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Wine talk about La Stoppa

These notes are from another wine talk in the Vinestor-series. (Read my first report here.) Now the time had come to La Stoppa and their Norwegian importer Vinum, represented by Runar Nikolaysen.

I suppose that for many people La Stoppa’s Ageno was the first orange wine they ever tasted. This because of its presence in several markets.

Representing the winery was Nico Sciackitano, who was born in the USA, where he among other things worked as a sommelier in San Francisco. But he wanted to follow another path. Thus he came to Italy, worked for Arianna Occhipinti in Sicily, and through her met Elena of La Stoppa. He is export representative, but he also works in the vineyard and in the cellar.

Nico Sciackitano on the pc screen

La Stoppa, the winery in Emilia-Romagna, can trace its roots back to the 19th century. The farm has now 58 hectares, of which 30 are planted with local varieties barbera, bonarda, malvasia, ortugo and trebbiano. One of the features that distinguish them from the mainstream is long skin-maceration, especially a particularity for white wines. Otherwise good raw material and little intervention are key words.

La Stoppa is found in Rivargaro, south of Piacenca. And Ageno, Giancarlo Ageno, was the founder, who bought the land that they own today. They have three little hills and three valleys around them. He planted some 40 different grape varieties, and was one of the first in the area to bottle his wines. There is a lot old red clay in the area, and rich in iron, not unlike parts of Bordeaux. This Nico tells while showing a picture of a bottle of “bordeaux” that Ageno made himself. It was in 1973 that Elena’s father Raffaele, from Piacenza, bought the farm. It was when her father died in the 90’s that Elena’s mother convinced her to come back, and together with winemaker Giulio they decided only to focus on local varieties and to express the terroir of the farm.

La Stoppa makes basically red wines. Nevertheless, the one white wine, named after the founder, is maybe the most famous one.

Nico tells that its not the climate that differes the most from the more famous neighbours (like Veneto and Piemonte), but the soils. Barbera with its acidity is the most important grape variety, as the cuisine is quite fat. Piacenza is more of a diverse farmland than many of the neighbouring wine regions. Around La Stoppa the vines are mostly on the hills, so when it’s harvest time the animals will rather eat corn and tomatoes in the valleys floors than their grapes, explains Nico.

Interestingly the Ageno that the founder made himself was a müller-thurgau, riesling, sylvaner, moscato and sauvignon blanc, and made without skin-contact as today. The new owners continued that tradition (but mostly with chardonnay and sauvignon), untill the 90’s, when it was changed to the wine that we know now, based on a thick-skinned malvasia. 2002 was the first vintage of today’s Ageno, born as a nod to the history of skin-macerated wines, not only in Emilia-Romagna, but in Europe as a whole. -This is the reason I am here, tells Nico. -I was tasting the wine blind. It smells sweet, then comes the dry taste and the tannic mouthfeel. And the colour, within a year it changes from yellow to amber to dark orange. Ageno kind of plays with your mind, says Nico. In recent vintages 18, 19 and 20 the weather has been different; cooler with more rain. Thus the colour is much paler than in the preceeding vintages. The maceration lasts on skins untill winter, that is 3-4 months.

Historic picture: Giancarlo Ageno on the right

They always macerate everything outside in tanks without temperature control. So it’s important that the temperature stays high, so the fermentation can continue. In 2016-17 there were sudden falls in temperatures, so they had to cover up the tanks.

You have understood that La Stoppa stands for a low-intervention winemaking, “hands-off” in the field, just spray copper and sulphur when necessary. It’s a question of paying attention, prune well, and let time work. -Guilio’s 40 years of experience lets him not needing to do anything.

A feature is also that they don’t necessarily release the vintages chronologically. 2017 was ready before 16, and they also found out that to realease the 19 alongside the 16 could be a way for people to understand and appreciate the differences.

Ageno 2016

The grape composition varies. The 2016 is made from malvasia di candia aromatica 90%, the rest is divided between ortrugo and trebbiano. Here are some more key figures, in short: Quite young vines, 20 years. No fertilizing, no weed-killers. The soil contains clay silt. The trellis system is simple guyot. 4 months maceration on skins in stainless steel and cement tanks. Spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeasts, aged in 40 hectolitre wooden tanks. No filtration, no sulphites added.

Deep golden, amber. Concentrated aroma with both fresh (red apples), dried and pickled fruits (apricots, figs), honey, floral overtones, and some volatile acidity. Full-bodied, fruity, evident tannins, long with good acidity and also here a slight volatile character.

Trebbiolo 2019

This is a rather unpretentious wine from the traditional blend barbera (60%) and bonarda from the lower plots. I like it a lot, and makes for excellent drinking now, with charcuterie, light meat or a variety of antipasti. Some key information: Organic farming with biodiversity. No fertilizing, weed killers or pesticides. Clay Silt. Mostly simple Guyot. Age of vines: 7, 15 and 40 years. 20 days maceration on skins in stainless steel and/or cement tanks. Spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeasts, in stainless steel and cement tanks.

Dark ruby. Dark and red fruits (mature blackberry, freshness cherry), and a smoky tone. Medium weight with a bit firm, but agreeable tannins, adecuate acidity and a nice touch of stony bitterness.

Macchiona and Barbera are more “serious” wines. They have the potential to age for a long time (especially in cooler vintages). Ageno is a newer project, so the producer claims that one doesn’t don’t know yet its ability it has to age.

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Wine of the Week

Donkeys deliver

The Asinoi “we are donkeys” wine is maybe easy to forget. But it’s rather remarkable that the Carussin family manages to keep the quality up and the price down. The 2019 has an acidity as splendid as ever before. I have given some background here, when talking about a wine two years older.

Some keywords: Biodynamic farming, hand-picked grapes, spontaneous fermentation, low sulphur and no oak.

And, as producer Bruna Ferro says to Wine Chords: Asinoi is a simple yet complex wine – just like the character of the animal donkey.

Asinoi Barbera d’Asti 2019 (Carussin-Bruna Ferro)

Ruby red. Aroma of red berries (cherries, raspberries), herbs and a trace of almond. Fresh, luscious, low tannin, and a wonderful acidity that keeps on going from start to finish.

Price: Low

Food: Pasta, pizza, light meat, white fish, vegetables, and a variety of (mostly hard) cheeses

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Wine bars and restaurants

Apotekergaarden revisited

A visit at Apotekergaarden, Grimstad on the southern coast of Norway is always a highlight. This is a popular place in every sense of the word, with a fascinating mix of people coming for great natural wine served by manager and sommelier Ida Konradsen, and people coming in from the street for burgers and pizza, served by the staff, some of them really talented. There are also concerts in the backyard during the summer season. We were there last Sunday, when our meal was followed by a gig with Norwegian folk-rock band Valkyrien Allstars. I have played there myself too, in fact it was one of the last things I did before the lockdown in March. A more detailed background to the restaurant you can read here.

On Sunday they made a special plate of Italian cheese and ham, olives and other stuff for us, followed by a main course of duck with a compote of red onion and a burger with spicy mushroom and onion, and on Tuesday we shared various pizzas.

An impromptu first platter

Here are some of the wines, some of them in fact outside the official menu, but generously offered by Ida and the staff.

Foam Somló 2019 (Meinklang), Somló, Hungary, made by Meinklang of Burgenland, Austria who owns vineyards on both sides of the border. This is a pét nat from Hungarian grapes hárslevelű and juhfark.

Light golden; aroma of yellow apples, hints of pumpkin and gooseberry; concentrated, with a sweet-irh sensation, inspiring indeed.

Brut Nature Reserva Anne Marie (Castell d’Age), Cava, Catalunya, Spain

A traditional cava from one of the pioneers in organic farming in the Penedès area, named after Anne Marie Onyent, one of today’s leading ladies of the company. The grapes are the three usual cava “suspects”.

Slightly bubbly; fresh and appley; fine natural acidity.

La Croix Moriceau 2018 (Complémen’ Terre)

A full and concentrated, mineral muscadet full of character.

Yellow; waxy, with mature apples and white peach; quite full, mineral (chalky), a nice bitterness in the aftertaste.

Palmento 2019 (Vino di Anna), Etna, Sicilia, Italy

Skin-contact wine made from the Sicilian carricante grape in fiberglass tanks.

Golden towards orange; aroma of citrus peel, clementine, apricot, mango; full in the mouth and slightly textured. Not too acid, low alcohol (11,5) and perfect while waiting for the main course.

Handwerk Riesling Trocken 2018 (Leiner), Pfalz, Germany

Biodynamically farmed riesling.

Light yellow; aromas of apple, citrus (lime), with a mineral touch; rich, with a good acidity and splendid concentration. Superb with the duck plate.

Jürgen Leiner’s Handwerk

Completo 2019 (Carussin)

A light, fruity barbera that comes in a full litre bottle (hence the name), made by the producer behind the famous “donkey wine” Asinoi. At best when chilled.

Lght cherry red; light berries (strawberry), herbs; lively in the mouth (slightly pétillant), juicy, with a good natural acidity.

Montesecondo 2018 (Montesecondo), Toscana, Italy

Located in the Chianti area, but not always classified as such. This is an entry-level wine, with 2% of trebbiano blended in with the sangiovese. If my memory doesn’t fail me it’s a light vintage for this wine.

Rather light cherry colour, aroma dominated by red berries; juicy and refreshing.

Viña Ilusión 2017 (Martín Alonso), Rioja Oriente, Spain

Made from tempranillo grapes in Arnedo in the lower part of Rioja. Not completely natural, but with a low amount of sulphur added.

Dark red; blackberry and spice; full, fresh and fruity.

Duck with riesling

After a few wines I often like to round it off with a beer, to “stabilize” the stomach that by now feels like full of acidity. So I asked Mathias S. Skjong, the in-house brewer, if he had something special, maybe something personal. So he produced Terje (made by Mathias himself in collaboration with Grimstad’s successful brewery Nøgne Ø and given a wide distribution by them, for the restaurant’s 10 year anniversary. It’s a very very hoppy, citrussy and dry India pale ale. Perfect to round off another good meal at Apotekergaarden.

Matihas serving his own beer
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Wine of the Week

Lifted Lambrusco

Who has not experienced that sweet, uninspiring stuff called lambrusco? Now thankfully more and more producers try to lift it from that bad reputation. In the past it was made by what is now dubbed the ancestral method, that involves bottling before it is finished, sometimes with a small addition of unfermented must, and the bubbles were developed during this process. Some are also made by the “traditional” (champagne) method. But most are made with the second fermentation in steel tanks.

Lambrusco is a family of grapes that has also given name to several DOC regions in Emilia-Romagna. This wine here comes under the less specific designation Lambrusco dell’Emilia.

Camillo Donati is found in Langhirano, just south of Parma, where he cultivates 21 hectares of vines biodynamically. It was his grandfather who first planted vines. The soil here is calcareous clay, and this particular vineyard was planted in the 1970’s. They were spontaneously fermented, with the secondary fermentation in bottle. It’s unfined and unfiltered, and the certification is organic.

Il Mio Lambrusco 2018 (Camillo Donati)

Dark red, bubbly. Aromas of cherry, raspberry, flowers. Fresh, slightly textured, yet juicy and appealing in the mouth, with a good natural acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: Characuterie (don’t forget the prosciutto of Parma), light meat, pasta, salads, aperitif…

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Wine of the Week

From Pieropan, a Soave Pioneer

I was touring the Veneto region in the summer of 2018. One of the producers I would have visited was the unique Leonildo Pieropan. But sadly he passed away only two months before. But he had given me many good memories with his wines, from the lovely entry-level Soave and up to the vineyard wines. La Rocca was a regular when I was responsible for the wine selection at a restaurant during the 1990’s, and it was a delightful revisit when the latest issue appeared in a private tasting lately.

Founded in 1880, the Pieropan family was thought to have been the first to use the term Soave on the labels, several decades before the DOC was born. Leonildo Pieropan was among the first ones to recognize the potential for single vineyard wines, and for the ageing potential of Soave wines and the much overlooked garganega grape.

The Calvarino vineyard was bought by his grandfather in 1901. This was the first single vineyard Soave Classico in 1971.

The La Rocca vineyard is located on the hillside of Mount Rcchetta near Soave’s medieval castle. The soil is calcareous, the south-west, and there are several long, narrow terraces. The harvest is usually done in late October. The harvest is manual, the maceration short but some skin-contact. After fermentation the wine is aged for one year in old barrels of 500L. And the variety? Garganega, obviously.

La Rocca 2018 (L. Pieropan)

Golden yellow. Aromas of yellow apples, white flowers, white peach, a touch of tropical fruit, and a nutty touch. Full, glyceric and juicy on the palate, with a pineapple-like acidity, and some bitter almond in the end. It’s complex, quite concentrated and long.

Prive: Medium

Food: Grilled and tasty fish, light meat, cheese, risotto…

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Wine of the Week

Back to the border

There is no end to all of the fascinating orange wines on both sides of the Italian-Slovenian border. But Sandi Škerk isn’t “just another”, he is one of the modern torchbearers for the style. Located in Carso, with a cellar in carso rock, he grows vitovska, malvazija, sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio. This wine is a blend of all four varieties in equal parts, each contributing their specific characteristic, such as the aroma of sauvignon and the blushing colour of pinot grigio.

The must remained in contact with the skins for two week, and it was aged in big, old barrels – and bottled unfiltered.

Ograde 2017 (Az. Agr. Škerk)

Light pink-orange colour. Very aromatic, with flowers (roses), citrus, (dried) apricot, white pepper. Quite full and smooth, but also with a lovely natural integrated acidity, persistent. A stunning, up-lifting orange wine with a remarkable personality.

Price: Medium

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Wine of the Week

More from the Puglia project

I wrote about an orange wine of Valentina Passalacqua’s last autumn. In short she makes natural wines from the family farm inside the Gargano national park. The grapes are biodynamically farmed, the fermentations are spontaneous, and there is no fining, filtering or sulphur addition.

Ca signifies that the vines are grown in some isolated Kimmeridgian calcareous soil. 20 is the atomic number, and the atomic weight is 40.08. Most of it has a Greek, or Hellenistic, inspiration, not least the grapes. This one is a varietal nero di troia.

Read more about the project and especially the orange falanghina here.

20 Ca 40.08 Hellen Rosso 2019 (V. Passalacqua)

Dark cherry. Mature fruits, mulberry and plums, with a certain acidic edge. Luscious, grapey, some texture, light bitterness towards the end, finishes dry.

Price: Medium

Food: Salads, bacalao, other white fish, light meat…

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Wine bars and restaurants and Wine of the Week

Flowery Arneis at Flor

I tasted this at one of the cosy wine bars at London’s Borough Market, Flor, that has the same owners as Lyle’s of Shoreditch.

Flor is also listed as a bakery. And they are noted for their delicious breads, that some will think are burnt, but is made from a special flour that makes the colour very dark. I had the wine with this bread, and mussel flatbread dish.Valfaccenda is a small winery located in Roero, Piemonte. Luca Fcccenda and Carolina Roggero has 3,5 hectares under cultivation and make tjdgp wines with as little intervention as possible.

This wine is solely from arneis grapes grown on the hills around the winery, from different vineyards with different expositions. The ones with south, east-south exposition has a soft maceration that lasts for up to 10 days on skins, then oak and acacia ageing for 6 months. The north-west and north-east is fermented in concrete and steel. In the spring, after malolactic fermentation, they blend the two wines and bottle it without filtration.

Valfaccenda Roero Arneis 2018 (Valfaccenda)

Light straw colour. It’s fresh, with a flowery, herby aroma with some citrus. In the mouth it has a crisp acidity, saline notes and a slightly bitter finish.

Price: Low

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Wine of the Week

Passalacqua’s Puglia project

I am in London, mainly for music. But I never miss a chance to visit some of the many good natural wine bars and restaurants in town. Yesterday I visited Brawn again (see an earlier, more detailed report here), that’s owned by the people behind the classic Terroirs.

At Brawn one of the highlights was the orange wine from Valentina Passalacqua’s Puglia project.

The wine and light logo

Her farm is found inside Gargano National Park in Apricena, Puglia, and has belonged to the family for well over 100 years. The soil consists mainly of limestone rocks rich in minerals, at about 200 meters of altitude. It’s now worked biodynamically. All the wines are spontaneously fermented, never fined nor filtered, and they all come without sulfur addition.

Back label

The “calcareous project” came to life because Valentina felt the need to isolate some plots characterized by exclusively Kimmeridian calcareous soil. These are defined by terroir, the wines are mineral, and full of life. Falanghina is just one of the many varieties that can be called indigenous, but also with Greek influence or inspiration (along with nero di Troia, greco, aleatico, to name a few).

Valentina informs that the numbers indicated on the labels are the atomic number (20) and the atomic weight (40.08) of the chemical element of calcium (Ca). The designation is IGP Bianco Puglia, and it comes in a one liter bottle.

As you already have guessed, the fermentation was spontaneous, and it was macerated on the skins for 7 days, in open vats with manual hat break. It was racked in steel, and bottled without filtering or clarification.

Calcarius Orange Puglia (Valentina Passalacqua)

Light orange, with a reddish tone. Fresh on the nose, citric notes (mandarin), aromatic herbs and oriental spices. A slight touch of fine tannins in the mouth, saline notes and an appealing citric finish.

Price: Medium

Food: White fish, light meat, vegetarian, not too spicy Asian

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Wine of the Week

Nice Job!

At Oslo’s Territoriet wine bar they served this delicious wine. We enjoyed it outdoor in September, my brother and I. It is categorized as a rosé. That is, technically it’s a white wine, because pinot grigio sorts under that category. But many will know that the grape can have many red pigments, and with extended skin-contact the colour will appear.

Villa Job’s 6 hectares of vineyards are located on the Friuli Pozzuolo plateau, 90 meters above sea level. The soils here are complex, with sand, silt, clay, sandstone and marl. These vineyards have been in the Job family for generations.

Today Alessandro and Lavinia Job are farming biodynamically. The wine is made with native yeasts, and very little sulphites, if any. Long maceration in old barrels on skins is necessary to get what they consider to be the best expression of the grape. Here it lasted for 60 days. It’s spontaneous fermented, with natural malolactic fermentation in cement. The wine is unfiltered, and barely sulphured.

Guastafeste 2016 (Villa Job)

Salmon pink. Aroma of strawberry, raspberry and white flowers. Juicy, but also with good concentration, some very fine tannins, and a very pleasant acidity in a long finish.

Price: Medium

Food: Light meat, white and red fish, pasta, salads

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