Cascina Ca’Rossa is perhaps the leading light of the Roero region of Piedmont in northwest Italy. Roero’s wine industry was traditionally based on grape growers who sold their crop to wine estates and négociants, but the Ferrio family was an exception, the estate started by Alfonso Ferrio in the 1960s, with vineyards set high above the road from Canale to Asti. The initial business was selling wine locally, and full-scale bottling and more ambitious commercialisation did not happen until the 1990s. Since then, the Cascina Ca’Rossa has been on a roll, earning big scores from the most important Italian and international critics, expanding its vineyard holdings, and establishing a reputation for top quality.
Today the estate is run by Alfonso’s son, Angelo, and his son, Stefano (right). Their influence has helped build a new generation of Roero estate producers. All of the family’s vineyards are on hillside sites worked manually, using sustainable and organic practices: 13 hectares planted at densities of up to and over 7,000 plants per hectare in sandy soil of marine origin. The winery building has been renovated and extended, with temperature-controlled stainless steel vats, barriques and large Slavonian oak barrels. Angelo talks of the ‘shock’ to his father when he learned that not only would they concentrate on bottling wine as the main business of the formerly mixed agriculture farm, but that they would be ageing it in wooden barrels – complete anathema in this traditional region.
More recently the family has turned towards organic farming, a decision taken because “Now it is time to return to a more balanced relationship with nature,” adding “How much chemistry has plagued our land!” The roots of the name ‘Roero’ reflect the patchwork of small farms that dot the landscape in the Piedmontese dialect – Ca’Rossa is shown left. It’s an area of many steep hillside slopes, where the traditional grapes have been Nebbiolo, Barbera, Favorita, Brachetto dal Grappolo Lungo and of course Arneis, possibly the most familiar name for the crisp whites of Roero Arneis DOC. The Ferrio’s insist that “There is no ‘standard’ Roero,” explaining that every hill “leaves a distinctive mark on the wine it produces – any two Nebbiolos or Barberas can prove disconcertingly dissimilar.” Certainly it is true that the Nebbiolo tasted here, for example, has a character quite different from many examples from the Langhe. But there is a house style too – restrained, elegant, pure and natural – that runs through the Ca’Rossa range.
The wines of Cascina Ca’Rossa are brought in to the UK by Ten Acre Wines. Ten Acre recently sent me the selection below to taste for myself.
Cascina Ca’Rossa, Roero Arneis Merica 2013, Italy
With a modest 12.5% abv and from vineyards near Alba, this wine is made in stainless steel and is all about the delicate, spearmint-touched, floral, acacia and crisp apple fruit of the 100% Arneis. On the palate there is delicious sweetness, or rather ripeness, with lemon the driving flavour, but there is subtlety and complexity, with hints of spices, rosy red apple and always a mineral undertow. 88/100. £13.95, Ten Acre Wines.
Cascina Ca’Rossa, Barbera d’Alba 2013, Italy
A vibrant colour for this young Barbera which sees no oak, but is aged for a year before release in a combination of steel tanks and bottle. A fresh, buoyant lift of cherry fruit has a little tinge of tobacco, spice and something brambly and autumnal. On the palate it bursts with juicy flavour, a real explosion of that cherry freshness and hint of cassis sweetness, it’s light to medium body adding to the easy-drinking enjoyment, but with excellent freshness and a little roughening nip of tannin to remind you this has some concentration and at least a glimpse of a more serious side. Joyous and delicious. 89/100, £13.95, Ten Acre Wines.
Cascina Ca’Rossa, Langhe Nebbiolo 2012, Italy
Like all of Ca’Rossa’s wines, this pure Nebbiolo is bottled with ‘DIAM’, a technical cork with an extremely low record of cork taint. Again made in stainless steel, this has a beautifully refined nose: it’s a wine all about crunchily dry, redcurrant and cherry fruit, that is balanced, elegant and above all savoury: an intelligently made, lean and quietly confident red with nothing forced, nothing showy, but elegantly combining backbone, acid freshness and food-friendly subtlety. Very different from the Barbera, but equally good. 89/100. £14.95, Ten Acre Wines.
Cascina Ca’Rossa, Barbera d’Alba Mulassa 2011, Italy
A selection of Barbera, this time aged 18 months in large Slavonian oak. Bittersweet cocoa, cherry and the faintest rounding of vanilla is all quite subtle and powerfully concentrated, a lovely sense of quiet authority and not trying too hard about this wine. On the palate the rich, fleshy plum sweetness surprises, a real intensity of ripe black fruit, but typical of this house, everything is wrapped in a lean, linear cloak of acidity and tannin that gives it poise and length, and much more than straightforward fruit. Spices begin to build on the back palate, some smokiness and dry savoury fruit with sour cherry bite stays part of the picture all the way to the end. Fine fruit, balance and élan. 92/100. £21.95, Ten Acre Wines.
Cascina Ca’Rossa, Roero Mompissano Riserva 2010, Italy
In many ways this was my favourite wine of the Ca’Rossa range tasted, and indeed I see it earned ‘3 bicchieri’ from Gambero Rosso too. All Nebbiolo, it spends 30 months in large Slavonian oak barrels, and comes from a tiny plot on the hill of Mompissano. It has a gorgeous nose that is subtly earthy with tobacco, clove and a tiny floral lift, and plenty of bold cherry and plum fruit. It is forward and modern, in a confident way, but classically restrained too. Lovely energy and finesse, the tight tannin structure and juicy acidity, as well as its medium body, counterbalance the fruit whilst all the time complex hints of herbs, gravel and steeliness speak of its concentration. 93/100. £24.95, Ten Acre Wines.