Colli Piacentini (Hills of Piacenza) is a wine region in the northwest of Italy near the point where Emilia-Romagna meets Piedmont, Lombardy, and Liguria. It is a storied land where viticulture has been practiced since as far back as 2000 BCE and some of the techniques that the ancient Etruscan civilization developed are still in practice today.
A top producer in the region, La Stoppa was founded in the late 19th century by Gian-Carlo Ageno, a lawyer from Genova. The estate is currently run by Elena Pantaleoni and enologist Giulio Armani. Elena’s father purchased the estate in 1973, a lifelong dream realized. Elena joined him to work at the winery full-time in 1991.
The estate has a fascinating history of vinegrowing. Gian-Carlo Ageno was the first to plant there after purchasing the land. When the phylloxera epidemic hit, he was forced to replant in the 1920s, choosing at the time to experiment with international varieties like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Tokay, Pinot Gris, Grechetto, Pinot Noir, and others. Although the Pantaleonis were making good wine from this fruit for a couple of decades, they realized the early-ripening characteristics of those varieties weren’t suitable to produce wines that truly expressed place. In 1996 they made the decision to pull those vines and replant with local varieties Barbera, Bonarda, and Malvasia di Candia Aromatica.
La Stoppa’s 79 acres of vines are grown in clay/silt soils and balanced by almost as much forested area surrounding the vines. The farming has been organic since the early 1990s with official certification in 2008. Elena believes someday that her nieces and nephews will take over the estate, so she feels like its guardian and works to preserve and maintain its sanctity.
In the cellar, indigenous yeasts are used to ferment the wines. Long skin macerations are the norm for the warm climate and sulfites are never added during vinification. Stainless steel, cement, and wooden tanks are used for fermentation with both large and small barrels used for aging. Elena eschews DOC classifications, believing that the DOC regulations are too inclusive in terms of permitted varieties, geographical boundaries, and production techniques. She chooses to bottle her wines under the broader classification Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) instead.
Indeed, every aspect of production is focused toward producing wines with the identity of Colli Piacentini. German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer once wrote, “Culture is the only good of humanity that divided between us all, instead of diminishing, will become greater.” It is a concept that Elena Pantaleoni puts into practice everyday.
All prices based on the purchase of six or more bottles (mix and match).
~$21 “Trebbiolo” (Vino Rosso 2017) RED
First produced in 1988, the name “Trebbiolo” comes from the vines’ proximity to the Trebbia river, about two miles west of the estate. It is the traditional blend of Colli Piacentini, 60% Barbera and 40% Bonarda, obtained from a selection of the larger berries, and the younger and lower parcels. The vines are 7, 15, and 40 years old. Fermentation and aging occurs in stainless steel and cement tanks. A downright poundable wine with aromas of sweet black cherry and sun-drenched terra cotta. A sip is full of voluptuous fruit with plenty of acid to balance it out and just a hint of tannin on the finish. A stellar wine to pair with pretty much any carry-out dinner, especially if it’s pizza.
~$38 “Macchiona” (Emilia Rosso IGT, 2011) RED
La Stoppa’s flagship wine produced since 1973 is a blend of 50% Barbera and 50% Bonarda from vines 15 and 40 years old. “Macchiona” is the name of a farmhouse found among the most traditional vineyards of the Colli Piacentini. The wine sees 40 days maceration on skins in stainless steel and/or cement tanks before aging in Slavonian oak barrels of 1,000 and 2,000 liters as well as 4,000 liter wooden tanks. The wine is not filtered and no sulphites are added. Heady aromatics of summer berries, rose, allspice, and earth precede a medium-bodied sip with serious mineral length. With eight years of time since harvest, the wine is fully integrated, mature, and drinking at its peak.
~$38 “Ageno” (Emilia Bianco IGT, 2013) WHITE
Named after the founder of La Stoppa, Gian-Carlo Ageno, the blend is 90% Malvasia di Candia Aromatica finished with 10% Ortrugo and Trebbiano. “Ageno” is a skin macerated “orange wine” produced since 2002 — well before orange wines became the new thing. The wine sees around four months maceration on skins in stainless steel and/or cement tanks before aging in 4,000 liter wooden tanks. The wine is not filtered and no sulphites are added. Flowers, sweet citrus, and orchard fruits play alongside an herbal musk. The extended skin contact creates a warm-climate white with the textures and length of a red wine. Depth, complexity, and minerality abound.