“A couple of days ago we tasted through the range at Vajra, and what a great morning it was. Even for the slightly jaded, big smiles and excitement.”
Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
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.
THE WINES – G.D. VAJRA
2018 G.D. Vajra ‘Pètracine’ Langhe Riesling RRP $76
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 RRP $35 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 RRP $39
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
The 2018 Dolcetto d’Alba is a super-classic wine loaded with varietal flavors to match its mid-weight structure. Soaring aromatics and plush red and purplish berry fruit come through loud and clear in this refreshing, supremely delicious Dolcetto from the Vajra family. This is such a gorgeous wine. 90 points. Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media March 2020
2018 G.D. Vajra Dolcetto Coste & Fossati RRP $53
Dolcetto d’Alba DOC Coste & Fossati is a collection of ancient Dolcetto biotypes grouped by Aldo Vaira between 1979 and 1985. Cuttings were grafted in two of the estate’s best Barolo vineyards, Coste di Vergne and Fossati. These plants with a ‘red stalk’ create a limited production of the most intense and noble Dolcetto. This is our family’s own reservoir.
Fruit for Dolcetto d’Alba DOC Coste & Fossati is picked ‘late’ by Dolcetto standards, usually in second half of September. The hanging period is extensive, thanks to the white marl and high elevation that protect these blocks from thermic shock. Vinification lasts 15-20 days in vertical vats, custom designed for Vajra, at free temperature below 31°C. Cappello sommerso was used for the first time for gentle extraction in 2018. Spontaneous malolactic conversion in stainless steel.
The Dolcetto d’Alba DOC Coste & Fossati is characterised by a fascinating vibrant purple colour, deep and brilliant. A symphony of red and black fruits, sour cherry, with a long lovely finish of liquorice and menthol. – Giuseppe Vaira
The 2018 Dolcetto d’Alba Coste & Fossati is a gorgeous wine. Usually, the Coste & Fossati is a richer, bigger wine; the 2018, on the other hand, offers lovely mid-palate depth, but in a restrained, perfumed style that is hugely appealing. Dark red cherry, red plum, chocolate, licorice and spice all flesh out in this delicious and inviting Dolcetto from the Vajra family. The 2018 marks the second vintage of the return to submerged cap maceration, an approach the Vajra family used up until the late 1980s. 92 points. Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media March 2020
2018 G.D. Vajra Barbera d’Alba RRP $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 punch downs 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 RRP $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
2018 G.D. Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo RRP $53
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
The 2018 Langhe Nebbiolo emerges from a parcel in Sinio. Dark fruit, spice, earthy notes and a good bit of tannin give the Vajra’s Langhe Nebbiolo a decidedly brooding, powerful feel and quite a bit more seriousness than is typical at this level. Sweet red berry fruit, mint and spice add freshness alongside bright acidity as the 2018 opens up in the glass. This is such a pretty and expressive wine. 90 points. Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media March 2020
2014 G.D. Vajra Freisa Kyè RRP $96
Freisa is a noble grape, rare and fighting for survival. It’s been part of the history and identity of Piedmont since ancient times, Freisa is one of the closest relatives of Nebbiolo, as demonstrated in 2004 by Professor Anna Schneider of Turin University. Our Kyè is the tribute to Freisa and its great and wild personality.
The fruit comes from our San Ponzio vineyard in Barolo, which sits at an altitude between 390 and 410m, on clay soil. The perfect time for harvesting Freisa is determined by alternating warm autumn days and cool nights; in general this happens in the second half of October, 20-30 days later than the average. The removal of stems, the most acidic part of the fruit and with the greater charge of green tannins, is essential. The must undergoes a fairly long fermentation, which allows the integration of grape tannins into the wine, followed by a malolactic conversion (equally important for this variety). It is matured for about 12-18 months, depending on the vintage, partly in large Slavonian oak casks and partly in barriques, to give the necessary balance to the wine. – Giuseppe Vaira
2015 G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe RRP $98
Albe is a tribute to the masters of the 1950s and 60s, to those winemakers who had the vision and the taste to blend some of the most amazing crus in order to achieve a Barolo of balance and charm. The high-elevation vineyards for Barolo Albe have an exposure ranging from south-south-east to south-west. The grapes are usually picked in the second half of the Nebbiolo harvest. Vinification is done in custom-designed vertical vats, with gentle punch down and pumpovers. Maceration lasts 25 days on average. Malolactic conversion occurs in stainless steel the following spring. Albe rests on average between 30 and 36 months in large (40, 50 and 75hL) Slavonian oak casks. The wine is usually racked once a year. Blending is decided in the spring prior to bottling. – Giuseppe Vaira
Sourced from three Barolo crus: Fossati, Coste di Vergne and La Volta. Red fruits, aniseed, new leather, spice and roses. Youthful and primary aromatics, medium-bodied, ripples of smooth powdery tannin, a playful red fruit character, some tea flavour and a good long finish. It’s an excellent wine, but needs some time to settle down. High potential for attractive drinking in a few years. 93 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front May 2019
2015 G.D. Vajra Barolo Coste di Rose RRP $149
2015 is a vintage of rich and vibrant Barolos. It offers wines of plenitude with nuanced aromatics and breadth, yet with a strong aging potential. That year, we had the chance to rent a new vineyard, Coste di Rose, in Comune di Barolo. It is gorgeously located on the top of the MGA, at 310m above sea level. The deal included a significant portion of Bosco della Fava, the forest that can be admired from the castle of Barolo. Coste di Rose is a unique vineyard. Soil is dominated by a pure Arenaria di Diano, a Tortonian sandstone that delivers distinctive floral aromatics and a salty minerality. This cru is one of Barolo’s best-kept secrets, being located right in between Cannubi and Bussia, yet away from the beaten paths.
Fruit is picked usually around the third week of October. Vinification occurs in custom-designed vertical tini, with gentle punch down and rinsing of the cap. Maceration lasts 40 to 50 days on average. Malolactic conversion takes place in stainless steel, the following spring.
Coste di Rose is possibly the most approachable cru of Barolo at this stage, with roses and a floral-dominated nose, combined with marasca cherry and hints of liquorice and mint. A very elegant and pleasurable structure that flows gracefully on the palate with a lingering and sapid finish. – Giuseppe Vaira
A new vineyard (and wine) for Vajra, first leased in 2015, and purchased in 2018. Raspberry, rose, almonds, light and fine. Medium-bodied at best, red fruited, very fresh, gentle sandy tannin grip, precise and quite delicate, finish has grip and a dry feel, but the perfume lingers. Very good, with much more to come. It’s the quiet ones you have to watch. 94+ points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front May 2019
2019 G.D. Vajra Moscato d’Asti RRP $43 screwcap
Moscato d’Asti is a wine of wonderful but little-known potential. Light and fragrant, fresh and without cloying sweetness, it presents minerality and savoury notes that allow you to experiment with food pairing, or just enjoy it by itself. The fruit comes from three beautiful vineyards: Riforno and San Donato in Mango, and Moncucco in Santo Stefano Belbo – and all from old and deep-rooted vines.
The grapes are gently pressed before a brief cold settling and then fermentation, which goes for about a week. The first bottling, as soon as November, allows the wine to cheer the Christmas table. – Giuseppe Vaira
G.D. Vajra Barolo Chinato RRP $140
Barolo Chinato is an ancient Piedmontese digestif. The wine used as a production base is Barolo Albe of the current vintage. The “chinatura” is the addition of infusions of about 30 herbs, rinds and roots, including Cinchona Calisaya, hence the name. The blend is about 85% DOCG Barolo Albe and 15% hydro-alcoholic extracts of aromatic and medicinal herbs. We choose those favoured for their specific digestive, decongestant and relaxing properties, drawing liberally from the rich floral heritage of the Alps that hug Piedmont. Spices, brown sugar and the peel of organic oranges from Sicily complete the process.
It’s intense ruby red in the glass, and the nose displays typical freshness of our Barolo, with a weave of roses and ripe cherries, fresh mountain herbs and orange zest. In the mouth it’s bittersweet and persistent – beautiful as a digestif or paired with dark chocolate. – Giuseppe Vaira
“The Vaira family continues to do remarkable work in revitalising the Baudana estate. The appellation Barolo is gorgeous, while the two vineyard designates are both distinctive, as they should be.”
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
THE WINES – LUIGI BAUDANA
2018 Luigi Baudana Dragon RRP $43 screwcap
This is a field blend of white varieties mostly planted side by side, vinified together in an extremely unusual way for Piemonte. The varieties in the Dragon blend are delicate and the first we pick at Baudana every year. Fermentation lasts an average of 7-15 days in vertical vats. Dragon is then aged till the following spring in stainless-steel tanks, with patience and until the wine blossoms into full harmony. It’s bright, pale yellow enriched by dry perfume of stone, flowers and summery grass. Dry and slightly savoury on the palate, its crisp freshness is well balanced by ripe flavours. – Giuseppe Vaira
2015 Luigi Baudana Barolo Serralunga RRP $115
These Nebbiolo vineyards are located in Serralunga with slightly varying soil compositions. An average altitude of 340m and vines aged between 20 and 30 years complete the identity of this wine. The harvest takes place in the second half of October, enjoying till the last moment the rich nourishment the soil offers. The grapes are sorted by hand. Fermentation usually lasts 25 days before the wine is moved into large casks for ageing. – Giuseppe Vaira
The 2015 Barolo del Comune di Serralunga d’Alba is a blend of mostly younger vine fruit from Cerretta and Baudana. Deep and expressive in the glass, the 2015 is a fabulous wine in its peer group. Smoke, tar, dark red fruit, iron and wild herbs add striking nuance to a Barolo that shows all the muscle and power of Serralunga while retaining a mid-weight feel. I would prefer to cellar it for at least a few years. The combination of beguiling aromatics, supple fruit and good supporting structure makes for a compelling, delicious Barolo. 92 points. Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media February 2019
2015 Luigi Baudana Barolo Baudana RRP $163
Baudana is located on the western slope of Serralunga and belongs to a fine cluster of vineyards among Lazzarito, Parafada, Rionda, Falletto and Francia. The soil is a composition of Marne di Sant’Agata mixed with Formazioni di Lequio. It’s white on the surface and distinctively blue underneath. The site enjoys amazing soil conditions, thanks to higher water retention.
Harvest usually takes place in the third week of October. Fermentation starts quite fast and runs smoothly for approximately 30 days, followed by another 10 days of maceration. One Slavonian cask is used to ferment most of the grapes, with some stainless-steel vessels used as a backup. Punch-downs and gentle pumpovers are the only activity over the maceration period. The wine is racked into oak after malolactic conversion and spends an average of 32+ months in large Slavonian oak casks. – Giuseppe Vaira
Earth, spice, blood, a bit reductive as at now, plus red berries. Full-bodied, powerful, but juicy with sweetness of red fruit, grip and open-weave tannin, fresh, tannic and long. Brooding. Really needs a good bit of time, but what a beautiful wine. 95+ points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front May 2019
ALSO AVAILABLE IN LIMITED QUANTITIES…
2014 G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe RRP $98
A tribute to local tradition, the 2014 Barolo Albe represents an assembly of fruit from various vineyard plots throughout the area. Winemaking is classic in approach with a 25-day maceration period and aging in large Slavonian oak casks. This vintage shows silky, fine lines and a more accessible approach for near and medium-term drinking. I would recommend a few more years of bottle aging, however, to allow the wine the time to grow in texture and mouthfeel. 91 points. Monica Larner, Wine Advocate June 2018
2014 G.D. Vajra Barolo Ravera RRP $149
Earthy, savoury, rolling tannin, minerally feel, has depth and rosy perfume in there. Soil. The quality of tannin is pretty good here, especially considering it’s from 2014. Thick and ripe, even like recalling the wonders of Serralunga (as some parts of Novello often do) with a raspberry freshness. It feels well-etched and clear, and while softer and more approachable this vintage, it’s still pretty robust. And very bloody good. 94+ points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front September 2018
2014 Luigi Baudana Barolo Cerretta RRP $163
Cerretta lies opposite Baudana on the east slope of Serralunga. The soil belongs entirely to the Formazioni di Lequio: a thin layer of white marl covering a deep subsoil of red clay. Grapes are picked from 40-year-old wines of multiple biotypes of Nebbiolo, representing the incredible heritage of Luigi’s work.
Nebbiolo has the longest vegetative cycle among local varieties, and is usually harvested around the third week of October. Fermentation is carried out primarily in one large cask. The Cerretta vineyard always has a slow start to fermentation, which then goes for 35-40 days on average. Post-fermentation “cappello sommerso” (submerged cap) follows for another week in greater vintages. Cerretta is aged in large Slavonian casks for 32 months on average. – Giuseppe Vaira