Wine Review: Boca vs. Ghemme

Last week I was invited to a Piedmontese wine tasting where we tried two wines that are produced near the town of Novara. The wines were: 2000 Castello Conti Boca DOC and 1999 Azienda Agricola Bianchi Ghemme DOCG. Piedmontese wines are usually not the type of wine I prefer but this tasting was quite an experience

Novara

Novara is located in the northeastern part of the Piedmont and was founded by the Romans. The area has a long history of winemaking and wineries mostly use Nebbiolo, Barbera and Uva Rara for their red wines and Erbaluce for their white ones.

nort

Novara is also the capital city of the province of Novara. The wines we drank that evening are both produced in the province of Novara. Boca DOC is named after the town Boca and Ghemme DOCG is named after the town Ghemme. The two towns are only separated by a short 20 minute car drive. Boca includes 15 hectares and Ghemme 85 hectares. Ghemme is one of the smallest DOCGs in the Piedmont. So why did we compare these wines on the same evening? Besides their close proximity the two wines are produced with the very same set of grapes: Nebbiolo, Vespolina and Uva Rara. Boca DOC legislation requires the wine to age at least 3 years of aging out of which at least 2 in oak barrels. Ghemme DOCG legislations is very similar and requires also a minimum of 3 years of aging (at least 20 months in oak and at least 9 months in the bottle). Therefore these wines were perfect for our blind tasting.

Blind Tasting

Boca Ghemme tasting


Prior to drinking both wines were decanted for roughly 3 hours and served at a little below room temperature. We had two identical decanters, served the wines in identical glasses and only the host knew which wine was in which decanter. Blind tastings are always fun in my opinion because it’s all about the wine and not about the pretty looking labels, prejudgments and other stuff.

We did two rounds – one without food and one with food. We ate a traditional dish from the Piedmont called Polenta alla Piemontese with lamb. Below you find my tasting notes for the Boca and the Ghemme.

In the glass, the Boca had a garnet red color. 12.5% was the label listed alcohol by volumeThe Ghemme from Azienda Agricola Bianchi had a garnet red color with orange hues. The label listed ABV was 13%

On the nose, Ghemme was extremely intense with aromas of raspberry jam, black cherries and vanilla. Surprisingly the Boca had completely different aromas and overall was less intense: Eucalyptus, herbs, mead and blackberries. Just by comparing the bouquets I have to say that I find the Ghemme more interesting.

In the mouth, the Boca was dry and well-ballanced. A full-bodied, complex wine with good structure and intense notes of minerals and red berries. The wine had a soft acidity. Boca had pleasing, mellow tannins and a lingering finish. Ghemme was also dry but less intense than the Boca. Unfortunately,  the wine oxidized a little bit but it was still enjoyable. However, the acidicy was a bit more biting and the tannins were slightly more aggressive. 

Boca & Ghemme

The finish was a a little shorter compared to the Boca.  When comparing only how both wine tasted then I have to say that I prefer the Boca over the Ghemme.

Now things are getting tricky. Which one did I like more? Well as I said I prefer the bouquet of the Ghemme but the Boca tastes better. While I believe that a pleasing bouquet is very important I am also of the opinion that the taste of a wine is a little more important and therefore my winner is the 2000 Castello Conti Boca DOC. I’m wondering if the result would have been different if the Ghemme hadn’t oxidized.. I drank the Azienda Agricola Bianchi Ghemme on a few occasions before and from what I remember the wine tasted much better. I’m looking forward to repeat this tasting with two completely healthy bottles of Boca and Ghemme.

Parting Words

For more information about Boca and Ghemme visit the website of the respective wineries. Do you like blind tastings? Let me know in the comment section below! That’s all for today. Up next will be a wine review about a Sagrantino di Montefalco.

19 comments on “Wine Review: Boca vs. Ghemme”

  1. winetalks winetalks Reply

    It sounds like you had a wonderful evening! While blind tastings are sometimes fun I prefer to drink my wines non-blind. Sorry to hear that the Ghemme had a wine fault but isn’t this always the risk with older wines? 😉

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Frank,
      Thanks for stopping by! The tasting was great and we had a lot of fun and I’m always looking forward to these evening. Blind tastings are a good way of getting to know a wine better and are ideal for comparing to similar ones.

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  3. foodwine88 Reply

    Great review, Julian! I’m not sure if I would like any of these wines because Nebbiolo wines usually have too much acidity for my personal taste but I enjoyed reading abut these wines. Today was the first time I learned about Boca. There are just too many appellations in Italy! Looking forward to that Montefalco di Sagranatino review. Cheers!

      • Julian Rossello Reply

        Foodwine88,
        Thank you! I didn’t know about Boca either before trying this wine. It’s a very small appellation but I liked the Boca and I plan to drink it again. It’s natural that the wines in the Piedmont have a stronger acidity then the wines produced more South.
        The post about the Sagrantino di Montefaclo is (probably) going live this weekend.

  4. RiojaChianti RiojaChianti Reply

    I only tried a Ghemme once. It was at a trade show and it reminded me a lot of a Barbaresco. Boca on the other hand is a wine I’ve never heard of before.. Nice post!

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      RiojaChianti,
      Barbaresco has, as far as I know, a different terrain than the Ghemme but to you are right that they are to some extend similar.

  5. Sean P. Reply

    I find it quite surprising that you prefer the aromas of the Ghemme over the ones of thr Boca considering that the Ghemme was faulty.

  6. hannah-theis hannah-theis Reply

    I love drinking aged wine! It’s one of the best experienced and it trumps all other wine moments : -) I love vertical tastings because they show how much wine will change with time. Your post brought back some good memories about my last vertical tasting! Thanks!

  7. Suzanne Reply

    A very nice review and it is conflicting for me with regards to the wine, I don’t know which one I would prefer. Sounds like a great evening and I love the idea of a blind tasting. Is decanting for 3 hours usual? I usually only decant for an hour.

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Suzanne,
      There is no set rule for decanting wines. Some wines need only an hour while others need many hours. A few months ago I was at a wine tasting where we drank a few bottles of 1983 Chianti Rufina. The wine didn’t need any decantation and in fact we decanted one bottle just to see what happens and the wine lost most of its aromas during the decantation process. Very old wines should only be decanted after you’re convinced that the wine needs some air (but there is risk that the wine might get worse). A 20 year old Barolo will usually need around 6 hours of decanting. A 10 year old Amarone might need at least 2 hours of decanting. Aged Brunello di Montalcino can use 2-4 hours of decantation, too. I hope I didn’t confuse you..

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  9. Andy Andy Reply

    It sounds like you had a great wine evening! I’m surprised that the Ghememe showed some signs of oxidiations – usually these wines can last for decades! I had an excellent game from 1987 last year. It was quite an experience and for sure one I don’t to forget! I haven’t heard of Boca before but after reading your tasting notes I think I might like this wine. Cheers Julian!

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Andy,
      I was surprised, too, that the Ghemme was a little bit faulty but after all this is a natural product and these things can happen. Usually the wines from Azienda Agricoal Bianchi have a long aging potential – especially their Ghemme and Gattinara wines.

  10. Marco van Puff Reply

    A very interesting and nice review, Julian! Thanks for sharing your insights on these wines with us 🙂 I love drinking wine that aged +10 years but I tend to open my bottles much earlier.. I usually can’t resist the temptation..

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Marco,
      I know that feeling so I keep the bottles I want to drink in a few years in the cellar and never touch them until they are ready. Works quite well for me 🙂

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