When I first discovered the macerated monolith that is La Stoppa’s Ageno, I made the assumption that it was a bit of a one-off. Like so many assumptions, it turned out to be completely false.
La Stoppa is one of a clutch of low-intervention producers, all based in the Colli Piacentini region, in north-west Emila-Romagna. Let’s call them “The Piacentini Boys” – as they are all boys, with the honourable exception of La Stoppa‘s head of state Elena Pantaleoni. The winemakers are maestro Giulio Armani (La Stoppa, Denavolo), Alberto Anguissola (Casè), Andrea Cervini (Vino del Poggio), Massimiano Croci and (not quite in Piacentini but in nearby Parma) Alberto Carretti (Podere Pradarolo).
Apart from their low-intervention philosophy, and the near-total absence of added sulphites in any of the wines, these slightly rebellious producers are bound together by what grows in their vineyards. The headily-perfumed Malvasia di Candia Aromatica is the main white grape, genetically distinct from most other common types of Malvasia, and certainly unmistakable in the glass.
Where La Stoppa, Vino del Poggio and Pradarolo coax structure and robustness from the variety, Alberto Anguissola’s Candia-dominated blend always feels more capricious and delicately-perfumed.
Alberto started out with a bit of a Pinot Noir obsession, planting Burgundy-clones in the late 90s. But his oldest vineyard also had a medley of locally popular white varieties growing amidst the reds. Along with Malvasia di Candia Aromatica were Ortrugo (indigenous), Marsanne (surprisingly common here) and Moscato (everywhere). Macerated for roughly 30 days, this curious blend becomes Casè Bianco after a further passage in stainless steel tanks. Anguissola’s tiny winery probably doesn’t have enough floorspace spare to squeeze in filtering equipment, and even if it did, he would not be using it. Nor does he add any sulphur, or any other kind of addition, at any point.
Casè Bianco 2016 is the latest release (you’ll have to hunt for the vintage indication, only apparent from the lot number, as this wine bears a humble ‘Vino Bianco’ designation and is not allowed to speak its makeup, provenance or temporal specificity on the label). It has a typically opulent, yet floral perfume, suggesting everything from candied papaya to white roses and haybarns. The position of Anguissola’s vineyards at between 350 – 550m altitude helps to ensure lively acidity. Even with 30 days of skin contact, the structure is all about lightness-of-touch. There are no macho tannins here, just a kiss of phenolics and a subtle grip on the finish.
Alberto’s wines can be temperamental when young, and the 2016 is no exception. Its endearing funkiness, evident on opening, heads towards a rodent dark-side after a few hours, or a few degrees increase in temperature. Yet his wines achieve remarkable harmony and stability with more bottle-age. A Casè Bianco 2012, kindly broached by Giulio Armani at a rather epic lunch this October, was peerless – haunting in its aromas, robust in structure yet feminine in gait.
Casé wines are available in the Netherlands from Vinum Naturale.