Italy 4: Old Friends and New Vintages

Before we get started, now would be an excellent time for those drinking along to open the fabulous Boca in your Italy case. It loves a bit of air, so pay attention to how it opens up of the next half hour or so.

This trip has been as much about old friends as new experiences. With the last year weighing heavy on all of us, a familiar face and a bit of hospitality is a welcome reprieve from the constant fear and isolation so many of us have come to expect. And as such, a short drive up to Boca seemed like a very good idea.

Silvia and Renzo are truly delightful people. Running on a mixture of passion and obsession, they create one of the rarest styles of wine in the world: Boca. A blend of Nebbiolo, Vespolina, and Uva Rara (a type of Bonarda), all grown in some of the most unique soil in the world. The vineyards live high up in the hills, and can only be accessed by roads better described as goat paths. And are so remote, that they are dotted with little houses where the workers used to stay during harvest. We didn’t have time to make it up to the vineyards, but met at their office.

On top of their considerable winemaking talents, Silvia and Renzo seem to have Sherlock Holmes level instincts for finding great cheese and charcuterie. And are always happy to pair it up with some truly excellent wines. We started with their new white wine, a delightfully bright and grassy thing that, after tasting some with a bit more bottle ageing, we all decided would love some cellar time. And of course it was made from Erbaluce (which is quickly rising in my hierarchy of white wines).

We then cracked open a bottle of a wine I was very interested to try: the 2020 Fenrose Boca Rose. The 2019 had been the best rose I had ever drank, and I was eager to see what 2020 had done for this wine. For all of its many difficulties, 2020 has turned out to be an amazing vintage in Italy. And with lockdown being what it is, many winemakers were keeping a very close eye on the vineyards they were trapped in for the last year. I am happy to report the they have made the best of a great year, and come out with something truly special. It’s softer and more balanced than the 2019. And I can’t imagine a food pairing the this wine wouldn’t be spectacular with.

Finally, it was on to the reds. A blend that they only sell locally was first. I’ll spare you the envy of a description, but it will suffice to say that it was beyond excellent. But we were here on a mission.

Boca. That ambrosia which has eluded so many a Nebbiolo faithful. And I was with dear friends who make the very best one. The magic of Boca lies in the soil. A volcano that turns itself inside out ages ago, the “soil” is really more of a crushed pink stone. Its defining characteristics being that it is very porous (for excellent drainage), has an extremely high heat retention (this keeps the plants working longer into the evening), and is extremely acidic. It is this acidity that makes the Nebbiolo in Boca so special. Whereas most Nebbiolo is grown in alkaline soils, these vineyards can reach a pH of 3.2! To give you an idea, 7 is neutral and a lemon is about 2. This teaches the grape manners, and softens out some of its harsher traits.

Where the Magic Happens

Bring all of this together with microscopic production and winemaking that can only be described as obsessive, and you have the makings of something very special. The Boca from Garona is a symphonic. Bringing together the best of Nebbiolo, Vespolina, and Uva Rara. It stands in defiance of the massive reds that have come to so define the international wine scene. This wine is elegant and downright pretty. It moves around the pallet with such grace and vitality as to completely captivate the drinker. You may notice that there are less pictures than normal in this post. In all honesty, good company and great wine got the best of me, and I almost completely forgot about my camera. But isn’t that the best way to do it? Enjoy the rest of that Boca. I think the new vintage may be even better.