It was a raining like cats and dogs when I made my way to the offices of Avant Garde wine importers in the Gramercy neighborhood of Manhattan. It was early 2016 and the owner Geoffroy Ducroux had received some samples from his contact in Italy and he had asked me to come along and taste them with him. We skeptically look at the sample bottles, which were adorned with an armored being riding a lobster, possibly another uninteresting wine overtaken by the twenty-first century marketing machine. After reading the exporters short paragraph about these wines, we decided to visit their website for further understanding. To our surprise the front page includes two incredibly likeable characters with the last names Rosso & Nebiolo. How could we go wrong? Proceeding with the tasting, upon the first sip we both remained silent. A second, third taste and a quick opening of the remaining bottles resulted in the both of us being, for lack of better word, in Heaven.
The estate we tasted is called Cascina Roera, located in Costigiole d’Asti, in the center of the Monferrato region in Northwest Italy’s Piedmont. Here is the birthplace of one of Italy’s most planted and bottled red grape varietals, Barbera. It is however in these hills where the wines, Barbera d’Asti take on regal status because of great growing conditions and unique hillsides with exposures that maximize it’s potential.
Cascina Roera is an organic and low-sulphur (read: natural) estate, and is owned by Claudia Rosso and Piero Nebiolo. They both come from a lineage of winemakers, and now collectively own over 7 hectares in the area, mostly devoted to the varietals of Barbera and Nebbiolo. These wines are very characteristic of the place, producing barbera that is juicy, full of acidity and although dark in color maintaining the all-important profile of balance. They make a series of wines but the most important are the labels, San Martino, Cardin & Piva, all labeled as Vino Rosso. They believe that the people that will eventually buy these bottles for consumption will ultimately learn nothing from the appellation name (Barbera d’Asti) or the certification of organic so they have left these labels off the front of the bottle. The wines are mostly in soils of clay and sand.
San Martino is all Barbera from soils that are in higher percentage clay, 20 year-old vines that face a warming southern exposure and are aged one year in cement and one year in large oak casks.
Cardin is a blend of mostly Barbera with some Nebbiolo from 65-year-old vines facing a cooler western exposure and sit three years in large oak.
Piva is there classic Nebbiolo from 15-20 year-old vines facing west and spending three years in oak. Cascina Roera was a pleasure to discover and an exciting wine to stand behind. It not only captures the epitome of Monferrato but is also a joy to drink. When varietal is understood, land is translated and tradition is felt all through experiencing a bottle of wine, we say “yes!” - RR