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!

A “wife for Barolo”? Aldo Vajra’s Riesling


Above: Tracie P and I tasted with Aldo Vajra at his winery in early February. You can taste Aldo’s excellent 2005 Barolo Albe with me today, Sunday, at Jaynes Gastropub in San Diego, 5-7 p.m.

When revered Italian wine scribbler Mr. Franco Ziliani asked Tracie P and me if we would mind tasting with Aldo Vajra in Barolo before we headed out to meet and taste with his dear friend Giovanna Rizzolio at Cascina delle Rose, we were thrilled, of course. Mr. Ziliani was interested in tasting Vajra’s first bottling of 2005 Baudana: Aldo’s newly inaugurated stewardship has preserved the legacy of the famous Luigi Baudana estate.


I won’t go into a history of Vajra here. Ubi major, minor cessat: no one has written more eloquently about Vajra and its wines than a wine writer I truly admire — both for his generosity of spirit and his deft hand at the keyboard — David McDuff. I will say that wines we tasted that day were awesome, across the board. As I peruse my notes from our visit, I am reminded that highlights were:

Vajra 2008 Dolcetto Coste & Fossati

Earthiness that balances the fruit beautifully.

Vajra 2007 Barbera d’Alba

Fantastic! Nebbioleggia!

Vajra 2006 Freisa Kyè

OUR kinda wine, tannic, and earthy, with nice fruit and great acidity.

Vajra 2005 Barolo Bricco delle Viole

Wow! Yes! Earthy, structure, gorgeous mouth. Superb.

Vajra 2009 Moscato d’Asti

Best Moscato d’Asti I’ve ever had. Unctuous in the mouth, gorgeous fruit, simply stunning expression of this wine.


But the wine that intrigued me the most, in part because of Aldo’s keenness for it, was his 2008 Langhe Bianco, made from 100% Riesling, clone 49, to be precise, taken from Alsatian rootstock.

Very little white wine has been produced historically in Langa and even less of it would be considered aristocratic in nature. Aldo spoke to us about his quest to make a truly noble white wine in Barolo: his first vintage of this planting was 1989 and until 1995, when the Langhe Bianco DOC was created, it had to be labeled as a vino da tavola or table wine. Labeling regulations still forbid him from writing the grape variety on the label. He believes that he was the first to plant Reisling in Barolo and I loved the way he described it, as a moglie per il Barolo, a spouse for Barolo. The wine was bright, with elegant white fruit flavors and lip-smacking acidity. I thought it was fantastic and would love to see how it ages. A truly noble white wine. If you can find this wine in your market, I highly recommend it…

aldo vajra

Aldo is such a gracious man and I really love his wines. The 2007s and the 2005s are some of the best I’ve ever tasted from him winery. Really great stuff… and highly recommended… When he found out that we were recently married, he gave us a beautiful coffee-table encyclopedia of Italian cheeses. You can tell from the way he shakes your hand that he’s the type of person who gives a gift without expecting anything in return. But then again, a gift isn’t really a gift if its given with the expectation of something in return, is it?

Speaking of weddings and wedding gifts, remember when Tracie P and drank us some Vajra on another particularly joyous occasion?

Next on deck: “Our Lady of the Deaf River” or “The Subsoil of Rio Sordo Up Close and Personal”…