We had the pleasure and honour of having Elena Pantaleoni of Azienda Agricola La Stoppa visit us on Tuesday 19th April. She spoke to a packed house here in Green Man Wines about La Stoppa, her wines and her wine growing/making philosophy. La Stoppa is a 50 hectare property located in the Colli Piacentini in north-west Emilia-Romagna. Founded in the late 19th century by a wealthy lawyer named Gian-Marco Ageno, the estate was bought by Elena Pantaleoni’s father in 1973. At the time, the estate focused on producing international style wines. Elena inherited the estate in 1991 and by 1996, she and head vignaiolo Giulio Armani began to execute the vision they had for the future of the estate. They replanted 32 hectares of Barbera and Bornada, as well as a small amount of Malvasia Candia, Ortrugo and Trebianno, all of which were much more suited to the hot climate (it can be hotter than Sicily during the summer) and heavy clay soils of the Colli Piacentini. The vines were worked organically from the early 90s and La Stoppa received organic certification in 2008. Elena, in typical humble fashion, describes herself as ‘la custode de la vigne’, merely a guardian, until she in her turn passes the estate to the next generation. Her low-key, but powerful conviction is that her responsibility is to farm and make wine in as sustainable, non-interventionist and authentic a way as possible. The wines qualify for Colli Piacentini DOC, but are bottled as Emilia IGT because she feels that the rules of the DOC do not allow the authenticity of the terroir to speak. Her stances on the necessity of truly artisan (as opposed to industrial) production, the use of indigenous grape varieties, yeasts and minimal intervention in the cantina have made her a leading voice for devotees of natural, artisanal wine. She featured in Jonathon Nossiter’s 2015 documentary ‘Natural Resistance’.
La Stoppa ‘Trebbiolo’ Emilia Rosso IGT 2013
13% abv €21.95
60% Barbera, 40% Bonarda from the youngest vines of La Stoppa. Organically grown, wild yeast fermented and sees only stainless steel and cement tank. Trebbiolo takes its name from the Valley of the Trebbia River which runs to the south of the city of Piacenza.
Sweetly fruited kirsch, some funk/brett at first, which clears quite quickly. As it opens and gets air, there is a sensation of graininess , wild herbs, sun-warmed stones. Off-dry (the warm 2013 vintage carries about 7 g/l of residual sugar), light/medium-bodied, sweet ripe kirsch fruit again with a savoury, prosciutto-like umami character. Immensely appealing and drinkable and would be excellent with charcuterie and cheese.
Vertical Tasting of 3 vintages of Macchiona
The Macchiona cuvée comes from vineyards planted between 20 and 40 years ago on the nutrient-poor clay soils of La Stoppa at altitudes of around 250m above sea-level. The climate here is really warm, hot almost: during the summer, it can be warmer than parts of Sicily. Elena explained that the soils here are poor in nitrogen, although rich in phosphorus and potassium. This results in red wines which can be closed and quite reductive when young. Bottle age is essential for these wines to mellow out and show at their best. 2007 is the current release and we tasted a small vertical of 3 vintages: 2007, 2006 and 2002.
La Stoppa ‘Macchiona’ Emilia IGT 2007
15% abv €31.95
Deep, velvety looking ruby garnet colour with a little orange on the rim. The wines are unfiltered and unfined and there is a bit of ‘materia‘ in the glass. Luscious and ripe on the nose, kirsch, ink, warm earth, charred red pepper, some volatile acidity, but just enough to contribute complexity. Dry, sweetly fruited, savoury, zesty acidity. Soft, mellow mouthfeel, great freshness and length. Warmth on the finish, the only evidence of the 15% alcohol. So hard to carry these levels of alcohol without the wine feeling overblown, but this carries the alcohol perfectly. Open and expressive now, will continue to evolve over next 5-10 years. Would be wonderful with ‘bullfighters’ stew’/macheronade.
La Stoppa ‘Macchiona’ Emilia IGT 2006
14% abv €POA (special order only, not usually available in Ireland)
Notes of sous-bois, squashed, just-picked, ripe blackberry and hedgerow fruits. Dry, medium-to-full body: where the 2007 is all about voluptuousness, this shows elegance and finesse on the finish. Very long length and energy, this is just beginning to approach its peak-will continue to approach peak over next several years and will hold for easily 10-15 thereafter.
La Stoppa ‘Macchiona’ ‘Dieciannidopo’ Emilia IGT 2002
14% abv €POA (special order only, not usually available in Ireland)
2002 was a very difficult vintage; wet, hail-stricken and with very low yields. It wasn’t ready to be released to market and furthermore, most importers shunned it, preferring the 2003. La Stoppa only released the 2002 after 10 years (thence the ‘dieci anni dopo’ label). It bears the hallmarks of the weather of the vintage. It is undoubtedly lean, where the other two wines are fuller, richer, rounder. However, it has superb grip, length and elegance. It also will benefit from still further bottle age-I have the sense that it will evolve very slowly and well over at least the next 10 years. I’d like to taste this with roast lamb or pork shoulder.
La Stoppa ‘Ageno’ Emilia IGT 2011
13.5% abv €33.95
Approx 70% Malvasia di Candia Aromatica, Ortrugo, Trebbiano given 3 months skin contact, half matured in stainless steel tanks and the other half matured in used French oak barriques, then a further 2 years in bottle before release.
Skin contact white wines have been traditional in the warmest regions of Europe, but the tradition has been lost with ‘progress’. Malvasia suits perfectly being made with skin contact as it has thick skins and is wonderfully aromatic (as the name suggests!) Ortrugo contributes acidity to the blend. The 2011 is more open and accessible than previous vintages, namely 2010 and 2009, which are dense, multi-layered and slow-evolving.
Beautiful coppery/orange colour. With time open and air, this gets more and more layered. Balsamic notes, aromas of black tea, orange peel, then rose and Turkish Delight. Dryish, light-bodied, delicious acidity and a little tannic grip on the palate. Drink with cheeses, or with freshly-made pasta, butter and sage or simply as a vino di meditazione at the end of a meal.
La Stoppa Malvasia Dolce Frizzante 2015
7% abv €19.95
What a lovely way to finish a tasting of such intense and complex wines! Light, frothy, off-dry (residual sugar of g/l). White peach, lightly floral, simple, but delicious purity. Ideal as an aperitif, although Italians would drink this more as a light dessert wine with fruit desserts. It is a ‘mosto parzialemente fermentato’ wine. The method is to pick the aromatic Malvasia grapes quickly and do a very gentle pressing. The juice or ‘mosto’ partially fermented in an autoclave, with the fermentation stopped by reducing the temperature. This results in a low alcohol, frothy, gently sweet wine.