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.
A wet late winter and early spring replenished the water tables. Budbreak was late March in the normal timeframe. Heat arrived after the flowering in late June for 10 days, which helped with the berry set. The rest of the vegetative cycle was cooler than normal except for another 10 days of moderate heat just before the veraison.
Intermittent rains throughout the summer refreshed the plants and ground cover vegetation.
A water bomb on the 5 September brought hail to some parts of the Barolo and Barbaresco areas, luckily, none of the Sandrone vineyards were affected, though the hail passed about 500 meters from the Baudana vineyard sites.
From the 6 September on conditions were perfect thru the rest of the harvest period, with warm, dry days and cool, refreshing nights. The vineyards that provide fruit for Valmaggiore and the Barbera shook off the excess rain, dried out in a few days, and continued their march toward optimum ripeness.
Barbera and Nebbiolo both benefit from these conditions as they allow for optimum balance between fruit and acid. Harvest took place from September 3rd until 10th.
The 2019 Valmaggiore Nebbiolo d’Alba is on the side of more structured examples of this bottling, yet shows potential for approachability with a few years of patience.
Red cherry and raspberry perfumes mix with rose petal and licorice, framed by a hint of pepper. On the palate, it is mid-weight and nicely structured with red cherry and blackberry fruit.
It shows great sweetness in the mouth, but is never cloying – it is a wine that speaks softly yet forcefully.
The tannins are long, ripe and very structured but delicately framed, and its long, dry finish ends with a 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.
Suggested Retail Price
Wine Advocate - "The Luciano Sandrone 2019 Nebbiolo d'Alba Valmaggiore is a beautiful expression of this mighty red grape from the north of Italy. The Valmaggiore vineyard in Roero offers a spicy and accessible interpretation with plenty of wild cherry and blue flower. This vintage also offers pretty layer of crushed white peppercorn. You get terrific complexity and a very food-friendly ensemble at a competitive price." - M.L.
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.