2018 Guardasole, Boca - A beguiling bargain from Piemonte

2018 Guardasole, Boca - A beguiling bargain from Piemonte

2018 Guardasole, Boca

A beguiling bargain from Piemonte

£175 per 6 bottle case in bond

Anyone who gets me talking about Italian wine will know quite quickly that I harbour an interest in Alto Piemonte, the lesser-known region to the north of Barolo and Barbaresco. I regard this area as producing some truly stunning wines, invariably with softer tannins than you would find in Barolo and at remarkably fair prices. In fact, it seems many consumers overlook great wines from regions such as Boca, Ghemme or Bramaterra (to name but a few), perhaps incorrectly believing that modest quality must accompany modest price….They are however wrong, and it seems there is a growing realisation that Alto Piemonte is on the up – unsurprising given the quality of recent vintages and perhaps a beneficial shift in climate. It is hard to find a region where you can buy great examples of characterful, cellarage-worthy wines for such fair prices.
A few years before Roberto Conterno purchased a stake in Nervi in Gattinara, Antonio Galloni once commented on vinous.com that ‘there aren’t too many secrets left anymore in the world of wine. Alto Piemonte and Valtellina are two of them.’   Following that high-profile Conterno acquisition, he might very soon only be able to cite Valtellina. One of Nervi’s first releases since Roberto Conterno’s involvement, the 2018 Gattinara Molsino, was the highest scoring wine of that vintage across Piemonte and Alto Piemonte with 98+ points. That means he rated it higher than any wine produced in Barolo or Barbaresco that vintage. And to suggest that ‘Molsino will soon be the Monfortino of Alto Piemonte’ is not only high praise for the team at Nervi but also signals that Alto Piemonte has potential and plenty of it. I think this is well worth noting. Funnily enough, if you go back in history, the wines of Alto Piemonte commanded higher prices than Burgundy…….

The dominant grape variety in Alto Piemonte is Nebbiolo, just as in Barolo and Barbaresco, yet here it is often blended with Vespolina, another indigenous variety peculiar to the region, which adds to Nebbiolo’s aromatics and helps soften the palate while adding a certain spiciness of its own. Whereas Barolo faces challenges in hotter vintages – where some full south-facing slopes are delivering more weight and alcohol – Alto Piemonte, with its cooler climatic profile and dramatic shifts between day and night temperature, often benefits from such conditions. It means that the vintage pattern from further south does not necessarily apply here as might very well be the case with 2018.
I tasted the 2018 Guardasole, Boca and quite quickly decided that it was an absolute bargain at £175 per 6 bottle case in bond. The Guardasole estate is tiny with just two hectares of vines across three historic plots planted with 80% Nebbiolo and 20% Vespolina. The vineyards are at an altitude that ranges from 460-490 metres and consist of volcanic rock and porphyry pebbles (basically coarse ground crystals embedded in igneous rock if my GCSE Geography serves me well). These factors contribute to the style of Boca, which is also shaped by the northern air currents from the Mount Rosa, which leads to a significant shift in day to night-time temperatures (mentioned above) – a pattern that serves Nebbiolo particularly well. The region typically experiences mild winters and warm, sunny summers permitting a relatively long growing season for a late ripening variety such as Nebbiolo; harvest normally commences in early October.
This vintage of Boca can be broached now and is likely to be broached chez Larkin once more in the not-too-distant future. It will also reward 10-12 years of cellarage. I have included my note below from two weeks ago along with Antonio Galloni’s from vinous.com published in March of this year. I wonder if he caught it early in its evolution, his words seem more of a powerful endorsement than his score, which seems a bit mean to me.


2018 Guardasole, Boca
£175 per 6 bottle case in bond

This vintage comprises 80% Nebbiolo and 20% Vespolina as per the vineyard blend. It is aged for 34 months in durmast oak barrels before release.

Bright and youthful in the glass, the open nose reveals complex notes of cherry, some sweet and dried, touches of scented herb, tobacco leaf and spice. Juicy, ripe with an effortless intensity, this is a remarkably more-ish wine that captures notes of hedgerow fruit – loganberry, blackberry yet with a red fruit brightness suggesting strawberry and redcurrant even. Beautifully balanced and without an edge in sight, this is a hugely impressive Boca; the softly expressed, mellow tannins are veiled by a surprising depth of fruit, which persists long into the finish that picks up a certain citrussy zest. Really individual and appealing – fascinated to know how this will age if it can be resisted. (SL) 2022-2032+

90 points, Antonio Galloni, vinous,com 
The 2018 Boca is an ethereal wine. Sweet red cherry fruit, blood orange, sage, mint and dried flowers all grace this mid-weight, expressive Boca. The 2018 is exotic, beguiling and full of character. Drink 2023-2033.

Please note the stock is already with us and available for immediate delivery.
All the best,
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