New kid on the Piedmontese block: speaking with Tom Myers of Cantina D’Arcy

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 regions most prominent DOCG’s, Barolo and Barbaresco, skyrocket to stratospheric acclaim. With land prices in Barolo reaching as much as €2.5m per hectare in the most prestigious crus, expansion is difficult even for established winemaking families. That being said, nestled between Cannubi and Vignane, in the cru of Preda, having acquired experience with some of the worlds greatest winemakers, Tom Myers is finding his feet, working the land, and intending to make great wine for decades to come. What he lacks in formal training he more than makes up for in practical experience, having worked everywhere from Benjamin Leroux to Dr. Loosen. I spoke with Tom about his journey thus far, Cantina D’Arcy and the future.

Preda, Barolo

New Zealand native Myers, despite having no prior intention of working in either the hospitality or wine industry, found himself working in a restaurant straight out of high school. At the time, sommeliers were a rarity in New Zealand; however, Tom was working at Craggy Range’s adjoining restaurant and so somewhat serendipitously was privy to a solid wine programme from the offset. He instantly gravitated toward wine and begun saving to travel around Europe, with his experience in hospitality proving to be useful leverage. The 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 great bottles.

Still a little uncertain, Tom returned to New Zealand attended the University of Auckland, studying Philosophy, Linguistics, Political Science and a bit of French. Not exactly thrilled by academia, he made perhaps the most drastic change of direction so far and joined the army for several years. An idealistic young thinker, Myers still hadn’t found his calling. Leaving the army, he returned to the wine industry and decided to have a real crack at establishing a solid 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 living and working in Burgundy, Tom had sporadically visited the Langhe, and in 2013, while still working in Burgundy he met his now partner, Carlotta Rinaldi. Shortly after this relationship began, circa 2015, the Langhe became Tom’s home. Starting out as friends, the pair’s relationship quickly blossomed. Both their friendship and current relationship led to Tom to spend time working for Giuseppe, where he had gained invaluable insight into working with Nebbiolo. Myers had also visited Bartello Mascarello, which he described as a special place. Even amongst a good crowd, both Mascarello and Giuseppe Rinaldi stand out as excellent.

Varying exposure of Preda

Digging a little deeper into what motivated him personally, things got a little philosophical (or perhaps it was the Riesling I had drunk) Tom asked me ‘what is winemaking?‘ From the beginning, he recognised that he had a burning desire to understand, to comprehend best practise. As he travelled the world and drunk great wine 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 covers the end of a ridge, with vines spreading over both sides, meaning the cru boasts a variety of exposures. Myers plot is an east-facing 8500sqm plot, 7550 planted to Nebbiolo for Barolo and 6 rows of Dolcetto. From a geological perspective, Allessandro Masnaghetti points out that sandy Sant’Agata Fossil Marls are prominent here, except for an outcrop of Diano Sandstones at the top of the ridge, while the soils on the western slope are prevalently evolved. Whilst Tom is renting the site, 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.

Preda with Cannubi behind

Despite not having yet produced a vintage, Tom has recently 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.

Together, we also contemplated the modern against classical debate which rages on in Barolo, which we both agreed is 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.

I asked for the inspiration behind the estate’s name, Tom tells me that D’Arcy was his maternal Grandmothers name, herself growing up as a farm girl in northwestern Australia, a homage to her identity, a sense of attachment to a place important to his heritage. Myers is a well-travelled man, we spoke for close to two hours, his ethos resonated effortlessly, his approachable and open nature obvious. 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 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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