The story behind Vajra’s Barolo Albe

Above: The good news is that it looks like Vajra’s wines will be coming to Texas soon.

So many questions, so little time…

When Mr. Franco Ziliani took Tracie P and me to taste with Aldo Vajra back in February at the winery, I neglected to ask Aldo what the “Albe” in his “Barolo Albe” denoted.

Luckily, we got a chance last week to sit down with Aldo’s son Giuseppe here in Austin. (I’d never met Giuseppe before but I felt like I knew him already: his face and his family were familiar to me, however virtually, through the excellent blog of David McDuff, whose palate and writing I admire immensely and whose taste in music and Nebbiolo are unsurpassed.)

The designation “Albe,” he explained, is simple: it’s the plural of the Italian alba, which in this context, means dawn.

“You see, our Barolo Albe is a traditional-style Barolo made from fruit sourced from three different vineyards,” Giuseppe told us, “Fossati, Le Coste, and La Volta. When the sun rises in the morning, it takes about 20 minutes for the sunlight [dawn] to reach each vineyard. So, there are three different albe [dawns].”

I’ve tasted the 2005 Barolo Albe by Vajra on three different occasions this year, and, man, it just keeps getting better and better. As much as I love their flagship Barolo — the single-vineyard Bricco delle Viole — it’s always the blended Barolo that keeps calling me back. At each occasion, I’ve found that signature freshness and drinkability that Vajra magically seems to capture in the bottle (a quality due, no doubt, to meticulous, gentle vineyard management and an honesty in the cellar).

@David, btw, would love to hear your recent notes on this wine.

Above: The Vajra family begin bottling the historic Baudana wines in 2009 with the 2005 vintage.

We also re-tasted the 2005 Barolo by Baudana, which the Vajra family began bottling for the iconic Langa family in 2009. I can’t say that I am a big fan of the 2005: its woody notes are a turn-off for me. Giuseppe did tell me that for the 2006 vintage, the barrique is toned down. And he added that we’ll see great things from these historic vineyards in vintages to follow (where he plays a greater role in the aging regimen).

As an indication of the greatness and potential of these historic vineyards in Serralunga (Baudana and Cerretta), Giuseppe also pointed to Mr. Franco Ziliani’s recent post on the 1982 Franco Fiorina Barolo, which was sourced in part from Baudana (I translated Mr. Ziliani’s post for VinoWire).

In all honesty, I’m not such a fan of the wine as it is right now. But I do believe that its future in the hands of Giuseppe and his father Aldo has immense potential to become one of the great icons of Langa. Stay tuned…

And let’s keep our fingers crossed that Vajra wines make it to Texas this fall! I don’t know how much longer Tracie P and I can survive without super-old-school Vajra Moscato d’Asti!

Thanks for reading!

6 thoughts on “The story behind Vajra’s Barolo Albe

  1. When you write about the “super-old-school” Moscato d’Asti from Vajra, I’m confused. I think the wine is absolutely delicious and I love it just as much as you do. But there are dozens of other excellent producers of Moscato d’Asti who make their wine in a similar style (Oddero, Saracco, e.g.).

    What exactly is the “super-old-school” of Moscato d’Asti and how does it differ from the modern style? Seems to me these wines are all fresh and modern.

  2. Hey Jeremy,

    I’m very glad to hear that the Vajra wines are on their way to TX — and that you got to spend a little time with Giuseppe, who’s a truly great guy.

    I haven’t had the chance to drink the ’05 Albe as often as I’d like but my basic impressions are that it’s a bit darker fruited and richer than in the past several vintages (aside, perhaps, from ’03). More importantly, though, it’s delicious and definitely still classic in style.

    Thanks for the shout-out, bro!

  3. @Tom We found the Vajra Moscato d’Asti to be a little more dense and richer in mouthfeel than most others and when I remarked on this in Aldo’s presence, he said that he prefers this “vecchio stile” or “old style” expression of the appellation. He then told us how the style reminded him of the Moscato that he knew as a child. I guess your impression of the wine was a little different. We loved it. Thanks for your insightful comment.

    @David When we tasted with Giuseppe the other day, he noted how the Barolo Albe is actually the more “traditional” of the two Barolo because it is a blended wine, whereas the single-vineyard Bricco delle Viole is a more recent designation for the winery. I’d tasted Vajra’s wines over the years but it was in 2008 when I started reading your posts about them that I started following them more closely. Thanks again for hipping me to that, man! The Vajra folks are remarkably cool and balanced people in a place where extremes don’t always bring out the best in everyone. The wines, fantastic…

  4. Hi Jeremy, what did Aldo say was different about his Moscato vinification? I assume by “more dense and richer in mouthfeel” that “vecchio stile” actually means less frizzante (fewer atmospheres)? I remember preferring the Albe (new label design in ’05?) to the Viole also but need to taste these again, it’s been a while.

  5. @Jesse don’t get me wrong: I love the Bricco delle Viole but kind of like with Produttori del Barbaresco, I find myself drawn to the cuvée over and over again… Of course, I think the Bricco delle Viole will be amazing in just a few years… I’ll see if I can find out more on the vinification of the Moscato.

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