There have been Castaldi’s in the Alto Piemonte town of Briona, close to Novara, since the 1700s. Originally their surname would have been ‘Castellano’ as they served in the 12th century Castello di Briona – located above the cantina – once part of the Lombard kingdom, now owned by the Marchese di Solaroli. The family estate was founded by ‘nonno’ Pierino (nato 1922), who came from nearby Cavaglio d’Agogna. In those early days, it was a classic farm, tending vines to sell to the cooperative, along with livestock & of course the rice fields for which Novara is also famous.
All change in 1996 when Francesca Castaldi took the plunge & bought the shares of her five siblings before producing her inaugural vintage: 2001. Ten years later, in 2011, she & her son Marco, built a new cantina, ushering in a new era. Tonneaux gave way to Grenier 20HL botti grandi in 2014 & from 2015 the small family property has been converting to organic (although they haven’t used herbicides since 2009). A clearly talented family, Francesca’s daughter Lucia is also a top winemaker!
Marco was born in 1991, graduated in agraria at Novara, worked in London for three years (2011-2014) & has worked harvests in Australia (Mornington Pensinsula) & more locally in Soave. He is responsible for the cantina, & has been supported by a local consultant Maurizio Forgia since 2011.
Briona is the gateway to the river Sesia valley. The 6.5ha of vines are located on a 250 metre asl plateau of acidic soils comprising clay, glacial morainic stones, volcanic dust & alluvial matter. The family has circa 4ha of Nebbiolo, Colline Novaresi, 1ha of Erbaluce, 1ha of Vespolina, plus some Uva Rara & Barbera.
Their flagship wine is Fara DOC, a blend of 70% Nebbiolo & 30% Vespolina, vinified for circa 20-30 days on the skins (pumping over), & then aged for two years in Grenier 20HL botti grandi, new in 2014; production is limited to 2,500bt/anno. Total sulphur levels are at c. 50mg/litro.
The family continue to invest in the estate, buying new stainless steel & botti grandi.
Rosé, Colline Novaresi
Erbaluce, Colline Novaresi
Uva Rara, Colline Novaresi
Vespolina, Colline Novaresi
2019 Rosé, Colline Novaresi – tasted with Chloe 13 Jan’20
12.5% abv, TA 7.22, RS 2g/litro, 2.5k bts, 95% Nebbiolo, 5% Vespolina, selected (AC113) yeast, stainless-steel: a beautiful wine…rosé in character & in colour! Very pretty, self-effacing (like its creators!), 100% destemmed bunches from the highest part of the vine, saignee/salasso, free run, sooo peachy, rose petal, cassis, fragrant, alive, detail, zip, nuance…& great drinkability! Yum yum!!
2019 Erbaluce, Colline Novaresi – tasted with Chloe 13 Jan’20
12.5%, grown on the family’s clay, morainic, & sand (acidic) soils in the comune of Briona, they produce c. 3k bottles of this 100% Erbaluce from 15 yo vines. As with all the wines: very neat, sensitively but precisely made, again using AC113 selected yeast for this unoaked, sinewy wine. Crisp lime skin, cornflower, greengage expression, crunch, zip & ping!
2018 Uva Rara, Colline Novaresi – tasted with Chloe 13 Jan’20
13.5%, ‘Valceresole’ after the name of the parcel from which the fruit is harvested, a mere 5 mins from the cantina, c.2k bts in Feb’19, no oak, shows a lovely, inviting, supple, red/black loganberry, frutta di bosco, brambly fruit notes, lush, characterful, distinctive yet not overbearing & very different from Nebbiolo or Vespolina!
2018 Vespolina, Colline Novaresi – tasted with Chloe 13 Jan’20
14%, by comparison, the thick-skinned Vespolina, rich in bloom, in vintage 2018 produced this blackberry, pepper & spiciness. It’s more similar to Nebbiolo, with more structure & complexity than Uva Rara, as here in 2018, there’s detail, balance, volume & crunch.
2016 Fara DOC – tasted with Chloe 13 Jan’20
14.4%, TA 5.35 g/litro, pH 3.64, Sulphur 80mg/litro totale, 25 libero, 2.6k bottled Aug’19, 70% Nebbiolo 30% Vespolina, aged for 24 mths in 20HL Grenier botte grande, this was Marco’s third vintage. Layered, kirsch, griotte, china, pieno, racy, pacy, cleansing, the Vespolina providing the sense of power in youth. Needs plenty of time in bottle.