Tasty reads

Langhe DOC Nascetta a chat with producers

June 4, 2024

Novello nascetta is a grape variety native to the Piedmont region of Italy, particularly the Langhe area.

Characterized by a rich history and growing popularity, nascetta has been a subject of interest to winemakers and wine lovers because of its unique and distinctive characteristics.

In the context of modern viticulture, nascetta represents an interesting challenge for producers, as it requires special care and careful management in the vineyard and cellar to enhance its inherent qualities.

Originally consumed mainly locally, Nascetta wine has gained recognition over the years, including from experts in the field, due to its aromatic profile and its ability to express the particularities of the land where it is grown.

To explore this topic further, we had a chat with the people who produce it. We therefore thank Maurizio of the Cascina Sòt farm in Monforte d’Alba, Marco Capra in Santo Stefano Belbo, and Savio Daniele of Le Strette in Novello for giving us their time!

Maurizio, Cascina Sòt

Why did you decide to focus on Nascetta?

maurizio — We decided to plant this vine in 2016 because it was our desire to have another white in the range, and since we have a vineyard on the border with Novello, we wanted it from the territory.

Nascetta is a semi-aromatic variety that lends itself very well to maceration (because it has a very thick skin) and has a good propensity for aging.

Possibility of taking a walk through the vineyards
Cascina Sòt – the family in the vineyard

What are the challenges at the level of grape cultivation and production?

maurizio — His vegetative development is little pronounced (so it makes a compact espalier) and it is not easy to make predictions and manage its foliage: with other vines, in warmer years, you tend to leave it covered so as to shade, but in the case of nascetta you have to know in advance whether there will be a good charge or not. There are very productive vintages and some rather poor ones.

This is also reflected in the final product, the higher the production charge, the lower the concentration of product, so we will have a wine that is less alcoholic and full, with more pronounced acidity and freshness. The opposite is true for poorer vintages.

In the winery we carry out a maceration process that has been a real challenge for us, because it has never been tried before: the grapes are harvested, destemmed and crushed, then we let the skins cap go up and, after about ten days of manual punching down, we proceed to racking.

We treat it like a red wine for about half of the fermentation and then continue without skins. It does not perform malolactic fermentation and we proceed with two months of batonnage. Before releasing it to the market, it is aged 6 months in the bottle.

It is a wine that we sell well, both in Italy and abroad (in small quantities let’s be clear, but it works). Americans love it, but the Swiss, Canadians, Australians, Danes and Swedes also appreciate it.

Marco Capra

Tell us about your Nascetta

marco — We learned about this grape variety from a cousin who had planted it, and when we tasted it, we liked it right away!

Like all native vines that have been “abandoned” for a few years, it presents some difficulties in cultivation: the shoots, compared to barbera or moscato, tend to turn downward, creating problems in fixing and then unpredictability in production. It doesn’t have the same yield every year; it is erratic.

Boxes of Nas-cëtta during the grape harvest.

It is, however, a unique wine, and this is very attractive to the end consumer: it is long-lived -we have opened bottles that are 15 years old and they are still in splendid shape-, fruity, fresh and therefore consumable even in the first few years of bottling.

It presents herbal notes on the nose and its evolution is surprising, truly unique.

Slowly it is making its way into the market, thanks to the historic producers who have always made wine from it (and believed in it) and thanks to the curious who, to the more lofty international grape varieties, prefer to uncork a bottle made from native grapes. Even abroad they are starting to request it because it is often on the wine list, so they have a chance to taste it.

Savio Daniele, Le Strette

Savio was one of the pioneers in the rediscovery of this grape variety whose traces had been lost, and it is thanks to his work and that of other producers who believed in the project that we can tell people about nascetta.

How did your story with nascetta begin?

savio — We started making nascetta wine in the mid-1990s, when the grape variety had practically disappeared. After completing my oenology studies in Alba, I started working as a winemaker in ’89, ’90 and began hearing about it from my wife’s relatives.

My mother-in-law lived in Le Strette and told of her father who had vineyards around the house, as did her cousins, among the few who had a tiny production for family use. It was also talked about in school classrooms in the late 1980s with wine professor Carlo Arnulfo, who was from Novello. In short, it was meant to be.

In the mid-1990s we decided to embark on the winery project at Le Strette, at first as a hobby, until ’97, when it officially became our job, also experimenting with nascetta: the idea was to express territoriality at 360°.

Sustainable agriculture in the vineyard
Sustainable agriculture in the vineyard

At first, however, to get away from the risk of fines, the only way we could market Nascetta was to sell it as any white table wine, which to distinguish we called by the Novellese dialect term Nas-cëtta. In fact, although mentions of this wine date back to the second half of the 1800s on several documents (mentioned as Anascetta or Nascetta or Nascette), it had never been registered and formalized before.

Since you are among the pioneers, can you tell us the history of this designation?

savio — In 2001, it went from clandestine to a grape variety authorized for cultivation, and a few years later the Langhe DOC Nascetta appellation was born (grapes can also come from outside the municipality of Novello and must account for at least 85 percent of total production).

In 2003 there was a first official identification with the name Nas-cëtta for wines made from the vinification of nascetta grapes produced in the municipality of Novello, and in 2010 a path came to fruition that allowed the municipality of Novello to have its specific name, which while still falling under “Langhe,” could be called the Nas-cëtta of the City of Novello, a wine made from 100% nascetta grapes grown in the municipal boundaries of Novello.

Thanks to this process that lasted more than 10 years, other producers began planting this vine from the second half of the 2000s onward, beyond even the borders of Novello, productions that did not have major difficulties because by that time the vine was already registered.

What has been your greatest difficulty?

savioTogether with Elvio Cogno, in the late 1990s, we surveyed and collected nascetta productions in the municipality of Novello. In this way, we were able to multiply the rootstocks and thus plant new vineyards.

This was our greatest difficulty: starting with a product in very limited quantities and figuring out how best to interpret it, studying historical documents and tasting the one produced by Francesco Marengo and Ferdinando Roggia.

Speaking of today, the difficulties remain at the production level: we try to figure out year by year how to do it, avoiding extremism especially at the level of canopy management. We try to protect the vines from the heat, of course.

It is a somewhat more demanding grape variety than others in what concerns its cultivation, but nowadays it is accepted, trying to accompany the vintage.

Marengo Mauro - glass of nascetta
Glass of Nas-cëtta

What is the project that is closest to your heart regarding Nascetta?

savio — We are really connected to the Pasinot Project, whose name identifies Pasinotti Hill, the most historic nascetta hill.

Here is the oldest vineyard, exposed on the south side of the municipality of Novello, a small plot from the 1940s whose vines were abandoned and to which we decided to dedicate a label.

This project made it possible to deepen and translate into the bottle the peculiar characters of the grapes and the Nas-cëtta wine, identifying the historic cru and preserving its biodiversity.

How is Nascetta perceived in the market?

In the marketplace, it is still perceived as a niche wine, so it’s not like it has very high consumption.

Awareness is beginning to grow, and inquiries are also increasing from abroad: the first productions had a purely local destination, and then slowly it began to be better known even by amateurs who broadened their horizons and boundaries.

We now produce 10,000 bottles between the two labels, the classic and the cru Pasinot, and consumption is about 60-65% for Italy and 30% for abroad.