There is a very assured feel about the entire operation at Albino Rocca in the village of Barbaresco itself. The vineyards have been build up to an impressive 23 hectares and the usual excellent job has been done in hiding the winery under the house. There is also the obligatory beautiful view of the hills of Barbaresco and the town of Neive.
Within the winery the equipment is very up-to-date and the longer term wines rest in beautiful large botti. Our guide was Monica Rocca who expertly showed us round and introduced a good sample of their twelve wines.
As we had tasted so few whites from south of the Tanaro river (ie in Barolo or Barbaresco), we started here with white. La Rocca Bianco, 2008, is made of Cortese grapes, the mainstay of the Gavi zone, further east in Piemonte. In colour it is an attractive mid straw yellow on it way toward gold and has a very good nose of vanilla and some quite tropical fruit. It is fermented and aged in French barriques, rather like white Burgundy, whose style it follows rather successfully. On the palate it is not quite knit together but it will be very good. It’s a rarity in that there is so much demand for the reds of Barbaresco, it takes determination to grow Cortese. They also have Chardonnay and Moscato.
The first of the important reds we taste is Gepin (dialect for Giuseppe), Barbera d’Alba 2007, made from 50 year old vines. It is aged for 14 months, half in botti grandi and half in barriques in their second and third year of use. The aim of preserving the fruit is well executed but this is much more sophisticated than most Barbera you taste – it has clearly been handled very, very well. (Compare at a similar quality level the much denser style of Bruno Giacosa.)
In this area, in the end, there is always Nebbiolo. The first of two, Nebbiolo d’Alba 2008 is made from the younger vines, though there is a range from 10 and 60 years. Maceration is limited to four days to produce easily approachable wines to be drunk young, with the smell of fruit to the fore. A rather less traditional label for this wine completes the picture.
The climax of the visit is the chance to taste one of the three Barbaresco cru which Albino Rocca produces, Vigneto Brich Ronchi 2007. (The others are smaller parcels, including one which is a riserva from this vineyard.) This was a very good year in Piemonte and it shows in this wine, which is aged for two years in wood, 80% in botti grandi and the rest in barrique. The 2007 already has a well developed and integrated nose, red fruit above all, lovely perfume typical of Nebbiolo, already very drinkable with soft tannins for the style and medium acidity. Sold with a suitably golden label which emphasises the gentle rolling hills and the vines of Barbaresco.
With thanks to Monica Rocca. The wines used to be imported in the UK by Justerini & Brooks but there is currently no UK stockist.