Albino Rocca

Classical Nebbiolo and Friends from an Outstanding Barbaresco Estate

It’s easy to forget that Nebbiolo, produced from great sites and mature vines can be a wickedly seductive wine to drink young. The late Angelo Rocca was a master at reminding us of this fact. When Angelo Rocca tragically passed away in 2012 in a light plane accident, Barbaresco lost one of its most distinguished growers. It also lost a wonderful person and a deeply respected member of the Piemontese community. Rocca was operating at the peak of his powers and producing the most exciting, terroir-intense wines of his career. His three daughters (Daniela, Monica and Paola) along with Angelo’s cellarmaster (and son-in-law) Carlo have been determined to continue this legacy and in recent years, they have not missed a beat.

These are deeply classical wines in one sense (large cask, natural ferments, savoury tannins, etc.) and yet they are also wonderfully pure and precise. They nod to modernity in the best possible way. Of course, it helps that they have such wonderful holdings, use only Estate grown grapes and work very well in the vineyards with no herbicides, pesticides and only organic fertiliser—when it comes to Piemonte we have all been guilty of talking too much about winemaking and not enough about grape growing!

“The entire range trades on the same principal; honest, open and delightfully balanced wines, no matter what grape varieties are involved.” Nick Stock, Gourmet Traveller Wine

This producer has been through an incredible journey in recent years. The sudden passing of the family patriarch was obviously the catalyst. Angelo was already moving the Estate back to a more classical style (having come full circle), and after his passing his three daughters decided to produce a wine in his honour. Speaking with their grandfather, Albino Rocca (Angelo’s father and founder of the Estate), the idea came to them to make a wine that was vinified much in the way that Albino had done back in the day—using a wooden fermenter, with what we would call today ‘extended maceration’. The first release of the Angelo Barbaresco was such a success that it has now inspired evolution across all the wines (and two new wooden fermenters at the winery).

The Rocca’s efforts to continually improve the quality of all their Estate’s wines have resulted in some superb offerings over the last few vintages. All the wines are aged in large, neutral botti and remain contemporary in the sense that they are ripe, pure and meticulously made, but instead of any distracting new oak character, you have that wonderful dark cherry, floral and savoury structured personality of Nebbiolo in all its Piemontese glory. Not only are Albino Rocca wines outstanding examples of Barbaresco, but they are also very fairly priced.

The Range

Albino Rocca Barbera d'Alba 2022
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Albino Rocca Barbera d'Alba 2022

The lion’s share of this small-volume cuvée is drawn from a single parcel of vines planted in 2004 in the clay and limestone soils of San Rocco Seno d'Elvio—just outside the Alba township, on the edge of the Barbaresco area. More recently, a parcel of 20-year-old Barbara from Castagnito on the opposite side of the Tanaro River has joined the party. The resulting wine, raised entirely in tank, is bursting with mouth-watering red and blue fruit flavours framed by tightly wound tannins and lip-smacking acidity.

“The 2022 Barbera d'Alba is another delicious entry-level wine from Albino Rocca. It captures notable freshness and energy. Dark red cherry/plum fruit, spice, leather and blood orange and all dialed up. Vinification and aging in steel keeps the flavors vibrant.”
90 points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous
Albino Rocca Barbera d'Alba 2022
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Albino Rocca Nebbiolo d'Alba 2021
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Albino Rocca Nebbiolo d'Alba 2021

Like most of the Rocca wines, the Nebbiolo d’Alba derives from a single site—a parcel between Barolo and Barbaresco in the westernmost section of the Seno d'Elvio subzone. Aptly (and nowt to do with Tolkien), this area is known locally as Terra di Mezzo (middle earth). The Nebbiolo vines vary in age from 15 to 60 years, and the Roccas mature this wine for 12 months in large Austrian and German oak casks. Not only does Rocca’s Nebbiolo d’Alba perennially offer outstanding depth and interest for the money, but this ‘baby Barbaresco’ also gives us a preview of what to expect from the Barbaresco to be released next year (a very significant one in this case!), while acting as the perfect, early-drinking understudy. 

Albino Rocca Nebbiolo d'Alba 2021
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Albino Rocca Langhe Nebbiolo Rosso di Rocca 2022
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Albino Rocca Langhe Nebbiolo Rosso di Rocca 2022

Rosso di Rocca is 97% Nebbiolo with a smattering of Cabernet Franc. The Nebbiolo hails from a vineyard at Magliano Alfieri in the first hills of the Roero region. The vines were planted in 1967 and 2002, and the parcel was purchased by the family in 2016. The Cabernet Franc comes from 20-year-old estate vines in Barbaresco. Roero’s sandy soils gift a lighter, brighter, earlier-drinking wine than the Rocca Nebbiolo d’Alba—a Nebbiolo party in a glass. The wine’s upbringing (solely in tank) and early bottling helps keep to this theme, and 2022 is another cracking rendition. It’s super-bright, perfumed and crackling with energy, with a swish of blood orange in front of blue fruits, steely minerality and savoury spices. Succulent and structured, it’s an approachable and harmonious Nebbiolo with fresh acidity, powdery tannins and impressive fruit concentration. A fabulous introduction to the beautiful world of Piemonte Nebbiolo, and superb value to boot.

Albino Rocca Langhe Nebbiolo Rosso di Rocca 2022
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Albino Rocca Barbaresco 2019
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Albino Rocca Barbaresco 2019

In addition to its classic source—a parcel of old vines in Meruzzano—Rocca’s Barbaresco now takes in a selection of young-vine fruit from three Barbaresco Cru parcels: Ovello, Ronchi and Cottà. These sources, along with the winemaking—three weeks on skins and maturation exclusively in large Stockinger botti for 24 months—means we can expect a pretty serious wine at this level. It’s a terrific introduction to the year. From the off, you can sense the presence of the fleshy power and precision that characterise Rocca’s 2019 Barbaresco’s. The nose already shows great aromatic charm with red fruit purity, flecked by floral prettiness and lifted spice. The palate is vibrant and fleshy, more ‘filled out’ than 2018 and crammed with graceful flow cosseted by fine, mouthcoating tannins and wonderful freshness. It finishes on a Campari note with great length. It all adds up to an excellent vintage for this cuvée.

It’s a terrific introduction to the year. From the off, you can sense the presence of the fleshy power and precision that characterise Rocca’s 2019 Barbaresco’s. The nose already shows great aromatic charm with red fruit purity, flecked by floral prettiness and lifted spice. The palate is vibrant and fleshy, more ‘filled out’ than 2018 and crammed with graceful flow cosseted by fine, mouthcoating tannins and wonderful freshness. It finishes on a Campari note with great length. It all adds up to an excellent vintage for this cuvée.

“Fleshy and laced with cherry, plum, eucalyptus and earth flavors, this red is balanced, solidly built and long. Lively, with an aftertaste infused with cherry, currant, mineral and leafy accents. Best from 2025 through 2042.”
93 points, Bruce Sanderson, Wine Spectator
“The 2019 Barbaresco is a very pretty, intensely aromatic wine. Dried herbs, rose petal, blood orange, cedar, sweet pipe tobacco and sweet dried cherry all grace this attractive, mid-weight Barbaresco from the Meruzzano cru. Drink it over the next decade or so. I would give this a good bit of air first, though.”
91 points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous
Albino Rocca Barbaresco 2019
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Albino Rocca Barbaresco Angelo 2019
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Albino Rocca Barbaresco Angelo 2019

This producer has been through an incredible journey in recent years. The sudden passing of the family patriarch, Angelo Rocca, in 2012 was obviously the catalyst. Angelo was already moving the estate back to a more classic style (having come full circle), and after his passing, his three daughters decided to produce a wine in his honour. Speaking with their grandfather Albino Rocca (Angelo’s father and founder of the estate), the Rocca sisters formulated the idea of making a wine in the way it had been done back in Albino’s day. The first release of the Angelo Barbaresco was such a success that it has inspired evolution across all the wines and two new wooden fermenters are now at the winery.Angelo is a small blend of fruit from selected parcels across the estate. It was given a lunga macerazione (50 days on skins using a submerged cap) in a large-format, specially designed Stockinger wooden fermenter. The wine was then aged for 24 months in a single 2,000-litre cask. The blend is typically 50% Ronchi, 25% Ovello and 25% Montersino. It has been described by Galloni as a “Brunate of Barbaresco”, which gives you some insight into the quality on offer here.As you would expect, when young, the 2019 Angelo is the most complex and brooding of Rocca’s 2019 Barbarescos. Given time, the wine’s ethereal structure and lush, red-fruited succulence will mesh nicely with the layers of dried florals, deep spice and earthy depth. In the meantime, there is something charmingly ‘old school’ that the extended maceration has brought; something indescribably complex too. Yet, the wine remains magically fresh, pure and refined, with the supporting structure hovering in the background. Tasted last week, it’s already looking more seductive than Galloni’s note (October 22) suggests.

As you would expect, when young, the 2019 Angelo is the most complex and brooding of Rocca’s 2019 Barbaresco’s. Given time, the wine’s ethereal structure and lush, red-fruited succulence will mesh nicely with the layers of dried florals, deep spice and earthy depth. In the meantime, there is something charmingly ‘old school’ that the extended maceration has brought; something indescribably complex too. Yet, the wine remains magically fresh, pure and refined, with the supporting structure hovering in the background. Tasted last week, it’s already looking more seductive than Galloni’s note (October 22) suggests.

“The 2019 Barbaresco Angelo is a blend from Ronchi, Montersino and Ovello, co-fermented, done with extended submerged cap maceration that can go as long as 50-60 days. It offers remarkable depth in an elegant, transparent style that is hugely appealing. Sweet red cherry, kirsch, mint and raspberry all come together. Interestingly, it is the most reticent of the Barbarescos.”
94+ points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous
Albino Rocca Barbaresco Angelo 2019
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Albino Rocca Cortese 2020
Albino Rocca Cortese 2020
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Albino Rocca Cortese 2020

Overlook Roccas whites at your peril! As far as we know, this unique wine is the only Cortese grown within the boundaries of Barbaresco, so perhaps the fact that the Roccas grow it should be clue enough that we’re on to something special and unique. The one-hectare plot of 40-year-old vines is rooted in Montegrosso d’Asti (in Barbaresco, just south of Asti) on clay and limestone soils. The wine was aged in a mix of stainless steel and mature French oak (just six months in barrel). It’s an engagingly textural white with layers of fresh orchard fruits, saline minerality and some wild herbs, all underpinned by chalky freshness and closing with a twist of grapefruit bitters and phenolic chewiness. Cortese rising! This is a very strong candidate for all manner of seafood and white meat.

It’s an engagingly textural white with layers of fresh orchard fruits, saline minerality and some wild herbs, all underpinned by chalky freshness and closing with a twist of grapefruit bitters and phenolic chewiness. Cortese rising! This is a very strong candidate for all manner of seafood and white meat.

Albino Rocca Cortese 2020
Albino Rocca Cortese 2020
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“The entire range trades on the same principal; honest, open and delightfully balanced wines, no matter what grape varieties are involved.” Nick Stock, Gourmet Traveller Wine

“….there’s much to be said for the attractive willingness of the wines of Albino Rocca; the Barbaresco unmasks the essence of nebbiolo and presents the engaging, elegant and downright feminine side of this much revered grape. In fact, the entire range trades on the same principal; honest, open and delightfully balanced wines, no matter what grape varieties are involved.” Nick Stock, Gourmet Traveller Wine

“Paola, Monica and Daniela Rocca have unhesitatingly taken up the winemaking and moral legacy of their father Angelo following since his untimely death in 2012. They now continue with the story that won many fans thanks to above all to the happy combination of courteous affability permeating the Ronchi farm and the appealing, well-measured pace of the estate’s Barbarescos.” Gambero Rosso 

Country

Italy

Primary Region

Barbaresco, Piedmont

People

Winemakers: The Rocca family & Carlo Castellengo

Availability

National

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