Monday, May 16, 2016

Rocche di Castiglione: "One of the most prestigious crus in the Barolo DOCG"

Antonio Galloni has just capped a run of three mammoth Italian wine tastings (Soldera and Mascarello preceding) in three weeks with a truly epic retrospective of the Vietti Rocche di Castiglione dating back to the labels' inaugural vintage in 1961. This tasting was especially important because this wine, in this vintage, was one of the foundations on which Barolo single-vineyard wines were built and the Vietti estate viewed it as an integral part of its 50th anniversary celebration. So much so that Luca Currado, the winemaker, and his wife Elena Penna, were both present at the tasting.

I will be detailing the tasting but, first, some background on Rocche di Castiglione.

Up until the 1960s, the received wisdom in Barolo production was the blending of fruit from various vineyards in order to meld these individual characteristics into a multi-faceted, sum-of-the-parts wine. Following such a practice meant that someone(s) in the region understood the characteristics imparted to the wine by the various plots (And this point is borne out by Masnaghetti (Barolo MGA) who stipulates that "Everyone -- from the peasant cultivator to the largest houses and passing through such important figures as the grape brokers -- knew quite well which were the most renowned zones for the production of excellent Nebbiolo.").

It was not until 1961 that the Currados of Vietti and Beppe Cola of Prunotto made the decision to bottle unblended wines; wines that would showcase the character of the area within which the grapes were grown. Borrowing from the French terminology, a "cru" Barolo. In the Vietti case they chose to bottle a wine from the highly regarded Rocche di Castiglione cru while Beppe Cola drew on his Bussia cru.

These wines were well received in the marketplace. According to Galloni, "The success of the early single vineyard Barolos ... brought considerable attention to Piedmont. Single vineyard wines would soon dominate over blends as the world discovered the Langhe and its multiple shades of dimension."

Rocche di Castiglione, described by Masnaghetti as one of the most prestigious crus in all of the Barolo appellation, is located 88% in the Castiglione Falletto township and 12% in Monforte d'Alba. Its 14.36 ha (stated elsewhere in the book as 16.33 ha) has 52% devoted to vineyards (92% of vines in Castiglione Falletto and the remainder in Monforte d'Alba), and 95% of those vines growing Barolo-targeted Nebbiolo fruit. The remaining vines are targeted at Dolcetto (5%), Barbera (0.5%), and Langhe Rosso (0.5%).

Approximate location of Rocche di Castiglione cru indicated
by red arrow. Underlying map sourced from

Rocche di Castiglione is one of 170 MGAs in Barolo DOCG and one of 20 in the commune of Castiglione Falletto. An MGA (Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntive) is a "more specific officially delimited area of production located within the Barolo DOCG appellation." The Rocche di Castiglione soil is pure white in color from the border with Monforte d'Alba up to the dividing line between the northwest neighboring MGAs of Villero and Mariondino. The remaining areas have a greater presence of marls. Altitude in the MGA ranges between 300 and 350 m and exposure is primarily southeast (some undulations in the hill leads to slight variations in exposure for affected areas).

The estates producing Rocche di Castiglione wines are :
  • Brovia
  • Cà Barun
  • Fratelli Monchiero
  • Oddero
  • Roccheviberti
  • Giovanni Sordo
  • Terre del Barolo
  • Vietti

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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