This time Roberto Giuliani takes the stand.
Every time I hear Boca, or more precisely the Lands of Boca mentioned, I can’t help but feel profound emotions. It’s not easy to explain, but there is something magical in those places and their history, and the wines that a handful of winemakers are producing with renewed vigor and conviction.
Alessandro Franceschini and I took a close look at the region, which is northwest of Novara, just above Gattinara, in 2007. Then there were 6 wineries producing Boca DOC, from just 10 hectares of vineyards, bit there were already others planting vines or thinking about it. Now the producers are 10, a small number, but in some ways a guarantee: there hasn’t been a massive replanting that would increase quantity to the detriment of quality.
In the past there were vineyards throughout the area, and as a result it’s now easy to come across abandoned vines in the forests. The vines weren’t selected, however, and those who made wine did so out of necessity because it kept them from starving. Northern Piemonte boasted 40 thousand hectares of vineyards; lots of old photos show that every hillside was surrounded by vineyards.
Now about 700 hectares are left, scattered between Biella and Boca, and the world has changed; the competition is too fierce, and the quality too good for winemakers not to lan carefully and draw every bit of potential from their land. Potential the land has, to make wines that will settle into the hearts and minds of those who drink them, wines with an ancient, unique story to tell, where Nebbiolo scales the highest peaks of elegance and finesse, marching hand-in-hand with another varietal characteristic of the region, Vespolina.
Boca DOC also contains Uva Rara, a varietal that has some limitations, and that many winemakers use in reduced quantities to insure that the wine will age over time.
What better than a book to tell the history of the wine and the area, and who better to write it than Alberto Pattono, a native son from Borgosesia, official AIS taster and great fan of all that concerns wine?
Alberto has worked on many projects, all devoted to various aspects of the Alto Piemonte: “Bramaterra – Un territorio un vino” (2005), “Erbaluce- Il vino bianco dell’alto Piemonte” (2006), “Vini da riscoprire a Castellengo e Mottalciata” (2008), I Vini della collina biellese – Dialoghi tra i filari di Vigliano, Ronco Valdengo, Cerreto e Quaregna” (2010), “Vini e vitrigni biellsi DOC” (2012; an ebook), and now this fascinating 135 page volume, “Nelle terre del Boca DOC – La rinascita di un grande vino dell’Alto Piemonte”.
Reading it, one feels his enthusiasm and deep love for the places, which were once surrounded by vineyards trained to the “maggiorina” style, a system that some are rediscovering; I talked about it with Christoph Künzli, the Swiss importer who fell in love with the area 25 years ago and started making Boca, and is now universally recognized as the driving force behind Boca’s rebirth: “I kept a few rows; the reason this pruning system is vanishing is that it can only be worked by hand. But from a qualitative standpoint it’s excellent, and I am seriously considering planting the vineyards this way.”
Alberto Pattona shows us the character of this beautiful land, its traditions, its superb cooking (there are 10 starred restaurants in the area, and many more family run restaurants whose strongpoints are their ingredients), and looks into its history, where plague, famine and civil strife profoundly influenced the life of the population.
Life began to improve in the 1700s and 1800s, thanks also to the introduction of hereditary rights, which resulted in a considerable increase in the number of small farmholders.
The section dedicated to the five Communes of the area, Boca, Cavallirio, Grignasco, Maggiora and Prato Sesia, is also quite interesting.
The book is provides a thorough coverage and is quite easy to read; it includes information on the vineyards, but more importantly on Boca’s winemakers, from Sergio and Silvia Barbaglia to the Vallana Family, from da Podere ai Valloni to the “donne del vino” Elena, Paola e Anna Conti, from Giancarlo Marcodini (who also owns “Da Paniga” at Borgomanero) to the young, promising Alessandro Cancelliere.
In short, this book was necessary and will be a precious aid to all those who love wine and have a thirst for knowledge: Boca is an important piece in the mosaic of Italian wine, and well worth exploring.
Nelle Terre del Boca DOC
Written, illustrated and edited by Alberto Pattono
Botalla Editore – Gaglianico (BI)
For a copy, contact Alberto Pattono, at albertopattono AT gmail DOT com