The Roagna family has been growing grapes organically and making wines traditionally in the Piedmont region of Italy for four generations. The family’s principle holdings are in Barbaresco (6½ hectares), but in 1989 they expanded into Barolo. The wines are known for their classic style. Never filtered or fined, they’re made with minimal amounts of sulfur and are aged from three to five years in large, old Slavonian oak. The Roagna’s have been known to bottle and then hold back the wines for a couple of more years before release. What they end up with is complex, well structured and made to age for a very long time.
All that being said about their spectacular reds, they also make one white that I completely forgot about until recently, when I was having lunch at Locanda Verde in Tribeca with some friends and saw it on the wine list. It was a hot day and the wine called to me. One of my hosts only drinks white wines, with the exception of Chardonnay, which she finds repulsive and undrinkable. I thought I was safe ordering the Roagna, thinking that it was probably Arneis or Cortese.
When the wine came and I was given the chance to sample before pouring, something wasn’t quite right. Don’t get me wrong, the wine was fantastic, but it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. It tasted eerily like a wine from the Macon or even a Meursault, and that meant Chardonnay. Too late. The bottle was open, everyone was ready to drink and celebrate (her kids had just graduated from high school), so I gave the go ahead to pour away.
Now, I have tried to slip a great Chardonnay past her many times, and I have always failed. She’d take one sip, wrinkle her nose, smack her lips in a disgusted way and ask for something else. Maybe it was the spirit of the celebration, or just the fact that this is a beautifully made white (90% Chardonnay/10% Nebbiolo), but there was a huge smile on everyone’s face at the first sip that lasted all the way through the second bottle.
The Roagna Langhe Blanco is medium-full bodied, crisp and minerally, with the taste of hazelnuts, pear and honey. It’s fermented in old oak casks and is then aged for 1 ½ years longer in a large oak cask. The 2012 is just out, and it’s priced at retail at $20. You have to buy one for that friend of yours who hates all Chardonnays.
P. S. I may never tell my friend what she loved so much that afternoon.