LA STOPPA, Elena Pantaleoni, Rivergaro
Certified organic, natural
La Stoppa is a 58 hectares estate (30 planted to vines) located in the Colli Piacentini in north-west Emilia-Romagna. Founded in the late 19th century by a wealthy lawyer named Giancarlo Ageno, the estate was bought by Elena Pantaleoni’s father in 1973. At the time, the estate focused on producing international style wines. Elena inherited the estate in 1991 and by 1996, she and head vignaiolo Giulio Armani began to execute the vision they had for the future of the estate. They replanted 32 hectares of Barbera and Bornada, as well as a small amount of Malvasia Candia, Ortrugo and Trebianno, all of which were much more suited to the hot climate (it can be hotter than Sicily during the summer) and heavy clay soils of the Colli Piacentini.
The vines were worked organically from the early 90s and La Stoppa received organic certification in 2008. Elena, in typical humble fashion, describes herself as ‘la custode de la vigne’, merely a guardian, until she in her turn passes the estate to the next generation. Her low-key, but powerful conviction is that her responsibility is to farm and make wine in as sustainable, non-interventionist and authentic a way as possible. The wines qualify for Colli Piacentini DOC, but are bottled as Emilia IGT because she feels that the rules of the DOC do not allow the authenticity of the terroir to speak. Her stances on the necessity of truly artisan (as opposed to industrial) production, the use of indigenous grape varieties, yeasts and minimal intervention in the cantina have made her a leading voice for devotees of natural, artisanal wine. She featured in Jonathan Nossiter’s 2015 documentary ‘Natural Resistance’.
50% Barbera/50% Bonarda (aka Croatina). Named for an old farmhouse in the midst of the vineyard, Macchiona is La Stoppa’s flagship red. It is made with the estate’s oldest vines (up to about 65 years old), grown on silty clay soils and farmed organically, with no fertilizers and with wild plants flourishing between rows. The fruit is harvested by hand, then destemmed and crushed. The juice is fermented with native yeasts and without sulfur in concrete and stainless steel; maceration with the skins lasts 45 days. The wine is aged for about 3 years in 10-to-20-hectoliter Slavonian oak botti. It is bottled unfiltered and aged for at least 2 more years before release; vintages are often not released in sequence.
*Note: the 2002 has a slightly different label from other vintages of Macchiona. The “dieciannidopo” or “ten years later” is a nod to that vintage having been held back for 10 years before release.