Roagna & The Barbaresco Crichet Paje
I have written often and passionately about the Roagna Winery. This family and what they are accomplishing is, in my opinion, the next evolutionary step in Barolo. However, nothing could have prepared me for my visit there, speaking one-on-one with Luca Roagna, trudging (at times running and digging) through the vineyards, and then ending our journey with a vertical tasting of Crichet Paje in the family’s newly-completed winery and cellars.
To call Luca a man of passion almost seems too easy. In the wine business, “passion” is a term that we throw around freely, and I feel it almost loses its meaning here. No, Luca Roagna is a man obsessed with gaining a true understanding of his terroir and every living thing that it encompasses–not just the grapes and the vines. Organic and Biodynamic do not apply, because you can’t quantify the practices that have been put to work here. Luca is studying life, energy, and the results of allowing them to feed happily off one another. I know this may sound like the intro to the sequel of the Celestine Prophecy, but I mean these words from the heart, and to witness someone that places so much importance in this work, with the proof in each and every bottle–it’s frankly amazing.
Which brings us to the cellar. I was allowed to taste through the 2013s, yet those notes I’ll save for now, because once we were finished there, Luca began to open bottles of their highly-regarded Barbaresco Crichet Paje, a wine that is often considered to be on the same level as Giacomo Conterno’s Barolo Monfortino. Together with the multiple bottles that Luca opened, along with opportunities to taste other vintages within only a few weeks of this visit, I was able to assemble an impressive vertical of Crichet Paje tasting notes that I wish to share with you today.
A Deep Dive on Crichet Paje
The Barbaresco “Crichet Paje” (from the Piemontese dialect and translated to “top of the small hill”) is sourced from the oldest parcel of self-propagated and own-rooted vines within the esteemed Paje vineyard, planted in rich, white calcareous soils with a high content of limestone. It’s a site that benefits from its excellent exposure to the sun, but also sheltered positioning from highs winds and proximity to the Tanaro River, which helps to moderate temperatures in both hot and cold years. These factors combined make Paje one of the most consistently high-performing sites in all of Barbaresco, a fact that Roagna has been able to exploit again and again, producing great wines in nearly every vintage.
Once harvested, the wine undergoes a ten-day fermentation with indigenous yeast before going through an 80-90 day maceration. From there, Crichet Paje is aged in large neutral wood botti for up to ten years prior to release. In some vintages, 2,000 bottles are produced, and in others, as few as 1,000. You can imagine the level of importance the family places on this wine, and how lucky I felt to be able to taste so many of them.
My hat is off to you, Luca. I am officially humbled, and I left this tasting knowing that it was one of the greatest experiences of my life in wine.
For my last detailed write-up of Roagna, visit: Risk & Reward: Piedmont’s Next Visionary Winemaker
On to the Tasting Notes
Roagna Barbaresco Crichet Paje 2010 – (Barrel Sample) The nose was incredibly layered, showing crushed stone, dried orange, ripe strawberry, dusty spices, wild florals, and a hint of animal musk. On the palate, I found silky textures, yet vibrant as well, as dark red fruits, orange peel, inner florals, minerals, sweet spices, and fine tannin mounted on the senses, building energy and offset by brisk acidity. The finish was remarkably long and structured, yet fresh as well. It’s not often that I put something like this is writing, but the 2010 Crichet Paje may be a perfect wine. (98-100 points)
Roagna Barbaresco Crichet Paje 2008 – Here I found a zesty expression with cranberry, dried orange peel, wild herbs, woodland earth tones, animal musk, florals, and ripe strawberry, On the palate, it was silky yet precise, showing dried red fruits, with savory minerals, in a soft expression with building tannins, which were offset by the textbook acidity of the 2008 vintage. It was incredibly long, structured and precise on the finish, begging for another ten to fifteen years in the cellar, but already willing to give a glimpse of the great things to come. (96 points)
Roagna Barbaresco Crichet Paje 2007 – (Tasted over the course of two days)
Morning (Just opened) – Upon opening the nose was at first feminine and lifted, showing dusty spices and dried floral tones. Yet, as the ‘07 Crichet Paje sat in a glass, it opened to reveal depths of cranberry, sour cherry and strawberry, followed by fresh rose, stone dust, and a hint of cedar. On the palate, I found silky textures offset by brisk acidity in a lifted and refined style as pure red berry fruits mixed with inner florals and spice to create a remarkably pretty display. Fine tannin mounted and made it itself known throughout the finish as dried cranberry, minerals, cedar and inner floral tones lingered.
Evening (Eight Hours Open) – On the evening of the tasting, the wine seemed almost weedy, with restrained cherry and strawberry fruits, crushed stone and roses. On the palate, it displayed incredibly light and feminine textures with pure strawberry, green stems and zesty acidity. Firm tannin coated the senses throughout the finish as hints of dried strawberry lingered long.
Day Two (Thirty-two hours open) – This time the nose was more exotic and floral, as the weedy character from the night before seemed to gain sweetness and spice, making it much more attractive, as well as adding a darker and richer personality; as strawberry changed to cherry laced with roses and hints of mineral undergrowth. On the palate, I found textures of pure silk, with zesty acidity and sour cherry fruit which added energy and thrust. The finish was long displaying fine tannin which saturating the senses, as dried red fruits, minerals and inner rose tones lingered. (95 points)
Roagna Barbaresco Crichet Paje 2006 – Amazing. The nose was dark yet perfumed with a mix of red and black fruits, as notes of dried fall leaves, minerals, black soil, crushed sea shell, apricot, and a hint of lemon zest completed the picture. On the palate, I found silky, deep textures with dark red fruits, yet structured and refined from start to finish, flexing its 2006 tannins. It was so long and intense through the finish, amazing in its balance yet severe with its structure, as dried red fruits lingered long. This is a wine for the ages. (97 points)
Roagna Barbaresco Crichet Paje 2005 – The nose showed crushed strawberry with marine inspired minerals, sweet florals, and dusty spices. On the palate, I found a remarkably fresh expression with strawberry, cedar and spice, as inner florals completed the experience. It was remarkably pretty, savory and mineral-laden all at the same time. The finish was long, zesty yet saturating with fine tannin…lasting LONG. With each sip, the 2005 seemed to glide across the palate with grace. What a beautiful and understated wine. (95 points)
Roagna Barbaresco Crichet Paje 2004 – The nose was dark and much more mature than expected, showing layers of mulled cherry, sweet spice, undergrowth, tobacco, peach, and floral tones. On the palate, I found a soft and vibrant expression, with tart red fruits giving way to cedar and spice, along with hints of leather, showing amazingly balanced acids, contrasting minerals, and savory herbs. The finish was long and pure with hints of fine tannin, yet already drinking so well. Incredibly beautiful to taste right now. (96 points)
Roagna Barbaresco Crichet Paje 2002 – The nose was a model of purity and elegance, with a seductive mix of dried roses, fresh strawberry, orange zest, dusty earth, minerals, hints of rosemary, and floral undergrowth. On the palate, I found silky, feminine textures, ethereal comes to mind, with dried red fruits, florals and exotic spices cascading across the senses, leaving a coating of savory minerals and botanicals in their wake. The finish was long and almost spicy, with still-youthful tannins settling in and floral rose, dried strawberries and minerals tones lingering long. (94 points)
Roagna Barbaresco Crichet Paje 2000 – Here I found a dark and rich display with a mix of black cherry, crushed stone minerality and hints of animal muskiness. On the palate, silky, soft textures gave way to mineral-infused black cherry with a balanced mix of zesty acids, youthful tannin and minerals. The finish was long, as its tannins began to settle in, firming up the experience and promising many years of development. Admittedly, I wanted more depth from the 2000 Crichet Paje, yet the wine delivered in spite of the vintage. (93 points)
Roagna Barbaresco Crichet Paje 1998 – The nose was dark and earthy, opening with crushed stone, dried roses and undergrowth, but then evolving to show spiced cherry and masses of dried florals. It was wonderfully soft upon entry, displaying fleshy black cherry and plum with saturating earthy mineral tones and a wave of balanced acidity. The finish was long, as the Crichet Paje flexed its remaining structural muscle with hints of grippy tannin, saturating tart cherry, and a lingering note of bergamot. What an amazing wine. (96 points)