Super fresh varietal releases from peerless Piedmont estate
We made no secret of our rapture at gaining a chance to work with the Vaira family as importer of their fantastic wines into Australia.
Since our first shipment almost two years ago, both Giuseppe Vaira and winemaker Eugene Qiao have made it over to these shores more than once, revelling in the warmth of the welcome they received from the Australian trade and wine lovers more broadly. This is a family that communicates its joy and pride in Piedmont – the wines and culture of this northeast Italian idyll – wholeheartedly. In the wines you feel the vivacity, charm and class no matter whether you’re knocking back Barbera, contemplating cru Barolo or succumbing to the sweet allure of Moscato d’Asti.
The headlines here will be dominated by an exceptional suite of 2015 Barolo, ranging from the Albe – “terrific entry-level Barolo, not to mention one of the finest value in Piedmont” according to Antonio Galloni of Vinous Media – via ravishing Luigi Baudana Comune di Serralunga to Coste di Rose and the Baudana cru itself. But as mentioned earlier, perhaps the finest virtue of this estate is the way it scatters its delights for all to enjoy. The runaway success of the bargain Langhe Rosso and Claré J.C. attests to this point, as does the fact that the Dolcetto, Barbera and Langhe Nebbiolo are resplendent examples of these characterful native grapes, offering great value to boot.
Once again, then, it’s not so much something for everyone as everything for everyone – the only issue being that demand for the top Barolo wines far outstrip supply. Please note then, that offers of these are limited and subject to confirmation.
Bearing that in mind, we invite you once again to dive into the myriad charms of this jewel in the Barolo crown.
2018 G.D. Vajra ‘Pètracine’ Langhe Riesling $77
Aldo Vaira is the pioneer of Riesling in Piedmont. Aldo got passionate about this variety during his university studies, investigated it further, and then planted the first clones in Langa. This is how Pètracine was born, a wine whose name evokes the roots digging into the stone. It is an exercise of biodiversity, born by a massal selection from Alsace, Pfalz and Rheingau.
This is a wine that requires patience, much like the great reds of our land.
The first vineyard dedicated to Riesling (1985) was the one in Fossati, located in the highest part of Barolo and facing the morning sun. The soil is a singular composition of gravel and sand. The second vineyard (2000), northeast-exposed, is situated in the region known as Bertone (Sinio), a lower hill and characterised by limestone and homogeneous soils.
The Riesling harvest takes place in the first half of September and goes on for about two to three weeks. The harvest, as well as the conveyance of the grapes in small crates, are manually carried out to preserve the whole fruit. A triple selection ensures the best quality of the grapes: first in the vineyard, observing the grapes on the vine, and later with a double sorting in the cellar. The fruit was gently pressed and the juice given a brief cold settling before fermentation that goes for about 15-20 days. The wine is aged in steel before bottling in the first half of the spring after harvest. – Giuseppe Vaira
The 2018 Riesling Pètracine is a rare Piedmont white endowed with real distinction. Lime, white flowers, slate and chalk infuse the 2018 with tons of character as well as nuance. I love the energy here; this is very, very nicely done. 90 points.Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media March 2020
2018 G.D. Vajra Langhe Rosso $36 screwcap
Our Langhe Rosso is a hug from Piedmont. It’s an invitation to explore its different varieties and to get to know its personality. From young vineyards, it is a fruity, delicately complex wine – an ideal companion at the table. It’s predominately Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto, with smaller quantities of Freisa, Albarossa, Pinot Noir. Each vineyard is harvested when it reaches perfect ripeness. The varieties are vinified one by one, to express their personality and uniqueness. The wine is aged for 18-24 months partially in steel and then in first-, second- and third-use pièces. – Giuseppe Vaira
2018 G.D. Vajra Dolcetto d’Alba $40
Our Dolcetto d’Alba is a homage to this wonderful, often overlooked heritage variety. Historically, Dolcetto was cultivated in prime land, just above Nebbiolo vineyards. At Vajra, we remain loyal to this approach, farming our vineyards in places of true vocation. This is a pure, vibrant and fruity expression of the grape.
Dolcetto is picked in the first half of September. As vineyards are located at higher elevation, protected from thermal inversion that affects northern slopes and the valley floors, they allow for longer hang time and full phenolic ripening. A gentle vinification usually lasts up to 15 days, with a couple of plunges per day. Wine is racked at least twice prior to malolactic conversion, which takes place in stainless-steel vats. Vajra Dolcetto d’Alba sees a minimum aging period in stainless-steel only, and is bottled in spring following the harvest. – Giuseppe Vaira
Blue and purple fruit, spice and flowers, some liquorice. It’s medium-bodied, stony feel and distinctly ‘mineral’ acidity, tannin is slightly raw and sticky, but it’s still pretty much a baby, and it finishes firm and long, shining with some red fruit as it goes. Such crunch and energy here. It’s a very appealing wine. 93 points.Gary Walsh, The Wine Front May 2020
2018 G.D. Vajra Barbera d’Alba $49
G.D. Vajra Barbera d’Alba comes from the wonderful range of Vajra estate vineyards, belonging to three different geological ages: Tortonian, Serravallian and Messinian. It’s fermented for an average of 20 days on skins and matured for no less than 12 months, respecting the rhythm of nature. This is a fine blend, a charming wine at the crossroads of finesse and texture.
Fruit for our Barbera d’Alba is harvested usually in the second half of September. Each vineyard is picked at its optimal ripeness, so as to capture the richest treasure of aromatics and phenolics. Quite often it takes more than 10 days to complete the entire harvest. Each parcel is then individually fermented for 15 to 20 days on average, at temperatures below 30°C. While Barbera is often treated with shorter and vigorous macerations, we love to work with gentle punchdowns and pumpovers for longer periods, in order to extract only the finest tannins from its skins. Malolactic conversion in stainless steel, followed by racking. Aged for a minimum of 12 months, mostly in stainless steel vats but with a minimal component (5 to 10% at most) aged in French oak. – Giuseppe Vaira
2019 G.D. Vajra Claré J.C. Nebbiolo $49
This unique wine was first produced in 2014. The name Claré J.C. pays homage to Thomas Jefferson – who visited Piemonte in 1787 and described Nebbiolo as “dry as a claret, sweet and lingering as Madeira, brisk as Champagne” – and to Darrell Corti of Corti Bros in California, an amazing person and pioneer of Piemonte wines who helped us recreate the style of these forgotten, slightly sweet and sparkling Nebbiolos.
Produced with grapes from younger vines on the estate’s vineyards, Claré J.C. is 100% Nebbiolo. In 2017, approximately a quarter of the fruit was vinified with whole clusters. The winemaking protocol follows the 1606 writings of Gian Battista Croce. 20% of the fruit was gently placed as whole clusters at the bottom of the vat, and topped up with crushed juice. After five days, the wine was racked into a closed tank to finish fermentation off the skins, for a more gentle extraction. Malolactic conversion took place in stainless steel. The wine is bottled after a very short period in vat, so as to retain maximum freshness in the bottle. – Giuseppe Vaira
It’s juicy, popping with sweet cherry and red fruits, tickled with spritz, some new leather, spice and dried herb in the mix. Tannin plays a firm but fair game, and the finish, while slightly sweet, closes with a cranberry/pomegrante crunch, which cleans the whole affair up very nicely indeed. It’s such a delightful wine to quaff, and while it’s not exactly cheap, it does deliver. A different thing. A good thing. 92 points.Gary Walsh, The Wine Front May 2020
2018 G.D. Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo $54
Our focus for the Langhe Nebbiolo is aromatic purity. The fruit comes from our young vines in Barolo, Novello, Sinio and Bricco Bertone. The grapes are handpicked early in the morning so as to capture their quintessential character. Vinification is long and extremely gentle in order to retain lift and tension in this wine.
Nebbiolo is usually harvested between the second half of September and the beginning of October. Picking decisions are individual to each site, and we sometimes opt for multiple passages to respect the diversity of each vine. Fermentation lasts for an average of 15-20 days in vertical vats, and is followed by spontaneous malolactic conversion. Our Langhe Nebbiolo is usually aged for 8 to 14 months. It is a wide range, in order to respect the uniqueness of each vintage and patiently wait for the optimal bottling time. Most of the ageing is carried out in stainless-steel vats, with a minor fraction of the wine being matured in neutral oak – but only when needed. – Giuseppe Vaira
Dark cherry, plenty of spice, rhubarb topped with biscuit crumbs, something a little earthy, and a good amount of perfume. It pulls fresher in the mouth, with red berries and spice, some almost chalky tannin grip, and a bright, but dusty feeling finish of good length. Very nice. 93 points.Gary Walsh, The Wine Front May 2020