Nas-Cëtta: Reviving a Great White Grape of Piedmont That Almost Went Extinct

Nas-cëtta or Nascetta is a semi-aromatic white grape that originates from the small town of Novello in the Piedmont region of Italy. Cultivated in the area for hundreds of years, it almost went extinct if not for the perseverance of a handful of wine producers of Novello who believed in its great capacity to become one of the greatest white wines of the region. It is an indigenous grape that adapts well to the specific style of the producer while still emphasizing the varietal and territorial characteristics.

Nascetta has a significant content of terpenes and norisoprenoids, great structure, tannicity and acidity level that give the wine a great aging capability. When young, it has a straw yellow color with hints of green and with prevailing varietal aromas of white flowers, citrus fruits, and white peach that evolve to more aromas like sweet herbs as it ages. In the palate it has a pronounced acidity accompanied with a notable savory aspect, pleasant and finishes long with a light bitterness at times. And as the scholar Giuseppe dei Conti di Rovasendalo described it in his Saga of a Universal Viticulture (Saggio di un’ Ampelografia Universale) in 1877, it is “a very delicate grape and exquisite wine”. In 1879, Lorenzo Fantini defined Nascetta (still identified as “Anascetta”) in the Monograph on Viticulture and Oenology in the Province of Cuneo as a wine that’s almost exclusively produced in the Novello area whose goodness is due solely to nature that provides exquisite grapes. Later, in 1895, Fantini presented it as a grape boasting a “fineness equal to Moscato”, while the ampelograph and producer Giovanni Gagna quoted it as a “great wine for vinification, used together with white Moscato and Favorita”.

In the 19th century, the vines were widely cultivated because the wine produced from them is noted for its good quality and as a variety for blending. Nascetta was made into sweet wine and used as a blend with other Piedmontese varieties. It was also used to make sacramental wine for celebrating mass because characteristically, it has a good capacity for being kept long. However, there was a problem with Nascetta. It is difficult to cultivate and it is quite unpredictable in yield, sometimes abundant and sometimes sparse. Over the course of the 20th century, due to its sensitivity to peronospera and maneuvering towards more productive varieties like Nebbiolo and Chardonnay, wine producers favored them over Nascetta and its cultivation dwindled drastically. Fortunately, its cultivation was not completely abandoned because some vines were still maintained by a few producers for its sentimental value more than for serious wine making.

Elvio Cogno and son-in-law Valter Fissore of Azienda Agricola Cogno pioneered in rediscovering the variety when it came into light again in 1993 after tasting a few bottles of Nascetta wine from the 1986 vintage. Along with other wine producers, they were impressed at the wine’s excellent evolution and uniqueness and they decided to experiment in making wine of pure Nascetta. They launched the bottled Nascetta in 1994 obtained from grapes harvested from vines in various locations in Novello because at that time no one was dedicating rows to Nascetta anymore. It was a big job but it had been fruitful for the harvest yielded 800 bottles of single-varietal wine named Nas-Cetta produced by Elvio Cogno. However small the production was and having no official classification in its commercialization, the initial production brought fundamental results of recognition of the excellence of its quality which revitalized more research. In 2002, Nascetta became a part of the appellation Langhe DOC. In 2010, it obtained a recognition of having its own appellation, Langhe Nas-cetta del Comune di Novello DOC, the production of which is only authorized within the confines of the town of Novello using 100% Nascetta grapes. At present, the vines are cultivated in 36 hectares of land, 23.7 dedicated to Langhe Nascetta DOC (outside Novello) and 12.4 to Langhe Nas-cëtta del Comune di Novello DOC (inside Novello). From 1999, brothers Mauro and Savio Daniele of Le Strette have been working alongside Elvio Cogno in making the production take off and attaining the recognition of the variety that it deserves. At present, there are about 40 hectares of land dedicated to the cultivation of Nascetta in the Langhe and one third located in the municipality of Novello.

With the local terroir, a combination of the right kind of soil and climate, along with the technology in viticulture and viniculture, and most especially the dedication and perseverance of the principal producers, Nascetta has traversed a long journey from almost being extinct to one of the greatest white wines of Langhe. It has the principal characteristic of versatileness which gives it great adaptability to different wine making styles. It can be vinified in stainless steel or wood, but the grape is able to maintain its varietal characteristics and express its territory and at the same time allows the winemaker to input his own style.

Association of Nas-cëtta Producers of the Municipality of Novello

The Association of Nas-cëtta Producers of the Municipality of Novello was founded in 2014 by seven wineries namely: Elvio Cogno, La Pergola, Le Strette, Marenco, San Silvestro, Stra and Luigi Vietto. The aim of the association is to promote and showcase Nascetta to the rest of Italy and the world. At present it has a total of 12 member wine producers out of the twenty plus producers which in the town of Novello.

Twelve Wines of Twelve Nascetta Producers

Arnaldorivera Nas-cëtta del Comune di Novello DOC 2019
Arnaldo Rivera, a historical mayor of Castiglione Falletto in Piedmont for thirty six years, founded the Cantina Terre del Barolo, one of the oldest and largest cooperative wineries in Piedmont that is still active. This wine was obtained from Nascetta grapes harvested from Novello including a historical vineyard from the year 1963 in the MGA Ravera, the most prestigious mention of the municipality of Novello renowned for its unique characteristics of soil, climate and altitude. Vinification is in stainless steel at a low temperature with 8 months of ageing on the lees and a year in the bottle before its release to the market. The resulting wine has a straw yellow color with an intense and complex nose showcasing notes of mature apricot, white flowers, acacia honey and fresh herbs while in the palate, there is a notable acidity, a savory tone and delicate fruits with a persistent finish.

Cascina Gavetta Nas-cëtta del Comune di Novello DOC 2019
Cascina Gavetta is a small winery that was founded by Silvio Cogno and his family. It represents the family’s dream of bottling what has been handed down for centuries: the art of working the land and preserving its cultural heritage. The Nascetta production is around 2,000 bottles annually. The grapes are harvested from the Belmonda vineyard in Novello at the beginning of then a night of maceration, fermentation for 15 days at a controlled temperature and ageing on the lees for 9 months with weekly batonnage. Intense straw yellow in color with an intense and complex nose with aromas of fresh herbs, lemon peel, acacia honey and exotic fruits. It has a rich palate with notable acidity and saltiness, lemon and delicate sage with a long persistence.

Elvio Cogno Nas-cëtta del Comune di Novello DOC 2019
The winery was founded in 1990 by Elvio Cogno who, together with his daughter Nadia and son-in-law Valter Fissore, has started the work of enhancing the Ravera cru, which thanks to their commitment has acquired prestige throughout the world. The Nascetta grapes were cultivated in the Ravera vineyards then fermented in stainless steel vats at a controlled temperature. 70% was aged in stainless steel for 6 months while the other 30% was aged in 15 hectoliter Slavonian oak for 3 months. Crystal-clear straw yellow gold highlights. Complex and intense, the wine showcases excellent olfactory and gustatory characteristics with notes of mature exotic fruits, white peach, honey, citrus fruits, field flowers and fresh aromatic herbs. In the mouth, it is smooth with the aromas reflected, notable acidity and savoriness, and ends with a delicate note of honey. An excellent white wine that has a great potential for ageing.

La Pergola Nas-cëtta del Comune di Novello DOC 2019
La Pergola is a family-run business with more than 40 years of experience. It was established by Sergio Taricco at the end of the 1970s and was then entrusted, in 2009, to son Marco, who now continues the business with the same care and passion as his father. The production of Nascetta is around 1,500 bottles annually. After the harvest at the end of September, the grapes went through cryomaceration for two days then fermentation in stainless steel at a controlled temperature of 18°C for two weeks. Ageing on fine lees takes place in stainless steel for 6 months then another 2 months in the bottle before its release to the market. The resulting wine has a crystal-clear straw yellow color with an intense nose underlined by aromas of field flowers, followed by honey, grapefruit and fresh herbs. In the palate, the acidity shows through with citrus fruit with a note of sapidity and ends with persistence.

Le Strette Pasinot Nas-cëtta del Comune di Novello DOC 2019
A small winery established in 1997 by brothers Mauro and Savio Daniele, both oenologists and wine growers. One of the pioneers of the Nascetta production, their initial vintage of 1999 had 800 bottles. Now they produce two labels of Nascetta, one is a classic while the other one is a single-vineyard with the oldest vines from 1948, the Pasinot with the first production in 2014. Le Strette produces wines of personality and quality, which bring out the Novello vineyards and the autochthonous varieties of the Langhe. Harvested from the Pasinot vineyard at the end of September, the grapes went through a cold maceration then slow fermentation in stainless steel. Ageing on the lees takes place in stainless steel for 12 months and 6 months in the bottle. Crystal-clear straw yellow with gold highlights. An intense and complex nose with aromas of white flowers, fresh aromatic herbs, honey, bread, grapefruit, and orange peel with a light hint of stone flint. The palate has a marked acidity, savory undertow, ripe apricot, grapefruit in the mouth, persistent and elegant. A wine with great personality that has a great potential for ageing.

Stra Nas-cëtta del Comune di Novello DOC 2020
Stra is a family-owned winery with a history of 200 years, while at present, three generations running it. Paolo is the newest generation who is a persistent learner and worker which he got from his father Roberto, who also learned the ropes from his father Giovanni. There are the women of the family, Irma and Maresa who take care of the hospitality to their guests.Their production of wines maintain the respect for tradition and the terroir. Their cultivation of Nascetta is dedicated to one hectare of their land which was planted in 2012. The Nascetta grapes were harvested in late September from the Pallaretta vineyards, a sub-zone of Novello. The grapes went through maceration with skin contact for 3 days then fermentation for 14 days in controlled temperature in stainless steel. The result is a crytal-clear straw yellow wine with deeper-colored reflections, an intense nose which take you though a field of flowers, supported by aromas of honey, citrus fruits and fresh sage. Balanced, the palate has a marked savory note with crispy white pulp fruit, grapefruit and sage riding along as it finishes long with a light hint of flint in the end.

Vietto Giuàna Nas-cëtta del Comune di Novello DOC 2019
Vietto is a family-run winery that has gone through more than half a century of history of wine production that was principally consumed within the family and friends. In the year 2000, the family reformatted everything from planting new vineyards, putting up an up-to-date winery and tasting hall. They produce wines obtained from grapes that are exclusively grown in the estate. From the year 2005, they dedicated one hectare of land to Nascetta. Harvested at the end of September, the grapes fermented in stainless steel at a controlled temperature of 18°C between 8 to 10 days. The wine is then aged on the lees in stainless steel for 6 months with periodic batonnage. Straw yellow color with green highlights, with a floral-forward nose and notes of citrus, crispy peach and a delicate balsamic hint while in the palate it marks its aromas and a distinguishing mineral saltiness. A pleasant wine to drink on its own or with some simple fish dishes.

Luca Marenco Nas-cëtta del Comune di Novello DOC 2019
Luca Marenco is a young winemaker who took a big chance in pursuing his passion. When he inherited from his family a piece of land in Novello with a total of 10 hectares, he decided to start producing his own wine. His main principle is to attain the authentic expression that best express the terroir and the vintage. The first Nascetta he produced was in 2018. The grapes were harvested at the end of September with a fermentation of the must in insulated temperature-controlled steel tanks then refined in stainless steel. Crystal-clear straw yellow in color, the wine has an expressive nose of a field of white flowers, honey, citrus, yellow peach and fresh aromatic herbs with an evident note of sage. Elegant and balanced, the palate is reflected by the aromas with a more delicate tone, marked salinity and acidity with an aftertaste of light bitterness.

Mauro Marengo Nas-cëtta del Comune di Novello DOC 2020
The winery was established in 1950 by Francesco Marengo which has been taken over by his son Mauro Marengo and his family at present times. Mauro’s children, the third generation are now completely present in handling the activity with the youngest, Daniel supporting his father in all the processes of winemaking and management of the vineyards. The first Nascetta that they bottled was in 2015. After a manual selection of the bunches, short maceration takes place in stainless steel at a controlled temperature. It is then aged on fine lees for 5 months in stainless steel. Bright straw yellow in color with green highlights, the nose is lightly subtle and delicate while the mouth expresses more an array of flavors of grapefruit, lemon peel, crunchy yellow peach, crispy pear and fresh sage as it ends with a kick of savory taste. Young and refreshing which can be interesting to drink later on as well.

Casa Baricalino Nas-cëtta del Comune di Novello DOC 2019
Founded in 2014 by Omar Sanino and his family, Casa Baricalino carries forward the traditions of winemaking of the Langhe. There are three hectares of land which includes the cultivation of Nascetta. The first vintage of Nascetta was in 2017. After the harvest that takes place at the end of September, the fermentation takes place in a stainless steel vat at a controlled temperature of 18°C for 4 days then it finishes the fermentation in oak barrels. It is then aged on the lees in barrique for 4 months with a daily batonnage. Straw yellow with an intense nose of ripe and sweet yellow peach, mandarin, white flowers in bloom and sweet fresh aromatic herbs. The mouth is muscular with fruit-forward flavors and marked acidity as it ends with a note of salinity.

Sansilvestro Nas-cëtta del Comune di Novello DOC 2019
Now on its fourth generation, Salsilvestro, which was established in 1871, is currently run by Paolo and Guido Sartirano. They continue to carry forward the winemaking traditions withe respect. Every glass encloses the history of the winery that reflects the typical characteristics of Novello and the Langhe. The first vintage of Nascetta was 2010 obtained from vines planted in 2007 then it matures on fine lees for 5 months. Crystal-clear deep straw yellow with an intense and complex nose of ripe apricot, exotic fruits, dried sweet spices, orange peel and white flowers. In the palate, there’s a line of mature fruits with a notable mineral sapidity.

Passone Massimiliano Nas-cëtta del Comune di Novello DOC 2019
Dedicated to the cultivation of grapevines, this family-run winery has already reached its fourth generation. The first vintage of their Nascetta is 2019 obtained from grapes grown in Novello in the Corini area, where the winery is located. Another label of Nascetta in their production is Bolleta, a sparkling wine made of 100% Nascetta obtained from Metodo Classico with 36 months on the lees. The still wine was aged on fine lees for 3 months. An interesting wine with a bright straw yellow color with a nose that expresses pronounced floral aromas, ripe white peach, and fresh aromatic herbs while in the palate it expresses aromatic sensations with pronounced mineral salinity and acidity. It finishes with persistence and excellent balance.

Note: Photos of the Nascetta grapes, Novello and Cantina Comunale di Novello are from the Instagram of the Association of Nascetta Producers of the Municipality of Novello.

Association of Nas-cëtta Producers of the Municipality of Novello

Via Roma, 8A
12060 Novello (CN), Italy
Website: https://www.nascettadinovello.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nascetta/