2020 La Ca' Nova Barbaresco Montefico Vigna Bric Mentina
This small estate with cellars near the town of Neive is about as Old School as it gets. Although there is a computer, a fax and a telephone in the office these days, there is virtually no other technology in sight. The old stainless steel tanks and conical fermenting vats are not even temperature controlled. Other than a light switch, I don’t even think there’s an electrical outlet in the place. The property is still run by Pietro Rocca, the family patriarch who, in the early 1970s, was the first to bottle a La Ca’Nova wine. Before that, his father sold all the grapes from the Montestefano and Montefico crus he farmed in nearby Barbaresco to the Gaja family where it formed the core of Gaja’s iconic Barbaresco. Today, along with his two sons Marco and Ivan, they bottle these two crus all for themselves, as well as making a very fine value Barbaresco blended from the two. We love these wines and, when our restaurant was open and we poured it by the glass, so did you! While all their wines were stunning, in 2020, a lovely, elegant vintage in Barbaresco, it was the rare and exciting Vigna Bric Mentina from the Montefico vineyard that really stood out for us. Coming from a tiny, perfectly exposed, subplot within the famous Montefico, it is part of an undulating curtain of vineyard that envelops the town of Barbaresco. The vineyard is known for producing wines with a little more austerity and introspection as opposed to its neighbors Montestefano and Ovello but, in 2020 there is a lovely extra bit of pretty, juicy fruit in the wine which lends it a bit more immediate charm than usual. The Nebbiolo for the Roccas’ 2020 Bric Mentina was fermented in one of the old conical vats and manually pumped over two or three times every day. Just before the alcoholic fermentation was finished, Pietro extended the fermentation and maceration following an antique tradition known as steccatura, whereby wooden planks are slid in sideways through the tank about a third of the way down to keep the fermenting cap submerged in the liquid, sort of like forcing a tea bag to sit at the bottom of a teapot. This time-consuming method gently enriches the wine by extracting more color and polyphenols while keeping in check the site’s natural tannins. After fermentation, the wine was aged in neutral 30 hectoliter casks, but rather than the Slovenian oak so common in old Barbaresco cellars like this, Pietro prefers Austrian wood. And, importantly, Pietro resisted his sons’ urging twenty five years ago to age his wines in small French oak barrels as was the trend in those days. It was tough, Pietro says, because everyone was doing it, but now the whole family is glad they held out, because traditionally-made wines like his have come roaring back into fashion and the La Ca’Nova Barbarescos have been getting their due. The 2020 Bric Mentina is a gorgeous, thoroughly charming Barbaresco, with Nebbiolo’s classic ‘tar and roses’ emerging from the glass from within a compote of cherries, plums, cinnamon sticks and camphor. It’s on the finish where the wine’s power and breed emerge. So delicious! There is plenty of fresh acidity and the tannins promise a very long life ahead.