An important white wine, with a strong territorial personality, in the lands of the great Nebbiolo-based reds, Barolo above all. Until a few years ago, the mere possibility would have seemed like an almost science fiction hypothesis. But today that wine is there, it exists: it is Nascetta, a white with the Langa pedigree, which is increasingly talked about.

Let’s try to retrace the history of his birth. Or, perhaps, it would be better to say “rebirth”: because if its affirmation on the wine stage appears rather recent, in reality its roots are older than one might expect.

The first evidential traces of the existence of the vine in the Langhe date back to the second half of the 1870s. Among the very first to talk about the «anascetta» is Giuseppe di Rovasenda, one of the greatest European ampelographers of the time (and not only): he first mentions it (in a very laconic way, to tell the truth) in his monumental Essay on an ampelography universal (1877); then, two years later, in an article entitled «List and quality of vines cultivated in the province of Cuneo» (Ampelographic Bulletin, vol. XI, 1879), he gives a broader description:

«White grapes; very productive vine, ordinary maturation, sweet wine, easy to keep, grown on the hill”. Rovasenda says it is widespread in good quantities, especially in the municipality of Novello, less so in Cherasco and Narzole.

In short, the ice is broken. Lorenzo Fantini would write much more eloquently about the «anascetta» in his historic Monograph on viticulture and oenology in the province of Cuneo (1879, new ed. 1894). Here is the birthplace for Fantini:

This wine is almost exclusively produced in the Novello area. It is somewhat lighter in color than Moscato, but is of equal finesse. Its goodness is due solely to nature which provides exquisite grapes. […] Some attempted with the Nascette to produce a white wine similar to the Rhine wines and obtained technically satisfactory results, but were economically costly, so they gave up their further studies and thus from competing with the Schloss Johannisberg! […] Anascetta, a vine that produces very fine grapes, especially if in very sunny situations. It is grown in good quantities in the Novello area, where it fruits extremely well. […] The grapes are exquisite in taste and produce excellent wine.

In short, Fantini goes where Rovasenda had not dared and predicts great potential for our vine, going so far as to compare it to the legendary wines of the Reno. A comparison that is also very popular with Giovanni Gagna, Monforte correspondent of the famous Atti della giunta for the agrarian investigation into the conditions of the agricultural class, Vulgo Jacini investigation: «From the Anascette grapes, you can still obtain true Rhine wine when the must is left to ferment for a long time, and it is aged with special care in the barrels».

But then? Then follows a century of oblivion, of darkness, of silence. The curtain seems to be falling on the birth, and even the winemakers of the Langa (and of Novello in particular) do not seem too fond of this grape, despite being so traditional and promising. However, there are still some diehards who cultivate it. And so it is that, on 7 September 1991, the barolist Elvio Cogno accompanies Armando Gambera, a great connoisseur and lover of the land and traditions of the Langa, to taste a wine based on one of the last producers: Franco Marengo dei Ciocchini (La Morra ). That meeting and that tasting will mark a new beginning. Gambera is struck by that wine and writes an article to talk about it. Let’s reread his words:

Of that handful of wines existing at Ciocchini I also tasted the last vinous product: a 1983 Nascetta, the last bottle of a happy but small series. Despite its somewhat weak structure, the wine commanded respect: the hint of iris and acacia flowers was delicate, while the honey burst out confidently on the palate. Franco Marengo had vinified a demijohn of it in purity from that last harvest, obtaining a sweet and calm wine. But there are those who bet that in Novello, in a hell away from prying eyes, there are still a few more bottles, this time of dry and sparkling wine…

The die is cast. Driven by Elvio Cogno’s conviction, in Novello they understand that they have something really interesting in their hands. On 22 August of that fateful 1991, the Municipality of Novello commissioned Mario Ubigli and Carlo Arnulfo to prepare the scientific documentation necessary for the inclusion of the nascetta in the National Register of vine varieties, in order to obtain authorization for cultivation. The scientific process will end in July 2000 with the sending of the technical report from the CNR of Turin (Professor Franco Mannini) to the Region and then to the Ministry of Agriculture. In 2002 the DOC Langhe Nascetta will be made official; while it will be necessary to wait until one to mention on the label the term «Langhe Nascetta del Comune di Novello» or «Nascetta del Comune di Novello», thus confirming the historical vocation of that Municipality towards our vine.

It might seem like a story like many others, of the recovery of an ancient traditional vine: Italy is full of these hidden ampelographic and oenological treasures. But here, in the lands of Barolo, the emergence of a great white wine from traditional vines is truly an unexpected event, worth remembering. Today, there are more than 50 hectares cultivated with Nascetta; and if the lion’s share goes to Novello, as is natural, small and large producers have planted it in La Morra, Serralunga, Castiglione Falletto, Dogliani, Barolo, Trezzo Tinella, Monforte and up to Santo Stefano Belbo and Carrù … In short, even the Langhe today has its own great native white: taste it, if you can: today it is much easier than thirty years ago. You will taste the wine of a brilliant semi-aromatic grape variety in the glass: on the nose notes of citrus and exotic fruits, then of aromatic herbs; over time, propolis, honey, beeswax will emerge… And let your palate be titillated by a savory, vibrant sip, which often ends with a trail of sage and rosemary. You can drink it young, to enjoy its insolent and refined freshness; but, in the best years, let a few bottles age: over time you will experience the emotion that a great white born in a land of immense red wines can give. Prosit!

By the AIS Piemonte President and President of the Order’s Tasting Commission, Mauro Carosso