La Stoppa is a centenary winery, in the province of Piacenza; we are in Emilia but, just thirty kilometers northwest, and we would have found ourselves in Oltrepò Pavese. The founder, Giancarlo Ageno, fell in love with those lands and began to produce wines there, passing on this passion to his family, first, and to that of the Pantaleoni, from 1973, when they took over the estate. Since then history takes us to the mid-90s when Elena Pantaleoni, flanked by Giulio Armani, takes over the reins of the winery.
From the beginning Elena wants to make her own, an ecological and, at that time, extremely innovative project. Of the 58 hectares of property, only 30 are used as vineyards, while the rest remained woodland, despite the progressive increase in the demand for wines. Nature must maintain its balance and the monoculture path is not the right one. It is not right either, indeed, it is not ethical, to let chemistry enter the vineyard or to eradicate inter-rows, an activity that makes the soils visually more pleasant, but that dries them up. Moreover, it is not ethical to carry out the various interventions in the vineyard with mechanical machines that do not have the sensitivity of the hands, and risk damaging the plants.
The vineyards are planted with local varieties: Barbera and Bonarda, for reds, Marlvasia di Candia, Ortugo and Trebbiano, for whites. Not surprisingly, at the beginning I talked about the proximity between La Stoppa and Oltepò: Barbera and Bonarda are also the two flagships of Basso Pavese.
Returning to ethic vision, even in the cellar the respect for what is obtained from the earth is evident: the fermentations, in steel and cement are spontaneous, without temperature control, and without the addition of sulfur dioxide. Maceration is always very long and, once finished, it is time for long aging in oak barrels. Once the first part of the aging process has been completed, it is time to transfer the wine into the bottles and allow it to continue refining for another long period.
Ethics also means, given the considerable demand of the market, and the firm intention of Elena not to expand the vineyard, that the prices to La Stoppa’s wines could be increased…and even a lot! Elena’s philosophy, however, is that the profits she makes from the sale of her wines are more than enough to guarantee her a decent life, and a fund to draw on, for emergencies.
Among her wine proposals it is difficult to choose one, but having a pappardella with porcini mushrooms I decided to uncork the Macchiona, a blend in equal parts of Barbera and Bonarda. The grapes come from the area of the property called, in fact, Macchiona, at the center of which there is a farmhouse, surrounded by the two red berried varieties that I just mentioned. Produced the first year in 1973, this wine follows the vinification described earlier and is bottled without adding sulfur (not even at this stage) and without filtration.
Between the 25,000 bottles produced in 2013, the one I’ve been through showed a medium intense ruby color and, equally on average, consistence, with a range of scents that opened on clear hints of Ravenna cherry, black cherry grenadine, Tarocco orange and pomegranate, followed by the “Asso di Cuori” rose, licorice twig and vinyl, with final echoes of white incense and Balkan Sobranie tobacco. The palate is deliciously fresh, also thanks to a hint of volatile acidity, really greedy, with masterful tannins (and that’s to say the least), and a discreet mix of sapidity and softness that maintain the overall structure in excellent balance; all associated with the return of the juiciest red fruit and vinyl, which accompany the sip until a very tasty, as well as long, closure.
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