Roagna, Piedmont

“Quality has never been higher here, and as I have written before, Luca Roagna is one of Piedmont’s most promising young producers…Crichët Pajé (from the oldest vines in Pajé) makes an eloquent case for being the Monfortino of Barbaresco…” Antonio Galloni on the wines of Roagna

“Breathtaking, miraculously pure, with a freshness and vibrancy that is unbelievable…. Simply put, this is a heroic effort from Luca Roagna. As the saying goes, no guts, no glory. There is plenty of guts here. Roagna deserves every bit of praise he will receive for this stratospheric Barbaresco.” Antonio Galloni on 2002 Crichët Pajè

Following our recent successful buying trip to Piedmont we are delighted to offer the brand new vintage releases from the prestigious estate of Roagna. The quotes above from the most prominent Italian critic of the day, Antonio Galloni, are more florid than even us on these wonderful wines! But one quickly gets the idea on where they lie, in terms of quality, and more importantly Roagna offers an inimitable style. In a wine world where uniformity can all too often hold sway there are still some proper iconoclasts or simply old-fashioned recalcitrants who like to do things their own way. The wines can be all the better for it. Luca Roagna, at his marvellous family wine estate is one such winemaker. You can almost tell by the confident, distinctive labels here that you are not going to taste wines founded on compromise. The family motto for the estate is ‘Roagna non cambia’ (Roagna does not change) and it is unlikely that the great Barbaresco and Barolo wines produced here are ever going to find themselves onto tasting panels in wine competitions or in front of supermarket buyers. They even use the uncompromising word ‘manifesto’ on their (surprisingly modern) website before elaborating. Like the amazing wines of the late Henri Bonneau, the Roagna family prize more fiercely their own specific traditional methods than showing any willingness to succumb to modern day received wisdom. And like the wines of Henri Bonneau this aversion to the whims of fashion or compromise produce a unique take on the wines of a region. The wines here totally transcend expectations and generic quality levels. While there have been minor tweaks by Luca, during his stint at the helm, to improve basic grape handling in the winery, and a carefully instituted masale selection (so that any newly planted vines are perfectly adapted to the specific vineyard sites) basically nothing about the winemaking has changed in the last 120 years. This is how the family have always made their small production of great, long-lived wines and will continue to do so.

There is traditional in Piedmont and then there is Roagna traditional… the processes have been the same since the late 19th century. A 60 to 100 day maceration using submerged cap or ‘splint’ but with no ‘active’ pigeage before aging in large, Slavonian oak botti for 5 years and sometimes longer (8 years plus for the fabled riserva Crichët Pajé, released only in the best years) and no fining or filtering before bottling. No chemical nor organic fertilizers are used in the vineyard – only sulphur and copper just as they did 100 years ago. This was traditional a century ago but remarkably it all sounds rather timeless and, dare we say it, almost paradoxically ‘on trend’. The wines they produce this way are certainly memorable and, as we intimated above ‘authentic’ – unique almost.  These methods, allied to some prized vineyard holdings, create some magical, deeply structured, complex wines.

They are now becoming very collectible indeed. As the pricing on new release Burgundy and Bordeaux soars, the smart money is looking for an alternative avenue in terms of fine wine. Given the Roagna wines’ inherent quality, age-worthiness and unique style within modern Piedmont, this is just the kind of estate to become the next Italian icon after Giacomo Conterno. In fact, it has been argued that the Crichët Pajé serves as the Barbaresco equivalent of Roberto Conterno’s Barolo Monfortino. Aside from this absolute gold-dust cuvee, some of the old vine cuvees the ‘Vecchie Viti’ wines are produced in extremely limited quantities of around only 1000 bottles. As for the ‘normale’ cuvees they are quite brilliant single vineyard interpretations in their own right:  pale-ruby coloured affairs with a haunting fragrant quality. The wines from these notable single vineyard sites in Paje, Montefico and Asili in Barbaresco and Pira in Castiglione Falletto produce vivid, red-berried notes wines of uncanny fragrance and purity. Wild strawberries spring to mind when tasting but there is the allure of violets, rose petals and all manner of complexities only found in Piemonte. The Barolo Pira’s position on calcaire adds a further compelling salinity and mineral bite on the finish.

The current release of the 2012 vintage show wines with exceptional focus and freshness and exhilarating perfumes – our kind of wines. These single vineyard wines are going to look like very shrewd buys indeed, in the very near future, we feel, and the more collectible wines are sure to cause an unruly scramble.

Please note, as yet there are no critical appraisals of the 2012 vintage but you can appreciate the inherent quality from looking at last year’s slightly difficult 2011 vintage. We include the 2011 Galloni ratings and notes for your reference.

2012 Roagna, Barolo Pira
GBP 348 per case under bond (6*75cl)
Last year: “striking aromatic lift and inner perfume. Gracious and feminine throughout, the 2011 will drink well pretty much upon release… a terrific example of the house style.” 92 points, Antonio Galloni

2012 Roagna, Barbaresco Pajè
GBP 348 per case under bond (6*75cl)
Last year: “dark, sensual and inviting. Black cherry, plum, licorice, smoke, scorched earth and menthol give the Pajé much of its dark, brooding personality…. layers of flavor build into the striking, baritone finish.” 93 points, Antonio Galloni

2012 Roagna, Barolo Pira Vecchie Viti
GBP 666 per case under bond (6*75cl)
Last year: “deep, powerful and inviting, even with all of its forbidding tannin. In this vintage, the two Barolos are quite different. The straight Pira is quite delicate, while the Vecchie Viti is all muscle, brawn and old-style classicism. Dark stone fruit, graphite, smoke, licorice, sage, menthol and dark spices shape the huge finish. This is an unusual 2011 that needs cellaring.” 94 points, Antonio Galloni

2012 Roagna, Barbaresco Montefico Vecchie Viti
GBP 666 per case under bond (6*75cl)
Last year: “dark cherry, smoke, tobacco, licorice and plum meld into the huge finish. Readers will have to be quite patient, but there is plenty to look forward to…” 94 points, Antonio Galloni

2012 Roagna, Barbaresco Asili Vecchie Viti
GBP 666 per case under bond (6*75cl)
Last year: “the Asili Vecchie Viti is a total knock-out. Rose petal, sweet red berry, mint, cranberry and white pepper give the Asili its characteristic brightness, lift and perfume. Mid-weight, gracious and silky, the 2011 Asili hits all the right notes…” 95 points, Antonio Galloni

2012 Roagna, Barbaresco Paje Vecchie Viti
GBP 666 per case under bond (6*75cl)
Last year: “Roagna’s 2011 Barbaresco Pajé Vecchie Viti opens with the most exquisite aromatics imaginable. A hypothetical blend of Asili and Montefico offers captivating perfume, ripe, silky fruit and exceptional overall balance….2011, the Barbaresco Pajé Vecchie Viti is pure and total finesse.” 95+ points, Antonio Galloni

2008 Roagna, Barbaresco Riserva Crichët Pajè
GBP 1,290 per case under bond (3*75cl)
Last Year: “Sweet red cherry, plum, rose petal, mint and sweet spices give the 2007 much of its sensual, open-knit personality. The 2007 is endowed with striking inner perfume, silkiness and a level of total finesse I have not seen before. This is an exceptionally gracious Crichët Pajé…” 96 points Antonio Galloni

Wines will be shipped in Autumn 2017

Offered subject to remaining unsold and final confirmation