La Casaccia (Piedmont, Cella Monte)
DOC Barbera, Freisa, and Grignolino Monfiorenza
Here is the nature of Italian wine for me. Lots of miss. Very few hits. And then when the hits come, they come in bunches. And one day early in 2017 I met this guy...
Giovanni Rava greeted me with a wide smile, buried under his scraggly beard, and pumped my hand vigorously. His English was pretty good, but he didn't think so, and we eventually lapsed into French. Giovanni and his wife are agronomists, having met in Turin during University, and eventually taking over her family's home and vineyard near Casale Monferrato. Their place, all of it--cellar, vineyards, house-- is simply fantastic.
Twenty years ago Giovanni and his wife Elena Bassignana acquired an 18th centuryvabandoned villa named La Casaccia (almost literally translated as "that shitty little house") and gradually restored the main building and brought back into production the impressive subterranean cellar excavated into the local volcanic rock. The cellar was soon equipped with a line of stainless steel tanks and a bottling unit, and the vineyard converted to organic farming.
And their wines...spot on. The visit began at 10am and at 3:30 we still remained at the dining table, satiated with lunch, and lots of open (and empty) bottles on the table. I thought Giovanni's Barberas were wonderful, his sparkling wine a real keeper, and his whites as good as anything I've ever tasted in Piedmont. But my showstopper was this wine, an unusual Freisa (yes, that's really a grape variety), that was served to me with some homemade agnolotti.
Freisa is one of the minor, but important grapes of the Piedmont. In fact, its a way of spotting the locals in the restaurants and trattorias of the area. They're the ones drinking wines like Freisa and Grignolino while tourists toil away with $100+ bottles of Barbaresco and Barolo. Look for a lively, light, fruit-forward Italian red here with loads of scrumptious.