Text Size:-+

2004 La Stoppa "Ageno" White Blend, Emilia-Romagna, Italy

ageno_04.jpgMost people faced a with the choice of merely a specific color of wine to drink will consider their stated preference between the options of red, white, or pink. My choice is none of the above. If I had to swear my allegiance to one color of wine, it would be orange.

I have a friend who has seriously suggested that the world ought to acknowledge orange as a legitimate fourth color when it comes to wine. I don't know that I'd go that far, but I would seriously suggest that everyone drink as much of it as they can get their hands on.

Orange wines aren't easy to come by, but to my mind they represent some of the most exciting wines being made on the planet. And this wine is a perfect example.

La Stoppa winery began in 1973 with the vision of Rafael Pantaleoni, who purchased the estate with the hopes of making a small amount of wine and an honest living for his family. The land, which occupies a nook in the Piacenza province of Italy's Emilia-Romagna region, has been planted with vines for well over 100 years. The estate's original owners left Pantaleoni and his daughter, who now runs the winery, a gift of some extremely old vines growing both Italian and French varieties.

With a lot of work, the Pantaleoni family have retained and nurtured some of the oldest vines of the estate, as well as carefully replanting and restructuring the vineyards to include more of the local varieties. The roughly 70 acres of vineyards in the shade of the estate's medieval tower are rather sparsely planted as well as nutrient poor from a soil standpoint. Consequently, those 70 acres don't produce much fruit, but Elena Pantaleoni and her winemaker Giulio Armani make good use of what they get.

And by good use, I mean making wines that speak of a startling vision, of which this wine named Ageno is perhaps the best example.

This wine is made from a combination of three white grape varieties: Malvasia, Trebbiano, and the extremely local variety known as Ortrugo, with the majority of the wine being Malvasia grown on 36-year-old vines. As a blend this is already somewhat unusual, but things get truly wacky as soon as the grapes are picked and destemmed, for instead of being vinified like a white wine, this one is treated like a red, which means chiefly that it is fermented with native yeasts in contact with its skins for more than 30 days. After this it is pressed off into a combination of steel tanks and neutral oak barrels where it ages on its lees (the sediment that settles to the bottom of the barrel) for 12 months before bottling without filtration of any kind.

This is the third vintage of Ageno of which only about 160 cases are made. This small quantity means that it may be difficult to find, but if you can, it is worth all the effort and whatever price you might have to pay, as it represents both a great achievement of artisan winemaking as well as a perfect example of why orange wines kick ass.

Tasting Notes:
A gorgeous medium amber-orange color in the glass, with a distinct haze of cloudiness, this wine has a phenomenal, almost otherworldly nose of exotic flowers, saffron, and orange creamsicle. On the palate it is weighty, with a texture that is almost tannic in quality, gripping the tongue with a velvet glove. From a flavor standpoint it is nearly indescribable -- brown sugar, honeysuckle, saffron, cream soda, and unbelievably, the distinct flavor of coffee and cream on a finish that can be measured in minutes. Evolves gorgeously in the glass, and I highly recommend decanting for 1-2 hours prior to serving, especially if you can keep it cool while decanting.

Food Pairing:
While the amazing individuality of this wine begs for careful consideration on its own, I enjoyed it with hard Italian cheeses and Jamon Iberico.

Overall Score: between 9.5 and 10

How Much?: $30

This wine is available for purchase on the Internet.

Buy My Award-Winning Book!

small_final_covershot_dropshadow.jpg A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. 2015 Roederer Award Winner.Learn more.

Follow Me On:

Twitter Instagram Delectable Flipboard Pinterest

Most Recent Entries

Vinography Images: Unglamorous Work A Lesson in the Loss of Denis Malbec I'll Drink to That: Kimberly Prokoshyn of Rebelle Restaurant Wine News: What I'm Reading the Week of 6/19/16 Vinography Unboxed: Week of June 12, 2016 Warm Up: Richebourg I'll Drink to That: Jean-Nicolas Méo of Méo-Camuzet Vinography Images: It's Nice to be King It's Time for American Wineries to Grow Up I'll Drink to That: Joy Kull of La Villana Winery

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune

Archives by Month


Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud