I was desperately trying to make some order among the wines I no longer have enough space for in my house, an operation I usually put off because I know that it probably won't be successful.
Of course I have a wine cellar. Actually, a dedicated refrigerator, which can contain (give or take) 275 bottles. And the shelves I've set up on the ground floor and in my office on the second floor are also packed. Which leaves me with at least 12 cases that I have yet to place. In this mix of ever-more-disorderly bottles, my eye settled upon an almost-buried white: Langhe Solea 2001, from the Roagna - I Pagliari winery.
I remember it was given to me -- together with some masterful Barbaresco and Barolo wines -- by the young Luca Roagna in 2006, when I paid them a visit with Pierluigi Gorgoni (of Spirito DiVino and more). I couldn't resist, I had to open it, especially because 5 years without refrigeration, even in the dark, carries risks. But we'll speak of the wine anon.
I would rather discuss something I consider unexplainable and unjustifiable. The Roagna family has made wine in the hamlet of Paglieri, Commune of Barbaresco, for 5 generations. It is, thus, a historic winery, one that has always made amazing wines that make no concessions to fashion or trend (I remember a 78 Barbaresco that was simply extraordinary). Just to make myself clear, the Nebbiolo destined to Barolo La Rocca and La Pira Riserva macerates for 80-100 days on the skins, and considering how much extraction that will lead to one understands how long it must bottle age before one can open it and be bowled over by qualities few other renowned Italian wines can hope to even approach.
But long macerations (with submerged cap) are part of a philosophy they apply to all of their wines, as is the use of selected indigenous yeasts for the fermentation (selection derived from careful research with expert microbiologists). Biodiversity is another salient point: their land has vegetative cover, with mixed greens (Kyle's note: many vineyards in Langa have bare earth between the rows) that can include mint, spontaneous legumes, and all sorts of grasses and fragrant blossoms.
Green harvesting is only carried out on vines younger than 20 years, allowing the vines to then find their natural equilibrium. There are ancient vines in the vineyards -- they were planted between 1937 and 1955), some on native rootstock, and with roots that can reach 30 feet into the ground; you can imagine how many microelements they can draw, and how resistant they are to drought. And when a vine dies it is replaced by one from a cutting in the same vineyard -- no clones, and indeed the Roagna family has banished that word from their viticultural vocabulary.
All this to show that we're dealing with an extremely rigorous winery, one that really succeeded in combining farming traditions with modern technology, or perhaps it would be more correct to say, modern knowledge.
The Roagna family doesn't like Guides, though this doesn't justify the Guides' ignoring them, considering that the wines of other top wineries that behave the same way are regularly reviewed. Paradoxically, they are better known (and liked) abroad. A meeting between Luca and Sigurd Wongraven, founder of the Norwegian Black metal group Satyricon, which came about thanks to reciprocal enomusical passions (Sigurd is also writing a book on Piemontese winemakers), has led to two wines, one from a few casks of Barolo Pira and the other from a few casks belonging to friends of the Roagna family, casks personally selected by Sigurd: Unione Wongraven Barolo and Alleanza Wongraven Langhe Rosso.
Setting aside the Guides for the moment, though there are certainly many wine lovers who know the winery, it is rarely mentioned on the web and a search turns up few reviews.
Between 2010 and 2011 I have however discussed, on Lavinium, Barbaresco Crichët Pajé 1998, Pajé Riserva 1997 e Barolo La Rocca e la Pira Riserva 1993.
This time we will speak of Langhe Solea 2001, from Chardonnay and Nebbiolo vinified white, because I believe Langa is not just a land of great reds, but can also be a land of whites, capable of long aging.
I don't recall the exact percentage of Nebbiolo in this vintage, though it is on average about 25. Yields per hectare 35-40 hectoliters! Macerations on the skins for 10-15 days, with Nebbiolo added after pressing. The wine ages for 3-5 years in large French oak casks, and then in bottle.
And here it is, poor thing, not kept as I should have, but even more praiseworthy for having survived 5 years in my house. The color is what one would expect of a white that spent a long time macerating, a truly enticing intense warm gold. The nose puts my worries to rest, it's in perfect condition, and balanced, with barely ripe tropical fruit, floral accents and mineral notes, peaches, mangos, lychees, walnuts, candied pineapple, moss, orange and acacia honey, hints of limestone and finally aromatic herbs. On the palate it's pure silk, far beyond what I expected, and astonishingly fresh! Lively in every way, savory and deep, extremely persistent, elegant, refined even, and in perfect harmony with that promised by the nose. I confess to being astonished, because I tasted the wine 5 years ago in the cellars and only partially recognized its greatness.
It's impressive to note how the more than a decade since the harvest hasn't weighed upon the wine in the slightest; it still has a long future ahead of it, on a par with that of a Langan red.
These are the Roagna! Make plans to visit them, because when you do you will never forget the day.
Roagna - Azienda Agricola I Paglieri Loc. Paglieri 9, 12050 Barbaresco (Cn) Tel/fax +39 0173/635109 Site: www.roagna.com E-mail: info AT roagna DOT com
Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.
NO STAR goes to wines that are correctly made but nothing to get excited about.
ONE STAR goes to wines that are good. TWO STARS go to wines that are very good to excellent. THREE STARS and a POINT SCORE (90-100) go to wines that are superb to extraordinary. And I will give pairing suggestions, which I consider much more important than the scores.