Roccasanta Winery – Perletto, Langhe, Piemonte
More than just a winery!
Our local butcher stocks a shelf of local wine, which until recently I hadn’t really noticed, after all we are surrounded by wine in Langhe. But one day in February we decided to pick up a Dolcetto from the shelf, one I hadn’t come across before. Dolcetto is my new go to wine for light red wine drinking, typically ranging from 12-13% alcohol volume and it is great with pizza and pasta. Importantly, it is not to be confused with a sweet wine, aka dolci wine. Dolcetto is traditionally the farmers wine and they would drink it after their morning work on the land and thus it has the great nickname of 'breakfast' wine (and no I am not drinking it at breakfast). Trying the Dolcetto that night was a revelation, it was smooth, and full of berry and fruitiness, I inspected the label, and found it to be fortunately produced by Roccasanta, in Perletto, a local village and only 12% avc. Perletto is a mere 7 km away from our house. The next day, a Sunday, we decided to venture out to find the Roccasanta winery. We turned off the main Perletto road into wine growing country, acres of vines stood in the winter sun as we slowly crept along the white road towards a cluster of houses. Still no sign of the vineyard. This is strange, as some of the larger wineries around here go to great lengths to direct people off the main road and towards their vineyards, with promises of degustazione ‘tastings’ and to buy the local Langhe wine. Here there wasn’t a clue. Heading down towards the hamlet we spotted two young boys out on a stroll ahead of us and we pulled up to ask them for directions, with great Italian shoulder heaving and nonchalance they pointed us to the farm house. Pulling up to the house, Andrew was sent off to knock on the door, just in case some wild dog came out, as not a soul stirred. While he disappeared the two boys turned into the drive and walked into the farmhouse. It's all very secretive around here, I thought. The next moment Andrew appeared with a young man and introduced me to him, ‘Alex’ and it turned out he works at the winery, as Alex himself explained in perfect English. The next thing I knew Alex set off at haste in his little car, leaving a trail of dusty, chalky puffs in the air, as he sped along the 'off road' lane to find the farmer before we could say no. Five minutes later a big burly moustached farmer arrived, with Alex, with a big smile and ‘Buongiorno’, Alex introduced me to him, ‘This is Ferrucio’, "Piacere", I said with warmth and my suddenly small hand disappeared into his ginormous but gentle hand shake.
Ferrucio led us off to a large modern shed, where there, hidden from the road, was the ‘Roccasanta’ name and a pristine yard. With much protest from us, as we were sure he had more important things to do on the land, he opened the vast doors and we stepped into a proper winery with oak barrels, and vast steel tanks. All was very cold on this winter’s day and we stood with cold boned but rapt attention, as he, via Alex, explained all the different wines. With great care Ferrucio poured the wines, starting with the Dolcetto, a bit colder than we remembered. To be honest, all was cold but tasted lovely, but I wouldn’t be doing justice to this winery if I gave my thoughts on this tasting, as more was to come. The story of Roccasanta is fascinating. It turns out Ferrucio is the farmer and expertly grows the vines but he is not the winemaker. Another man, Pietro Monti is, Pietro is 32 and a genius I have decided. Apparently, an early talent he started making wine in his earlier twenties and did so well he was soon selling Roccasanta wine throughout Europe and then BAM! He was involved in a car accident and was blinded at 25 years of age. This lovely winery took a backseat for a few years while Pietro got himself back together and eventually found himself back in the winery doing what he does best, making wine. We promised to return to meet Pietro soon.
We did meet Pietro, later that week we returned to pick up some more wine and there he was, a strong man, great use of the English language and accompanied by his father Renato, as his eyes. He is very easy to talk to and he has a great passion for wine to pass on to visitors. We organised to come back and have a proper tasting of all his wines. And we did.
Here are my amateur tasting notes:
The Barbera D’Alba Superiore DOC is now my favourite wine, it is rounded and smooth with almost a lemon sugar after taste and I have to say I crave this wine now. It’s very difficult to restrain myself during the week. The regular Barbera D’Alba DOC is easy to drink with most food as I can attest to but is totally overshadowed by the Superiore.
The Langhe Nebbiolo DOC is rich and elegant without being overpowering like Barolo or Barbaresco. It is lighter in alcohol 13.5% and I think gives a better understanding of the grape in its simplicity than the big ‘B’s do. You still get the dark fruit, peppery spice and very slight tar, but dark fruity chocolate is my main impression.
The regular Langhe Chardonnay DOC is a great white wine discovery in this region, at this alcohol level, 12.5%, the non barriqued wine has a touch of the Chablis about it and is very easy to drink at lunch time with a fish dish, as I did the other day with poached salmon, refreshing and not heavy, light and gently fruity and herby.
The barrique Langhe Chardonnay DOC is a favourite with many people I have introduced this to, I think because it is so unusual to have oaked Chardonnay in Langhe. It is more golden in colour than the regular chardonnay and more of a treat wine than an every-day wine but nonetheless a star. Touches of banana and pineapple.
There is a Barolo DOCG, Pietro ships in the grapes from a parcel in Monteforte d’Alba (Barolo territory) and has turned it into a 3 glasses award (excellent) winning wine in the 'I Vini Di Veronelli 2017' wine guide, a mean feat for any winery in the Barolo territory and testament to his excellence. We didn’t get to try it, as there are only a few precious bottles left! Well of course that would be the case and we decided to leave those for Barolo connosieurs, which we are not.
The wines are at the lower level of alcohol due to some of the terrain being in shade for part of the day and, I have to say, this really makes a positive difference, as a lot of the Langhe wines are steadily increasing in alcohol due to the longer hotter summers of the past few years.
If you want to pop along for a tasting you can Email Pietro via the website to arrange a time, as he is only there 3-4 days a week, he speaks good English and is an absolute gentleman to deal with. You won’t be disappointed.
All contact details http://www.aziendagricolaroccasanta.it/
AZIENDA AGRICOLA ROCCASANTA, Via Piana 19, LOC. Chiappa, 12070 Perletto, Cuneo, Piemonte
I stumbled across this jewel recently and I hope to inspire more people to become patrons of the inspirational ‘Patrone Winery’. This is a hide away gem, not heavily advertised on the wine routes around but a star in the making. This winery is located in the cross roads town of Cortemilia in The Langhe Hills, 30 mins from Barbaresco. We saw the familiar ‘degustatzione’ sign and thought, 'why not?'
Welcomed by the wonderful 'Camila', a very pretty, blonde, puppy dog, we were then greeted in human language by the smiling, and extremely fit looking, brother and sister team, who sit behind this label, both in their younger years, I didn’t dare ask their ages but estimate mid to late twenties, possibly younger, you see, inspirational already. I don’t know about you but I seem to keep having tastings at wineries that have generations of history and prestige going back a hundred years, with typical middle aged owners, who have succeeded their successful parents’ business, none of which I mind of course. Sometimes there are glimmers of newcomers, but what I find so inspiring, about this brother and sister team, is that there was no prestigious name behind them, just the usual farming land with hazelnuts and vines grown for personal consumption, grown, prior to their succession, as basic table wine. But Enzo and Elena decided to go for it, and go for it large. No testing, or experimenting, from scratch, they have taken this business very seriously, including going to college to study viniculture, and further studies at the world famous Alba viniculture college. This has led to almost instant success and reward with their first production in the single digit thousands of bottles and being pretty much sold out to local distributors. Their subsequent seasons have seen them tweak and refine and now their wine is flying off the shelves.
Going into their, cooler climate, presentation room, we saw rows of ageing Barbera 2015 in French wooden barrels and a tasting table with crackers, cheese and ham. We tasted all of their offerings, which unveiled some great finds. Firstly, a Pinot Noir ‘champagne’ style, Spumante Brut sparkling wine, it was a treat, very hard indeed to not think of it as Champagne, as the taste and bubble texture was the same, easy to drink at 12.5% and it seemed perfect for a celebratory toast.
A 100% Chardonnay was then opened, again another rare grape in this region, which tends towards promoting the Roero Arneis grape, so we were thrilled to try it. This wine was the number 1 for me of the tasting, though most who know me know my preference towards white wine in this region. Truly though you have to try this wine. At 14% I thought it was going to be fiery but it was totally the opposite, mellow and creamy, reminiscent of a good Chablis. At this stage I was looking at Enzo and Elena in awe, what a team. They spoke with so much passion about each wine and you could see the little tension in their faces, as they awaited our amateur feedback on each bottle tasted. This is such a rare sight, as often I find the tasting tables, at other wineries, seem attended by either bored members of a winery, other cocky ‘we know our wines are fabulous’ types, or people with little half smiles and sympathetic eyes, as we give our not very professional but honest thoughts on a wine. Enzo and Elena are a real credit to their winery and will put all newcomers to wine, to wizened professionals of wine, into a trance of happiness by just being there with them and witnessing their real, genuine, enthusiasm for their wines.
The star for Andrew was the Nebbiolo, a well know regional grape and the backdrop to the fine wines of Barolo and Barbaresco. Here, fortunately for me, they had made it a bit smoother and less fiery at 13.5%, but still with lots of spice and fruit notes. Perfect with cheese and ham and with grilled, or roasted, meats. Enzo seemed really proud of this achievement, and so they should be.
Through the discussions of the wine, Enzo explained some of their methods, they call it ‘organoleptic’ and with some biodynamic elements too, such as bottling when there is a new moon, this keeps the bottle from creating fizz, a big mistake if you bottle on an old moon and I have tasted such 'mistakes' numerous times in Italy, when I have witnessed this in my mouth, thinking I am sipping a regular white wine and suddenly little fizzy bubbles pop up, I hate that. So Enzo and Elena have studied hard and, working with nature, they have produced these fine wines as a result. I am sure with the Pinot Noir sparkling wine they bottle on an old moon! I haven’t been able to look at the moon the same way since.
We had a tour of the cellar and saw the modern steel tanks, somewhat smaller than the big guns of this region, but nonetheless filled with beautiful wine in the making. The steeply, south-east facing, terraced vineyards went a long way towards explaining the athletic physiques of these two young wine makers, I don’t think I would have made it up to the first terrace without collapsing. The old ancient stone terraces adds the historic terroir factor to this new winery and of course the sun soaking stones help with regulating the night temperatures emitting some warmth into the normally cold nights.
We left with a good 12 bottles knowing we will frequently return for more. If you don’t have time to pop in here they are stocked in the local bakers on Piazza Savona, in Cortemilia, which is run by Enzo’s girlfriend. An all-round, great, team effort.
www.patronewinery.it firstname.lastname@example.org t +39 0173 81723
Azienda Agricola Patron Elena, Strada Viarascio 15, Cortemilia, Cuneo, Piemonte
Read more about our new life in Piemonte
Clare, 42, living the 'dolce vita' in Piemonte in the Langhe Hills. This new blog is dedicated to the delicious food and drink of the Italian Piedmont region and a few home favourites. To read more about our new life in the Langhe we have a life in Piemonte blog here