Once entirely limited to the confines of Europe, the remarkable wines of San Fereolo have slipped onto the world scene and generated impossible-to-ignore excitement. The mastermind behind it all is Nicoletta Bocca, a globally recognized biodynamic authority producing savory reds of superiority from iconic Piedmont. This palpable buzz was first detected by our subscribers after last year’s soul-stirring 2011 “Austri” offer, and surged to unprecedented levels when we followed up that sellout with Nicoletta’s flagship 2011 Dogliani. Both of these wines endured seven years of cellaring before release—they’re extreme case studies on patience and sagacity, and the results are nothing short of spectacular. I bring all this up because most of you have long since drained those bottlings, so today’s 2017 “Valdibà” is the perfect candidate to savor while we restively await the 2012 releases.
Although three years old, this is a “young” San Fereolo wine, a Dolcetto that forgoes the lengthy oak aging regimen and opts for stainless steel. It’s an unapologetically personal, stripped-down look into Piedmont’s vastly misunderstood grape, and Nicoletta wants you to know it. With Certified Biodynamic raw material serving as the wine’s life force, a natural upbringing in the cellar, and 2+ years of maturation before release, this erupts with bottomless dark-fruited depth, extreme polish, and understated grace. You’ll enjoy it so intensely and frequently, you just might forget about the top-tier cuvées—for now, at least!
The tale of today’s brilliant wine begins with its equally brilliant creator, Nicoletta Bocca. In 1992—at a time when female winemakers were extremely rare in Piedmont—Nicoletta assembled the San Fereolo property from a collection of ancient vineyards whose owners were too old to farm any longer. Keep in mind that the parcels that produce today’s wine were most recently replanted in 1936 and even the estate’s “young vines” are four decades old! In the 24 years following the property’s inception, Nicoletta has honed her skills and earned a reputation as a winemaking icon and one of the most brilliant and consistent organic/biodynamic producers in the world. Through Nicoletta’s skill, wisdom, and dogged insistence on cellar aging her wines for many years prior to release, San Fereolo has become synonymous with world-class wine.
Of course, it’s impossible to discuss a great wine without also diving into its place of origin. Nicoletta biodynamically farms a small collection of mature, high-altitude limestone vineyards that cling to the hillside above the Piedmontese village of Dogliani. If you have traveled the great wine regions of northern Italy, you may already be familiar with Dogliani as the final village one drives through before entering Barolo from the south. In addition to its close proximity to Barolo, Dogliani is arguably the most famous location for growing Dolcetto on the planet, and one of only a small handful of appellations wherein this grape variety earns the coveted DOCG status. This is because the finest examples of Dolcetto from Dogliani are unlike any other Dolcettos in Italy. In the rare instances when you encounter an exquisite, harmoniously balanced bottle of Dogliani from a respected estate and vintage, it is clear that this appellation transcends mere varietal typicity. Top-quality, cellar-aged Dogliani possesses shocking power, length, and texture.
Because of the stellar, time tested location and the chemical-free nature of her farming, Nicoletta’s fruit possesses exceptional personality and energy. The Dolcetto vines that produce today’s wine comes from the subzone of Valdibà, and they somehow always manage to pack more density of fruit, structure, and length of finish than the overwhelming majority. In the cellar, Nicoletta takes pains to preserve and never mask this unique character—especially for today’s cuvée which has zero oak influence. Fruit is de-stemmed, crushed, and then naturally fermented in stainless steel vessels without any temperature control. Truly, the wine is largely left untouched from harvest to bottling. After 12 months of maturation, the wine is transferred into bottle, unfiltered, and allowed to rest another 12 months before release.
San Fereolo’s 2017 “Valdibà” exhibits a youthful purple-ruby hue and a bevy of highly-perfumed aromatics leap out of the glass with great bounce: basketfuls of woodland berries roll through, followed by ripe red cherry, blackberry, lavender, violets, charred earth, dried herbs, crushed stone, scrub, cracked pepper, and a hint of meatiness. A wine of substance, polish, and raw power reveals itself on the palate, propelled along by a firm tannic backbone and Dolcetto’s deliciously lifted dark-berry fruit. This is often the kind of red that disappears quicker than one would imagine, even alongside even premium bottles. It just has that “it” factor. Serve in Burgundy stems at 60 degrees after a quick 15-minute decant and save a few ounces for the following day to really experience the full spectrum of this sensational wine. Cheers!