Last October I made a posting about this young winery in the Nizza district of the Monferrato hills, home to the finest Barberas of Piedmont. My first enthusiasm for the wines was born at one remove, in the Notting Hill flat of my hospitable colleague Greg Love, Piedmont specialist, fine taster and excellent cook. That autumn evening, the dramatic progress that Noceto Michelotti's perfectionist president Graham Kresfelder and his wine team have made since their first vintage in 2003 was graphically shown in their stunning 2006 Barbera d'Asti Montecanta: the power, elegance and fleetness of foot of this lovely wine was in one's surreal imaginings like a Derby champion, made to partner a succulent roast of lamb at the celebration dinner after bumpers of champagne in the winner's enclosure.
When a few weeks later, Graham asked us to come over to Castel Boglione, Noceto Michelotti's home village, I jumped at the chance. Of course, the thought that this was the prime time for eating the magical white truffles in season was never far from my mind. So we took a Ryanair flight to Turin and drove down the A21 autostrada, turned off at Asti and headed past Nizza to Castel Boglione. We arrived at the winery on a drizzly November evening, but our spirits lifted as we entered the charming bar and tasting room, where Graham, his team, and the local villagers were having a bit of a party to celebrate the end of the harvest. When you're tired after the cattle-truck experience of modern air travel, this was a perfect place to restore the inner man, with glasses of their delicious Moscato d'Asti and the impressively mineral Piedmontese Chardonnay of the estate with the best of plate food you can imagine in this gastronomic heartland of northern Italy: cured hams, salamis, wonderful mushrooms, stuffed pastas and the freshest of salads and fruits.
The next morning we took a tour of the winery and even as an old wine scout who has seen many state of the art cuveries, I was particularly impressed by the attention to detail in the quest for the best possible quality at Noceto Michelotti. Just one example. Graham, advised by distinguished oenologist Giuseppe ('Beppe') Caviola, have created a machine that shower-washes the incoming grapes in a water and gentle citrus solution, then gently blow dries them without damaging the natural yeasts. The result is a leap forward in purity of flavours, beautifully illustrated in both the Montecanta and Nizza Barberas of the 2006 vintage, which we tasted mid-morning in a flight of wines from the early days to the heights of today, as you can see below.
Tasted at Castel Boglione, Nizza, November 2008
Montecanta Barbera d'Asti DOC Superiore 2003
Still youthful ruby colour with a gently evolving rim; very vinous secondary aromas layered on blackberry fruitiness, attractively estery too, with fine spiciness, high-toned. Compote of fruits in a mouthfeel that says drink now. 2009 to Christmas time. *** (88/100)
Montecanta Barbera d'Asti DOC Superiore 2004
Cooler year, but of greater class and subtlety. Even purple-ruby to rim. Lovely aromas of cherry and plum. Still quite tight on the palate but elegant ripe tannins will preserve the punch and complexity to come. Impressive. **** (90/100)
Montecanta Barbera d'Asti Doc Superiore 2006
Even purple ruby to rim, not overextracted. Nose is a big step up: gorgeous orchard fruits and a whiff of violets. A fine, poised mouthful, Burgundian in texture, gentle tannins, perfect acidity. **** (92/100)
Montecanta Barbera d'Asti DOCG Nizza 2006
Shimmering deep ruby with purple lights; really deep aromas suggesting rich brown earth, a touch of dark tobacco, autumn leaves and a hint of leather. Splendidly complete and complex in the mouth with a long aftertaste. Great wine ****(*) (94/100)
From left to right, Graham Kresfelder (president) and winemaker Secondino Vegli
The exceptionally rapid rise of Noceto Michelotti to the top rank of Barbera d'Asti wines was marked by them receiving the first Tullio Mussa Award on May 17th 2008 at the regional Gambero Rosso awards in Nizza, in partnership with representatives of the Slow Food Association.
And talking of slow food, one of the epicurean highlights of our visit was the Piedmontese tajarìn egg-noodle pasta, the legendary hand-cut tagliolini with at least eight egg yolks per pound of flour; over which Graham shaved the finest, freshest white truffle you are ever likely to encounter. As I have said too often before, the gastronomic life requires a strong constitution - but someone has to do it!
Noceto Michelotti Azienda Vitivinicola srl
Strada Bogliona 15-17
14040 Castel Boglione (AT) Piedmont, Italy