La Stoppa has become quite an important producer in Emilia-Romagna. But it was not always so. The estate began as the pet project of a wealthy lawyer who decided that French varieties were appropriate for this Italian terroir. I imagine the aim then was to emulate the prestige of the great French regions and, as such, the initial plantings were of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. They didn’t make very good wine.
Fast forward to the 1970’s and 80’s and winemaker Giulio Armani continued to struggle with these varieties, eventually realizing that they were not suited for the region’s hot climate. La Stoppa’s problems with acidity and balance completely disappeared once they decided to plant the indigenous varieties of Barbera, Bastardo and Malvasia in the mid 90’s. In 1997 Elena Pantaleoni took over the winery from her parents and the winery made a big shift towards more natural farming and vinification – using only indigenous yeasts and eschewing additives.
Now the estate is producing some of the most interesting wines in the region and is a leader in Italy’s “natural wine” movement.
There are still some international varieties planted at La Stoppa and the estate has no qualms about touting their focus on making “modern” wines, but my experience with these wines has been more that modern means “clean” and “fruity”, not bombastic or loud. Fermentation is in steel and maturation in both French barriques and Slavonian Oak Botti
This is an unusual but fascinating wine. It starts almost shockingly fruity to the point where the wine tastes sweet. This sweetness is not from residual sugar or alcohol, however, but rather is a quality of the fruit itself. In contrast, the wine seethes with intense, thick tannins, even at several years of bottle age. The bright cherry flavours pop most noticeably at first, but the herb and mineral qualities give the wine balance and intrigue.
While this is a very tasty and interesting wine, I feel it is also not a wine for everyone, and probably needs more time to fully resolve. The price may be a bit high for the quality compared to top Italian competition at this price point. That said, this wine also has more character than many wines of equal or greater price. If you are a curious wine geek, it is worth the price for the experience.
50% Bonarda, 50% Barbera aged a year in Slavonian Oak. 25 days maceration without any sulphur additions during maceration. The total sulfur is a low 25.00mg/l.
Very Good+ (I could see this resolving to Excellent with more age)
$67 at Liberty Wine Merchants