There’s a certain amount of excitement that comes with tasting a wine for the first time; maybe there’s some trepidation, too. That said, what I’ve come to expect from the red wines of Alto Piemonte, and in particular, those that are 100% Nebbiolo, is to have my expectations exceeded. The degree to which things exceed, yes, that’s going to vary – some sweep you off your feet, and others, well, they’re just pure fun, and who doesn’t like to have fun? Others still, are just plain boring or ill-concieved/grown, but who wants to read about (or drink) those? Io no.
Last night’s bottle, the 2010 Pietro Cassina Coste della Sesia Ca’ Daj Tass exceeded my expectations, and with its unique signature, it brought some fun along as well.
I’d never had a wine quite like Pietro’s Ca’ Daj Tass before; it had me thinking what might be behind what I was experiencing on the nose and on the palate. Specifically, there was a lightness often associated with Nebbiolo, but also a creaminess (palate) and vanilla (nose) component that seemed out of place, but at the same time was in harmony and perhaps most importantly, did not mask the freshness/purity of the fruit. Something much easier said than actually done, in my experience.
With some research and a few chats with Pietro, I find the reason(s) behind my experience – shorter maceration period (< 10 days) than the Nebbiolo wines I typically drink, spontaneous fermentation (I’m a fan), gravity flow (fan), and something I don’t recall every seeing before – tiny Austrian-Swiss oak casks, ranging from 15L to 30L.
I have no idea where Pietro got the idea to use this type of wood, or why he chose to macerate in tank for 7-10 days, but when I see him in a month, I’m going to ask. My feeling is there’s some part of tradition, Piemontese tradition, that I’m not aware of (the same way I was not aware just how different the Piemontese dialect is from the Italian language), and also Pietro’s artistic signature here. That’s not to say this comes across as made-in-the-cellar per se – if it did, I doubt I’d even take the time to write about it. OK, I know I wouldn’t.
Instead, this wine is unique in the way it marries all its different facets – creamy, lithe, structured, vanilla, Nebbiolo perfumes, etc. – in a way that it not only works, but it’s fun as well; something not often associated with the learning aspect of things.
So where does the rascal part come in, you ask (thank you for asking, by the way!)? Well, that’s actually a part of the name for this wine, you see, in Piemontese dialect, Ca’ Daj Tass refers to a small animal, in this case, a badger and his/her rascally nature to eat wine grapes.
There’s more to the story here, and I’m not only interested in learning about it, I’m interested in having more of these wines in my cellar, too.
9 March, 2017: 2010 Pietro Cassina Coste della Sesia Ca’ Daj Tass – “Medium garnet core, bright, with no sign of age. Generously perfumed (100% Nebbiolo), with bright red and purple floral surrounding a core of cherry and raspberry fruits. With some time in the glass, more soil notes emerge bringing an even greater sense of harmony. On the lighter side of medium-bodied this nonetheless offers considerable layering of the red fruits. This is a unique wine, it’s not like any other Nebbiolo or Alto Piemonte wine I’ve had before – there’s a top coat of vanilla to the nose, and a light creaminess to the palate (two things that otherwise generally make me run away). But, the vanilla is of the fine European pastry sort, sweet-ish, fine, not like the US versions -confected, sickly sweet, etc. The vanilla aspect adds interest, as does the overall texture – but it’s not these features that add interest on their own, but how they marry to the structure within, which is quite good. Dry, with fine tannins, plenty of fresh acidity and a medium finish, this wine has a maceration <10 days in tank, and is then transferred to (and I think this is where the unique part really shows, I had to research the reason behind what I was experiencing, and now it makes more sense) Austrian-Swiss oak casks that range from 15L-30L, i.e. tiny. In a great place now with no prior aeration, this can age another 6-8 years with no problem. Would gladly repurchase. 13,0% abv.” recommended
(header photo: Torta di nocciole con zabaione caldo, a true specialità delle Langhe. Buonissimo!)