Roagna Barolo Veritcal

Young Winemaker Luca Roagna (right) rides through his vineyards during the harvest.

Here are the notes from the Roagna vertical as promised from last week.  I have always loved these wines but have never experienced them quite like this before. Like most people, my admiration for Barolo and Barbaresco, especially the older examples,  is generally overshadowed by fiscal concerns. When pondering the question of a mixed case of Roagna Barolo or a month’s rent, my housing almost always wins out. That said, last year Eric Asimov called them a “great value” and I couldn’t agree more. Wine doesn’t always have to be cheap to be a good value. These wines were amazing and are worth every penny that they demand.

Roagna Flight One:

Roagna Barbaresco Paje 2000:  This shows a dense nose of sweet red fruit, cherries, fresh strawberries, cinnamon and rose petals. The palate displays a characteristically high level of acidity and the tannins are firm but ripe. While obviously not as soft as the 1971 Barolo from the previous flight, they are much more approachable than 1990s Barolos.

Roagna Barolo Roca e la Pira 2003: The ripeness of fruit is striking with this wine and it shows sweet spice notes of clove and cinnamon. The palate shows less acidity than any of the wines tasted so far. The red fruit on the palate is fresher than on the nose but I don’t think this is a wine for the cellar.  I would drink this now while I waited for the 1996s to come around.**

Roagna Barolo Rocca e la Pira 2001: The nose displays violets, cherries and an earthiness reminiscent of Bret.  The wine is very structured and displays racy acidity but the Bret is stronger on the finish than it was on the nose. This is certainly not flawed by any means but shows more Bret than I generally prefer. Not my favorite of the group.

Roagna Barolo Vigna Riondo 2005: The nose is incredibly deep and pure with beautiful notes of ripe red cherries and violets. This sweet fruit is joined by a smoky complexity that helps this wine stand out from its predecessors in this flight. There is a ton of tannic grip and some very racy acidity. This wine has decades ahead of it and is my favorite of the flight.

Roagna Flight Two:

Roagna Barolo Vigna Riondo Riserva 2003: This wine hasn’t actually been released yet in the United States. Like the Rocca e la Pira of the same year it is very juicy and ripe. The nose shows roasted, concentrated strawberry flavor and a faint smoky quality. The tannins are substantial, but not astringent or abrasive. This is one that I would drink now as I don’t see years of development ahead. **

** A quick note on 2003: This was an incredibly hot and challenging vintage throughout Europe. Normally a hot vintage results in ultra ripe fruit, lower levels of acid and less age-worthy wines. In years like 2003 some vines can even shutdown altogether due to the heat, resulting in a retardation of photosynthesis and wines with little to no fruit. While Roagna’s 2003s were among my leat favorite at the tasting, they were still far and away better than most other European wines that I have tasted from the vintage. This is a testament to Roagna’s winemaking, as great estates can make beautiful wines even in marginal vintages.

Roagna Barolo Riserva Rocca e la Pira 1996: This is the first 1996 that i have encountered even nearing the stage of approachability.  The nose displays  dried cherry aromas and sweet tobacco smoke. The tannins are much more astringent than the 2003 from the same cru but the acidity is much higher. This is going to be incredible down the road and has years of development ahead.

Roagna Barolo Riserva Rocca e la Pira 1995: The nose shows a deep core of juicy, red cherry fruit. Brambly cherries are joined by hints of sweet pipe tobacco and worn leather. The palate still displays intense red fruit, mouth-watering acidity and a firm, yet not astringent, tannic structure. The bright fruit, initial presence of secondary aromas and firm structure point to a wine that has decades of development ahead but it is delicious now.

Roagna Barolo Riserva Rocca e la Pira 1993:  This nose is completely distinct from anything else in the room. It’s amazing!! Rosewater and wild strawberries are joined by herbal, tea leaf notes. This herbal quality continues on the palate where it is joined by sweet red fruit. The tannins are very soft, ripe and approachable.  The wine bursts with acidity. In my opinion this is the star of the Roagna lineup.

Roagna Flight Three:

Roagna Barbaresco Crichet Paje 1999: Sweet red fruit, juicy cherries, red licorice and dried rose petals greet the nose. The tannins add incredible grip and structure but the wine is still very silky. Luca believes that this will age the best of the 1990s vintages and I think he is right.

Roagna Barbaresco Paje Riserva 1990: This smells like and herb garden. Thyme and Dill sit on top of a layer of baked strawberry fruit. It’s savory earthiness carries over to the palate. This is very reminiscent of an older Burgundy. A fantastic wine that is peaking now.

Roagna Barbaresco Crichet Page 1982: We have moved from Burgundy to Rioja and we haven’t left Barbaresco. The nose shows brambly raspberry fruit, strawberries, dill and sweet pipe tobacco. The tannins are incredibly soft, with persistent sweet fruit coexisting with an expected earthy quality. That is fantastic; the best Barbaresco in the room.

Will Sugerman (will@amantivino.com)

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