Thursday, 12 May 2011

Nascetta, A Little Known Varietal, and Creative Labelling

No doubt about it, Italy is huge. With 20 administrative regions all making wine, a person could study Italian wine all his life and barely scratch the surface of all there is to know. Which is why I jumped at the chance to attend an Italian wine tasting last Wednesday at the World of Wines branch in Novena.

Among the usual suspects of Chianti and Amarone was a little known Piedmontese wine made from the indigeneous varietal Nascetta. So obscure that it is not even mentioned in The Oxford Companion to Wine, it is grown by only a handful of wineries. This particular wine was produced by Elvio Cogno, located in the Langhe area of Piedmont. Back in 1994, Elvio Cogno was the first winery to bottle this wine, and they had to label it as a vino da tavola (table wine) as it was not an approved varietal for quality wine. It was only in 2000 that Nascetta was elevated to DOC level, and even then it could only be used in the blend but not mentioned on the label. To get around this, winemaker Valter Fissore cleverly named the wine Anas-Cetta. Since brand names are permissible on wine labels whether or not they are registered, Valter was able to use varietal labelling by disguising it as a brand. Bravo! 

The wine has undergone six months aging in stainless steel tanks and a further six months in French oak. Common with most Italian whites, the nose is rather neutral, with notes of peach and apricot. It has a light body with higher than normal alcohol (for Italian whites) at 14%. The palate is slightly herbaceous, with flavours of fuzzy peach skin and stone fruit. A difficult wine to enjoy at first, as it lacks the punchy forward fruit that Riesling, or Chardonnay for example possess. As a wine lover though, I am always overjoyed to find something different.

A final note on the labelling regulations, as of 2010 the varietal is allowed to be mentioned on the label. Wineries such as Rivetto are experimenting with skin maceration to extract greater aromas from the grape. Watch closely, the future of Nascetta as a nobel grape unfolds now.

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