Message in a bottle: Natale Verga’s take on affordable Barolo
So who is Natale Verga?
If you guessed an Italian winemaker you’d get credit for being mostly correct.
But there’s more.
I first saw the name Natale Verga, a winery in Cermenate, a small (9,000 population) commune in the Province of Como in northern Lombardy, while gazing at the Italian section in my local wine shop.
I was looking for an affordable Barolo, an oxymoron in most cases, and my eye was caught by Verga’s straightforward label, which simply reads “Barolo,” the winery and the vintage. Hanging from a shelf-talker was the price, a very modest $19.99.
That’s about $16 less than the next-closest price and way below what many other Barolo DOCG winemakers are asking.
On the shelf below was a similar label reading “Barbera D’Alba,” this one a DOC priced at $13.
Natale Verga is the current proprietor of the family owned winery founded in 1895 by Giancarlo Verga. Information even on the website is scant, but this much is available: The winery is huge and typically modern, with lots of shiny stainless steel and the capacity to handle 25,000 bottles per hour.
Thanks to seven different labels and multiple wines (the Natale Verga label includes 21 different wines), aggressive marketing and multiple investments in new technology, the wines are distributed in more than 30 countries.
A video on the website, narrated by Natale Verga, tells an interesting story of the 120-year old winery but oddly skips over what Verga’s monologue refers to as “difficult challenges” and unexplained “unfair play,” apparently from competitors.
“Today we are facing a new challenge,” Verga says in the video without bothering to elaborate. Then he affirms, “We will overcome any difficulties” and goes on to thank some employees who stuck around “when it would have wiser to leave.”
With that cryptic remark, what Natale Verga has overcome is the price hurdle of an affordable and quite delicious Barolo and Barbera D’Alba.
Notes: Natale Verga 2008 Barolo DOCG (current vintage is 2010), $19.99, purchased. Notes of roses, blackberries, dark plums.
Natale Verga Barbera D’Alba DOC, $12.99, purchased. Mocha, dark cherries and raspberries.