Cascina Castlet is an amazing story and as I’ve written many times, wines often have wonderful tales behind them. Surely the subject of this article is no exception.
Cascina Castlet has been owned by the Borio family for generations. The current proprietor, Mariuccia inherited the estate from her father in 1970. Located in Costigliole d’Asti, the family farms 23 hectares of vineyards that are planted to mainstream and esoteric varietals. Mariuccia sums up the dream of the family nicely.
An estate is initially a project. And a project is a dream which gradually takes shape, first of all on paper, then on the land and finally, in our wine. Our project started from two simple ideas: respect for nature and alignment with technological progress. Simple does not mean easy. There have been times when we’ve really had to push forward and others in which we’ve had to stand with our feet planted firmly on the ground; we’ve had to invest in land, technology and above all, research. This is how we’ve created Cascina Castlèt.
There where the Sea once lay…
The Estate is located on the 45th parallel. As a result, the microclimate is perfect for cultivating vines. Between 2 and 4 million years ago, this land was covered by the sea. Consequently, this ancient presence is still alive in the form of shells, whale and other aquatic fossils. The sea directly influenced the soil types which are ideal for growing grape vines. At Cascina Castlèt six grape varieties are cultivated: Barbera, Moscato, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo, Chardonnay and Uvalino.
Cascina Castlet honors their territory. In fact, the first wine we’re discussing features 3 interlocking C’s on the label. These 3 C’s represent the union of producer and territory: Cascina Castlet Costigliole.
The 2016 Cascina Castlet Barbera d’Asti Superiore “Litina” is a brilliant shimmering ruby in the glass. Named for Mariuccia’s Aunt Litina, whose dowry was the vineyard that now bears her name, this is an amazing pure Barbera. Boisterous aromas of morello cherry, woodland forest notes, vanilla and cigar tobacco meld beautifully. On the palate, the ripe cherry notes are medium bodied and accented with toasted spice, vanilla and fennel. The fruit, acid and tannin balance is perfect. I love this. 91 points. Find this wine.
The 2016 Cascina Castlet Barbera d’Asti Superiore “Passum” is an inky red, violet color. Admittedly, the design on the bottle freaks me out a little. However, the origins of the art are discussed on the producer’s website.
They call me Passum. I come from time past and I have no fear of the future. I can be recognized by the symbol, red like my body. It’s fun to listen to people trying to interpret the icon: it could be the sun, or maybe it’s an ancient letter of the alphabet, or an archaic, mysterious identification mark. I am what I am. I represent the tenacity of the people who have believed in me and the strength of the vineyard that’s my mother.
Passum is drop dead gorgeous. After harvesting, the grapes are placed in specially designed air-conditioned rooms and left to partially dry. The duration depends on the vintage characteristics and the weather. The wine is then aged in a combination of medium size botte and French barrique for one year in total.
Explosive aromas of wild cherry, fennel, mushroom and toasted hazelnut are amazing. These aromas lead to large scaled fruit on the palate that is juicy and rich without being over done. Freshness is the key as it’s difficult to get a sense of the character imparted from the dried grapes. Vibrant flavors of ripe plum and cherry are backed with chestnut, fennel and toasted Christmas cake spices. Glorious mouthfeel. I really dig this. 92 points. Find this wine.
I have never been much of a fan of Barbera from Asti. To me, they were always too acidic and lacked the persistence from the fruit needed to balance that acidity. As a result, I’ve gravitated to Barbera from Alba. However, these wines are very different. They represent a much needed step up in quality and have opened my eyes.
As I alluded to at the outset, often times the team at Cascina Castlet pushes the envelope. The next wine is the perfect example of that. Born from the Policalpo vineyard, the wine is a blend of 60% Barbera and 40% Cabernet. The two varietals are vinified together and then aged for 12 months in French barrique. Six months bottle aging follows prior to release. The arrow on the label signifies upward motion from the earth and the desire to never stop growing and improving.
The 2016 Cascina Castlet Monferrato Rosso “Policalpo” is a deep purple in the glass. This is an interesting blend in that I found traces of both varieties in the glass. Aromas of crushed cherry, leaf tobacco, cedar and fresh blue flowers mark the nose. In the mouth, the wine is medium to full bodied with black plums, anise, ripe green herbs and cured meat notes. Some mushroom/earth notes appear on the finish. Maybe could have decanted? If I had a second bottle I would try that but even still, this is a juicy, modern wine that presents itself admirably. 90 points. Find this wine.
Unique. It’s a word often misused. I cringe whenever I hear the phrase “very unique”… as unique means one of a kind. It’s simple really, yet so often overlooked. At any rate, this next wine is unique and as you may have guessed, tells quite a story.
Uvalino occupies a place only in the memories of the elderly. It was the most valuable wine, given to the doctor, the head of local government, the pharmacist and the priest: a luxurious wine to impress them with. There are few written accounts of the existence of this wine, but its presence in the Asti district from at least the end of the 19th century is widely talked about. Since then, it has been found throughout the southern part of the province of Asti, with its heart lying in Costigliole d’Asti. It was considered a status symbol to have a few bottles of Uvalino in your house.
The 2013 Cascina Castlet Monferrato Rosso “Uceline” is 100% Uvalino. Like Passum, the Uvalino grapes are hand harvested in late October and then left for about one month to partially dry and wither. Aging then takes place in 5 hecto-liter oak barrels and the wine rests for one year before being released to the market.
In the glass the wine runs the gamut of colors. It almost presents like a Sangiovese in that the core is a bright ruby which fades to a copper rim at the edge of the bowl. From the glass rise aromas of red flowers, crushed berry, turned earth and baking stones. On the palate, the red berry notes are persistent and accented by dusty tannins and piney green herbs like Rosemary. Finishes with a slightly bitter streak. However, that may be slightly indicative of the vintage. Unique for sure, but probably my least favorite of the four wines. Paired well with grilled Lamb Chops Scottadito. 88 points. Find this wine.
Finally, it was time for dolce!
The 2019 Cascina Castlet Moscato d’Asti is made from 100% Moscato (Muscat) grapes. Clocking in at only 5.5% alcohol it’s light and refreshing – especially after a larger meal. It’s slightly frizzante nature contributes to that freshness. A pale gold in color, the grapes are crushed and bottled before December of the harvest year. Aromas of white flowers, lemon grass and pastry dough are notable. On the palate this is fizzy and sweet though not cloying. Lively and “amabile” are the key takeaways here. Lemony, with tart yellow apple and golden biscuit flavors. Pair with pastry with cheese fillings. 86 points. Find this wine.
I’ll reiterate that these wines opened my eyes to what passion, tradition and innovation can accomplish when they intersect under the watchful eye of an artisan family. I urge you to let the hunt begin and taste for yourself.