When we talk about ecological wine, regardless of whether we are supporters or haters, it would be foolish to deny the existence of wineries that, with their work, have made the seed of ecology take root, as true pioneers, from the north to the south of Italy. I am talking about those wineries whose name, willy-nilly, is on the lips of anyone who feels sincere admiration for this methodology of making wine and, even before that, of living the space with a clear political position, unable to compromise.
It is not a matter of resolving the question by saying Right or Left, but of having a respectful vision of the productive environment (from the vineyard to the bottle, passing through the cellar), a vision that comes from the conviction that the area in which the winemaker planted the vineyard, and built the cellar, is equipped with a unique genius loci and not replicable. So the winemaker feels, first of all, the guardian of that genius loci, and consequently tries to represent it in the most faithful way possible, cooperating with nature and not imposing his vision.
I apologize for the wide digression but it was necessary more than ever when we talk about wineries like La Stoppa, a reality created in the second half of the nineteenth century, about fifty kilometers south of Oltrepò Pavese, by Lawyer Giancarlo Ageno, and purchased by the Pantaleoni family in 1973. Starting from the 90s, the winery is led by the tireless Elena Pantaleoni, flanked and recommended by Giulio Armani.
At La Stoppa it is followed the organic method certified by Suolo e Salute, which involves the growth of plants independently, exclusive use of Copper and Sulfur, in doses almost too low to be credible, and work on individual vines (pruning, tying, removing, trimming and harvesting) entirely by hand. It was not by simple case that I referred to the genius loci at the beginning of the post, because it took only a few years to understand that, if La Stoppa wanted to respect it, it was necessary to engage in the cultivation of local grape varieties: Barbera and Bonarda for red grapes, Malvasia di Candia Aromatica, Ortrugo and Trebbiano for white wines.
Such a strict respect for the ecosystem could not but lead, even in the winery, to the same respectful approach of what was harvested, starting from the long macerations able to extract up to the last ounce of truth, of every single harvest, and from the spontaneous fermentations, with indigenous yeasts, without temperature control. It would not even be necessary to remember that such wines refuse the addition of substances such as acetaldehyde (to stabilize musts), and are light years away from concentration practices (reverse osmosis), addition of tannins powder (to stabilize the wine from oxidation and eliminate the unpleasant odors of sulfur compounds) or acids (malic, citric or tartaric…usually mixed in a single mixture) to give more freshness. The only secret to stabilize wines, especially the reserves, is to make them undergo a long period of aging in wooden vats and casks and, later, in bottle.
One of the highlights of the winery is a white wine, Ageno, a pure aromatic Malvasia di Candia, dedicated to the founder of the winery that, as already mentioned, answers to the name of Giovanni Ageno. To produce 25,000 bottles every year, it alla starts in a vineyard, about 25 years old, left to grow spontaneously, without any type of fertilization (not even organic). In the cellar the grapes macerate for 4 months in steel or cement tanks and, after spontaneous fermentation in wooden vats of 40 hectoliters, the must is decanted without filtration, nor addition of sulfur dioxide, in bottle, where it will age the time that Elena and Giulio will consider appropriate.
The 2020 vintage, drunk a few days ago, showed off its traditional orange color, with a delicate consistence, and a range of scents that it would be useless to list, since it is a wine obtained from aromatic vine, even if the tea peach, the chamomile and a touch of volatile acidity, took quickly over the scene. The palate developed by alternating the grape sweetness (it was also possible to perceive a bit of fructose) and the just mentioned volatile acidity, with a very small but satisfying tannic bite; all this while the retronasal path spread out with impressive correspondence the main scents that I highlighted, and that accompanied the sip to a final, halfway between Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina and Pink Floyd.
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