Of all the offers I send out, it becomes increasingly difficult to say something different about the wines of La Ca’ Nova as I have said it all before.
La Ca’ Nova not only makes some of the most breathtaking Barbaresco that I taste each year, but they make some of the most reasonably priced. Winemaker Marco Rocca is at the top of his game – he crafts wines in tune with the vintage, that reflect the individual terroir, and nothing is ever forced. His wines are wines of true harmony. I have used the following quotation from Antonio Galloni several times before to lend weight to my own endorsement, and what is all the more startling is that despite it being written over three years ago, it still applies today.
‘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.
And more recently in his review of the 2020s, he had the following to say:
‘La Ca' Nova is, in my view, the single most under-the-radar winery in all of Piedmont. The wines just keep getting better and better, yet prices remain exceedingly modest, especially within the context of today’s market.’ Antonio Galloni, September 2022.
Marco’s wines are regularly among the handful of highest scoring Barbaresco that Galloni tastes, not just in classic years 2016 or 2019 but also in more mixed vintages like 2011, 2014, 2017 and 2018. I agree here – each year it is one of the most exciting cellar tastings that I participate in. In terms of the run of vintages, it is clear that 2019, 2020 and 2021 will form an outstanding trio for many estates in Piemonte and having tasted all three with Marco recently in his cellars, it is a remarkably fine set here. The 2019s show a classical structure, whereas the 2020s are a touch more accessible but reveal terrific harmony and are a beautifully poised set of wines.
As I am also now in the habit of mentioning each year, Marco 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.
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.
I believe the 2020s will be open earlier than some years but will still age over the long term – critics may choose to debate the merits of 2019, 2020 and 2021 in due course, like picking the winner in some kind of a beauty contest, but I think that is not what wine is about. If you taste these three vintages, you see a fine reflection of the individual conditions in three outstanding years. The 2020 vintage was little warmer than 2019 or 2021 according to Marco. The tannins in the 2019s may be a little more assertive and prominent in the classic model, but in the 2020s they are so finely expressed, riper even, so they are easily veiled by the volume of fruit. Marco reduced the maceration time for his 2020s and bottled them a touch earlier as he wanted to preserve freshness and recognised the supple, generous dimension to the fruit. Does longer maceration make a better wine? No, not necessarily - it is a decision a grower takes when assessing the fruit, its structure, and tannins, deciding how much do I want to extract from the skins. Consequently the 2020s have a beautiful, seductive accent. In his 2020 review, Galloni commented ‘I left bottles of the 2020s opened for a few days, over which they just got better and better. I can’t recommend these wines highly enough.’ – the fact that the wines improved over several days bodes incredibly well for their future development and vindicates Marco’s decision to reduce the extraction. These are very special wines indeed – I really couldn’t endorse them more myself and I personally look forward to comparing and contrasting these more than the wines of almost any other estate. I can’t say more than that.
2020 Barbaresco, La Ca’ Nova
£120 per 6 bottle case in bond
Made from younger vine fruit grown in the Cru vineyards of Montestefano, Montefico, Ovello and Cole.
Certainly the most accessible of the range, the 2020 has plenty of appeal, with fragrant small red fruits on the nose. Beautifully elegant and enticingly supple, this shows surprising depth of wild red fruits, cranberry, pomegranate as well as cherry. So juicy and with surprising depth, this is a real hit. This example doesn’t show the mineral backbone of the Cru wines, but it more than makes up for that by showing terrific purity and an abundant juicy quality to its copious fruits. This could easily be broached following shipment – it is already drinking well yet it will develop over the next five years if you prefer. (SL) 2023-2029.
91 points, Antonio Galloni, vinous.com
The 2020 Barbaresco is a relatively soft, open-knit wine. Sweet, macerated cherry, kirsch, mint and orange peel open first, with effusive floral and spice notes that grace the finish. Medium in body, with relatively soft contours for a young Barbaresco, the 2020 will drink well right out of the gate. Drink: 2024-2035.
2020 Barbaresco, Montefico Vigna Bric Mentina, La Ca’ Nova
£150 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.
Wow. The 2020 Montefico reveals sumptuous juicy red and dark fruits on the nose with a fragrant, floral, lifted accent. With notes of fresh mint, spice and a certain earthy nature, this shows fine complexity already, with a layered, cushioned quality to the fruit, which captures some juicy, dusky fruit nuances. Wonderfully pure, the tannins show a sleeker profile than is often the case here and are easily veiled by the generous fruit. The bright acidity leads to a mouthwatering finish where those almost chalky, stoney notes emerge. A very textural and poised style of Montefico – sublime. Hold off a few years though – this has potential. (SL) 2026-2038.
94 points, Antonio Galloni, vinous.com
The 2020 Barbaresco Montefico Vigna Bric Mentina is a very pretty wine that captures all the magic of this great site, but without all of the explosive tension of the very best years. I doubt that will matter much to most consumers, though. A beguiling mix of macerated cherry, rose petal, dried leaves and spice builds into vibrant, salivating finish. In 2020, the Montefico is perhaps just a touch slender, but it makes up for that with its superb energy. Drink 2025-2040.
2020 Barbaresco, Monstefano, La Ca’ Nova
£150 per 6 bottle case in bond
Montestefano exudes refinement without a doubt. The 2020 reveals fine purity to its dusky dark cherry and blackberry fruit on the nose, again with a lifted, fragrant accent. On the palate, there is a cool, fresh, yet juicy aspect to the fruit, which flows across the palate with a real flourish. It possesses a just-picked, crunchier fruit quality than the Montefico with notes of spice and a touch of dark liquorice coming to the fore. Seductive, sleek – the tannins are truly masked by the volume of fruit, but it retains a fine sense of tension. To the finish, a slight citrussy nuance emerges, maybe a touch of juicy orange. Long, flowing and focused, with a slightly more supple nature, the 2020 Montestefano is a gem. (SL) 2026-2040.
95 points, Antonio Galloni, vinous.com
The 2020 Barbaresco Montestefano is a dense, plush wine, in other words classic Montestefano. Like all the Barbarescos here, the Montestefano is relatively open, which will surely please readers who can't or don't want to cellar their wines. Dark Nebbiolo fruit intermingled with spice, leather, incense and licorice build into the creamy, resonant finish. The 2020 is a gorgeous wine; the only real problem is that it is not quite the 2019! Drink 2025-2040.
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All the best,