The 2019 Barolo Ravera is redolent of red fruit, mint, chalk, white pepper and orange peel. A Barolo of tension and energy, the 2019 is intensely bright and saline to the core. I would not dream of touching a bottle anytime soon. This is an especially taut style, even for Vajra.
The 2019 Barolos at Vajra are seriously impressive. These wines need a ton of air to show all they have to offer, something readers who want to taste them at this stage should bear in mind. The classicism of these wines is quite appealing for the future.
“It was a year with an early bud break but with late flowering and a late harvest; in other words, a year with a long growing season, one of the longest of the last decade.” Giuseppe Vajra explained. “We had challenges with heavy rain in spring, but 2018 helped us understand we had to act quickly and decisively, so we did,” he added. Harvest took place between October 7 and 23. “The wines extracted easily,” Aldo Vajra opined. “We gave the 2019s 25-31 days on the skins, less than 2018 and 2017 and far less than years like 2010, with submerged cap maceration for all the top single-vineyard selections. Time in wood was about 28 months for the vineyard designates.”
Drink 2029 - 2049
Antonio Galloni, Vinous.com (January 2023)
Full bottle 1,326 g. Certified organic (Ecocert), sustainable (SQNPI). The soil here is differentiated by the presence of tiny, black manganese conglomerates and iron oxide – the soil has white layers with red stripes (‘the lasagne effect’), according to Giuseppe Vajra. It’s in an ‘amphitheatre’, which creates a specific microclimate. 28-day spontaneous fermentation with submerged-cap maceration. Aged 28 months in 25-hl and 50-hl Slavonian oak. Bottled 25 July 2022.
A tightly coiled wine with bold, bittersweet mid-palate juiciness tucked deeply into wide, strong, mineral-dense tannins. It smells of an abandoned stone quarry in the first milk-and-iron light of a winter morning. Tannins, which feel like super-fine-grade sandpaper. Darjeeling tea and chestnuts, tart cherry, crushed green caraway leaves. The finish is compact, dry and susurrant.
After 48 hours of being open (literally, no cork in the bottle for 48 hours), the defensive astringent rasp of the tannins had settled deep into the wine, like the groove of sax and brass into the coffee-stained damsons of late-night blues. If you’re drinking this wine before a decade old, open it the day before and leave the decanter in a cool, dark place. It’s so beautiful, but it responds like a medieval fortress to being opened – you’ll need to lure that drawbridge open.
Drink 2027 - 2036
Tamlyn Currin, JancisRobinson.com (December 2023)
Moving into a touch of purple flowers, the 2019 Barolo Ravera also has a touch of darker pigment as well as a more assertive nature, with black raspberry, mineral-rich earth, and pepper. It is medium to full-bodied, with more ripe, sweet tannins and notes of kirsch, tea leaf, and iron-rich earth. It is long on the palate and has broader shoulders in its profile, with its fruit and structure.
The G.D. Vajra estate is based within the commune of Barolo, with the entire family contributing and Giuseppe and Aldo Vajra at the helm of the winemaking responsibilities. Giuseppe, who took more of a leadership role in 2008, has been instrumental in continuing to develop the family estate, while Isidoro Vajra leads in vineyard management.
Most recently, they have completed the expansion of their cellar space and offices. They are also now releasing their wines a touch later to allow for additional time in bottle to soften any harsh edges. As of the 2019 vintage, both the G.D. Vajra and Luigi Baudana estates are certified organic.
Drink 2026 - 2046
Audrey Frick, JebDunnuck.com (May 2023)
About this WINE
G. D. Vajra
Based in Vergne, the highest village in the commune of Barolo, GD Vajra is a relatively young estate. It was established by Aldo Vajra in 1972, when he was just 16. His father had planted vineyards in 1947 but called Aldo “mad” when he followed his childhood dream to become a winemaker. Taking over the family estate in 1968, he became one of the early pioneers of organic farming, and in 1971 the estate became one of the first in Piedmont to be organically certified. Until now, Vajra’s wines have somewhat flown under the radar, but it’s with good reason that the estate has been described as “one of Piedmont’s best kept secrets… with sublime hand-crafted, artisan wines of the very highest level”.
The Vajra team deduced that lots of flowers on a vine indicate a vintage more likely to have spacious, aromatic fruit. 2019’s fruit set was low, giving the vintage concentration. July’s heat spikes didn’t cause any issues, while the dull August preserved a spine of acidity. Harvest was the longest and latest of the past decade, and the decision was taken to shorten the period of skin contact after fermentation to under 30 days. The time in wood was also reduced by two or three months. The definition of the 2019 vintage suits the purity of the Vajra style very well.
Located due south of Alba and the River Tanaro, Barolo is Piedmont's most famous wine DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), renowned for producing Italy's finest red wines from 100 percent Nebbiolo.
Its red wines were originally sweet, but in 1840 the then extant Italian monarchy, the House of Savoy, ordered them to be altered to a dry style. This project was realised by French oenologist Louis Oudart, whose experience with Pinot Noir had convinced him of Nebbiolo's potential. The Barolo appellation was formalised in 1966 at around 1,700 hectares – only a tenth of the size of Burgundy, but almost three times as big as neighbouring Barbaresco.
Upgraded to DOCG status in 1980, Barolo comprises two distinct soil types: the first is a Tortonian sandy marl that produces a more feminine style of wine and can be found in the villages of Barolo, La Morra, Cherasco, Verduno, Novello, Roddi and parts of Castiglione Falletto. The second is the older Helvetian sandstone clay that bestows the wines with a more muscular style. This can be found in Monforte d'Alba, Serralunga d'Alba, Diano d'Alba, Grinzane Cavour and the other parts of Castiglione Falletto. Made today from the Nebbiolo clones Lampia, Michet and Rosé, Barolo has an exceptional terroir with almost every village perched on its own hill. The climate is continental, with an extended summer and autumn enabling the fickle Nebbiolo to achieve perfect ripeness.
Inspired by the success of modernists such as Elio Altare, there has been pressure in recent years to reduce the ageing requirements for Barolo; this has mostly been driven by new producers to the region, often with no Piedmontese viticultural heritage and armed with their roto-fermenters and barriques, intent on making a fruitier, more modern style of wine.
This modern style arguably appeals more to the important American market and its scribes, but the traditionalists continue to argue in favour of making Barolo in the classic way. They make the wine in a mix of epoxy-lined cement or stainless-steel cuves, followed by extended ageing in 25-hectoliter Slavonian botte (barrels) to gently soften and integrate the tannins. However, even amongst the traditionalists there has been a move, since the mid-1990s, towards using physiologically (rather than polyphenolically) riper fruit, aided by global warming. Both modernist and traditional schools can produce exceptional or disappointing wines.
Nebbiolo is the grape behind the Barolo and Barbaresco wines and is hardly ever seen outside the confines of Piedmont. It takes its name from "nebbia" which is Italian for fog, a frequent phenomenon in the region.
A notoriously pernickety grape, it requires sheltered south-facing sites and performs best on the well-drained calcareous marls to the north and south of Alba in the DOCG zones of Barbaresco and Barolo.
Langhe Nebbiolo is effectively the ‘second wine’ of Piedmont’s great Barolo & Barbarescos. This DOC is the only way Langhe producers can declassify their Barolo or Barbaresco fruit or wines to make an early-drinking style. Unlike Nebbiolo d’Alba, Langhe Nebbiolo can be cut with 15% other red indigenous varieties, such as Barbera or Dolcetto.
Nebbiolo flowers early and ripens late, so a long hang time, producing high levels of sugar, acidity and tannins; the challenge being to harvest the fruit with these three elements ripe and in balance. The best Barolos and Barbarescos are perfumed with aromas of tar, rose, mint, chocolate, liquorice and truffles. They age brilliantly and the very best need ten years to show at their best.