Langhe maverick Nicoletta Bocca, in her “Valdibà” and “Vigna Dolci” cuvées, issues forth among the finest examples of young-bottled Dolcetto in the entire region. It is with her ultra-long-aged wines, however, that Nicoletta establishes herself as a true visionary: one who pushes Dolcetto and Barbera into little-explored realms—into spaces usually reserved for the haughtier Nebbiolo (on the rare occasions it even reaches such heights). With her beloved “Austri” and her flagship “San Fereolo,” Nicoletta employs extremely long macerations, extended barrel aging (up to four years), and significant resting time in bottle, and in doing so she locates a place where varietal character yields to her terroir’s inexorable thrust. Few in Piemonte have the courage, let alone the skills, to produce wine of this uncompromising depth and intensity, and Nicoletta’s wines have established themselves as among the truest and most thrilling in our entire portfolio in a relatively short time. We are poised to receive the newest releases of her “Austri” and “San Fereolo” (both from 2012), as well as just the third vintage of her singular “1593”—a mindboggling Dolcetto from her oldest planting that spends nearly a decade in her cellar before being bottled.
2012 “Austri” Langhe Rosso
2012 marks the first vintage in which Nicoletta employed submerged-cap fermentation, which resulted in a slower and more gradual extraction and a lighter overall color and carriage in the wines, yet without compromising an ounce of intensity. Her “Austri,” from an old Barbera vineyard called San Luighi, presents the variety at its most sanguine, mineral-drenched, and visceral. This 2012 is unapologetically savory, with tense, tight red fruits operating in the service of a nearly overwhelming lash of mineral power; its tannins are finer than the preceding few vintages, though no less prominent. This cuvée has a history of long, slow evolution in bottle, and the 2012 should follow suit in dramatic fashion.
2012 “San Fereolo” Dogliani
The flagship wine of the cellar, this comprises 40-to-80-year-old vines of high-altitude Dolcetto planted on Nicoletta’s best, most sun-drinking slopes, aged three years in large barrels and an additional four in bottle before ever even seeing the marketplace. Here, Dolcetto’s often foregrounded floral character takes a backseat to mouthwateringly savory earth tones, reminiscent of great Nebbiolo in its mineral presence but with a darkly spicy character that speaks to its variety of origin. The aforementioned use of submerged-cap fermentation—the first vintage in which Nicoletta employed the practice—imbues this 2012 with a striking litheness which gorgeously offsets its signature muscularity; this is slightly lighter in spirit yet even more penetratingly mineral than past vintages have been, and it offers irresistible drinkability.
2008 “1593” Langhe Rosso
For the “1593”—the name of which refers to the year of the first mention of Dolcetto in the historical records of Dogliani—Nicoletta separately vinifies and ages her very oldest parcel, in the Cerri Sottani vineyard in Valdiba, producing it only in vintages that warrant it. This 2008 spent eight years in Nicoletta’s cellar before being bottled: first, a two-year stint in 500-to-700-liter barrels; then, four years in large 10-to-15-hectoliter vertical wooden casks; and finally, an additional two years in steel before being bottled (without fining or filtering, of course). The dazzling nose delivers a prescription-strength hit of savory Piemontese essence, wild and profound, and expanding in all directions. The palate provides a sensorial feast: honest, grainy tannins that corset the exuberant fruit just-so; rich, strong acidity, like a great contralto singing solo in a grand cathedral; spicy, vibrant smoke like a bonfire burning a clean, dry haul; and, above all, a sense of real profundity—the story of impeccable fruit that has spent enough time evolving to tell us something truly compelling. One could easily be forgiven for mistaking this wine blind for a titan of old-school Barolo, such is its presence and power.