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Cascina Saria - the best value in Piedmont?


Having let them know that I still have not mastered Italian, we were met at Cascina Saria (another estate recommended by my Danish friend Birger) a couple of weeks ago by Maura, the owners' daughter. Actually, Maura is in charge of sales whilst her brothers look after the vines and the winemaking, a fairly common set-up.

We were brought into the tasting room which has some of the best views across Piedmont and the southern Alps I have seen and which we stood in awe of whilst Maura prepared the wines for tasting. I knew from Birger that this estate produced a very good Barbaresco and he had particularly recommended the Barbera wines but first, a Langhe Arneis from the Barbaresco commune of Neive. Actually two: the 2011 and the 2012, both sharing the crisp floral fruitiness of the variety I have come to know at Fabrizio Battaglino's Roero winery a few miles away. Whilst the 2011 was very good (and excellent value), the 2012 seemed to have just a little more flesh, a quality that appeals to me.

There are three Barbera wines here: "Bricco delle More" is from vineyards around Coazzolo.  This is the most simple of the Barbera wines with attractively juicy red berry fruit. Presumably intended for restaurants, this would certainly make a good lunchtime wine or, as it is bottled in magnums only, a good party wine.

The Barbera "Convento" is a little fuller, from lower yielding south-east facing vineyards at Castagnole delle Lanze. A really lovely nose bursting with red fruit and quite a full palate. This is a really superb wine for such a low price.

Of course, I like big reds so it was no surprise that the wine from the "San Lorenzo" vineyard at Costigliole d'Asti was my favourite of the Barberas. This south-facing vineyard is ideal for Barbera and the lower yields (7,500kg/ha, the same as for their Barbaresco) ensure a fuller, richer wine than the others. This wine sees some wood ageing but it is only texturally that this is apparent. As expected from a Barbera, the fruit has good acidity but, whereas in the earlier wines this enhances the juiciness of the fruit, in "San Lorenzo", the oak and acidity offset each other well. This is a wine which is continuing to evolve and, whilst it can be enjoyed now, I can see it growing over the next four or five years.

Finally we came to the Nebbiolo wines but before the Barbaresco, an inexpensive Langhe Nebbiolo from 2010. It sells for a rock bottom price - around £10 (depending on the exchange rate!)-  and for that money it is quite simply the best Nebbiolo I have tasted. It has an enticing nose that is suggestive of Barbaresco - indeed, it is grown in Neive, one of the top communes in Barbaresco, so I don't really know why it is bottled with the inferior designation. No matter, this is to the benefit of consumers who want a superior wine at an affordable price.  Actually, the more I think about it, with the exception of the Manzone Nebbiolo which, at the La Trompette lunch recently, showed as a mini-Barolo, I don't think I have had a Langhe Nebbiolo that comes as close to emulating its more famous stablemate. If you like Nebbiolo... need I say more? Only that its exquisite nose follows well onto the palate which is moderately tannic suggesting a good future for this wine over the next five years or more.

So, onto the Barbaresco wines: 2009, 2008 and 2007 from bottle and 2006 from magnum (I think 2005 is also available in magnum). 2009 is still very young with lots of tannin interfering with the hedonistic pleasure this wine will one day offer. 2008 was more complete. An intense nose with hints of liquorice and tobacco combining with the fruit, very characteristic of Barbaresco. Evolved enough to enjoy now, the wine has a good future over the next 10-15 years. After this, the 2007 was certainly very good but for me the 2008 stood out ahead of its peers. From magnum, however, the 2006 is excellent and what a price! Maura told me that every year they bottle too many magnums for the Christmas market then have to find alternative markets for them so, if you enjoy magnums of excellent wine, these are a steal.

A wonderful find - thanks Birger! - and an estate I would be very pleased to add to the BRW list. It seems I can never have too many great wines from Piedmont!

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