Lodali: Wines of the Langhe
Carved into the hillside of the small commune of Treiso in the production area of Barbaresco, the Lodali wine cellar is one of the most striking and elegant I have had the fortune to come across in Piedmont. We were guests of winemaker Walter Lodali, a third generation winemaker on the endless undulations of the Langhe.
Here in the Langhe some of the most famous North Italian wines are made, not least Barolo, Barbaresco and Moscato. However, Walter Lodali does not only make the traditional wines of his region, but also works with some international varieties as well, making single varietals like Chardonnay and we what we jokingly called ‘Super Piedmonts’ – blends of local grapes with international varieties in the style of the Super Tuscan.
In the cellar
We began with a tour of the splendid cellars and winery. In the library of wines, ancient bottles slumber that have rested their since Walter’s grandfather Giovanni was heading up the operation. Giovanni began making wine to service his small restaurant in Treiso, believing you had to have the best grapes to set you apart in a region where everyone knows their wine. This has laid a solid foundation for Lodali, who now occupy both premium and mid-range position across a range of wine styles.
Each grape and each wine is given careful thought and individual treatment – as demonstrated by the mix of concrete vessels, large wooden botti, regular sized barrels and stainless steel vessels in the winery. Each wine is carefully fermented and then aged according to its own needs and strengths.
What grows together goes together and so it was particularly exciting to be invited to try the wines alongside a plate of cured meats from the Lodali’s own cellar, the robust flavoured salami hanging directly along the wines. And of course, there can be no better accompaniment to a wine than the company of its jovial maker, and here Walter Lodali was the perfect host and a great entertainer!
Langhe Chardonnay 2018 (Langhe DOC)
A 100% Chardonnay that was full of soft peach and apple aromas and flavours, along with some green grass-like notes. This is a light bodied, medium acidity wine that softens nicely when paired with food, but retains it’s slight bitterness on the finish which gives it interest and distinguishes this as a Chardonnay from the Langhe.
Roero Arneis 2018 (DOCG)
Floral and stone fruit aromas, supported by flavours of nectarine, peach and a soft hint of blossom. A medium body that fills the mouth with a strong acidity and a long finish with citrus hints coming through at the end, but without being sharp or bitter. Aged 3 months in stainless steel which I think is what gives it the delicate mouthfeel.
Langhe Chardonnay Lorens 2018 (DOCG)
Pretty much my favourite style of Chardonnay, 11 month aged in French oak barrels, undergone malolactic fermentation and 6 months in bottles. Apparently also popular in Switzerland, Florida, Denmark and Belgium but not the UK. I want my buttery Chardonnays back!
Anyway, this was a dream for me – vanilla and a light salinity on the nose which gave way to a full bodied, creamy, buttery hit that envelopes your palate. Flavours of soft, balanced greengage and gooseberry melded with the vanilla and mineral notes. Then the whole dissolved into a soft creamy finish which retained a hint of its balancing acidity. Yes please. Give me a glass of this with some smoked salmon every day of the week.
Nebbiolo d’Alba 2017 (DOC)
The flexibility of the Nebbiolo grape never ceases to amaze me when I visit Piedmont, and this was a particularly fine example made from grapes exclusively grown in the municipality of Pocapaglia. Aged 12 months in the large 26HL botti made of Croatian wood, this wine is still in the flush of youth, bursting out of the glass with violets and blackberries. A light bodied wine with a medium but puckering tannin, I enjoyed flavours of cherry jam, black fruits and a hint of violet with a long elegant finish. The fruit flavours and slightly biting tannins would be deliciously moderated with the addition of salty food, but as Walter said, this is “the essence of Nebbiolo.”
Barbaresco Rocche dei 7 Fratelli 2016 (DOCG)
Made exclusively with Lodali grapes grown within 3km of the tasting room where we sat, this 100% Nebbiolo has an 18 day maceration followed by 18 months in the large botti, in older Croatian oak to add only a softer oak flavour to the wine. It had a halo of spice, dried flowers, cured meat and tobacco. In the mouth this interesting savoury dried meat note persisted but was moderated by the dark fruit brooding in the backgrounds. As you would expect with a carefully aged Barbaresco like this, it was a medium, medium plus acidity with moderate tannins and body but still had a long savoury finish, all brought into balance by the harmonising impact of the light oak flavours in the wine.
Barbera d’Alba Lorens 2017 (DOC)
When in Rome…. Well, when in Alba really. Another ‘Lorens’ – the pedigree breeds of Lodali’s wine range, which are reserve wines made with the best grapes of select vineyards. This was a 100% Barbera where the grapes in Treiso and Roddi are carefully thinned at veraison to give the very best harvest from Lodali’s own vineyards. I am a huge Barbera fan, and this was a beautiful example, having a year in 70% new oak barrels which brought out vanilla and pepper in a complex bouquet that also included blueberry, blackberry, a dash of caramel and even a little acetone.
When you drank it, there was round juicy fruit breaking on your tongue – sour cherry and blackberry predominantly, that gave way to cinnamon and sweet spice and finally softening into vanilla smoothness as the initial hit of tannin mellows in the mouth.
Barolo Lorens 2015 (DOCG)
Of course, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try The King, as Walter described it! And he’s not the only one that loves it. It falls into the 1% top rated wines in the world on Vivino. It’s not massively hard to see why, even though no doubt this wine will continue to get better and better as the years go by. After 30 months in 30% new oak and 12 months in the bottle, Walter might consider allowing you to drink this Barolo. It has a heavy bouquet of tar, liquorice and dried flowers – pretty quintessential Barolo.
Which to be fair, is what you expect. Nobody is trying to riff off Barolo. Everyone is trying to make the purest expression of Barolo that there has ever been. There is cache of a reputational and financial nature attached to that particular DOCG. And this one is a real powerhouse. Flavours of plum and cherry are accompanied by hefty but intergrated tannins, with complex layers of liquorice spice and green and black pepper. It has an incredibly long finish, where the fruit unfolds further and takes on new dimensions. In the parlance of my WSET Level 3 training, it has all the characteristics to simply be hailed as an outstanding wine.
No DOC here – this is our wildcard, our ‘Super Piedmont’. A blend of 50% Nebbiolo and 50% Petit Verdot grown in Roddi, this is 14 month aged in barrels, 6 months in bottles and then released on a lucky public. The first plantings of Petit Verdot under Lodali’s auspices took place in 2005 with the first vintage of Alchimia in 2008. Big in Belgium and Poland apparently!
This had a lot more blackcurrant than you would expect, but also hefty earthy leather dampening down the fruit and complimented by black pepper, nutmeg and other sweet spices which moderate the heavy tannins and add complexity to this full bodied but incredibly well rounded wine. A massive hit for me and a beautifully structured wine that I would love to serve with rich meaty dishes and savoury mushroom or truffle.
Thank you to Walter and the Lodali team for gifting us a tour and tasting and thank you to WhyNet.it for their assistance in organising the visit, particularly the endlessly helpful Alessandra!