The first one is sometimes followed by “Raton”, it’s full of slow moving Buicks, and it’s in Florida. That one’s definitely not this one. This one is a tiny wine region set in the hills around the small city of Novara in northern Piedmont. Never been a Buick there maybe ever…
Forming one border of the Boca zone is the Sesia river, and on the same side of that river are Boca’s “sibling” appellations Ghemme, Sizzano, and Fara. The lighter, more friable soils on this side of the river emphasize fragrance, elegance, and a certain angular structure in their wines. Closer to the neighboring town of Vercelli, in the hills on the other side of the Sesia, where the soils are denser with a higher clay content, the zones named Gattinara, Lessona, and Bramaterra reside. Not surprisingly, these wines are as a rule burlier, deeper, and more generous.
This being Piedmont, the great Nebbiolo grape is hard to avoid, and the Novara-Vercelli hills don’t contradict that truism, but here, two other red grapes – Vespolina and Bonarda Novarese – join the chorus. The DOC/DOCG rules allow some of these appellations to use Nebbiolo exclusively (though Boca isn’t one of them), but for my EUROS, these two ultra-local varieties, with the aid of the distinctive terroir of course, shape, texture, and ultimately clearly distinguish these wines from the “Big Bs” down in the Langhe…
This particular example of the elusive Boca is an ultra-traditional one, aged in large, old Salvonian oak botti (huge casks), with a lean, wiry frame. The blend is 65% Nebbiolo (locally called Spanna), 20% Vespolina, and 15% Bonarda Novarese.
These wines are probably at their best served with dishes like “woodsy” risottos and roasted game birds, but neither of those two clearly delightful matches were in the cards this summer evening, so I went with some local yellow squash from the Hoboken farmers’ market, that with some butter, cream and tomato paste, I turned into a sauce for egg tagliatelle. The second was indeed, as Jen said, a “trifecta of pork”: boneless pork chops stuffed with shredded ham and crisped pancetta and mixed with a pounding of paprika and fennel seeds. And also from the farmers’ market, I served up some wax beans that I char-cooked in a hot, totally dry skillet.
Vallana Boca 2004
Blackish crimson/garnet color. Pungent but charming nose of dried roses, raspberry, pink grapefruit, juniper berries, wood smoke, brown spices, dark caramel, and sap. The wine on the palate is medium weight, but with a rail-stiff ,slightly austere underlying structure thickly veneered with silky, dry, ultra-fine tannins that frame flavors of crunchy blackberry and cranberry fruit, violet, cocoa, and sapid, salty, dried porcini mushroom flavors. The finish is even, long, and warm. A very well bred but still earthy wine.