(Image credit: view of Piemonte from the Barolo Wine Museum. Wikipedia)
- Vajra, Langhe Riesling Pètracine, 2013
- Vajra, Langhe Rosso, 2013
- Vajra, Dolcetto d’Alba Coste & Fossati, 2013
- Vajra, Barbera d’Alba Superiore, 2012
- Vajra, Barolo Bricco delle Viole, 2010
- Vajra, Moscato d’Asti, 2013
We had the pleasure of Giuseppe’s Vaira’s company during the lunch and what a perfect ambassador he is for his family’s wine. Not only has Giuseppe travelled the world for a number of years promoting his family’s wine, he is also very much involved in the winemaking placing him equally at ease discussing the commerce, aesthetics or practicalities of the business.
Giuseppe introduced the wine as follows, “our wines don’t have massive muscles, it’s about the aromatic lift, the precision and the definition that comes from this micro-climate”. The portfolio is structured such that you do not have to be familiar with the style of Barolo to find wines that will “welcome you in this house which is Piemonte” – another excellent metaphor for the way Vajra shapes its offerings.
What I particularly like about the Vajra portfoilo is that there is something for everyone whether your preference is for still, sparkling, white or red wine. What pulls it all together is a dualistic approach and by that I mean the winemaking looks both forward with a modern, innovative view whilst drawing on the rich heritage of winemaking in the Piemonte region.
The first wine of the tasting was a good example of the innovative approach the company takes. Riesling is perhaps not the first wine you think of when you think of the Barolo region where the family is based. While Vajra are led by their focus on indigenous grapes they have one or two pet projects and this is one of them, creating “the perfect wife for our Nebbiolo”, in the words of Giuseppe’s mother, Milena.
Showing good weight to the palate with refreshing citrus and stone fruit flavours together with subtle tropical notes of melon and jasmine flowers, the 2013 Riesling finishes with attractive lingering chalky minerality.
During lunch we tasted one of my favourites from Vajra – the Dolcetto. This made me think of purple fruits – plums, berries and the like – with a savoury core of dried herbs and graphite. Good acidity and textured, but soft tannins together with the lifted nose make this an easy wine to drink and paired with tagliatelle I found my glass emptying faster than planned!
The superb Barolo Bircco Delle Viole 2010, a single vineyard expression that is made with longevity in mind, was paired with rack of lamb. The match worked brilliantly as the fruits in the dish married with the black and red fruits of the wine, while highlighting the lifted floral and dried herb notes. Furthermore the high acidity and silky tannins of the wine stood up nicely to the richness of the perfectly cooked lamb. Even at this young age the wine was very enjoyable, eliciting promises of maturing with complexity and sophistication if only you can keep your hands off it for long enough.
Completing the lunch was the classic Italian dessert, Tiramisu paired with a Moscato d’Asti. I must admit I am not a fan of Moscato but this expression had a balanced structure with a weight to the palate that is not always seen. The acidity was sufficiently high to balance the sweetness of the wine and manage the richness of the dessert.
G.D. Vajra is a producer with a strong sense of history; of where the wine has come from and why it is the way it is today. In addition to a deep respect for heritage they manage an equally strong drive for innovation to produce quality wine that is eminently drinkable at a range of price points – so there really is something for everyone!
Langhe Riesling Pètracine, 2013
The wine is primarily produced with fruit from the Fossati vineyard, located north of the village of Barolo. Giuseppe’s father, Aldo Vaira, had always had an interest in the way Riesling expressed its personality and sense of location, so when the opportunity to purchase the vineyard presented itself in 1984, he took it.
The Fossati vineyard has a vein of gravel soils that runs through it and this is where the Riesling vines were planted. Grapes for this wine are also sourced from a second vineyard in the commune of Sinio, just east of Serralunga d’Alba.
The name Pètracine comes from an old Alsatian nickname for Riesling; petra being the Latin for stone and racine meaning roots in French, referencing how the roots of Riesling need to dig deep into the stony soil in which it grows so well.
The grapes go through rigorous selection both in the vineyard during harvest and at the sorting table in the winery, before being gently pressed and fermented in stainless steel tanks. Ageing occurs in steel tanks until the spring following harvest when the wine is bottled.
A perfumed wine showing good weight and acidity on the palate with refreshing flavours of citrus, stone and tropical fruits. White flowers of jasmine and honeysuckle complement the fruit before leading on to a finish of chalky minerality.
Langhe Rosso, 2011
Six grape varieties from different vineyards are used for this entry level wine; Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and Barbera which account for approximately 90% of the blend, while the balance consists of Albarossa, Freisa and Pinot Noir.
With this, the only red varietal blend in the porfolio, Vajra provide a very accessible and approachable introduction to grapes from the Piemonte region – Pinot Noir being the only international variety used in very small quantities.
The grapes are harvested by hand before being fermented in stainless steel tanks. Ageing takes place in a mixture of steel tank and neutral wood for 14 – 16 months after which the wine is bottled.
A fresh and fragrant wine leading off with red and black fruits before opening up to show a more savoury character. The wine was matched to a foie gras dish with smoked eel and green apple stock. The wine’s acidity refreshed the palate from the richness of the foie gras, the fruit notes complemented those of the apple stock and the savoury character of the wine made the smokiness of the eel shine.
Dolcetto d’Alba Coste & Fossati, 2013
The vineyards of Coste and Fossati are held in very high regard for the quality of Nebbiolo grapes they produce, so you can imagine the questions that arose when Aldo Vaira decided to plant Dolcetto grapes on these sites. Not only did Aldo plant Dolcetto but he asked his neighbours for a selection of cuttings from their old Dolcetto vines, such was his affection for the grape.
This is a good example of Vajra looking back to tradition and to a time when families planted Dolectto at the top of their hill with Nebbiolo accounting for the core and Barbera, a bushier vine, planted at the bottom together with a row or two of Moscato for family consumption. Times have changed now with Nebbiolo being the crop of a higher price resulting in Dolcetto been moved to less suitable sites to make way for increased plantings of Nebbiolo – not so with Vajra.
The wine showed fruits of plum and black cherry with mineral notes of graphite. There were savoury notes of spice and herbs with good acidity on the palate and soft textured tannins – very easy to drink.
Barbera d’Alba Superiore, 2012
Like the Riesling, the grapes for this wine are sourced from the Barolo region as well as the Sinio commune to the east; the Bricco delle Viole vineyard in Barolo and the Bricco Bertone vineyard in Sinio.
After picking by hand the grapes are sorted first by bunch and then by individual berries on the sorting table at the winery. The small berries with their thick skins are macerated for 30 – 35 days before spending 2 – 3.5 years ageing in large oak casks creating a wine of intense colour.
This wine showed a rounder, richer palate with a lovely dose of spice. Structured with a core of sweet blue berries around which flavours of liquorice and coffee appeared, to be complemented by crisp acidity and soft ripe tannins. Although very young the wine is certainly approachable with good potential for ageing.
Barolo Bricco delle Viole, 2010
All the grapes for this wine came from the vineyard Bricco delle Viole where the vines are 65 years old and planted in the highest part of the Barolo commune. The elevation helps create a wide diurnal temperature range for a lengthy ripening period and preservation of acidity levels.
Black and red fruits, spice, fresh flowers and dried herbs were the aromas that followed through on the palate, together with high acidity and silkily textured tannins that promised sophisticated development with time.
Moscato d’Asti, 2013
Picking for this wine occurred very late in 2013 as was the nature of the vintage but also to achieve the desired style. The Riforno Vineyard from which the grapes were sourced is located in the village of Mango to the northeast of Barolo, and was planted between 1986 and 2007.
Moscato is produced using the tank, or Martinotti method, which unlike making Champagne, requires only one fermentation. The grape juice and yeasts are loaded to a special tank which is sealed to ensure carbon dioxide released during the conversion of sugar to alcohol does not escape and creates bubbles in the wine. Part way through the fermentation process the wine is cooled to achieve a number of different things; to preserve some of the unconverted sugar in the juice for natural sweetness, to achieve a lower alcohol level by not converting all the sugar to alcohol and to create bubbles at a lower pressure. The wine is usually held in the tank and bottled as demand requires it to preserve its fresh character.
This wine is delicately perfumed with peach, apricot, pear and a touch of rose petal. The flavours continue on the palate to be joined by floral notes of jasmine and honeysuckle. Refreshing acidity and good palate weight made this a rather enjoyable drop.
Logo and bottle images kindly provided by Continental Wines.
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