Monday, January 26, 2009

Cascina Roera

I always enoy attending wine tastings where the wine makers are present. You learn so much about the wines as well as getting to see the passion within the wine makers. Above you can see Piero Nebiolo and Claudio Rosso, two Italian wine makers of Cascina Roera, that I recently had the pleasure to meet at a wine tasting at Salem Wine Imports. Arranged by Adonna Imports, I brought a bunch of members of the North Shore Winers to the tasting and everyone seemed to really enjoy the tasting and the wines. I was very impressed with the Barberas I tasted.

The Cascina Roera winery was founded in 2002, on land that had long been in the family of Claudio Rosso. Claudio's father was one of the first in the area to start bottling his own wines rather than sell everything in bulk. Piero Nebiolo also grew up in a grape growing family. Cludio and Piero came together with a goal of creating high quality wines. Their vineyards are located in the commune of Costigliole d'Asti, which is in the heart of the Barbera D'Asti appellation. Their vineyards are mostly grown with Barbera, about 65%, as well as 18% Chardonnay, 10% Nebbiolo, and the rest of Arneis, Cortese and Freisa.

They feel that wine should generally be made in the vineyard and they engage in organic practices. They are not certified as organic, though they could be, but that is their choice. They do not feel the label sufficiently protects consumers. They usually produce about 35K-40K bottles of wine, but in recent years production has been closer to half that amount due to new plantings and adverse weather.

Claudio spoke about the wines as Piero speaks very little English. They were both very personable, despite the language barrier, and I was happy to feel their passion for their wines. These Barberas are labors of love for them, an infusion of their desire to make more natural, high quality wines.

Barbera is the most heavily planted grape in the Piedmont region and its style can vary quite widely. In general though, barbera has high natural acidity, low tannins and a deep ruby color. It is a great food wine due to its acidity, and can be paired with various dishes depending on the style of the Barbera. For this tasting, we got to try three Cascina Roera Barberas.

First up was their 2006 Vino Rosso da Tavola IGT ($19). I actually have tasted this wine before, back in September 2008. I very much enjoyed it then and it was just as good this time. About 1000 cases of this wine were produced and it is a smooth, easy drinking table wine, perfect for pizza to pasta. It has delicious dark berry flavors, a decent finish and good acidity. A nice every day wine that is sure to please most people.

The next two wines were similar in that they were both 100% Barbera d'Asti Superiore but they came from different vineyards. And those vineyards produced two different style wines, though both quite excellent. The differences were not produced in the winery but were effects of terroir. Comparing these two wines was very informative as to how different vineyards can produce such different style wines from the same grape.

The 2004 San Martino Barbera d'Asti Superiore ($29) is produced from a vineyard with southern exposure and its soil has a high percentage of clay. The vines average about fifteen years old. The wine was aged for about a year in large oak casks. They generally use Austrian oak and they use larger barrels so as to not impart too much oak into the wine. They want to add some tannins for ageing potential, but don't want to mask the flavor of the wine with oak. The wine also has an alcohol content of 15% and only a few hundred cases were produced. The wine has a rich, deep red color and an enticing nose of black cherry and blackberries. It had a delicous taste, rich berry flavors with rustic notes. It was very smooth, with low tannins and a lengthy finish. The more you tasted, the more you realized the complexity of this well-balanced wine. Plenty of acidity make this a fine food wine. This wine impressed me and I was sure to buy some of it.

The 2004 Cardin Barbera d'Asti Superiore ($32) is produced from a vineyard with a west exposure and the soil is of medium structure. The vines average over thirty years old, so are older than the San Martino grapes. The wine was aged for about a year in large oak casks and has an alcohol content of 15%. Again, only a few hundred cases of this wine were produced. The wine is also named after a nickame of Claudio's father, who name in English would be Richard. And such a grand name that is. This is a more elegant wine, without the rustic notes. And the most dominant fruit flavor is blueberry, one of my favorites. It too is complex, balanced and has a lingering finish that really satisfies. This would also be a fine food wine. I probably preferred this wine slightly more than the San Martino.

As the San Martino and Cardin are of limited production and of such high quality, I feel their price is very reasonable. These are wines that will impress and should last for a number of years in your cellar if you can keep yourself from opening them right away.
The above intriguing illustration is on their wine labels. The crustacean is an "astice," the Italian word for "lobster." Unfortunately, the ilustration has no real meaning or story behind it. But I do enjoy its look.

You should seek out the wines of Cascina Roera, excellent examples of what small, artisan producers in Italy are producing. Why drink mass-produced wines, ordinary wines when you can drink fine, artisan wines of character? For me, the choice is easy. Find and drive the more unique wines, such as these.


Anonymous said...

Richard, read your blog & have a 'non wine' question!
We will be in Piedmont mid September & want to know of a 'smallish' village we can stay in with picturesque scenery, good walks (perhaps to other villages) & some inexpensive 'home cooking' type food.
We need to be able to access it without a car!
Any suggestions? Thanks Jennie

Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Jennie:
Sorry, I can't help you with this question.

Can any of my readers help Jennie?