Vino Vinace Consulting

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Roagna I Paglieri
A.A. I Paglieri
Loc. Paglieri 9
Barbaresco CN
tel. 0173 635109
fax 0173 635109

A morning visit with Marco Roagna.

It was a pleasure to walk through the vines with young Marco Roagna who is adamantly sticking to the tried and true techniques that have served his father and grandfather so well. These vineyards are bursting with life from the deliciously full stand of wild arugula that stands proudly above the Paje vineyard that flanks the Cantina to the ever-changing panoply of ground cover.

Not only attractive to the eye and nose, with fragrant grasses and aromatic flowers releasing their perfume as we walk among them, this ground cover is here for a reason. The promotion of healthy land and biodiversity is one of the tenets of the Roagna way and this is no new thing. In fact Marco is the third generation to hold this philosophy. While some techniques have changed, gone are the days when copper spray was derived from soaking coins, the barely treated vineyards are ripe with life, bugs, worms, and slugs to regenerate and aerate the soil.

This living soil is necessary to support the growth of the vines and this is a land of old vines. An interesting fact is that the reserve wines from Roagna tend to come exclusively from vines more than 50 years old. It’s only at this point that the vigor of the vines is tamed and the need for green harvesting passes. As these vines produce less fruit the quality increases hand in hand. Vines under about 25 years of age are considered young here and generally are used for their Langhe Rosso!

Another interesting aspect to the winemaking at Roagna is that they use cultured yeasts, sort of. They culture ten or so yeast from their own grapes each year and do micro-vinifications to see what sort of results are derived from each strain of yeast. If no strain distinguishes itself they will reuse the strain used in the previous vintage.  There is a conviction here that their indigenous yeasts are part of the terrior of these wines.
Not surprisingly these wines under go traditional fermentation in wood vessels. Almost unbelievably Marco tells us that some of twines will stay with their submerged cap for up to 100 days. That is risky business and a style of winemaking that has very few adherents these days since it’s easier for things to go wrong rather than right over that extended time. But if you are paying attention to detail great things happen.

This attention to detail and fortunate inertia doesn’t stop in the vineyards but permeates every aspect of winemaking at Roagna. Traditionally made wines that age in neutral wood but not just any wood. Here they continue to use both botte and barrique for 20-25 years. While the demand for wood has outstripped supply the Roagnas have stuck by their guns and continue to buy only barrels made from air-dried wood.

While this means anticipating need by years it has a decided advantage. These barrels are made from wood that has been exposed to 8 years of changing seasons, humidity levels and temperatures that help to bleed out the bitter tannins leaving a clean, neutral wood. Kiln dried wood on the other hand retains these tannins and after several years, generally 3-5, these tannins tend to begin to leach out into the wine meaning the cycle has to begin again.

Such thought and consideration goes into each aspect of the winemaking process here. It was a treat to be able to spend this time with Marco. I frequently tell producers how valuable it is to meet them and learn their philosophy; it furthers my understanding of their wines. Never was it truer than with our walk through Roagna. Wonderful people making classic wines.

2006 Dolcetto – 88pts
35 day maceration
1 year in large wood
From a freshly opened bottle
A touch reduced on the nose, rubbery and leathery 1+
Chewy in the mouth with a lush sweetness buoyed by soft tannins and good, assertive acids 3
Plummy fruit up front then a cherry preserve tone, the acids add an almost citrus top note to the rich fruit 2+
Finishes with medium length turning dark and tarry before finishing with a bit of mineral cut. 2+
A very complete and compelling old school Dolcetto with excellent potential for positive development

2001 Langhe Rosso – 90pts
50/50 Barbaresco/ Barolo grapes from young vines, average age 20 years
35-40 day maceration then 3 years in large wood
From a freshly opened bottle
A touch jammy on the nose at first with emerging notes of yellow flowers, drying grass and spicy herbs adding complexity. Develops a base of smoky, clay rich earth. 2+
Very elegant in the mouth with solid weight and depth, ripe tannins and excellent supporting acidity 3
Great fruit on the attack with notes of freshly cut plum and spicy wild berry tones, adding high tones of mint and licorice before turning very wild strawberry on the back end. As this warms up and opens a bit a very mineral rich mid-palate begins to unfold 2+
Very long finish with a clean, lively vein of wild strawberry fruit and a wonderful finale of wild rose 2+

2003 Solea – 88pts
From 1988 this Chardonnay/Nebbiolo blend has had between 15% and 25% Nebbiolo added at pressing. Some vintages have botrytis, which tends to reveal itself around age 10 or so. This spends 3 years in medium sized French oak barrels
From a bottle opened for 2 days
Apples and unripe pineapple great the nose then layers of white flowers, chalk and a subtle suggestion of red fruit with a tropical, mango edge 2+
Big and rich in the mouth with a very crisp mid-palate, solid acids and even a touch of grabby tannin 2+
Lemon curd tones in the mouth are joined by mineral notes and a suggestion of green herb. Turns a bit spicy as it moves through the mouth and adds a more orchard fruit/apricot tone on the back end 2+
This finished a bit tight and short 2

2000 Barbaresco Paje – 91pts
80 day maceration
From a freshly opened bottle
Intense nose shows a touch of reduction but the jammy cherry fruit leaps from the glass. Unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to sit with this but even over a brief time the evolution was wonderful with fresh raspberry tones piling on over a base of asphalt, iron and slightly smoky campfire. 3
Exceptionally cool and crisp in the mouth with very fine tannins and fine acidity 3
Again the freshness is surprising with rich wild berry fruit with a candied edge on the palate buffered a touch of stemminess and good mineral cut 2+
Finishes very refreshing and long with great focus but little complexity yet 2+

2000 Barolo La Rocca e La Pira – 93pts
80 day maceration
From a freshly opened bottle
A superb nose full of herbs, bitter roots, beet root, a bit of chicory, a touch of campfire and deep, dark almost plumy fruit 3
Muscular and sinewy in the mouth with big yet ripe tannins and bright acidity 2+
Deeply earth flavors of liquory wild strawberry and black raspberry penetrate the palate with excellent purity. This has wonderful focus and balance 3
Absolutely bracing on the finish with tons of fine fruit tannin and a long finale with hints of nut meats and a menthol topnote 3

2003 Barolo Vigna Rionda – 92pts
From a freshly opened bottle
A bit rubbery on the nose but deep leathery jammy tones to the dark fruit, a touch of onion powder and heather honey are unusual and the notes of roast meat and herbs seem a bit advanced 2+
Big and thick in the mouth with ripe tannins and solid acidity 2+
This is just packed with dark fruit flavors and tarry/earthy/mineral tones then hovering notes of licorice and rusty minerals that leads to a cherry pit backend with a slight bitter edge. Very masculine 3+
The finish is of moderate length but features a progression of dry and drying berry tones cherry/cranberry/raspberry. This has great depth 3

1998 Barbaresco Paje Riserva – 88pts
80 day maceration
From a freshly opened bottle
Deep and slightly smoky raspberry jam with notes of freshly cut herbs, hay, drying floral tones and asphalt 2+
Very precise in the mouth with integrated acidity and very fine, austere tannins, fairly elegant 2+
A slightly roasted tone to the small red berried fruit that has a touch of mint and a medicinal tone that emerges in the mouth 2+
Curt and tight on the finish with a bit of earthy spice and some raspberry seed notes 2
From a bottle open 4 days
More mineral on the nose with still jammy raspberry fruit and notes of old wood and citrus blossoms. Retaining the excellent integration and the slightly roasted quality of the first bottle this is a bit more relaxed with good structural freshness but only modest changes in its flavor profile.

1997 Barolo La Rocca e La Pira Riserva – 90pts
From a freshly opened bottle
The high-toned nose opens with a horsy edge to the leathery, dark fruit then adds a bit of almond milk and some rusty minerality before revealing a bit of smoke and a bitter dandelion edge 2+
Fresh feeling in the mouth yet with solid, full weight all supported with good acidity and good tannins 2+
Lovely transparency here with red fruits over a mineral core that develops fine black tea notes a touch of dried morel and a bit of roasting coffee bean on the back end 3
Fresh and crisp on the finish with menthol and mineral tones and a finale of pipe tobacco smoke 2+

From a bottle open for 5 days
Showing evolved scents of earth, dried cow patty, and chalk on the nose this has integrated well and retains bright red fruits in the mouth with a bright, almost red currant quality. Lots of Autumnal tones of fallen leaves and dried herbs add complexity to the midpalate and the bright acids lead to a long, citrusy finish with a slightly bitter, citron peel finale.

1999 Barbaresco Crichet Paje – 94pts

This really captures the smell of the walk through the vineyard with an edge of early morning dew. Just a fantastic nose of leather and smoke, tight wild rose, clay tile and loose earth, red currant and an old cantina note with emerging nuances of tea, tar and tobacco.3+
Elegant and fresh in the mouth a very clean and direct feel, integrated acidity and nutty tannins 2+
Superb complexity in the mouth with sour and bitter facets to the dark cherry fruit that is enlivened by layers of tea, berry, earth, menthol, mineral and dried herb tones. 3+
Finishes long and layered with intriguing notes of bitter herbs playing off the pure, sweet fruit that has a bit of a plum edge on the finale 3

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