Thursday, June 7, 2012

The recent history of Rionda

Last summer, in 2011, I took this picture of the Vigna Rionda cru in Serralunga (Vigna Rionda is in the middle distance).

A month ago I took the above picture of the same vineyard, Vigna Rionda. As you can see, there is now a large lacuna in the vineyard.

What happened? I thought you might like to know why a large swathe of one of the most famous Barolo vineyards has gone missing.

Vigna Rionda is not only a famous vineyard, it is also a large one, and several growers control different pieces of it.

In this grouping of Rionda, still planted today, are the parcels (if I am correct) of Poderi Oddero, Luigi Oddero, and Luigi Pira. Feel free to let me know in the comments if I am wrong about that.

While over there, past the seemingly vacant space, is the parcel controlled by Massolino. The Massolino holding is pretty big, at over 2 hectares of vines.

In between those groupings is what until recently was the Canale parcel: a large 2.2 hectare collection of vineyard rows the majority of which have now been ripped out. This was the parcel that grew the grapes used for Bruno Giacosa's Collina Rionda, which was the wine that more than any other drew fame and attention to this vineyard. The last vintage of the Giacosa bottling that was made was the 1993. Subsequently, Roagna produced a Barolo from this same parcel. The last vintage of Roagna labelled Rionda produced was the 2006. Both Giacosa and Roagna purchased what was used in those bottlings from the Canale family, first Aldo Canale, and then from 1998, Aldo's only son Tommaso Canale. The vines in the Canale family parcel had been planted as far back as 1946.

Canale labelled bottles at the Giovanni Rosso cantina.
In December of 2010 Tommaso Canale unexpectedly died, leaving neither a direct descendant nor a will. His large parcel of Vigna Rionda was then divided between three distant relatives: Guido Porro and Sergio Germano each received a bit less than half a hectare, and the remainder of the Canale holding, a bit more than a hectare, went to Davide Rosso of the Giovanni Rosso winery.

What happened next is that most the Canale portion of Rionda was ripped out. It is in the process of being replanted. The logic was that the Nebbiolo vines there were very old, sometimes diseased, often interplanted with Dolcetto and Barbera, and had seen little care in terms of modern trellissing or training.

At any rate they are gone now, except for a small portion of old vines at the top of the vineyard slope which Davide Rosso has decided to keep.

The view from the top of Vigna Rionda, looking down into what was the Canale parcel. To the left are the vines that Davide Rosso has preserved.

The old Canale rows still in place at Vigna Rionda.

And which are in full view of the Castle of Serralunga.

Giovanni Rosso will bottle a small release from the grapes grown here starting with the 2011 vintage. Eventually the vines that are being planted now will come on stream and Giovanni Rosso will have more volume of production from their complete parcel in Rionda. The Giovanni Rosso winery is also finishing the maturation of the Barolos made by Tommaso Canale from the Canale parcel (the entire parcel, before most of it was ripped out) in the 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 vintages.

The 2009 Vigna Rionda from Tomasso Canale is currently finishing its maturation in the Giovanni Rosso cellar.

Before Tommaso Canale's death in 2010 the Giovanni Rosso winery did not control any vines in Rionda, and neither did Ettore Germano or Guido Porro. Now each has what might be considered a slice from the tenderloin of Rionda.

Sergio Germano of Ettore Germano has been quoted as saying that his first Barolo from Rionda will probably be from the 2017 harvest.

Guido Porro, pictured above, told me that he specifically wanted his parcel to be at the bottom of the vineyard, because of his feeling that the top portions of Rionda see higher temperatures and conditions that are very dry.

The Guido Porro cellar, above, will eventually play host to wine from the Vigna Rionda cru.
When I asked Guido Porro what the character of Vigna Rionda as a vineyard was, he said that he did not yet know, but hoped to find out. I and the many other fans of the Rionda cru must for now wait on the new answer.

Please note that some informational details given in the above text were gleaned from here, here, here, and here. Those who might wish to learn more are recommended to those sources for further information. - i man

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