Le Piane is the realization of Christoph Kuenzli’s dream. By the early 1990s when he first visited Boca the appellation’s vineyards covered only 25 acres, down from almost 10,000 in the late 1800s. Shockingly this was in the birthplace of Nebbiolo, an area the Count Cavour considered the equal of great Burgundy crus. But phylloxera and depopulation had taken its toll, and Boca was in danger of disappearing.
Kuenzli, a Swiss wine merchant, and his friend enologist Alexander Trolf, were tipped off by Paolo de Marchi (of Isole e Olena) a native of neighbouring Lessona. They went to taste the wine of Antonio Cerri. At 80 Cerri was one of the last vignerons still working but was ready for retirement. Entranced with the quality of the wine and the potential of the land Kuenzli and Trolf decided to take a chance. Together with a motley band of international wine lovers they leased and then bought Cerri’s vineyards, and acquired further parcels in the best locations, expanding to 20 acres. With passion and hard work they transformed Le Piane into one of Italy’s most revered estates. (Following their success, Boca now boasts ten producers and 75 acres under vine.)
The vines are worked organically, but Christoph has not sought certification. The vineyards lie between 400 and 500 meters, south-facing with a warm micro-climate protected from Alpine winds by the surrounding hills. The soil is unique in Italy: a porphyritic fine gravel, the remnants of a super-volcano.