- Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Thanks to importer Louis/Dressner for this estate profile:
La Stoppa is a 50 hectare property located in northwest Emilia-Romagna. Founded in the late 19th century by a wealthy lawyer named Gian Marco Ageno, the estate is currently run by Elena Pantaleoni and head vignaiolo Giulio Armani. 32 hectares of vines are planted in Barbera and Bornada for red, as well as a small amount of Malvasia di Candia, Ortrugo and Trebianno for whites. Today, the wines produced from La Stoppa are typically Emilian, but this wasn't always the case; moving forward occasionally means taking a step back.
In 1996, Elena and Giulio decided to replant the entirety of their estate in Barbera and Bonarda, both typical and suited grapes for the region. Interestingly, the prior owner had taken post phylloxera replanting as an opportunity to experiment with noble grapes from around the world which, amongst others, included Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Tokay and Pinot Gris. Elena's father purchased the estate in 1973, and for 20 years these varieties were vinified and bottled individually as mono-cépage releases. But after much reflection, it was decided that these varietals ripened too early and were not resistant enough to the region's hot climate. It was all Barbera and Bonarda from there.
The soils consist of heavy clay. The estate has been worked organically since the early 1990's and certified in 2008. All the wines are fermented in stainless steel and concrete vats, then racked to a variety small and large oak barrels for aging. The wines ferment off of their native yeasts and nothing is ever added or subtracted from the juice. Sulfur is never added during vinification or bottling, save a tiny amount for the entry-level wine "Trebbiolo". Because of the region's warm climate, Giulio prefers long skin contact to extract as much as possible.
La Stoppa's approach to bottling and releasing wine can be described in two words: observation and patience. It is not uncommon for wines to age in barrel for years before bottling and then many more in bottle before release. While the fresher "Trebbiolo" is sold the summer after its harvest, there are no such rules for "Barbera", "Macchiona" or "Ageno"; these are usually released at least five years after they were harvested. Furthermore, a younger vintage can be bottled before an older one and vintages are not chronologically released. In other words, the wines are commercialized when deemed optimal to drink.
It's a challenging and costly endeavor, one too few wineries are willing to take the hit on. But Elena and Giulio wouldn't have it any other way.