA 2009
No surprise here, as this has been one of my favorite bottlings of Dolcetto d’Alba for some twenty years now; combine that with the 2009 vintage, a year of excellent ripeness and depth of fruit and you have a recipe for something special. Gorgeous perfumes of mulberry, cranberry and toffee backed by impressive persistence, very good acidity and moderate tannins, this is delicious! Pair this with pastas or even duck breast (cherry or orange sauce) or many poultry dishes and you’ll have a great experience, especially considering you only have to spend about $22 on this wine!
CASCINA ROCCALINI BARBERA D’ALBA 2008
After reading notes about the wines from this new artisan estate in the commune of Barbaresco, I contacted importer Terence Hughes in New York who was kind enough to arrange an appointment at the winery with owner Paolo Veglio and winemaker Dante Scaglione, I am eternally grateful to Terence for that, as the wines here are brilliant. Veglio used to sell his grapes to Scaglione when he was winemaker for Bruno Giacosa; now he keeps them for his own label.
The Barbaresco is aged only in large oak casks and is elegant with a beautiful sense of place, while the Dolcetto is amazingly fruity and delicious. The Barbera is the best of all – there is subtle spice, but this is all about varietal purity and outstanding concentration. This has layers of flavor and outstanding complexity and is a impressive a Barbera as I’ve had in years. This is not only an excellent value at $27, it’s also one of the best wines of the year!
Paolo Veglio and his winemaker, Dante Scaglione (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
One of the most exciting things about Italian wines is discovering a great new estate that produces honest wines – wines that truly represent their territory. Cascina Roccalini in Barbaresco is the newest and most dynamic of this group of small estates in Italy that I discovered on my recent trip to Piemonte.
I have to thank Terence Hughes of Domenico Selections in New York for this find; I just happened to be looking at a few blogs before my trip and came across his post (read here) on this estate; he will begin selling the wines this autumn. Terry put me in touch with Paolo Veglio, the owner, who was delighted to arrange a visit for two of my Italian journalist friends, Franco Ziliani and Roberto Guiliani, along with myself.
Paolo Veglio is a young man who sold his grapes for years to the Bruno Giacosa winert when Dante Scaglione was the winemaker. Dante is no longer associated with Giacosa and now consults with several estates; in fact, he approached Paolo about being his winemaker when he decided to produce his first bottlings at Cascina Roccalini.
The winery is named for the Roccalini subzone (known as a sottozona of Barbaresco); Veglio has 3.5 hectares (approximately 8.6 acres of Nebbiolo) and another hectare (2.47 acres) divided between Dolcetto and Barbera. The vineyards have optimal exposure and are located at approximately 200 meters above sea level. The view from the winery is an impressive one, with the Tanaro River and the Roero district to the west and the Barbaresco Tower only a few kilometers to the south.
There are many important things to note about the wines of Roccalini, but perhaps the most significant is the elegantly simple winemaking philosophy of Dante Scaglione. The Barbera and Dolcetto are aged only in stainless steel (with one exception of the Barbera Superiore), while the Barbaresco is aged solely in grandi botti of 10 and 22hl casks. Tasting through the wines, you are enveloped in the varietal purity as well as fruit persistence and elegance.
The soon to be released 2007 Barbaresco is very typical of the vintage, with pretty red cherry and plum fruit, graceful tannins and precise acidity. This is not a powerhouse wine, but a beautifully expressed wine that is very attractive now and will be at its best in 10-12 years. The 2008 Barbaresco, tasted from cask, is an even better wine, in my opinion. While 2008 was a cooler year than 2007, the conditions were optimal for Nebbiolo and this wine has tremendous length in the finish with finely tuned acidity and a beautiful note of fennel in the aromas. This is a more reserved wine, but one that I believe will age even longer than the 2007; look for this wine to peak in 15-20 years. The 2005 Barbaresco, from the first vintage of Roccalini, is also beautifully crafted, with notes of currant and mocha and is drinking well right now; it should offer pleasure over the next 7-10 years.
As is typical in this area, Barbera and Dolcetto are also produced. Now while many other producers of Barbaresco also make very fine examples of these wines, the truth of the matter is that the bottlings from some local estates are pleasant, though hardly memorable wines. That’s not the case at Cascina Roccalina – questi vini sono incredibili!
The 2008 Dolcetto d’Alba has gorgeous color and stunning aromas of boysenberry, black cherry and dark chocolate; there is excellent persistence and complexity with beautiful acidity and moderate tannins. This is a particularly complex Dolcetto that is absolutely delicious and remarkably elegant. The 2009, tasted from the tank, simply explodes on the nose and palate with beautiful ripe boysenberry and black plum fruit and notes of black mint. While 2008 with its long, cool growing season, may turn out the be a better year than 2009 for Nebbiolo, the opposite is true for Dolcetto (and Barbera) in this territory and this 2009 Dolcetto is a promise of the upcoming glories of this vintage. After tasting only these two wines, this is one of my top Dolcetto estates in all of Piemonte!
But the real star at Cascina Roccalini (at least it was to all of us on the day we visited) was the simple Barbera d’Alba. In truth, simple is a poor choice of words, as there is nothing ordinary about this wine. The 2008 Barbera d’Alba offers lovely myrtle, black plum and tar aromas with excellent concentration and superb acidity. The finish is long and very pleasing and there is tremendous fruit persistence. The 2009, tasted from the tank, is even better, with ripe black plum fruit and notes of anice; the acidity is precise, the varietal character is pure and the layers of fruit on the palate are remarkable. I can’t wait for the 2009 and I’m definitely looking forward to trying the 2008 several more times (I’ll have to contact Terence about acquiring a few bottles down the road – ditto for the Dolcetto!)
After the formal tasting, we were treated to a lovely dinner prepared by Paolo’s mother Luciana, which included a sublime spinach flan wrapped in Raschera cheese, a local cow’s milk variety; this dish rivaled the best I had all week long in the area’s ristoranti!
What a start young (34 years old) Paolo Veglio is off to with Cascina Roccalini! Of course, it also helps to have great vineyards as well as a superb winemaker such as Dante Scaglione. But this is no overnight success, as Paolo has been working these vineyards for many years, delivering great fruit to the cellar.
Keep in mind that this is a small estate – only 14,500 bottles are produced, so the wines are quite limited. Thanks again to Terry for helping me organize this visit – I would have been disappointed to miss this estate. Best of luck selling the wines – though I’m not sure you’ll need much of it, given the spectacular nature of these offerings!