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Ada Nada: Barbaresco of Warmth and Grace

It would require superhuman coldness not to be immediately smitten by Elvio and Annalisa, proprietors of the Ada Nada estate in Barbaresco. Working alongside one’s spouse day in and day out is not for the faint of heart, but these two make it look like utter joy. Elvio, tanned and lined from countless hours among the vines, cuts the figure of an ex-rugby player; Annalisa is a dynamo, with an enveloping presence that belies her petite constitution. Both smile with their eyes constantly, whether discussing their beautifully tended vineyards or playfully ribbing one another—a favorite activity. Annalisa’s great-grandfather Carlo Nada began the estate in 1919 with three hectares in the renowned Barbaresco cru Rombone, in the commune of Treiso, constructing a gorgeous brick-lined cellar which is still in use today. Carlo’s son Giovanni succeeded him, and for many years Giovanni and his son Giancarlo—Annalisa’s father—worked side by side, Giovanni in the vineyards and Giancarlo in the cellar. Annalisa and Elvio met in 2000, married less than a year later, and took the reins from Giancarlo and his wife Ada in 2001. Today, the estate encompasses nine hectares, all in Treiso: Carlo’s original three hectares, an additional three acquired by Giancarlo, and three from Elvio. Annalisa and Elvio have no desire to expand; they own enough land to make a living, but they’re small enough to be able to do the lion’s share of the work themselves—a gracious acknowledgment of human finitude and an admirable commitment to winegrowing as the expression of a personal aesthetic.

Ada Nada is one of Rosenthal Wine Merchant’s newer partners, but it feels as if we’ve known them for decades. Aside from the warmth the couple exudes, they exercise a certain fastidiousness and appreciation of balance in their work which align seamlessly with our own ethos. Elvio discusses the birdhouses they have built among the vines—natural pest control, in keeping with their overall refusal to work with any synthetic materials—with the awed reverence of a man truly in love with the earth. Rather than reacting to maladies once they rear their head, Elvio and Annalisa nourish their vineyards with naturally derived treatments, and the estate has been certified organic for over a decade. Their touch in the cellar is gentle and precise, trusting in the quality of what they’ve cultivated during the growing season: Elvio employs stainless steel for his fermentations, which always occur spontaneously, monitoring but not obsessively controlling temperature; aging for the basic wines takes place in steel, and the more important wines spend ample time in the traditional large Slavonian casks of the region; and bottling is done in accordance with the lunar cycle. Ultimately, their wines embody the uncanny ability of Nebbiolo (and its cousins) to be simultaneously graceful and intense. Lovely and exuberantly aromatic, they also possess chiseled structure and unapologetically firm acidity, and they age beautifully. Elvio and Annalisa’s work represents the best of current-day Piemonte: a reverence for pre-technological agrarian tradition and low-intervention cellar work, rendered with utmost intelligence and purity. We are so thrilled to welcome them into our family of growers.

2018 Dolcetto d’Alba “Autinot”
“Autinot” means “little vineyard” in the local Piemontese dialect, and indeed Elvio and Annalisa produce a scant quantity of Dolcetto each year from an east-exposed plot of 30-year-old vines just behind the winery itself. Even when produced in a lighter style, Dolcetto can rarely be described as “graceful,” yet Ada Nada’s is lithe and lovely, with pure cherry aromas and wonderfully cleansing acidity. A gentle maceration followed by a brief stint in stainless steel keeps the fruit pert.

2016 Barbera d’Alba “Pierin”
Pierin, an old family friend, was the former owner of this extremely old parcel of Barbera, planted at the crest of the Rombone cru with southeastern exposure. This phenomenal 2016, fermented in steel and aged one year in large Slavonian cask, displays a similar poise to Ada Nada’s Barbaresco offerings, with finely etched fruit buttressed by razor-sharp acidity, and not an ounce of fat to spare. The variety’s occasional tendency toward bombast is avoided entirely here, and the wine bristles with a tension that bodes well for mid-term ageability.

2018 Langhe Nebbiolo “Serena”
Elvio and Annalisa’s gorgeous Langhe Nebbiolo, named after their youngest daughter, is sourced from younger vines within their Rombone holdings that are not quite ready to be bottled as Barbaresco, and indeed the 2018, vinified and aged in steel, displays a pedigree far exceeding its category. With delicate spice, luscious but zingy strawberry fruit, and a proud spine of acidity, this shows a slightly less authoritative yet palpable imprint of the firm minerality that characterizes the Rombone “Elisa” below. It is mouthwatering and friendly—ethereal yet earthbound—and offers remarkable value.

2016 Barbaresco Valeirano
Geologically speaking, Treiso is a part of the same Lequio Formation as Serralunga d’Alba and Monforte d’Alba in Barolo, and its white, calcareous soils of low clay content produce wines of assertive minerality and notable longevity. Within that paradigm, however, the southwest-facing cru Valeirano leans in the direction of finesse—less punchily stony than nearby Rombone and accessible earlier. Ada Nada’s Valeirano, from vines planted in 1971, is unfailingly pure, the cru’s comparatively fertile soil manifesting in a wine of ultra-clear red fruit, moderate tannins, and rapturous spice. This 2016 displays the vintage’s energy and ultimate quality in impressive fashion, and although it is surprisingly easy to drink now, it should develop gracefully for years to come.

2015 Barbaresco Rombone “Elisa”
The Ada Nada winery itself is nestled within the renowned cru of Rombone, and Elvio and Annalisa work a sizable plot of south-facing Nebbiolo here planted in 1947, which they bottle as “Elisa” in honor of their eldest daughter. Rombone’s white, limestone-rich soils yield a wine built around minerality—a lively, almost saline mineral essence that saturates both nose and palate. The 2015 offers generous yet tightly controlled fruit, blacker in nature than the Valeirano’s above, with a mineral-acid tension that tunnels through the palate with vigorous intensity. It pulls off the difficult feat of being both uncompromising—this is a wine that makes no concessions to modern tastes or easy accessibility—and utterly lovely; a Barbaresco of true class.

2013 Barbaresco Riserva “Cichin”
Cichin was Annalisa’s great uncle; it’s also a 5000-square-meter subsection of their holdings in Rombone with even more calcareous soil than its surroundings, planted to Nebbiolo in 1958. From this parcel, Elvio and Annalisa make their stupendous Barbaresco Riserva, harvested as late as possible and aged three full years in large cask, plus an additional two in bottle before release. “Cichin” is an unrelentingly traditional Barbaresco, with bold, voluminous tannins, wildly earthy spices, and a mineral depth-charge that lingers long after the wine is swallowed. Despite its mass, it embodies the house style in its rigorously controlled linearity, disciplined fruit, and wonderfully uplifting acidity. Hailing from a great vintage, this 2013 is monumental in stature—just beginning to spread its wings and reveal its soil-drenched depths.