Le Piane Maggiorina 2013

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Nebbiolo from the more northerly sub-alpine regions above Barolo and Barbaresco usually get passed over. Many know the DOCs Gattinara and Ghemme but I can’t imagine anyone except the most informed have heard of the Boca DOC, where Le Piane is from. In fact, Le Piane was once the only producer in the DOC, which has now expanded to about 30.

Some DOC Necessities

Though the DOC is fairly recent (1970), the region has been known for wine for much longer. Between 1950 and 1998, the vineyards fell into disuse, declining from 40,000 hectares to just 10. Le Piane (founded in 1998 by Christoph Kuenzli from purchased vineyards) revived the region by careful dedication to old-vine material and careful, non-industrial farming without chemicals.

The soil in Boca is very acidic, rich in iron and poor in limestone. The DOC rules require wines to have 45-70% Nebbiolo and 20-40%% Vespolino and 0-20% Uva Rara (Bonarda).

The Maggiorina (from the commune of the same name), though grown in Boca, is not labelled as a DOC and thus it can play with the formula by blending 40% Nebbiolo + 40% Croatina and 10 other indigenous grapes. The vines are 20-80 years old and are farmed using the unique “Maggioria” system, which is described on Le Piane’s website as follows:

“We proudly keep some vineyards planted with the traditional “Maggiorina” system, with three vines developing upwards in the four points of the compass, to form a goblet. For hundreds of years it was the only system used in Boca; and Alessandro Antonelli, the architect who built the Mole Antonelliana in Turin and the huge Sanctuary of Boca, further improved it to be more resistant to wind and weather. Antonelli was a native of the neighbouring village of Maggiora. All vineyards still in production and planted before the collapse of Boca in the 50s are old “Maggiorina’s”, mostly planted following the phylloxera plague round 1910 and still enjoying good health and producing grapes with great depth and character. The system is perfect for manual labour, and cannot use any modern agricultural machines. “Maggiorina” has been continually perfected for manual maintenance. We have learned, contrary to the generally accepted views within modern and mechanised agriculture, that our trellised vineyards should be cared for by hand to attain the highest quality, and we see our “Maggiorina” as a great heritage dating back to at least Roman times, when Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) wrote about the wine regions of the Novara hills in his “Naturalis Historia”.”

Drink Early. Take Seriously, or Not.

The Maggiorina is meant for early drinking and it is certainly a vibrant, fresh wine. But don’t mistake this ease for simplicity. There is structure to this wine and a lovely braid of fruit and minerality. It is extremely food friendly and idiosyncratic.

I adored this wine with the outstanding wood-fired food of Toronto’s Woodlot restaurant. It is also available in BC.

Very Good+ and Highly Recommended Value
$30 list in BC (imported by Sedimentary) – I am not sure which private stores will be carrying this yet, but try the usual.
$70 wine list at Toronto’s Woodlot


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