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Cantina D’Arcy & Lalù

The Inquisitive Outsiders: The Spirit of Burgundy Comes to Piemonte…
Cantina D’Arcy & Lalù

Today, we’re offering our first, small allocations from two of the most exciting new estates to emerge from Barolo in recent years: Lalù and Cantina D’Arcy. Lalù is a quite remarkable story that has rarely (if ever) been seen in Piemonte; namely two young women from outside the region quickly establishing not only a label, but an exciting estate—all this in a mere handful of years.

Lara Rocchetti and Luisa Sala first met each other in 2010 at university in Pollenzo, just beyond the fringe of the Langhe. They spent a number of years working at Piemonte estates, as well as gaining experience overseas (Luisa in South Africa and Lara in Argentina). But it was their first visit to Burgundy that would deliver their Damascene moment. Working the 2017 vintage with Dominique Lafon “changed how we thought about wine”, they recently told us. They would return to work with Cécile Tremblay in Morey-Saint-Denis the following year, and the lessons would continue. “We realised we had to find a way to make elegant and fine Nebbiolo,” says Lara. “We didn’t want to focus on structure, tannin and power,” she says, referring to the traditional pillars of Piedmontese wine. “We wanted to focus on the Cru, on the vineyard, on finesse.” Their first vintage together was only in 2019, yet they are already farming some five hectares of land, over two hectares of which are owned. The wines reflect their hard work in the vineyard and cellar and, as the comments below might suggest, are all fine and elegant. Already super, they are only getting better and better (as recent cask tastings in Piemonte make clear). In a conservative region where it’s notoriously difficult for outsiders to get their foot in the door, the Lalù duo have not only succeeded but are now thriving.

New Zealander Tom Myers is another young grower who is proving that you can make serious wine in Piemonte without local lineage or bags of start-up capital. Myers’ connection to Burgundy and the great growers of France runs deep. A talented and deep-thinking young vigneron, he honed his skills in the great vineyards of Burgundy, the Rhône Valley, New Zealand, Australia and the Jura. He is a close friend of a host of great growers across the globe and his deep knowledge of best practice in both the vineyard and cellar is self-evident to anyone who knows him. (He’s a close friend of Rob’s, by the way, having worked several pruning seasons at Place of Changing Winds.)

Moving to Piemonte in 2017, Tom worked with Barolo’s iconic Rinaldi family, who later introduced him to the owners of the vines that he now leases: a small parcel in Barolo’s Preda Cru, nestled between Cannubi and Vignane. Entrenched in the philosophy of Burgundy’s new wave, it has been fascinating to see what Myers has brought to the famously recalcitrant Nebbiolo. “My favourite wines have always offered both finesse and hedonistic pleasure. I want to achieve that with Nebbiolo as well,” he told us. “Nebbiolo is a brilliant grape aromatically but at times it can be hard work to drink. I want my wines to make people smile as well as think.” Tom’s first releases are certainly wines that will make anyone who gets to taste them smile. They are simply outstanding and signal the huge potential of this young outsider.

They may be emerging names but both Lalù and Cantina D’Arcy come with an impressive backstory and a convincing, articulate vision. Both are growers first and winemakers second. They bring a fresh set of eyes and a new vision to a famous and storied region. And both are already producing wines that will delight anyone who loves Burgundy-style perfume, finesse and drinkability. Welcome to the new Piemonte!

The Wines

Lalù Barbera d'Alba 2021

Lalù Barbera d'Alba 2021

Organic. Lalù’s Barbera from fruit purchased from Monforte’s San Sebastiano—a site that Lara Rocchetti and Luisa Sala believe is exceptional for this variety.  Made with a third each of whole-berry (Leroy style), whole-bunch and destemmed fruit, the wine fermented and was raised entirely in concrete, where it aged for eight months. Lalù’s is a radiant, linear, focused Barbera that wafts from the glass with shades of fresh red fruit, woody herbs and floral lift. The palate is silky and vibrant with depth and texture, and while it delivers a serious dose of fruit, you’ll find plenty of finesse and mineral freshness, too. A lovely, new-wave Barbera.

Lalù Barbera d'Alba 2021
Lalù Barolo Le Coste di Monforte 2019

Lalù Barolo Le Coste di Monforte 2019

Organic. Lalù farms just 0.3 hectares in one of Monforte’s great Crus, Le Coste di Monforte. With an average altitude of 420 metres, this south-facing vineyard is the highest and southernmost vineyard in Monforte. The site perfectly fits Lalù’s preference for finesse and openness. Although its 30-year-old vines lie parallel to the Ginestra and Mosconi Crus, a Barolo from this vineyard is typically prettier and rounder than its neighbours—this being attributed to the unusually high content of sand layered throughout the region’s Sant’Agata marls.

Half of the grapes this year were destemmed by hand, a process that removes the berries from its stems, yet keeps the berries fully intact on their pedicels. With this labour-intensive method, Lalù gets the benefits of whole bunches—the prettiness and perfume—without the stems’ impact on aromas, tannins and pH. At Lalù, this also results in a little intracellular fermentation, giving the vibrant, lifted character that fits nicely into Lalù’s philosophy of crafting a Barolo that can be fully savoured in its youth. To qualify for the DOCG, the wine was aged for three years in large Stockinger ovals.

This is Lalù’s first Barolo release and explains why there is already so much excitement surrounding this producer. Succulent, pure and beautifully crafted, there’s a lovely perfume of red fruits, orange blossom and primrose. Then there are waves of sweet, perfumed flesh and freshness that saturate the length and breadth of the palate. Bound by fine, polished tannins, it’s an approachable Barolo of velvety depth, undeniable elegance and a long finish. 

Lalù Barolo Le Coste di Monforte 2019
Lalù Langhe Nebbiolo 2021

Lalù Langhe Nebbiolo 2021

Organic. This vibrant, perfumed Nebbiolo equally blends two sites that were both planted by Lalù. The first site, Roncaglie in La Morra, is a plot of land that Lara Rocchetti and Luisa Sala bought in 2015 and planted in 2017. Looking towards Verduno, this parcel faces east at an altitude of 400 metres. It’s a cool, windy, slow-ripening site. The second source is Bussia Bovi, a sub-Cru within Monforte’s superstar Bussia MGA. Lalù’s parcel is located at 320 metres above sea level, in the south of Bussia, between Bricco San Pietro and the area historically known as Bussia Arnulfo. The soils here are rich in sand, gifting a perfumed wine with supple fruit and great delicacy—the yin to Roncaglie’s yang. The fruit from here fermented as whole bunches and was raised in concrete to retain as much fragrance as possible. Both vineyards could be classified as Barolo (when the vines are of age), which says a great deal about the quality on offer here.

This Langhe Nebbiolo delivers more than most. The 2021 is a juicy, pretty Nebbiolo brimming with vibrant red and dark cherry fruit, anise, florals and some wood spice. In the mouth, the typical austerity of young Langhe is traded for svelte, integrated tannins and supple texture, all supported by mouth-watering energy. 

Lalù Langhe Nebbiolo 2021
Cantina D'Arcy Dolcetto D'Alba 2020

Cantina D'Arcy Dolcetto D'Alba 2020

Tom Myers’ Dolcetto draws fruit from his six rows of vines in Barolo’s Preda Cru, blended with a friend’s vineyard in Diano d’Alba, just south of Alba. While Myers admits he is still figuring out exactly what he is looking for from this variety, he has gone in at the deep end with this release, searching for a level of aromatic complexity found only in the region’s top examples. To do this, he has worked with a large percentage of whole clusters across three separate vinifications: one 100% whole bunch; one 100% destemmed; and one 50% whole bunch. All ferments were spontaneous and occurred in steel before aging in third- and fourth-use Burgundy barrels for 14 months.

A serious “wow” wine, this Dolcetto packs an extraordinary amount of presence for a wine of only 12% alcohol. First, it is gorgeously aromatic, with layers of dark plum, mulberry, blackberry and liquorice flecked with pressed violets. Then, the palate is fleshy and open-knit, balanced beautifully between its feathery, textured fruit and vibrant, energetic structure. Already drinking brilliantly, it’s one of those bottles that empties far too quickly. Sadly we have only five boxes! 

Cantina D'Arcy Dolcetto D'Alba 2020
Cantina D'Arcy Langhe Nebbiolo 2020

Cantina D'Arcy Langhe Nebbiolo 2020

Myers’ drop-dead gorgeous Langhe bottling is based on two 30-plus-year-old parcels of Nebbiolo rooted at the foot of Barbaresco’s famous Ronchi Cru. This celebrated, limestone-rich site runs along the southern belt of the appellation, near the town of Barbaresco itself. The deeper soils of the vineyard’s lower climbs gives a more open style of wine—exactly what Myers is aiming for here.

In 2020 this cuvée was entirely destemmed, while natural ferments, measured time on skins and perfect extraction form the blueprint for this perfumed and sensual young Nebbiolo. Myers does not rack-and-return during the vinification, preferring to keep the wine in contact with its lees for as long as possible. He believes this contributes to the finished wine’s finessed tannins and aromatic precision. The wine matured in two large Garbellotto botti (a blend of French and Slavonian oak), remaining, without racking, for 17 months before bottling.

Myers’ passion for Burgundy is really on show here. Super-pure aromatics of pretty fruit and delicate spice and flowers are backed up by a flowing, seamless, lacy texture on the palate, highly reminiscent of great Pinot Noir or northern Rhône. Playing a supporting role, the tannins are succulent and polished, giving the wine a long and classy finish. This is a wonderful drink! And great value. Future releases of this wine will likely have to be allocated!

Cantina D'Arcy Langhe Nebbiolo 2020

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