Thursday, May 31, 2012

Luca's grass

Luca Roagna openly admits to having a lot of grass.

He has a lot of grass in Montefico.

He has a lot of grass in Asili.

And he has a lot of grass in Paje.

"People think we are very lazy," say Luca "because there is so much grass everywhere. But actually we are not lazy. Actually we care very much about the grass that we have."

I'll be honest that I wasn't expecting to see so much that was so high. I mean, the grass is waist high on a man of modest height. You could lose a small child in between the rows. Or two small children. I had visited a year ago the Roagna winery in Barolo, which is still under construction, but I had somehow failed to notice just how green the Pira vineyard was, even in the pictures I took from a distance. When you walk a Roagna vineyard it becomes oh so very clear just how much vegetation is around. I wouldn't recommend wing tips.

Luca goes grass surfing.

The commitment to eschewing chemical weed killers is total at Roagna. And there is a stark contrast between Roagna vineyards and the surrounding vineyards owned by other wineries.

Here is that shot of Montefico again. In the foreground is Roagna's parcel. In the distance is somebody else's parcel.

This is Asili from a distance. The small green part belongs to Roagna.

Looking down Asili. The vines on the left side of the picture belong to Roagna, the vines on the right side do not.

This is Paje from a distance. The large green part belongs to Roagna. The vineyard parcel used for Crichet Paje (also green) is closer to the house.

Maybe I'm going on a bit much about the amount of grass in the Roagna vineyards, but I think it really sums up what they are about when it comes to viticulture. That and the old massale selection vines.

Old vines in Montefico.

Old vine in Montefico.

Old vines in Asili.

Old vine in Asili.

Old vines in Paje's Crichet Paje parcel.

Old vines in the same parcel. The one on the left is Nebbiolo, the one on the right is not.

And that's the story of Roagna, really, at least before the grapes reach the winery. Old vines that are a tremendous example of the how the viticulture we know is really a gift from the past, and a family that has refused to play by the chemical rules for three generations. The roots really have run deep.

Inside the winery there is plenty to taste.

There is a family rule: Luca cannot open bottles of wine older than he is himself.

Luckily for us, Luca has his own rule: he will open bottles as close to his own age as possible, and several of them. And Luca isn't so young.

This was the trip where I finally understood a wine that had long puzzled me: the Roagna Crichet Paje. This is the selection that sees over 80 days of maceration with the submerged cap of skins and the wine that sees 8 years of ageing in cask before bottling. After several examples with significant bottle age tasted at the winery I realized that this wine just needs a patient amount of time to release its grip and show you the breadth of its palm. The Roagna family has given the vines the long amount of time that they need. Would that we would do the same for the bottles.

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