During my most recent visit to Piemonte, there was a lot of excitement about one particular Barolo cru, that of Vigna Rionda in Serralunga d’Alba. One of the owners recently passed away and the section he possessed is being divided up among three wineries, all of whom will produce a Vigna Rionda Barolo for the first time.
This is newsworthy because of the historical importance of the Vigna Rionda cru. Literally meaning “round vineyard”, Vigna Rionda is sited on a slope at elevations ranging from 820 to 1180 feet above sea level; the beneficial siting of this hill insures a great deal of sun throughout the day. The soils are a combination of marl, calcaire and a touch of sand; the vineyard is sheltered from excessive winds by the nearby Castelleto hill. In his beautifully detailed map of the vineyards and cellars of Serralunga, Alessandro Masnaghetti writes these words of acclaim for the quality of this vineyard:
“Vigna Rionda, in the collective imagination of many wine lovers, has become synonymous with the Barolo of Serralunga d’Alba… the Barolo which is produced here can be termed – even more than a Barolo of Serralunga – a Barolo of Vigna Rionda, such is the imprint of the cru on this wine.”
When you consider the number of remarkable Barolo crus in Serralunga, such as Ornato, Falletto, Lazzarito, Prapo and La Rosa, this is high praise for the distinctive style that emerges from Vigna Rionda. Thus the excitement over the new wines down the road.
Regarding the change in ownership of a small (2.2 hectare) section of Vigna Rionda, the details have to do with the passing away of Tommaso Canale, whose ancestors had purchased this plot back in the mid-1930s. Tommaso died in December, so now his section of Vigna Rionda will be turned over to three producers, who are relatives: Guido Porro, Ettore Germano and Giovanni Rosso. In the case of the Rosso estate, this is wonderful and appropriate news, as current proprietor and winemaker Davide Rosso (his father Giovanni passed away only recently) is the son of Ester Canale Rosso, who once owned this section along with her mother Cristina (due to financial difficulties back then, they were forced to sell to a family member).
What all this means is that some producers who worked with this fruit will no longer produce a Vigna Rionda Barolo – Roagna is perhaps the best known firm in this instance. But Porro, Rosso and Germano will be producing a Vigna Rionda Barolo down the road. Sergio Germano told me in an email that he will probably produce his first Barolo from this site from the 2017 vintage, while for Rosso, his first bottling will be from this vintage, the 2011, though in small quantities. (I do not have the information on when the initial Porro bottling will be produced.) Much of this section contains vines that are 60-years old and while some of these vines are in wonderful condition, others need to be replanted.
One thing that needs to be noted is that the transfer of this section of Vigna Rionda is limited to a small section of this cru. There are indeed other owners of Vigna Rionda, who will continue to produce a Barolo from this vineyard. Among the most notable is the Oddero estate of Santa Maria (La Morra); Mariacristina Oddero notes that their family purchased one hectare in 1982. To be exact, they own parcels 335, 340, 338 and 337 of plot number 8 (the Rosso section is parcel 251P of plot number 8). The have been producing Vigna Rionda Barolo for many years and will continue to do so.
Also, the largest single owner of Vigna Rionda is the Massolino family of Serralunga, who owns 2.3 hectares (parcels 79-80-81-82-84-85-86 of plot number 8, to be exact.). Massolino produces a Riserva Barolo from Vigna Rionda fruit, which is one of the most complex, complete and most powerful Barolos of Serrallunga. It also has great cellaring potential – often as long as 40 years – and is one of the most authentic representations of this great vineyard.
Thanks very much to Sergio Germano, Davide Rosso, Franco Massolino, Mariacristina Oddero and Alessandro Masnaghetti for their assistance reagrding this topic.