2018 G.D. Vajra, Langhe Riesling “Petracine” Piedmonte, Italy.
One of my absolute favorite whites, the G.D. Vajra dry Riesling, comes from high elevation plots near Barolo in Vajra’s cru sites Fossati and Bricco Bertone on marl, sand, stones and clay soils. This 2018 is one of the best and aromatic versions I’ve tried of Vajra’s Riesling Pétracine which is due to be released soon and it is produced only with the oldest vines. These Vajra parcels are the oldest known plantings of Riesling in Piemonte, going in the ground from a special Rheingau clone believed to have been from Alsace’s famous Marcel Deiss own cuttings back in 1985. It is a stunning Riesling, one of the most exciting outside of Alsace and Germany sourced from sites that are on hillsides near a forested area with east/south-east exposures at 420-480 meters above sea level, where it stays very cool, helping retain loads of natural acidity while allowing for ripe complexity. Its name Pétracine comes from an ancient synonym of Riesling, meaning ‘the roots [into] the stone’ that explains why the grape, usually found in slate and or sandstones is known historically for doing well in rocky soils. This is exceptionally cool stuff from Giuseppe Vajra, who is best known for his cru Barolo, the Bricco Delle Viole and his unique Kye Freisa, made from of Piedmonte’s rare and almost forgotten red grapes, but he also does a solid lineup of Barbera, Dolcetto and Nebbiolo varietal wines that are insane value offerings. Sadly I missed the Vajra family at the San Francisco Slow Wine Tasting, they are some of the nicest people in the wine world, but I did get a preview of the Riesling and got a taste of Vajra’s latest Barolo cru Coste di Rose, which is outrageously good and perfumed, both are not to be missed.
The brightly fresh, peachy and vivid 2018 Vajra Langhe Riesling has a warm sunny pale golden hue and shows a beautiful zesty tension on the delicately medium bodied palate with an array of citrus and stone fruits leading the way, it gains layers and vinous generosity with every sip, but stays taught and impeccably focused throughout. There is a fascinating dimension of wet stones, tropical notes, spiced crystalized ginger and tangy quince that really adds class and pop to the Riesling’s profile along with hints of rosewater, lemon verbena and lingering jasmine blossoms, making for gigantic turn on and with its brisk steeliness and lively acidity it certainly plays well with briny/saline shellfish, from mussels to claims, as well as oysters and crab dishes. Giuseppe Vajra is making some amazing wines, each with their own signature style and terroir showing up the bottle, like this Riesling which was hand harvested to be sure all the grapes and clusters came into the cellar intact then gently pressed and cold soaked or settled for approximately 20 days before fermentation to help drop out any green phenolics and the wine was aged exclusively on the fine lees for about 8 months in stainless steel. The Vajra’s led the way with Riesling in the Langhe and while almost 20 other producers now grow and make own expressions, Vajra’s remains a step ahead and this wine is pretty close to what you could call an Italian Grosses Gewachs or an Alsace Grand Cru bottling, it is a guilty pleasure that I always cherish! I can’t wait for this 2018 to reach America
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive