Piero Incisa della Rochetta (you may well recognise the name as his family owns Sassicaia) is young, charming and incredibly passionate about his new project in Patagonia’s Rio Negro, a little known region of Argentina, and even less known for the fact that it is now producing world class Pinot Noir at Bodega Chacra.
Piero was introduced to this remarkable region by his friend Peter Vinding-Diers when he tasted his fabulous Malbec from Noemia, and on visiting was amazed to find a few blocks (‘chacras’) of ancient Pinot Noir vines up for sale, and so began the story of Bodega Chacra (see the earlier blog ‘Argentine Pinot Noir’).
A swift trip across town on the Ducati took us to the Swallow Street wine rooms where we did a tasting with the sommeliers from Gaucho restaurants, who list Bodega Chacra wines and sell them with remarkable success (they make such a refreshing change from Malbec).
In the evening we hosted a wine dinner at The Thomas Cubitt where Piero took us through his three Pinot Noirs and the new release of Merlot, Mainqué. It was a very intimate affair, with only eighteen guests (it being half-tem) which made it all the more enjoyable as everybody had greater opportunity of talking with Piero, including the charming Argentine couple who had been totally unaware of Pinot Noir being made in Argentina until they found it in our new Chiswick branch. While the Barda was unanimously enjoyed for its sheer precision, freshness and drinkability, the ‘Cinquenta y Cinco’ and the ‘Treinta y dos’ (named after the years in which the vines were planted), created greater discussion. Piero pointed out that the ’55’, whole bunch fermented and with 20% new oak, is a more ‘feminine’ wine in that it appeals more to the female palate, and the ladies present all agreed. On the other hand, the pre-phylloxera ’32’ vineyard produces a tighter more linear style that not only requires longer bottle age, but perhaps has a more ‘macho’ appeal. What was universally agreed is that these wines can stand alongside the majority of Grand Cru wines from Burgundy.
Piero’s jet-lag made for a late start the following morning and another swift trip on the Ducati across London to do a tasting with the staff at Selfridge’s wine department. This was followed by a totally unplanned but totally spontaneous lunch on the roof top in the Pierre Koffman ‘pop-up’ restaurant, where we were able to enjoy the sublime cooking of a total of seven Michelin starred chefs alongside Piero’s’ wines, and looked after by the lovely Dawn Davies (wine buyer and sommelier). This was my first experience of the legendary Koffman ‘stuffed pig’s trotter’, a dish I have waited half my life to eat, and it was worth it! As we sat in this lovely, peaceful space, overlooking the rooftops of London, Piero was momentarily lost for words, before commenting that he felt he was in as close a state of Nirvana as he could ever be. Until the ride back on the Ducati that is. His final chore was a tasting with journalists in our offices where he worked his magic together with his wines, and we are confident that you will be reading a great deal more about these unique and totally drinkable wines.