Ca'Viola Sottocastello Barolo 2012
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
The Ca' Viola wine cellar is located in Dogliani, a small town in Langhe, the best place for one of the most important Piemontese grapes: Dolcetto. They produce all the traditional red wines; Dolcetto, Barbera, Nebbiolo and Barolo, entirely from small, exclusive parcels of vineyards situated in the most important crus. Giuseppe "Beppe" Caviola is the owner and is considered to be one of the most important oenologists in Italy. In 1997, under the wing of Elio Altare, he started to work for many emerging producers, forming part of L'Insieme Project, and the following year became a consultant to Villa Sparina.
Beppe had been involved with wine since he was a boy, ever since he first decided to attend the Enological School in Alba. After he finished his studies, he found a job at the Enological Centre in Gallo, just outside Alba. There he met Maurizio Anselmo, with whom he developed a deep friendship destined to change both their lives. Beppe rented the vineyard of his dreams, called Barturot, and began vinifying the grapes in the garage of his parents' house. One day Elio Altare, already an established star in the Barolo galaxy, tasted that wine and encouraged Beppe to bottle it. And so, in 1991, he released 860 bottles of Dolcetto, the first wine labelled with the Caviola name.
Ca' Viola is not classified as a biodynamic producer but their style of production is completely natural. In most years they don't use any chemicals in the vineyards, the wines contain only a small quantity of sulphites, and while they are not filtered, the wines are clear and without sediment even after several years. Ca' Viola doesn't add selected yeasts but prefers to rely on the yeasts found on grape skins in the vineyard.
The center of the production of the world’s most exclusive and age-worthy red wines made from Nebbiolo, the Barolo region includes five core townships: La Morra, Monforte d’Alba, Serralunga d’Alba, Castiglione Falletto and the Barolo village itself, as well as a few outlying villages. The landscape of Barolo, characterized by prominent and castle-topped hills, is full of history and romance centered on the Nebbiolo grape. Its wines, with the signature “tar and roses” aromas, have a deceptively light garnet color but full presence on the palate and plenty of tannins and acidity. In a well-made Barolo, one can expect to find complexity and good evolution with notes of, for example, strawberry, cherry, plum, leather, truffle, anise, fresh and dried herbs, tobacco and violets.
There are two predominant soil types here, which distinguish Barolo from the lesser surrounding areas. Compact and fertile Tortonian sandy marls define the vineyards farthest west and at higher elevations. Typically the Barolo wines coming from this side, from La Morra and Barolo, can be approachable relatively early on in their evolution and represent the “feminine” side of Barolo, often closer in style to Barbaresco with elegant perfume and fresh fruit.
On the eastern side of the region, Helvetian soils of compressed sandstone and chalks are less fertile, producing wines with intense body, power and structured tannins. This more “masculine” style comes from Monforte d’Alba and Serralunga d’Alba. The township of Castiglione Falletto covers a spine with both soils types.
The best Barolo wines need 10-15 years before they are ready to drink, and can further age for several decades.
Responsible for some of the most elegant and age-worthy wines in the world, Nebbiolo, named for the ubiquitous autumnal fog (called nebbia in Italian), is the star variety of northern Italy’s Piedmont region. Grown throughout the area as well as in the neighboring Valle d’Aosta and Valtellina, it reaches its highest potential in the Piemontese villages of Barolo and Barbaresco. This finicky grape needs a very particular soil type and climate in order to thrive. Outside of Italy, growers are still very much in the experimentation stage but some success has been achieved in parts of California. Tiny amounts are produced in Washington, Virginia, Mexico and Australia.
In the Glass
Nebbiolo at its best is an elegant variety with velveteen tannins, mouthwatering acidity and a captivating perfume. Common characteristcs of a well-made Nebbiolo can include roses, violets, licorice, sandalwood, spicebox, smoke, potpourri, black plum, red cherry and orange peel. Light brick in color, Nebbiolo is a more powerful wine than one might expect, and its firm tannins typically need time to mellow.
Nebbiolo’s love affair with food starts in Piedmont, which is home to the Slow Food movement and some of Italy’s best cuisine. The region is famous for its white truffles, wild boar ragu and tajarin pasta, all perfect companions to Nebbiolo.
If you can’t afford to drink Barolo and Barbaresco every night, try the more wallet-friendly, earlier-drinking Langhe Nebbiolo or Nebbiolo d'Alba. Also search out the fine offerings of the nearby Roero region. North of the Langhe and Roero, find earthy and rustic versions of the variety (known here as “Spanna”) in Ghemme and Gattinara.