Cantina D’Arcy: new kid on the Langhe block

Bordering the Swiss Alps, Piedmont is a picturesque and historically-rich region in the Northwest of Italy. Roughly 1 hour south of the capital city, Turin, in the province of Cuneo, you’ll find the rolling hills of the Langhe. Recognised by UNESCO’s World Heritage, in part for its outstanding living testimony to winegrowing and winemaking tradition, the Langhe features prominently in the writings of writer Beppe Fenoglio and novelist Cesare Pavese. The past 40 years have seen the wines of Barolo and Barbaresco propelled to stratospheric acclaim. With land prices in the most prestigious cru reaching as much as €2.5m per hectare, acquisition is difficult, even for established winemaking families. Nevertheless, nestled between Cannubi and Vignane, in the cru of Preda, having gained experience with some of the worlds greatest winemakers, Tom Myers is finding his feet, working the land, and already making vivacious inspiring wines. What he lacks in ‘formal training’, he makes up for in practical experience and well-grounded vision. This is the story of Cantina D’Arcy.

Despite having never thought of working in either the hospitality sector or the wine industry, New Zealand native, Tom Myers, found himself waiting in a restaurant straight out of high school. At the time, sommeliers were rare in New Zealand; however, Tom had worked at Craggy Range’s adjoining restaurant and so was privy to a reasonably robust wine programme from the offset. Myers gravitated toward wine, saving to travel around Europe, using his experience in hospitality as useful leverage. His first stop was Gerrard Basset’s Hotel du Vin in Royal Tunbridge Wells, where classical reference points were commonplace and days off were spent in the local wine shop drinking landmark bottles.

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Still a little uncertain, he returned to New Zealand, later attending the University of Auckland, where he studied Philosophy, Linguistics, Political Science and a little French. Not particularly thrilled by academia, he made perhaps the most dramatic shift in direction to date, joining the army where he would stay for several years. An idealistic young man, Myers still hadn’t found his calling. Leaving the army, he returned to the wine industry, deciding to take a shot at establishing a serious career. Recognising any production experience he could find would prove valuable, Myers took a crack at working a vintage on Waiheke Island, home to some of Auckland’s most famous vineyards. Quickly finding his feet, the wheels were set in motion. Without the required experience to secure a role in wine production, and keen to broaden his overall understanding, he spent time working in Auckland’s sales and distribution network. After another vintage in New Zealand, pruning and working general summer tasks, a move to Europe followed in 2012 where Tom spent a vintage at Agriturismo I Veroni. After working in Tuscany, having also spent time at Caiarossa, he travelled to Burgundy in 2013.

Between 2013 and 2016 Myers soaked up every piece of experience he possibly could, travelling to again to New Zealand, Australia, Burgundy, Chablis, Jura, the Mosel, and Southern Rhone, assisting throughout the year with some of the worlds best producers. This includes, but is not limited to, Benjamin Leroux, d’Angerville, Comte Armand, Domaine du Pelican, Alain Graillot, Dr. Loosen, Place of Changing Winds, Bindi and Pyramid Valley. Myers tells me that Leroux, Maxime Graillot and Robert Walters have been particularly influential figures in his own personal growth, this not to say many others were not.

While working in Burgundy, Tom had visited Langhe, and in 2013, he met his now partner, Carlotta Rinaldi. Shortly after their relationship began, Langhe would become Tom’s home. Starting out as friends, the pair’s relationship quickly blossomed. This blossoming relationship led Tom to spend time working at Rinaldi, where he would gain invaluable insight into working with Nebbiolo. Myers had also visited Bartello Mascarello, which he describes as a special place. Among a good crowd, Mascarello and Rinaldi stand out as exceptional.

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Touching on what motivates him, things got altogether philosophical. ‘What is winemaking?’, Tom remarks. From the beginning, he tells me he recognised he possessed a burning desire to understand, to comprehend best practise, to decipher what made great wine. As he travelled the world, tasting as he went, he found himself asking exactly what it was that really set these wines apart. From this yearning evolved a desire to test his own understanding, to see if he himself could achieve great things. Although ownership seems never to have been a driving force, it was perhaps his pessimism toward his own position as an employee, saying he asked far too many questions, combined with his obviously competitive nature that had left Tom spending 2 to 3 years searching for land. After a long, extensive search he was fortunate enough to find preexisting vines for rent in the cru of Preda, nestled between the famous Cannubi and Vignane.

Preda spans the end of a ridge, with vines spreading over both sides, meaning the crus exposure varies. Tom’s plot is east-facing, 7550 vines planted to Nebbiolo—for Barolo—and 6 rows to Dolcetto. Allessandro Masnaghetti points notes that sandy Sant’Agata Fossil Marls are prominent in Preda, except for an outcrop of Diano sandstones at the top of the ridge, while the soils on the western slope are more evolved. Although Tom has a rental agreement, he has full autonomy over the viticulture. His approach is simple, organic and respectful, aiming to promote biodiversity but recognising any real change will take years, with a period of roughly 8 years before it really becomes an expression of his desires. He tells me that whilst there is a little less fruit sweetness than a cru such as Brunate, the site still receives a lot of light, and particularly where the Nebbiolo is planted there is a lot of wind meaning it is a little less humid with the vines losing dew earlier in the morning, so quality and ripeness remains excellent.

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Despite having not yet bottled a vintage, Tom has confirmed a winery space. We discussed his intended winemaking ethos and the desires he has for his own wine. He is clear that he would first like to understand the vineyard he’s working with, the intricacies of the site and the fruit it produces, with his winemaking reflecting that. Whilst working at Rinaldi, experimenting and experiencing winemaking with a number of other friends and producers in the region, and visiting Mascarello, Tom became much more aware of how Nebbiolo behaves as a grape. In Burgundy, there is great emphasis on respecting the fruit itself, from the sorting table to the gentle handling of fruit into fermentation vessels (whether it be for integrity or to achieve lifted character from a little intracellular fermentation) Myers paid great attention to this while working with Pinot and plans to adopt a similar approach in his own winemaking. His aim is to guide, not to control, indigenous yeast and spontaneous MLF are his intentions, meanwhile, he does not object to temperature control. He has also recently secured some open-top fermenters, another common practice in many top Burgundy estates.

Further, we contemplated the modern vs. traditional debate which rages on in Barolo, a debate we both agreed draws a somewhat unhelpful dichotomy. The great producers of Barolo have found a middle ground, they have welcomed change but retained tradition where it makes sense to them. They do what is best for wine, something Chiara Boschis reiterated to me on a recent visit, winemaking must evolve vintage by vintage, Benjamin Leroux has also advocated this. While he himself is firmly in the large barrel camp, Tom does note that this does not necessarily dictate style itself, referring to Sottimano who produce remarkably fresh wines in small barrels.

Cantina D’Arcy takes it name from Tom’s maternal grandmother, herself having grown up as a farm girl in northwestern Australia. The eponymous estate is a homage to her identity, a sense of attachment to a place important to Tom’s heritage. Myers is a well-travelled man, his ethos resonates effortlessly with what I consider valuable, his approachable and open nature are warm and inviting. Rather humbly, Myers acknowledges that his first vintage may not be perfect, speaking honestly and practically he notes that realising your vision when constrained from a resource perspective is not always easy. Cantina D’Arcy first vintage will be 2020, with Barolo being released 38 months following, his first bottles will be in our hands in January 2024. There are few young winemakers with a CV quite like Toms, having worked with some of the greatest winemakers in the world, having experience in a wide variety of jobs across various regions, I am certain we can expect great things from Cantina D’Arcy in the future.

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