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.