Wednesday, March 12, 2014
By JOE APPEL
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As always, wines this pure of character got that way because of what happened before the grapes were picked. The winery's director, Alessandro Uslenghi (founder Giuseppe Fraccchia's grandson) uses biodynamic practices that have been in place there since 1984 to ensure the vitality of the vines and fruit. The vines share a home with breeding cattle and myriad birds, bugs and other wildlife, as well as corn and other crops, on 520 acres that are a designated nature preserve. Grape harvest is performed only after thorough physiological maturity.
The Barbera is fermented in stainless tanks to retain freshness, then some of it is aged in large used (and therefore largely neutral) oak barrels. The subtle effects of the oak are a sort of tempering and gradual elongation of the wine's development, translating in the glass to a smoother body and integration of fruit and acid.
I haven't tasted other wines from this producer, which are available in Maine only by special order. The single-vineyard Barbera Minola, produced only in good years from more select fruit that macerates longer and spends time in smaller French oak barrels, is made for aging. And while all the wines are treated with relatively small amounts of sulfur, the single-vineyard Barbera SSA 500 receives no sulfur at all. Nuova Cappelletta's U.S. importer, Paul Chartrand, a longtime expert on sulfur use in wines produced from organic grapes, calls it "one of the best NSA (no-sulfur-added) reds I've tasted."
Nuova Cappelletta wines are usually sold at Whole Foods and Lois' Natural, among a few other spots. That's the good news, but I'm guessing it's because they are certified as wines made biodynamically from organic grapes, important traits that nonetheless risk consignment to the category of "health food wines" rather than "excellent wines." They are excellent, and need not be humble about it.
Joe Appel works at Rosemont Market, but not all the wines mentioned in this column are necessarily sold there. His blog is soulofwine.com, and he can be reached at: