La Stoppa 'Ageno' 2019
Producer: La Stoppa
Varietal: 90% Malvasia, 10% Ortrugo and Trebbiano Toscano
Notes: The varieties are co-planted and the vines average 30 years of age. The fruit is co-harvested, destemmed and fermented with native yeasts in tank. Maceration with the skins lasts around 4 months (warmer vintages usually entail a shorter time on the skins and the cooler ones a longer stretch). Malolactic fermentation normally occurs. In the spring the wine is racked into botti and aged for at least a year, followed by 2 or more years in bottle before release. There is no sulfur added at any point to this wine. The vintages are not necessarily released in sequence: for example, the 2017 has been released (fall 2020) ahead of the 2016. 2017 is also the first year of a new label design as well as Vino Bianco rather than IGT status. The name "Ageno" is in homage to the original owner of the estate, Giancarlo Ageno.
La Stoppa is an historic estate in the province of Piacenza in the Emilia region of Italy. There are 32 hectares of vines, along with almost as much forest, plus the ruins of a medieval tower. The property was founded and planted first in the late 19th century by a lawyer named Giancarlo Ageno, whose main interest was Bordeaux varieties. In 1973, current owner Elena Pantaleoni's printer father, with no winegrowing experience, purchased the property; Elena joined him to work at the winery full-time in 1991. By 1996, a decision was made to let the non-native varietals like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Tokay, Pinot Gris, Grechetto and Pinot Noir go, as they were not suited for the warm climate and clay soils of the area. They were replaced with local grapes Barbera, Bonarda and Malvasia (with Bordeaux varieties remaining until 2005, when those too were replaced).
The farming has been organic since the early 1990's; certification came in 2008. Elena Pantaleoni, a dedicated, intelligent and passionate grower, works closely with her enologist Giulio Armani to craft wines expressive of place and grape. Work in the cellar is minimal. Fermentation is entirely with native yeasts; maceration with skins is lengthy; little to no sulfur is used; wines are aged in a range of Slavonian oak botti and used French barriques; reds are not filtered before bottling; and bottle aging is extended. Elena eschews any DOC classifications, choosing the IGT path instead; she feels that the DOC regulations are too broad in terms of permitted varieties, geographical bounds and production techniques, and not conducive to thoughtul, artisanal winegrowing and winemaking, the priority at the La Stoppa estate. - Louis Dressner