Saturday, November 29, 2014

Albino Rocca Winery at Barbaresco

After spending the first 2 days in Piedmont focusing on food - with white truffle fair on Saturday and Salone del Gusto on Sunday, we went off to explore the wines, another famous product in the region, for the next few days. Our first stop was the commune of Barbaresco, located in the Langhe region between the towns of Asti and Alba, and 15 minutes away from our villa.


Most people probably heard of Barbaresco for being the place producing the famous Barbaresco wine made of 100% nebbiolo, an indigenous grape varietal. But in fact the Barbaresco DOCG appellation covers a bit larger than the commune itself, and included nearby villages of Neive, Treiso and San Rocco Seno d'Elvio along the Tanaro River. Similar to the naming convention of Burgundy wines, the region was further sub-divided into crus, parcels of vineyards in a particular area.

Albino Rocca is a small, family-owned winery located slightly away from the Barbaresco town center, in the southern side of the appellation. This morning we were hosted by Monica Rocca, one of the 3 sisters who now own the winery her great grandfather started. From the terrace and courtyard of the winery, you could get a perfect view of the southeast-facing Ronchi cru vineyard, where the winery produces one of their signature single cru Barbaresco wines. They also had parcels of vineyards in other cru, as well as land for the Barbera, Dolcetto and Chardonnay productions - all within the proximity.

We then walked down to the basement and visited their cellar. The winery works as a relatively small-scale production, with about 100000 bottles made annually, using grapes only from the land they own and manage. The grapes were received at the warehouse right across the street (and connected to the winery through underground tunnel) where they were inspected and crushed, placed in either the old cement tank or one of the stainless steel barrels for maceration and fermentation before some were moved to the oak barrel for aging. Since the 2010 vintage, they eliminated the small French oak barriques for their Nebbiolo wines and use entirely the larger barrels from Austria made by Slavonian oak.

We then moved back upstairs to the tasting room to try out a few of their recent vintages. We started with the chardonnay which has a light, straw color with some mineral, a little bit peach and not-so-ripe lemon giving it a racy acidity. That was followed by the Barbera which showed some red cherry and mild tannins.

I was impressed by their Barbarescos - first we tasted side by side 2 of their single crus, the Ovello Vigna Loreto 2011 showed a light floral note and gentle body, and the Ronchi turned up a notch with a perfume-like violet note, big plummy taste and a rounded chewy tannin. Not as big as say, a Barolo, but it's elegant and emphatically delicious. I reckon both, especially the Ovello, was ready to drink now but could improve over the next few years. We did pick up a couple bottles of Ronchi on our way out. Then we went for their "super-cru" Barbaresco, again made in the same vintage of 2011, using grapes from mixed vineyards, which showed a little bit of both and tend to be on the lighter side. At the end, we finished off with some Moscato, which was dominated by honey sweetness and went down quite easily.

We always found it more fun and cozy visiting a small winery, as opposed to some larger estate which tend to be more cliche and generic, and we had a good time this morning here. They just appointed a new local distributor so hopefully we can get a hand of more of their wines here soon.

Albino Rocca: www.albinorocca.com

(Part of the Journey to Piedmont series, a writing project capturing our recent travel experiences to the region)

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