During my recent travels in Piemonte, I visited winery after winery who told me that their consulting winemaker is Giuseppe “Beppe” Caviola. Known as “The Flying Winemaker” or “The Dolcetto King,” Beppe Caviola is a consultant to more than 30 wineries in Italy, from Piedmont to Sicily and from the Marche to Sardinia, some of which are the most legendary estates in the country. And in the heart of Dogliani, Beppe Caviola has his own winery, Ca’Viola, which in local dialect means “little violet house.”
Beppe Caviola is from Montelupo in the Langhe. He attended the Enological School in Alba and then worked at the Enological Center in Gallo, just outside Alba. He found a small vineyard in Montelupo, called Barturot, and began making wine in the garage of his parents’ house. After some encouragement to bottle the wine, Beppe bottled 860 bottles of Dolcetto is 1991 and Ca’Viola was born.
Today, Beppe produces fewer than 6,000 cases of Dolcetto, Barbera, and Nebbiolo-based wines. He owns approximately 12 hectares of vineyards. The majority of the vineyards are in Montelupo where the soils are rich in calcareous marl and sandstone.
The steep slopes sit 400 meters above sea level. This is where Dolcetto d’Alba Barturot, Dolcetto d’Alba Vilot, Barbera d’Alba Bric du Luv and Barbera d’Alba Brichet are produced. In 2003, Beppo planted a small plot in the Sottocastello vineyard, located “under the castle” in the Novello Commune, the most southern point in Barolo. At an altitude of 470 meters above sea level, the soils have a high presence of chalk. This is where the Langhe Nebbiolo and Barolo Sottocastello are produced.
All Ca’Viola wines are made from estate grapes and Beppe studies each of the vineyards. As he explained, “When you understand these differences, you can improve the quality of the wine in a natural and respectful way.”
Yields are low, and Beppe does not use selected yeasts, nor does he filter the wines, with the exception of the Riesling, which he also grows. And each vintage provides an opportunity to experiment with new techniques. From vinification to aging, Beppe is looking to find what works best for each microclimate and each grape.
Focused on showcasing the terroir and fruit expression of the Langhe, Beppe’s philosophy is to respect the terroir. After all, Beppe expressed that “the terroir makes the difference.” The result is wines that express true varietal character. “I would like to recognize the difference between different vintages, not the influence of oak.”
Beppe’s focus on the terroir of the wine translates to his clients. He helps them make their wine but does not impose his style on the wines. Rather, he makes sure that his influence is subtle and instead shares his philosophy of respect and looks to express the characteristics of the terroir.
He best expressed it when he explained that “A wine consultant is great winemaker when you don’t realize the [Ca’Viola] style. It is important to bring out the philosophy of each winery.” Beppe is able to experiment and try things in his own winery and then share with his clients. “Ca’ Viola winery is important for me because I can transfer philosophies to my client and when the philosophy is respected, it is easy to share.”
A highlight of the wines we tasted:
— Ca’Viola Dolcetto D’Alba Barturot is the first label from Ca’Viola. The average age of the vines is 65 years. The wine was aged for 8-10 months in botti (large barrels). The 2017 and the 2015 have red berry, black cherry, violet and wild fruit aromas. But, the 2017 is more savory and mouthwatering with a silky texture, whereas the 2015 is more fruity and acidic on the palate.
— Ca’Viola Barbera d’Alba Brichet is a blend of Barbera from different vineyards with vines that average 20 years of age. The wine spends 12 months in botti. The 2017 is very floral with bright acidity on the palate and the 2015 also has floral notes as well as black bruit aromas and soft high-tone tannins that hit the top of the palate.
— Barbera d’Alba Bric du Luv – Bric du Luv is a 1.5-hectare vineyard with vines averaging 65 years of age. The wine is aged for 13-15 months in big barrels. The 2017 is ripe with juicy fruit and spice notes and is elegant on the palate. The 2015, which was a warmer vintage, shows more purple fruit and floral aromas with a spiciness on the palate. The 2010 has an aromatic floral and ripe fruit nose with a savory finish. The 2008 has notes of lavender and spice with acidity hitting the front of the palate. The 2006, with 12 years of age, is an elegant wine with deep, rich aromas.
— Barolo Sottocastello di Novello – The unfiltered Nebbiolo from the Sottocastello di Novello vineyard spends 24 months in big barrels and 12 months in concrete. 2013 was a great vintage, resulting in a wine with perfumed lavender and balsamic notes and tannins that coat the mouth but quickly dissipate. The 2012 was also a great vintage and the wine has chocolate and tobacco notes and full mouth tannins. The 2008, which was a cooler vintage, has aromas of dark forest fruit and drying tannins on the mid-palate.
—Ca’ Viola Langhe Riesling – A new wine for Ca’Viola, 2015 was the first vintage of this wine. A straw yellow color, the nose is very much similar to German Riesling with intense lemon, lime and petrol aromas. The wine is bone dry but rich with apricot and mineral notes on the finish.