2022 Renzo Castella, Langhe Nebbiolo "Madonnina"
2022 Renzo Castella, Langhe Nebbiolo "Madonnina"

2022 Renzo Castella, Langhe Nebbiolo "Madonnina"

Piedmont, United States 2022 (750mL)
Regular price$33.00

2022 Renzo Castella, Langhe Nebbiolo "Madonnina"

 Since the release of the 2018 vintage, we’ve been preaching the gospel of Renzo Castella and his mind boggling Langhe Nebbiolo. We’re leaving in a golden age of Langhe Nebbiolo, and many good to great examples hit the SommSelect tasting table, but I’ve yet to find one that is as consistently complex, balanced, and joyfully drinkable as Castella’s “Mandonnina.” Each vintage somehow seems better than the last, despite the vagaries of weather, and no matter when a cork gets pulled this wine seems like the perfect call. Indeed, it’s on my short list for the “desert island wine” hall of fame. The 2022 just hit these shores, and every new release always goes super fast. So don’t delay in grabbing as much as you can–it will be great next month, next year, and in five years from now!

The story behind today’s extraordinary value begins in the small, hilltop hamlet of Diano d’Alba. In medieval times, Diano was a respected military power in the region that rivaled Alba, itself. But, as the centuries gradually tempered its might, Diano eased into its present life as a gentle agricultural town perhaps best known for its dark fruited, juicy Dolcetto. Renzo Castella’s grandfather, Severino, first established the family arm in Diano in the early 1900s. There, the Castella clan grew grapes and assorted fruit and bred livestock. As global demand for Piedmontese wine increased in the latter 20th century, Severino’s son Simone wisely navigated the family farm toward wine grapes, carefully purchasing new vineyards and slowly developing new parcels. Simone ultimately assembled a modest estate of <10 hectares with six cultivated to Dolcetto, two to Barbera, and the remainder to Nebbiolo—all of which was sold off to neighboring producers in the region. But, in the early 2000s, Simone’s son Renzo, an educated and deeply skilled winemaker, took the reins of the family estate and pivoted production from fruit sales to estate-bottled wines. 

In the two decades that followed, Renzo earned a reputation as one of Diano’s most knowledgeable, gifted, consistent, but also understated talents. While Renzo’s wines sell out every vintage, riding a high tide of accolades from Gambero Rosso and loud praise from Italy’s Slow Wine guide, the man himself cuts a far quieter figure. Renzo has no flashy website, no ostentatious tasting room—only a small stone cellar that shares a driveway with the home of his proudly grinning father and doting mother (a wizard of Prosciutto sandwich making, by the way). A visit to this spotless but quaint winery is a valuable reminder that the world’s most delicious wines need not originate from an “elite” castle or some eccentric mad scientist. Who needs a legion of Instagram followers when you have a loving family, enormous talent, and a small vein of limestone overflowing across the border of Barolo and into your own backyard?

After one sip, it will come as no surprise that the fruit behind today’s exceptional Nebbiolo originates in Renzo Castella’s small vineyard which hugs the border between Diano d’Alba and Serralunga d’Alba, Barolo. There’s a phrase in the local dialect, “Baroleggiano,” that more-or-less means a wine hailing from a vineyard that not only borders Barolo, but is able to telegraph Barolo’s structure and aromatics—this bottle is a perfect example! You can taste the limestone, and a quick glance at any geological map of Barolo clearly displays how it’s the same limestone of Serralunga that spills over into Renzo’s vineyard in Diano. Terroir is not just an imaginary concept—it’s a real thing, and Barolo typicity reverberates throughout every ounce of this wine. 

There’s a palpable density, minerality, and “seriousness” separating today’s wine from its innumerable counterparts. Firstly, Renzo Castella doesn’t gild his Nebbiolo with excessive ripeness or new oak so, in character, it holds much in common with my favorite Barolos of the 1970s and 80s, or contemporary “alpine” Nebbiolo from Bramaterra or Carema. Meaning, this is not an explosive, muscular, high-polish red to knock friends off their seats with one glass. On the contrary, it is a red of decided purity, elegance, and perfume. It’s a wine that gently encourages the drinker to lean in, listen closely, and share in the gradual evolution of subtle cherry/plum flavor, inimitable limestone terroir, and delicate floral aromatics. If decanted and enjoyed today, it is also a perfect companion to rustic Italian “weeknight dishes” like oxtail ragù, spaghetti carbonara, or a plate of carne cruda. But perhaps most importantly, it possesses all the hallmarks of a wine built to improve for years to come. Having enjoyed multiple vintages from this same vineyard and cellar, I can promise a bounty of truffles, dried roses, and delicately sweet cherries await anyone patient enough to cellar this inconspicuously affordable bottle well into the 2030s!

2022 Renzo Castella, Langhe Nebbiolo "Madonnina"

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