‘La Ca' Nova is, in my view, quite possibly the greatest Barbaresco estate most people have not heard about. Yet. The wines, from two of the very top sites in town, are magnificent.’ Antonio Galloni, August 2019.
This is just one of the many plaudits that have been heaped on La Ca’ Nova, so if you are interested in Barbaresco or the wines of Piemonte, La Ca’ Nova is a name with which you should already be familiar. If you are not, then it’s time to catch up!
Last year, when we released the 2017s, I commented that the winemaker, Marco Rocca, is incredibly modest and unassuming, but you nonetheless note a certain confidence. He has been championed by various wine critics, and tipped to be running the hottest property in Barbaresco right now, but he shrugs it off with a smile and reminds us that he remembers when he used to send tasting samples to critics and hear nothing back. All this changed a few years ago, but Marco is happy, quietly carrying on, tending his vines and making remarkably fine Barbaresco. Nothing much has changed, and having tasted his 2018s last week, I can confirm he has an impressive set of wines in the 2018 vintage.
This estate is run on reassuringly traditional lines; the approach may adapt to conditions, but it is a question of gradual refinement rather than wholesale change. The Rocca family started producing their own Barbaresco in the 1970s from several of the region’s leading Crus, including Montestefano (approximately 270 metres above sea level and facing full south) and Montefico (within which the family own a parcel in the Bric Mentina vineyard). While the altitude in Montefico is virtually the same as Montestefano, the orientation is more south-east facing. Montestefano produces more powerful, deeper styles, whereas Montefico reveals a terrific elegance and a slightly gentler expression. In terms of manner of production, there is no temperature control during fermentation and towards the end of fermentation, Marco employs an approach called steccatura, which keeps the skins submerged for a post-fermentation maceration of 15-20 days to extract more from the fruit. The wines are then aged in 30-hectolitre Austrian oak botti (which Marco prefers to the more widely used Slavonian oak) for a minimum of 18 months.
What of the 2018 vintage? With slightly less power than the 2016 vintage, Marco explained the 2018 is a juicy vintage in terms of fruit concentration, calling it a ‘vintage of finesse instead of power’. He comments that ‘2018 started with early budding thanks to the relatively warm Spring here in Barbaresco, so avoiding any risk of frost damage on the grapes. Despite a wet May and June with cooler temperatures than the norm, summer returned and proved to be warm and long. Harvest commenced in good conditions in the second week of October, not dissimilar to the timing in 2016’. Marco cited the difference between day and nighttime temperatures as being significant, delaying ripening and therefore giving his Nebbiolo vines the additional time they needed to ripen their fruit while maintaining their acidity. Marco’s comments contrast starkly with a discussion I had on Zoom last week with a grower in Barolo, who commented that the 2018 was a very challenging vintage with mixed results.
It is always a pleasure to taste Marco’s wines, whether in situ as would normally be the case, or indeed as samples as received last week. The 2018s show fine purity and the character of the vineyards is beautifully showcased, the bright, more linear and structured Montestefano and the more rounded, darker fruited Montefico, not forgetting the early drinking appeal of the fragrant, supple fruited normale Barbaresco. I doubt that that there are stronger values than these three wines in Piemonte – the value for money offered by this set never fails to amaze me. Simply put, these should be an automatic purchase for any Nebbiolo fan.
2018 Barbaresco, La Ca’ Nova
£110 per 6 bottle case in bond
Made from younger vine fruit grown in the Cru vineyards of Montestefano, Montefico, Ovello and Cole. The 2018 is very classical in style, already complex with a bright, juicy array of red fruits with notes of mint and subtle spice. At first this vintage seemed restrained but with time in the glass the fruit opened out and the early drinking appeal of this style came to the fore. This a stylish young-vine Barbaresco which seems to share a similarity with the Montestefano – clearly lighter and less powerful, but the resemblance is there. Already starting to show well. Drink 2021-2026 (SL)
2018 Barbaresco, Montefico, ‘Vigna Bric Mentina’, La Ca’ Nova
£135 per 6 bottle case in bond
The first of La Ca’ Nova’s single vineyard Barbaresco, ‘Vigna Bric Mentina’ in the Cru of Montefico is named in memory of Marco’s grandmother, Clementina. This is one of the more impressive vintages for Montefico that I recall; the nose suggests an enticing mix of deep, juicy fruits, fragrant red fruit notes overlay duskier black fruit. The palate shows a lovely richness, and that same deep fruit with a balsamic touch – really pure, really stylish. Notes of mint, cinnamon and Asian spice add complexity to this impressively layered Barbaresco. This rich wine needs a few years to settle down but holds very fine potential. As is always the case, there is a precision and intensity here, which mark this wine as special, with mineral, saline notes emerging to the finish. Impressive. Drink 2023-2032 (SL)
2018 Barbaresco, Montestefano, La Ca’ Nova
£135 per 6 bottle case in bond
It is so fascinating to taste the Montestefano and the Montefico side by side – they benefit from the exact same winemaking but represent such different styles. The Montestefano is a shade lighter in the glass, more aromatic too. There is a terrific sense of tension here, with a juicy, bright fruit carried on a wave of underlying mineral nuances. Savoury notes gently build too in this assertive Barbaresco, adding colour to the dark cherry and damson fruit. Hints of lavender, sage, mint and liquorice are all discernible in this focused, taut Barbaresco. The 2018 shows very fine length – a more linear, structured Barbaresco as we have come to expect, but the richness and persistence signal a very fine vintage. Drink 2024-2034 (SL)
2018 won’t be a vintage for generalisations as conditions will have varied across the region, but on this showing there will be some very fine wines to offer, though few at such favourable prices.
Please let us know of your interest.
All the best,