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2013 Solea, Langhe Bianco, Roagna, Piedmont
Luca Roagna represents the latest generation to work in this historical wine estate, alongside his genial father Alfredo, whose 15 hectares of vine cover both Barabresco and Barolo wine production. However the family's roots lie in Barbaresco, with Luca's grandfather buying the Paje vineyard in the 1950s.
The key to understanding Roagna's wine is their insistence upon biodiverse masale selected and old vineyards (up to 100 year-old in the case of Castiglione Falletto), whose plants are only green harvested up to 15 yo (older vines set their own yields naturally). Harvests tend to be more protracted than their neighbours, while cuvaisons in large conical French Garbellotto botte also outstrip the norm, lasting anything from one to two months, achieving the finest tannins and maximum extraction. The use of sulphur dioxide is minimal if applied at regular intervals.
The range is dominated by three Barbaresco crus: Paje, Crichet Paje and Paje Riserva; the difference being the exposition and vine age. Not afraid to innovate, since 1982 they have also offered an ingenious non-vintage, vino di tavola blend of (Barbaresco) Nebbiolo called 'Opera Prima' and since '88 a minerally white Chardonnay/Nebbiolo blend named 'Solea'.
From Barolo's Castiglione Falletto village comes their monopole and ancient vine 'La Rocca e Le Pira' cru, while more recently (from '93) comes Serralunga d'Alba's prime Vigna Rionda. Production is small; the 10,000 cases potential reduced to an average 6,000 case reality. In a word: finezza.
There are over 200 different grape varieties used in modern wine making (from a total of over 1000). Most lesser known blends and varieties are traditional to specific parts of the world.
Piedmont has been the pre-eminent fine wine province of Italy since Roman times, a reputation reinforced under the House of Savoy – which lorded it over Europe during the Middle Ages from its base in Turin. Piedmont's own fame increased too as this noble House secured its place in history as the driver for Italian Reunification in 1861.
Located in the north-west of the country, with a continental climate, Piedmont is influenced culturally and climatically by the surrounding Alps and Ligurian Apennines. Piedmont's most important fine wine regions are: the Langhe, south of Alba, incorporating Barolo and Barbaresco; Monferrato, comprising the wines of Asti and Gavi; and Novara with its Colline Novaresi and Boca.
Nebbiolo is the grape of Piedmont, and arguably the country as a whole. It is planted in only the most favourable sites, and is the power behind Barolo and Barbaresco. It is followed by Barbera d'Alba or Barbera d'Asti and Dolcetto, an early-ripening antipasti wine produced more seriously around Dogliani. For whites, Moscato is queen, responsible for copious amounts of frizzante, more commonly known as Asti. A far more rewarding, gently-sparkling wine, made in an off-dry style, is labelled as Moscato d'Asti.
A notable red version is also made: Brachetto d'Acqui. Cortese is the white grape behind the region's most popular dry white wine, Gavi, from vines south of Alessandria. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Piedmont has the highest proportion of Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) wines, even if it is responsible for only seven percent of Italy's total production (2006).
Recommended producers: La Colombera, Roberto Sarotto, Cornarea, Luzi-Donadei, Antoniotti Odilio e Mattia, Laiolo Reginin, Marinacci, Punset, Luisin, Roagna, Fratelli Alessandria, Casina Bric 460, Trediberri, Vigneti Luigi Oddero, Marcarini, E.Pira di Chiara Boschis, Bartolo
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