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A Brief Meeting with Luisa Rocca

In between grazing my way through a well-judged collection of plates at ‘Beata te’, one of Taipei’s most believable Italian restaurants, I listened to and chatted with Luisa Rocca, daughter of Bruno, owner of the small, eponymously named estate in Barbaresco. Rocca’s wines are easy to like. Their Chardonnay has an edge that both cuts through and remains keen in the presence of food. Their Dolcetto, unlike the too often rustically bruising examples from other producers provides pleasing refreshment and their Barbera, high on acid yet silkily structured, rendered foie gras stuffed meatballs elegant and light, tempering their richness but not their impact.

The wines that I was most keen to try were of course those based on Nebbiolo, grape supreme here in the hills south of Alba, and they did not disappoint. The best, the single vineyard Rabajà, was all powder and perfume, scenting both the air and mouth with a graceful intensity expected from this region but particularly apparent in the wines that emanate from the vineyards and cellar of Bruno Rocca.

The evening ended with a traditional Piemontese dessert called ‘Bonnet al cioccolato, amaretti e oro’. This unfathomably fine pud (the best I have had since we arrived in this East Asian idyll) did what chocolate so often fails to do which was to be intense without being psychotically so, leaving me deeply satisfied.

Luisa was in Taipei for just one night. Recently arrived from Seoul (and only one stop removed from Sao Paulo) next on her itinerary was Singapore. The constant toing and froing has left Luisa’s ebullience undimmed a result she explained of promoting something that she loves. I can’t help think that the work of her brother and father in the vineyards and cellar must be an easier task than that faced by Luisa but she disagreed. Luisa took a quick selfie of the two of us framed by long tables decorated with fine wine, food and lots of happy guests. ‘I think my job’s pretty good’ she smiled. I think perhaps she’s right.

 

 

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Glitterati: collective noun for Piemonte’s famous producers?

Last week Taipei played host to Angelo Gaja and this week we have Franco Conterno and Luca Currado of Vietti.

The presence of such significant signori suggests that Taiwan’s wine-drinkers are succumbing to the charms of Piemonte’s finest. Poderi Aldo Conterno and Vietti are viewed as ‘traditionalists’ in Barolo’s firmament in that they eschew the use of new French oak for their most prestigious wines. Instead they rely on long maceration times (often four or five weeks of contact with the skins from the start of fermentation to the point where the young wine is drained off) to extract the material necessary to enable their Nebbiolo based wines to age gracefully. This practice does not make for instantly approachable wine. Tannins are mouth-puckering, acidity is high and alcohol levels hover between 14.5 and 15%. This ensures that time is necessary to allow these wines to relax, integrate and then achieve the rather complex harmony of which they are capable.

Piemonte’s most famous wine, Barolo, is also increasingly expensive. Limited production (approximately 7 million bottles per annum) and a growing global appreciation has seen the price of land rise sharply to roughly €1 million per hectare. If you want cheap in Italy it is better to look further south. To ease one’s cashflow it is necessary to consider some of Piemonte’s less famous but similarly delicious gems: Langhe Nebbiolo from a good producer (like the one from Vietti below) can be great value as it often declassified Barolo i.e. wine that conscientious producers don’t want to add to their best as it originates from young vines or a less prime site. Barbera, with its much softer tannins and berry-like fruit style provides sophistication, suppleness and much earlier drinking pleasure than its more illustrious neighbour. Lastly Piemonte is not just about red wine, as Arneis’ increasingly fashionable demeanour demonstrates. Unusually for an Italian variety it is moderate in acidity (rather than high) but has enough weight, texture and pear and lemon peel fruitiness to more than satisfy the majority.

Any of the wines below will improve the quality of your evening.

Roero Arneis DOCG, 13%
Grape:
Arneis
Wine-making:
Note:
Citrus peel and pear skin, very Italian. Fantastic acidity, minerality and with a refined intensity and persistence evident. Very moreish.
Price: 1,000NT
Score: 15.5/20
Available from: Titlist

Barbera d’Asti DOCG Superiore Nizza, La Crena, 2010, 14.5% (old vine)
Grape:
Barbera
Wine-making: 3 months in barrel, 12 months in large old oak casks
Note: Restrained nose but with lovely palate weight, brightness and intense raspberry/cherry fruit flavours. Supple tannins, well managed alcohol and a pleasing length of finish.
Price: 2,000NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: Titlist

Nebbiolo Perbacco, Langhe DOC, 2011, 14.5%
Grape:
Nebbiolo
Wine-making: 4 months in barrel, 20 months in large oak casks.
Note: This is a very approachable Nebbiolo, full of fruit and very fine tannins that are relatively supple. It lacks a little of the floral perfume that helps distinguish this variety but this remains a quality introduction to Nebbiolo for a bargain price.
Price: 1,200NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: Titlist

Colonnelo (a mixture of sand and clay, single vineyard), Barolo Bussia DOCG, 2009, 15%
Grape:
Nebbiolo
Wine-making: 28 months in large, old 25 hectolitre Slavonian oak
Note: Smelling of flowers, iron (blood) and cherry, this is the most delicate and easily approachable of these three single vineyard wines from Conterno. The superfine tannins are delightful as is the persistence of finish.
Price: 7,500NT
Score: 17.5/20
Available from: Ascent Way 02 2533 3180

Cicala (limestone 20%, 80% Clay, single vineyard), Barolo Bussia DOCG, 2009, 15%
Grape:
Nebbiolo
Wine-making: 28 months in large, old 25 hectolitre Slavonian oak
Note: Licorice, dark fruit, elevated acidity and alcohol coupled with fine but firm tannins gives a more structured wine than the Colonnelo but one no less
fine. Persistent.
Price: 7,500NT
Score: 17.5/20
Available from: Ascent Way 02 2533 3180

Romarisco (40% clay, 60% limestone, single vineyard and old vines, 65-70 yrs old), Barolo Bussia DOCG, 2009, 15%
Grape:
Nebbiolo
Wine-making: 30 months in old 25 hectolitre Slavonian oak
Note: Huge complexity, the wine of the day. Stony/mineral nose, smoked cherry, scorched earth, mushroom/truffle, and a little balsamic. Great density of ripe tannins, full body, fruit power and generosity give a wine of considerable harmony even though it is a decade away from its apogee. This Barolo is a step above. Stunning.
Price: 9,850
Score: 18.5/20
Available from: Ascent Way 02 2533 3180

D43 Gliteratti Bottle Block