Valmaggiore is the product of Luciano’s incredible passion for the Nebbiolo grape variety and the desire to show just how its expression can vary depending on the soil in which it is cultivated. Just 15 miles away from Barolo, in the Roero region, Nebbiolo produces a lighter structure and ripe, smooth tannins that are not unlike those of Pinot Noir. The wine drinks well from about age 6 to 12 but will easily last longer in the best vintages. This is not a “baby Barolo” or a second wine at all – it is a distinct interpretation of a completely different geographic winemaking zone. The wine shows delicious floral elements and red fruits, wrapped around a medium-weight structure with a long, delicious finish and modulated, ripe tannins.
The grapes used to make this wine are cultivated in one of the historical cru vineyards in the Roero district – Valmaggiore – situated in the municipality of Vezza d’Alba. Valmaggiore is a project that took years to fully realize and is further evidence of the Sandrone winery’s complete commitment to the expression of great Nebbiolo-based wine. Sandrone’s Valmaggiore is a distinct site of exceptional terroir that was assembled over 8 years from almost 40 different previous owners. Luciano believed so passionately in the qualitative potential of this site that he was willing to wait years for parcels of this hill to become available. The last holdout sold in 1994, and at the end of that year the vineyard renovation and drainage projects (which had started years before) were completed. Now completely replanted and organized for maximum potential quality of fruit, the resulting wines show the unique terroir characteristics of one of the best Roero sites.
Roero is a different world from Barolo: it is a wilder and less developed place when compared to the orderly rows of vines that blanket the Barolo region. Deep forests hug the northern sides of the steep hills, and game runs wild, including foxes, boar and rabbit. The flat narrow valley floors are planted to fruits and vegetables. Typically the Valmaggiore is 3-9 degrees warmer than in Barolo, and spring arrives a week or two earlier.
The Valmaggiore hill itself is incredibly steep: a 100% grade (45 degrees) in places. The soil is comprised almost entirely of sand from shallow sea and beach deposits – fossils are common. There’s almost no organic matter in the soil and the vines have to grow deep down for nutrients. As the sandy site is so well drained, in dry years the vines may suffer.
The steepness of the site prohibits any mechanical work – everything must be done by hand. The single-lane road that winds up through the vineyard allows access for a tractor to the top, but work in the rows on the plants is entirely done by hand. At harvest, a specially designed “sled” which holds 10 picking crates at a time is winched up in the aisles between sections of the vineyard to haul up the just-picked grapes.
Plants are closely spaced for competition and to help hold the hillside up. A walk through the vineyard is an incredible experience. Because it is so steep, you can often see over the plants in the row below you, affording magnificent views of the vines and, on clear days, of the snowcapped Alps. The Sandrone Valmaggiore vineyard is a magical, special place and the wines that are made from these vines show all the uniqueness of the incredible terroir.
Each block is vinified separately. After destemming and light crushing, the must is covered with CO2 for a gentle warm maceration of approximately a day. Alcoholic fermentation begins about 24-36 hours later from native yeasts. A gentle maceration takes place in upright open-top steel tanks for the first 7-9 days of alcoholic fermentation. Immediately after alcoholic fermentation, which takes around 25 days, malolactic fermentation takes place in 500 liter French oak casks. The wine is aged in these casks for 12 months, followed by 9 months bottle aging. Around 1,400 cases are produced in a typical vintage.
“Warm and dry” are the best words to briefly and clearly describe the 2017 vintage. Alleviating the heat were the excellent diurnal temperature shifts that brought cool air during the night, which provided a little relief to the vines even in the hottest days of July and August.
The mild winter led to early bud break. But, in an atypical return of cold in mid-April, the vegetative cycle was slowed by very cold temperatures which which even brought frost to the valley floors. During the periods of pre-flowering and flowering, the cold clearly determined the formation of the grape bunches, leading to looser bunches with better internal air circulation. After May 16 the vegetative cycle was defined by the hot, dry weather that remained until the end of August. The high-pressure zone that formed over Europe for the entire summer led to early maturation.
The summer, warm and dry but with good diurnal temperature shifts, defined the ripening of the grapes. In particular, the veraison was very early, even compared to other early vintages. Starting from the first week in September, temperatures dropped appreciably, and growing patterns were nearer seasonal averages, with considerable differences between day and night temperatures. This situation was further helped by the polyphenolic profile of the red wine grapes with a medium-long vegetative cycle, such as Nebbiolo and Barbera, for which the data differed to those recorded in other “hot” vintages. As a matter of fact, the values observed this year are better in terms of both quantity – accumulation of anthocyanins and tannins – and extractability, an essential factor in wines for ageing.
In short, the cycle was early this year, but the vine was able in any case to enjoy a full development cycle.
The lower yield recorded in the vineyard is in keeping with a year in which there was sparse rainfall.
Based on recorded data, this vintage can certainly be remembered as one of the earliest of recent years, given that the picking of the Nebbiolo grapes began in the middle ten days of September, and ended early in October, around two weeks earlier than the norm.
The 2017 vintage has given us wines showing great promise considering the fears of the beginning of summer, confirming once more how well-suited and well-equipped the hills of the Langhe are for winegrowing.
Harvest took place from September 14th until 23rd.
The 2017 Valmaggiore is characterized by a nose of red fruits with licorice and cola. The wine is delicate and shows great typicity of the vine. In the mouth, there is an initial burst of sweetness framed around the expressive red fruit.
Excellent tannin and acidity help balance the vibrant and ripe red fruit flavors of cherries and cranberries. This is a generous, open and sweet expression of the Valmaggiore. The finish is balanced and ripe, ending with a distinct mineral note.
Follows organic farming but has chosen not to seek certification. Minimal quantities of Bordeaux mixture and sulfur (as allowed per organic practices) are used to control mold and fungus, and fertilization every 4-6 years occurs with composted manure from dairy cows.
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Jeb Dunnuck - "The 2017 Valmaggiore is all Nebbiolo from the sandier soils near Vezza d’Alba, brought up all in French oak. This medium purple-hued effort offers an impressive nose of red and black fruits, toasted spices, dried flowers, and cedarwood. Beautiful on the palate as well, with medium-bodied richness, it actually reminds me of the 2015, yet maybe with a touch more richness. Balanced, seamless, and already a joy to drink, it should evolve for a solid 8-10 years, although there’s no need to delay gratification."
Wine Advocate -
"With scorching heat and little rain overall, there was reason for worry during the 2017 growing season at large, but in the Roero zone by the banks of the Tanaro river, the hilly Valmaggiore vineyards received more rain than other parts of Piedmont, so these grapes did not suffer as much. Lovely notes of red rose and some herbal tones appear on the nose of the 2017 Nebbiolo d'Alba Valmaggiore, coupled with balsam, spice and rosemary. It's voluminous in the mouth, and while the Le Vigne Barolo tends to be the most floral and delicately ethereal of Sandrone's release, this bouquet is distinctive in its own way. It would be a nice pair with a mushroom risotto."
Other Wines by this Producer
Le Vigne is a wine created from four different Nebbiolo vineyards, each of which brings its own contribution. This union generates an exceptionally complex wine that is round and harmonious on the palate, with fruity and spicy notes, and this approach of blending together plots is in fact the traditional one in Barolo.
A combination of the names of Luciano Sandrone's grandchildren ALEssia and STEfano, ALESTE is the new name for Luciano's first wine, the Barolo Cannubi Boschis, which garnered early acclaim with the international trade and press. This single-vineyard wine is typically dense and concentrated, but shows incredible harmony and balance.
The Sandrone Barbera d'Alba comes from three vineyards: Merli and Rocche di San Nicola in Novello, and Cascina Pe Mol in Monforte d’Alba. It is widely considered one of the most intense and complex Barberas produced.
Sandrone's Dolcetto d’Alba is produced using Dolcetto grapes from 11 different vineyards, all within the Barolo DOCG. Sandrone’s Dolcetto sees no time in wood and is a remarkably robust and complex example of the variety.