Simply put, if there was one estate that I have visited over the last couple of years that has been an eye-opener for me in terms of quality and the value offered by the wines, it would be La Ca’ Nova in Barbaresco.
As you arrive at the estate, there is nothing glitzy – it is instead a beautifully-positioned farm atop a hill in Neive. There are no pretensions here, but even a cursory glance around the cellars highlights the meticulousness with which this estate is run. The winemaker, Marco Rocca, is incredibly modest and unassuming, but you note a certain confidence. He may have 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 used to send tasting samples to critics and hear nothing back until a few years ago. He is happy quietly carrying on and making remarkably fine Barbaresco.
This is after all an estate run on reassuringly traditional lines; the approach may adapt to conditions, but it is a question of gradual refinement rather than wholesale change, hence Marco’s wry smile when he considers the change in critics’ perception of his wines. The family started producing their own Barbaresco in the 1970s from several of the region’s leading Cru, 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 up to 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.
The 2017 vintage was characterised by a summer heatwave which served to accelerate the ripening period, but it benefitted from cool nights so that aromatics and freshness were retained. Marco opted to start harvesting at the end of September, compared with the second week of October as would be the case in a cooler profile vintage.
Please see below for my notes on the three 2017s:
2017 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. Bright, vibrant and already appealing, the straight Barbaresco shows the ripeness of the vintage yet retains a sense of poise. Certainly the fruit is more open and inviting than would be the case in a cooler, longer vintage, but given an entry level Barbaresco is to be consumed earlier, this example really finds its mark with layered, juicy deep red fruits with touches of mint and spice. A pure, stylish Barbaresco that is sure to prove all too tempting in its youth. 2020-2028 (SL)
2017 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. Fragrant, lifted aromas that capture subtle floral hints allied to bright cherry fruit. The palate impresses straight away and shows a slightly more supple nature than normal, with a juicy, abundant fruit with hints of tobacco and an earthy mineral note. The tannins have a certain softness that eases any sense of austerity and only heightens the sense of roundness on the palate. Zesty blood orange notes lead to a long, pure finish. This will prove to be a captivating Barbaresco with a few years in bottle. 2022-2032. (SL)
2017 Barbaresco, Montestefano, La Ca’ Nova
£135 per 6 bottle case in bond
The second single vineyard Barbaresco, Montestefano, always shows a darker-natured, more powerful fruit and the 2017 is no exception. It is always fascinating to the taste these two wines side by side as the winemaking and viticultural approach are identical. The differences emanate from the vineyard. The stunning aromatics boast dark cherry, menthol notes as well as hints of sage and liquorice. There is always a bolder sense to the Montestefano, richer in fruit and firmer in structure, though in the 2017 the tannins show a slightly softer dimension. This vintage shows fine intensity, intensity in the sense of persistent richness rather than overt headiness. This is a beautiful Barbaresco and, typical of a limestone-based vineyard, there is a raciness that powers its way to the finish with lingering notes of juicy damson and tobacco leaf. 2022-2032+ (SL)
These three wines offer exceptional value and quality hence the critical acclaim. I am always stunned by the value on offer and the sensitive winemaking that is so well attuned to the challenge of each vintage. I cannot recommend them highly enough.
Please let us know of your interest.
Barbaresco is released a year earlier than Barolo, on account of lower minimum ageing requirements, hence we are releasing the 2017 La Ca’ Nova here and will be releasing our allocations of the exceptional 2016 Barolo over the coming months, as and when we receive notification of our allocations. It is clear that the wines of Barolo and Barbaresco are gaining more attention with each year that passes and quality must be riding at an all-time high. Some growers have described 2016 as the best vintage in 30 years, so we are expecting a clamour for the wines. If you are interested in future releases, even if you haven’t yet purchased Piemontese wines from Atlas, it is worth advising us of your interest as, while we do our best to bring releases to your attention, some allocations are too small to be released widely.
All the best for 2020,