There is a small territory, unknown to most, lying on the first hills that stretch from the Novara plain to the mountains and valleys of the Cusio. It is the area of the noble grape variety Nebbiolo and a small but very large denomination that takes its name from the town of Boca, a land of ancient winemaking tradition and famous in particular for the homonymous sanctuary designed by the famous architect Alessandro Antonelli. Surely many of us as soon as we hear about Nebbiolo immediately think of the great wines of the Langhe and Roero, Barolo and Barbaresco above all, iconic products now known to the general public. Yet, there is also a production of excellence in Northern Piedmont no less important and valuable than the more noble relatives of the south.
Da Ghemme a Gattinara, from Bramaterra a Lessona, Via No e Sizzano to Boca and Ossola Valleys, this area of Piedmont has an ancient and noble winemaking tradition. It risked being lost during the twentieth century due to the depopulation of the countryside towards the cities but is now gradually recovering thanks to the humble and tireless work of many young and passionate producers, who are progressively raising the bar for the quality of Nebbioli. born in these lands. This is the case with Boca and its DOC which also falls on the territories of the municipalities of Maggiora, Cavallirio, Prato Sesia and Grignasco. Here a courageous group of winemakers carry out the great enterprise of making known the extraordinary excellence of their Nebbiolo.
The key element to understand the quality of these wines is the soil. We are close to the Val Sesia where once stood a supervolcano whose explosion, 250 million years ago, gave the territory not only its current appearance but also gave the soils an absolutely extraordinary wealth in terms of mineral elements. In particular, we find porphyry e pyroclastic rocks which, crumbling over the centuries, have given the soil great acidity and unique geological characteristics. In them the vine, in some cases still grown with the ancient plant a majorina, has found over the centuries the ideal soil to develop, giving the wines great minerality, elegance and finesse, aspects that strongly identify the territory. The particularly mild climate is guaranteed by excessive rainfall by the protective presence of Monte Rosa and Mount Fenera.
In this territory the protagonist vine is certainly the Nebbiolo, however, flanked by two actors who are far from secondary: Vespolina e Rare grape, which according to the Boca DOC disciplinary must be present in wines with percentages of no less than 10% up to a maximum of 30%. If the Nebbiolo gives structure, acidity and therefore longevity to the wine, the Vespolina adds aromatic richness (spices and herbs) while the rare grape gives softness and roundness to the wine with more fruity notes that dampen the sharpness of the Nebbiolo.
Nebbiolo is a vine that in these lands takes on characteristics of great finesse, giving the wines a remarkable austerity and thinness. They are wines with a light color tending to garnet red, wines that we could define "bony", anything but "piacioni" or "easy" but always fresh and alive, excellent for combinations with local cuisine, in particular donkey meat that you see in the treadmill one of its typical dishes. Likewise, Nebbiolo di Boca goes perfectly with the game, mostly boar e roe, especially if prepared with long cooking such as stews o braised. In them the freshness and acidity of Nebbiolo cleans the mouth from the fatness and succulence of these noble meats.
Many important producers who have contributed to revitalize the territory and its ancient wine-growing vocation: The Plains, who was the first to believe in the relaunch of Boca and its Nebbiolo, Podere ai Valloni, Barbaglia, Farms Garona, Holding the Raven, Rogiotto and many more. Particularly noteworthy are some small producers who are striking for the finesse and quality of their wines. In Grignasco we find Guardasole estate by Marco Bui, a small company of one hectare cultivated with great care and rigor in an organic regime. Marco makes wine in a micro-cellar which is a masterpiece of cleanliness and organization. Its wines are extremely clean products of great elegance, the wood in which they refine is never invasive but simply accompanies the expression of Nebbiolo and Vespolina. His Boca (vintage 2016) is distinguished by a rich and satisfying nose, with very elegant ethereal and balsamic notes with hints of incense and powder that give the wine great finesse and olfactory complexity, in the mouth it is fresh and alive with a tannin that promises interesting evolutions in the over time.
Another company worth a visit is Montalbano farmhouse, an ancient agricultural building nestled on the hills just outside the town of Boca, built on the remains of an ancient castle of the fifteenth century, in particular the frescoes still present on the external walls of the building are beautiful. Here Alessandro Cancelliere cultivates his small vineyard with great tenacity and passion, in a beautiful natural amphitheater that overlooks the plain below, almost in a cinematic panorama. The first thing that strikes you Boca (vintages 2012 and 2013) is a marked and lively flavor, due to the volcanic soil that gives strength and life to its vineyards, combined with a great elegance on the nose in which an elegant and slender fruitiness is combined with extremely mineral and balsamic notes finesse. A wine to drink with pleasure even immediately but which over the years can reserve great emotions for those who want to wait patiently.
For those wishing to deepen their knowledge of the Boca area and, in general, of the denominations of Northern Piedmont, we suggest the following, beautiful volume: G. Fogliani, Northern Piedmont, between Gattinara and Carema, Ed. Possibilia, Sesto S. Giovanni, 2020.