December Italian Wine Club

December 29, 2020

December Italian Wine Club

Buone Feste!

Every year for our December selection we choose a special wine to mark this time of year. A wine for the Holidays, to enjoy with a celebratory dinner, share with your loved ones or to add to your cellar. Piemonte is the home of Barolo and Barbaresco. Here is where Nebbiolo finds its own best expression, where the meaning of cru holds the same relevance as in Bourgogne. Our December 2020 pick is Cantina del Pino ‘Ovello’ Barbaresco 2014.

Barbaresco is one of the top wines produced in Italy. Next to Barolo, it yields the best expression of the Nebbiolo grape. Some think of Barbaresco as the gentle soul of the grape, while Barolo tends to be more muscular in its tannin and structure. This is in part true, due to the different terroirs, microclimates and of course the specific characteristics of each grape. Another reason could be that Barolo requires a minimum of three years in oak barrels before release while Barbaresco requires only two, but comparison aside these are two very different wines. Despite a distance of only 2 miles from each other, Barolo and Barbaresco are two separate wines tout court.

The first recorded mention of Barbaresco dates back to 1799, but it’s not until 1894 that this wine began to gain a certain status thanks to the efforts of Domizio Cavazza, the dean of the Scuola Enologica di Alba (the Alba Winemaking School.) Cavazza bought the castle of Barbaresco and the adjacent vineyards, and in the same year founded the Cantina Sociale di Barbaresco with one goal: to elevate Barbaresco wines to the same level of fame as those of Barolo.

The Barbaresco area is pretty small, consisting of only four communes (Barbaresco, Neive, Treiso and San Rocco Seno d’Elvio) compared to the eleven of Barolo. The Barbaresco production zone is in closer proximity to the Tanaro River, a factor that contributes, along with the lower-lying hilly elevation, a warmer macroclimate that influences the softness of their wines. Some of the most iconic Piedmont producers include Angelo Gaja, Bruno Giacosa, Bruno Rocca and Roagna.

Ovello is one of the top crus in the northern-most part of the Barbaresco commune. The vineyard sits at 300 meters (1000 feet) elevation, on the top of hills above the Tanaro River with south-southwest exposure. The soil composition is calcareous limestone with white sandy veins. This vineyard is notorious for broad and fleshy wines but in the hands of vignaioli like Cantina del Pino, Produttori del Barbaresco or Albino Rocca the fruit sings a song of sublime elegance.

Let me introduce you to Renato Vacca’s Ovello from Cantina del Pino. You won’t forget his name and you won’t forget his wine.

Un brindisi al futuro!

Elio Longobardi, Italian Wine Specialist 

PlumpJack Wine & Spirits – Noe Valley


About the Winery:

Cantina del Pino has some of the oldest vineyards in Barbaresco. The vineyards were established nearly a hundred years ago by the former director of the Royal Enological School in Alba, Domizio Cavazza, who first called wine produced in that area from Nebbiolo grapes Barbaresco. The company is named after a pine tree he planted to mark the birth of his first son but his family did not take up the business. After Sig. Cavazza prematurely died, Renato Vacca’s great-grandfather purchased the vineyards. The Vacca family has been here ever since, now on their fourth generation.

The property’s vineyards are clustered around Ovello hills. The site is known for its combination of a cooler microclimate and unique soils blending limestone with sandy veins and a high calcium content, the perfect conditions for an elegant, age-worthy Barbaresco. 

The Vacca family uses no chemical fertilization, no pesticides or herbicides. They manage the details in production and control with a hands-on mentality that follows the older natural ways that respect that same land.

Renato’s father Adriano was also one of the founding members of the area cooperative Produttori del Barbaresco. For many years they sold their own grapes to the organization. Renato completed his winemaking education as well as five years of work experience at the cooperative. In 1997, father and son decided to produce their own wine.

Yet another unfortunate event of 2020, Renato passed away in March after a year-long battle with cancer. He was 51 years old. He was able to finish and supervise the 2019 vintage, which will be the testament of his quality as a gifted and crafted winemaker. Now, his wife Franca along with his survived parents and sisters will carry the torch of Renato’s legacy.

We will miss his gentle and friendly presence. We will honor Renato by raising a glass of his wine.

About the Winemaking:

This wine is made with 100% Nebbiolo grapes from 2 hectares (4.9 acres) of the Ovello vineyard sitting at 300 meters (1000 ft.) elevation, on the top of the hills above the Tanaro River with south-southwest exposure. The average age of productive vines is 70 years old with a plant density of 3500 plants per hectare.

Vinification: at 26°C/78°F for 20- 30 days on the skins during maceration. Malolactic fermentation complete. Natural stabilization with no filtering of the wine. Aged 24 months in oak + 18 months in bottle. Properly preserved at a steady temperature of 14°-15°C, laid down, in the dark, this wine can keep its characteristics for 20 years.

Tasting Notes:

Light garnet in color with faint orange hues around the edge of the glass.

Rosehip and violet notes; wild berries, cherry, balsamic accent and an essence of forest floor when you swirl it. At the first sip it is surprisingly soft and smooth. The trick here is to open the bottle a few hours or a day before serving. Your patience will be rewarded with intriguing elegance and a long, silky finish.