Our very own Chris Dunaway had a quick Q & A session with famed wine maker, Luca Roagna (Roagna of Barbaresco/Barolo fame) and discussed all things Piedmont, Bourbon and futbol! Luca just headlined a tasting event here at Amanti Vino and everyone found him humble, generous and refreshingly genuine.
Here is the interview in its entirety.
Chris: There’s all this talk about modern v.s. traditional style with Barolo production. Could you briefly explain where your philosophy falls along that spectrum?
Luca: At our center we are extremely traditional, but there’s more to it than just extreme tradition as people think from a vinification perspective. In my opinion it is more about the purity of expression of the nebbiolo grape. Some people will talk about “new style” and “old style”, but really its just about the pure expression of the grape.
Chris: I frequently buy your lower end bottles due to my just-out-of-college budget and I’m really a big fan of the ’04 Langhe Rosso. If there’s one thing you could pair with that wine, what would it be?
Luca: It’s possible to pair every food that is similar to what you would use for the Barolo and Barbaresco. Usually if you have a good antipasto with meat or a main course with fatty meat, that is what’s best.
Chris: There’s an old saying we have out west that in order to make a lot of good wine, it takes a lot of good beer. Other than wine, what is one of your favorite beverages to enjoy after a long day in the vineyard?
Luca: I like a lot of different beers. I was in Manhattan yesterday with some friends and I got a chance to meet the brewmaster from Brooklynn Brewery. Last night I got to try a beer that they only release once a year that’s really small production and that was really good. Beer is a similar idea to wine, you know, there are many large factories that produce it, but there are also some that are artisanal and bring out great expression. When it comes to cocktails though, I like the Negroni.
Chris: Growing up in Piedmont I’m sure was an extraordinary experience. What is a cultural tradition that the people of Piedmont take the most pride in?
Luca: Our tradition that is most important is respect for family and each other. If everybody has respect for each other then it’s a good life.
Chris: Vinitaly is right around the corner so I’m sure you’re going to be pretty busy showing your portfolio. Are there many other wine events where you show your wines?
Luca: Well we do the same kind of thing we do in the U.S. as we do at Vinitaly in terms of showing our wines. Of course we have a small production so it’s impossible to show the wines at every major event, but sometimes we’ll show wines in New York or maybe one week back in Italy or France and even in Japan. At the same time, a couple thousand bottles production is very small so we can’t show it everywhere, but when we do show it we show it with the same energy and enthusiasm for every person in the world that gets a chance to experience our portfolio and we always seem to have a great time doing it and enjoy the company of those at each location.
Chris: The crichet paje is considered the pinnacle of your porfolio and is only produced in the best vintages. Is there one specific weather pattern that leads to a great vintage or are there different ways to end up with a great growing season?
Luca: The decision to make the crichet paje is not at harvest, but only after the aging. For example, the last release of the crichet paje was in 2002. You know, Piedmont in 2002 was really not the best vintage, but after the aging process it was really,really good. So it is really only after the aging that we’ll have a good idea of what will become crichet paje. It is the top quality from the Paje vineyard. If the wine is really unique and expressive we will use the name crichet paje, but if the wine is of good quality, but not quite enough we will only use the name Paje. It is possible to have 1-4 years in a row that we produce crichet paje and then not have another for 5 years. But ultimately it just all depends on how well the aging process turns out.
Chris: I noticed that you also make grappa. At what point in the night do you pour that, or are there any special occasions that call for a grappa toast?
Luca: We need a group of friends, if it’s a whole bottle of grappa, we need a big group of friends, but it’s usually for after lunch, after dinner for a relaxer. But a good group of friends with a good glass of grappa always makes for a good time.
Chris: And while we’re on the topic of spirits, I grew up in Kentucky and bourbon is a staple among our cultural traditions. Are you much of a bourbon fan?
Luca: I like bourbon, yes it’s great! I have some good friends in New York that when we fly in maybe once or twice a year we’ll do a tasting with them and then afterwards sit down and enjoy some nice bourbon or some Manhattans.
Chris: Any favorite style?
Luca: Well my friends, we’ll taste through several, but I prefer those with more of a purity of flavor like rye, a cleaner taste of the grain.
Chris: When you’re not tending the vines and making wine, what is one of your favorite hobbies to partake in?
Luca: I like sports, I like to run, ride bikes, and I like to travel. I don’t have a lot of time for vacationing, but when I travel for work I take some days off for visiting like for example today we went to the Metropolitan Museum. We like the art, but I am a farmer and don’t really recognize a lot of the art, but it’s still great. Good stuff.
Chris: One more question. Favorite futbol team?
Luca: They’re very small, but it’s definitely Torino!