|Grapes||Vespolina, Nebbiolo, Croatina|
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Christoph Künzli, originally a Swiss wine importer, was introduced to the tiny and little known region of Boca by Paolo di Marchi, owner of the famous Chianti estate, Isole e Olena. Located in the highest and most north-eastern part of Piedmont the region has a rich history of winemaking up until the 1950s when investment turned from vineyards to textiles. In the 19th century the Boca region boasted almost 40,000 hectares of vines, but by the 1990s had dwindled to less than 10, leaving it all but abandoned and largely forgotten, with most of the area returning to woodland. Christoph came here in 1998.
In 2000 Paolo de Marche started his own property as Lessona, a neighbouring district. Christoph has added five hectares of vines to the original two, planted with Nebbiolo, Vespolina, Bonarda and Croatina (a.k.a. Refosco), and all of which are surrounded by dense woodland with not another vine in sight, although a sign beside the track in the woods shows an ancient photograph of the area, with a patchwork of vineyards covering the surrounding hills which looks a lot like modern-day Barolo. Christoph follows vineyard practices which are leading towards becoming fully biodynamic, and being totally non-interventionist in the winery, choosing to make the wines 'by his mouth' rather than by science. Whatever he is doing he is doing it very well and these are some of the most natural and exciting wines we have found from Piemonte; totally expressive, quite unique and with a wonderfully elegant and fine profile.
Boca DOC consists of Nebbiolo (85%) and Vespolina grapes. This wine requires full maturity and is aged in the barrel for 3 to 4 years, and can then be stored for decades. The mineral composition of the porphyritic soil together with the characteristic structure of the Nebbiolo grapes allow 'Boca' to become a full, expressive wine. It's savour reminds one of well matured forest fruit, violets, tobacco and dried herbs with hints of balsam and citrus fruit. Power and a silky elegance will develop in the mouth, fascinating and playful, with a slightly noble and bitter note. The vast complexity allows one to discover new facets over and over again. Boca Le Piane can refine in bottles for 10-20 years.
'Piane': at Le Piane Christoph and his team have rediscovered the forgotten richness of the local Croatina grape. They undertook the challenging task of selecting grapes from the best very old vineyards, up to 100 years old, on high hill sides (500m) around the Montalbano, Traversagna and Santuario areas to develop a wine with tremendous character. This wine is aged in tonneaux and large wooden barrels for 2 years. The wine is very concentrated and shows notes of blackberry, cherry, tobacco and spices. The dense substance gives a velvety and mineral finish. A wine which can refine in bottles for up to 10 years.
You can download the full .pdf brochure of the vineyard and wines here.
Piedmont has the distinction of making, not only some of Italy's greatest wines, but also of using grape varieties rarely found elsewhere. The undisputed king of these varieties is the very noble Nebbiolo, in this case represented by Sottimano's solid Langhe Nebbiolo from Barbaresco - a wine that outdoes many a grander offering - and the easily approachable Bricco Maiolica from vineyards between the two great regions of Barolo and Barbaresco. Piedmont's staple red variety is, however, Barbera with its juicy cherry fruit and often surprising body. Dolcetto - the "little sweet one" - is always densely coloured but often at the simpler fruitier end of things. We have, also, included in this case the unusual and delicious Mimmo from Le Piane at Boca in the far north-east of Piedmont - a plump and attractive Nebbiolo, Croatina and Vespolino blend.
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