Rasmus Christensen Oktober 2021
Year 1993. In the small hilltop town of Novello in the Piemonte region, a powerful impression took place.
Valter Fissore and his father in law Elvio Cogno received an invitation to taste a few bottles of Nascetta from 1986. Valter immediately fell in love with the well developed wines that weren’t affected by oxidation at all. This was the spark that ignited more than 30 years of passionated hard work breeding the neglected Nascetta variety.
Going back in time
Nascetta is a noble variety proven indigous to Piemonte and with a long history, mainly in Novello and with a small portion in Monforte. The first official documentation is from 1877, where the scholar Giuseppe dei Conti di Rovasenda, in his “Essay on a Universal Ampelography ” describes it as a delicate grape and a delicious wine rooted in Novello. At that time, it was mainly produced as a sweet passito wine, blended with other white varieties and often used for sacred purposes as altar wine by the church.
The variety was a common grape found in Novello until Phylloxera entered and, flanked by two world wars, the normality was turned upside down. Nascetta is rather challenging to cultivate, so eventually it got severely magineliced by primarily Nebbiolo and Barbera which had (and still have) a much broader commercial appeal.
Working on a project
As mentioned, Valter and Elvio supported by the two brothers Mauro and Savio Daniele from Le Strette winery, started the project to vinify Nascetta separately.
At that time the total plantation was around 1 – 1 ½ planted hectares, with 3-2 fair sized vineyards. The rest was just a few vines here and there. They had to drive around the village to pick up a basket of grapes from many different vineyards spread around thousands of square meters. It was an extremely time consuming project, as they had to identify each vine separately. The following years they engaged in a big study in combination with university of Turin and Institudo of Cultivation in Asti. So from 1994-2000 they received 100 kilos of Naschetta each, to see what they could make out of it, and the results were highly promising. Eventually, and through an exhausting bureaucratic process, they managed to get Nascetta recognized as a variety. But that wasn’t enough. They were aiming for a specific varietal DOC classification.
In linear vision
To draw a timeline, it would appear something like this:
For hundreds of years the variety was cultivated but it was not a recognized grape. It used to be “il vino della messa” – a wine for the mass. This was at a time where wine was not a luxury product, it was a food supplement.
So before 2002 it could only be produced as a Vino di Tavola.
In 2002 the grape came on the official list in Italian National Registry of Grape Varieties and it was enlisted as a “Langhe White DOC”. This meant that it could be produced anywhere in Langhe and blended with many other white varieties.
Finally in 2010 the culmination of the efforts resulted in the classification of “Nascetta del Comune di Novello DOC ” allowing only 100% Nascetta from the comune of Novello.
Success has many fathers
The name Nascetta appears in different formats. Nas-cetta, Nas-chetta, Anascetta, Anas-cëtta and finally Nas-cëtta. All of them are dialects of the same variety. However it is only allowed to be spelled Nas-cëtta on the label, if it is sourced from the Novello commune.
And Novello is where this grape is centered around. It’s a commune in the Province of Cuneo in Piemonte. And Novello is also one of the 11th approved communes in the Barolo production zone. It is situated in the south-west corner of Barolo boarding Monforte d’Alba to the east and the Barolo commune to the north. In a land where Nebbiolo is the king with several noble varieties in the succession of the throne, Nascetta could be what helps differentiate Novello from the other communes. At least that is part of the motivation for some of the producers of Nascetta in Novello.
Nascetta is a difficult grape to cultivate. It is vigorous, time consuming to manage in the vineyards, it is highly affected by climatic conditions, plus it carries variable and inconsistent yield. It is prone to Mildew diseases, especially Powdery Mildew are a threat due to its late ripening and thin skin.
Today around 15 hectares are planted with Nascetta in Novello which is equivalent to 88.000 bottles. 30 hectares are planted in Langhe, where it is allowed to blend in 15% of other white varieties. That means that you have to seek the winemaker’s specifications, if you are looking for a complete varietal wine. It is on the other hand guaranteed as a varietal wine in Novello. Besides a small portion grown in Valtellina, Nascetta is a specialty entirely from Piemonte.
Handling the vinification
During the last 30 years, numerous attempts have been made to vinify the variety in the best way possible. Wood – inox, malo – no malo, maceration, cold maceration and so on. What in general terms have paid out most profitable for the variety is to avoid oxidation, ferment at low temperatures and to avoid malolactic fermentation as the grape has a naturally low acidity. These are key elements in making the most homogeneously and ageworthy Nascetta wines.
Valter Fissore has spent 30 years behind this grape trying to foster its potentials but also for his love of Novello. He is now in charge of the consortium “Association of Nas-cetta Producers of the Municipality of Novello” that was founded in 2014. The consorzio counts 12 members, almost all the producers in Novello.
Valter is also friends and sparring partner with Walter Massa from Colli Tortonesi, who has spent most of his work of life trying (and succeeded) to master and promote the almost extinct white aromatic Timarasso variety. You can read more about that here:
The crystal ball says
In the 800 paged extensive The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson, Nascetta is only granted with 3 lines. That indicates the limited international appeal that this variety is currently facing.
Around Langhe, this variety is in competition with other white varieties, and since the perimeter in Novello is quite small and fixed, it is likely to assume that it Nascetta will continue to be a niche wine in the future. But a niche that certainly deserves a place on earth.
The final outcome
I have tasted wine from all the Nascetta producers in the Novello commune, and you can find my notes beneath.
All the wines presented good varietal expression in stylistically both linear and crispy wines and towards spicy and more extracted wines. They seem to be ageworthy with a small well proportioned amount of tight malic acidity. Most important is that almost all of them had an interesting character with the sense that they had something on their mind.
Luca Marenco – Langhe Nas-cëtta del Comune di Novello 2019
White flowers, spicy unripe mango and green vegetables. It has a creamy texture and the lively acidity is well balanced with the fruit.
Will develop positively over the next 10 years.
A lovely well structured Nascetta wine
La Pergola – Langhe Nas-cëtta del Comune di Novello 2019
Rich and spicy notes of baked pear, fennel and juicy orange. Creamy mouthfeel with a moderate acidity and a long and aromatic finish. It is a tasty and almost chewy wine with a definite sense of place.
Casa Baricalino – Langhe Nas-cëtta del Comune di Novello 2019
Subtle fragrance and expressive palate. Pastry, ripe plum and dried flower notes, are wrapped around a structured core and lifted up by a lively and electric acidity. A distinctive gastronomic wine that will age with grace.
Cascina Gavetta – Langhe Nas-cëtta del Comune di Novello 2019
Floral, crisp and fruity style with a lively mouth dripping acidity and a light medium body .
There are aromatic notes of green apple, peach and fruit tree flowers and a welcoming touch of bitter tannins toward the finish. Captivating interpretation with lots of energy.
Stra – Langhe Nas-cëtta del Comune di Novello 2020
Golden and amber in color, with rich notes of mango, hazelnuts, dried herbs and flowers. It’s expressive and slightly oxidized with a vibrant acidity and stylistically with a touch of orange wine.
Le Strette – Pasinot – Langhe Nas-cëtta del Comune di Novello 2019
Complex tropical fragrance and papaya, pineapple and walnuts with a bit of pleasant bitterness on the palate. It has a tense acidity, it’s well structured and will age well for many years. A wine with lots of well ochestrerad personality.
Marengo Mauro – Langhe Nas-cëtta del Comune di Novello 2020
Capitaving floral and peachy fragrance. It has a crispy acidity and creamy texture. The palate is powered with herbal and anise notes that are quite distinctive but certainly well proportioned.
Passone Massimiliano – Langhe Nas-cëtta del Comune di Novello 2019
It has a heavy bouquet with notes of over ripe red apples, chamomile tea and nail varnish that are also transferred to the palate. It has a moderate acidity and an oily texture. Distinctive wine that is not trying to please the crowd.
Vietto Giuàna – Langhe Nas-cëtta del Comune di Novello 2019
Light colored, light bodied with floral notes along with vegetables and green weeds. It is fresh, crispy, and easy going with a lively acidity that makes it welcoming and uplifted.
Sansilvestro – Langhe Nas-cëtta del Comune di Novello 2019
Expressive nose with white vermouth notes. The palate is well balanced with ripe yellow fruit, creamy texture and moderate acidity. It presents a well tamed power and a spicy and rank personality.
Arnaldo Rivera – Langhe Nas-cëtta del Comune di Novello 2019
Smoot and fruit driven wine with notes of peach, pear and green herbs. Moderate acidity and a light body. It is well proportioned in all its fine and delicate elements.
Elvio Cogno – Langhe Nas-cëtta del Comune di Novello 2019
Expressive in every aspect. Ripe fruit, spices and floral perfume. With uplifted acidity that matches the full body and fruit perfectly and drives towards a long and complex finish. A Nascetta wine that brings out the full potential of this variety.