Borgo Moncalvo

Who: Andrea and Luca Elegir, and their parents

Where: Loazzolo, possibly the smallest DOC in Italy, south of Canelli in Piemonte

What grapes: Moscato, Brachetto, Barbera, Dolcetto, Pinot Noir, Cortese

How many bottles: 20,000

Key facts: Borgo Moncalvo power their estate entirely with solar panels, and use solar energy for their hot water. Many of their vines were planted in the 1920’s.

Product - Borgo Moncalvo-1.jpg

Borgo Moncalvo Metodo Classico Rose’ DOC

Organic: Certified Organic
Soil type: terra bianca limestone-rich clay soils
Elevation: 350-400 meters above sea level
Grapes: 100% Pinot Noir
method of fermentation: Matured on yeast for 20 months. Natural Fermentation
Bottles made: 3,000

100% Pinot Noir, matured on the yeast for 20 months. The wine is made with only the natural grape sugars of the fruit, including the second fermentation. From high-elevation Guyot-trained old vines.

Product - Borgo Moncalvo Dolcetto.jpg

Borgo Moncalvo Dolcetto d’Asti DOC 

Organic: Certified Organic
Soil type: Limestone-rich soils.
Elevation: 350-400 meters above sea level
Grapes: Dolcetto
Method of fermentation: In most vintages, spontaneous natural yeast fermentations in stainless steel.
Bottles made: 3,000

Fruity and fresh like a cru Beaujolais, or a lighter Loire red. From high-elevation hillside vines planted in limestone-rich soils. Hand-harvested, macerated for a week before fermentation. The wine stays in cellar for 6-8 months before release. 

Product - Borgo Moncalvo-4.jpg

Borgo Moncalvo Barbera d’Asti DOCG

Organic: Certified Organic
Soil type: mix of Calcerous marls and Clay Limestone
Elevation: 350-400 meters above sea level
Grapes: Barbera
Method of fermentation: Fermented at cool temperature, a long maceration period before racking. One year in oak before bottling.
Bottles made: 1,500

Made from high elevation vines planted in the 1950’s. These vines are scrupulously thinned to lower yield and create a more intense wine. Hand-harvested, pressed immediately and fermented at cool temperatures. The wine has a long maceration period before racking, then at least a year in oak before bottling. The estate generally keeps its Barbera for several years prior to release.

Product - Borgo Moncalvo-3.jpg

Borgo Moncalvo Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG 

Organic: Certified Organic
Soil type: terra bianca limestone with clay
Elevation: 300-450 meters above sea level
Grapes: Brachetto
method of fermentation: cold-stabilization to retain natural sweetness and delicate fizz
Bottles made: 1,500

Frizzante, low alcohol, a lighter take on dessert wine. Also great as an apertivo. Guyot-trained hillside vines planted 300-450 meters above sea level. 

Visiting farms I am usually first greeted by dogs. Alex the basset hound met me in the long driveway, near an appealingly laden cherry tree. The cherries were a swirl of white/pale yellow and cherry red. I waited until they were offered… unsurprisingly they were more enjoyable than the kilo of cherries I had purchased roadside, fruit that basically sustained me for a week while meandering from farm to farm. Alex lives in Loazzolo, a tiny, steep valley in the southern Italian Piedmont. It’s a good dog’s life, plenty of space to amble among forest and vineyard, and time to greet the infrequent visitors who arrive down a precariously winding narrow road that clings to the valley’s sides.

After Alex’s welcome, Andrea Elegir emerged from the family home and cellar. Andrea is the young winemaker at Borgo Moncalvo, a 7-hectare organic property (5.5 ha of vines plus forest). He is also talented and motivated enough to make wine in the cellar of his closest neighbors. Andrea speaks French; he summoned by cell phone his brother (and Alex’s owner) Luca Elegir, who studies Spanish and English in Turin, and is unsurprisingly a Juventus fan. The dog is named after Alex Pirlo, the great Italian midfielder, recently an essential part of the championship-winning Juve side. Fine. I asked Luca why he wasn’t a Torino fan, mostly to be contrary. An entertaining torrent of derisive commentary concerning (mostly) the fans of Turin’s second (by a long margin) soccer team was unleashed. I like understanding people’s other passions.

We communicated mostly in Spanish while trekking the impressively steep vineyards around their home. It was a lively four-language discourse, an interesting moment in a shrunken-by-travel-and-technology world, a cloud of partially-learned nouns and poorly conjugated verbs trailing away in a tiny remote valley that Andrea claims is the smallest DOC in Italy. I believe him, but do not really know for sure.

How steep is steep? We talk about steep quite a bit. Here’s my metric. I slipped several times just trying to walk up the vineyard path, a dry rocky track that was probably only suited to hiking boots. I’m no mountain goat but similar balance difficulties have only afflicted me along the slate-strewn and dizzying Mosel.

The Elegir family is farming vines planted in the 1920s and the 1940s, the oldest parcels in the DOC, with the help of all family members and one hired worker. Their vines grow in a mix of terra bianca calcareous marls and terra rossa clay-limestone.

Borgo Moncalvo is small but ambitious. The cellar and estate run on solar power. The wines are certified organic. Borgo Moncalvo is sustainability at its best. A small farm maintained by generations of the same family, producing a high-quality regional product in a setting that allows space for the natural world to coexist.

And they seem to be having a good time doing it, too! As we tasted through many young and some old wines in the Elegir’s living room, Luca and Andrea’s mother introduced numerous plates of delicious food: a lemony chicken dish, local cheeses and salamis, cherries of course, and an excellent dessert of berries macerated in Brachetto. I should have eaten more, not to be rude, but there was so much to be had! My attention was distracted by a Cortese, leesy and ripe and note-perfect with the chicken, then by a subtle, refreshing Dolcetto and substantial Barbera. The fruity, fizzy wines were great, too. I left their hidden home in a fine mood. This encounter really felt like finding great wine made by the right people way down at the absolute end of the road.