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!