G. D. Vajra, Barolo, Piedmont, Italy

G.D.Vajra (pronounced Vie-rah) is a highly-acclaimed winery located in the town Barolo of in northeast Italy’s Piedmont. Aldo Vajra is a quiet and low-key man, a poet and a philosopher as well as a winemaker. He is assisted by son Giuseppi and wife Milena. His wines display great finesse and elegance, he does not strive for blockbusters. His winemaking philosophy is “the pure retention of fruit and flowers” in both the aroma and flavors. I met him on a 2003 Italian trip with the late importer David Bryant. We tasted, toured the winery and vineyards, and dined at his favorite local restaurant. Vajra is a organic winery.

“I try to make wines that give people joy. In the past wine was a food, it was necessary for sustenance. Today that is not the case; we choose to drink for pleasure. I want to make wines that bring people happiness.” ~ Aldo Vajra

In an article in Food & Wine, Faith Heller Willinger wrote:
Aldo Vajra is one such traditionalist; he makes a beautiful regular Barolo as well as single-vineyard Barolos, such as Bricco delle Viole, and the lovely Dolcetto d’Alba Coste & Fossati. His winery brochure once contained a packet of earth for each wine, and Vajra also contends that “Color is a component, not an end.” Indeed, the terroir of the vineyards might explain why Vajra’s wines tend to be an old-fashioned garnet hue rather than a modern ruby. Vajra defends his approach, saying, “Like a diamond, each terrain has its own facets, each producer has his own sensibility, resulting in a wide variety of wines made with the same grapes.” Sometimes, Vajra notes, this is hard to detect in some of the newer-style wines. He can’t resist adding, “Traditional wines are more elegant, with more delicate perfumes, leaner, somewhat difficult, but offering more pleasure at the table.” Traditionalists, he adds, make wines to drink, not to serve as “wallpaper.”

“…una finestra da cui osservare
il susseguirsi delle
stagioni sulle colline,
la maturazione dei grappoli nei vigneti,
l’affinarsi dei vini in cantina.
Un luogo che parli della nostra terra
e di noi che lavoriamo
per raccoglierne i frutti migliori.”
milena vaira
“… a window from which to see
the seasons on the hills,
the ripening of the grapes,
the ageing of the wines in the cellar.
A place that speaks about our land and of
those who work to harvest the best fruit.”
milena vaira

Langhe Rosso 2014
A blend of mainly Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, & Barbera with small quantities of Albarossa, Freisa and Pinot Noir. “Aromas of red fruits, plums, underbrush as well as floral and spicy fragrances intrigue your senses from the very first moment. A nice correspondence on the palate where hints of almond, black pepper and Asian spices come together for a nice refreshing finish.”

Langhe Nebbiolo 2014
For all intents a “baby” Barolo. “Ruby red, delicate and at times transparent. Intense expressive aromas of violets, withered roses layered over small red berry notes. Silky tannins envelop the palate with personality and vivacious energy.”

Barolo “Albe” 2012
“a Barolo of great character and refined balance, where beautiful aromas, refined equilibrium and ripe tannins, come together in perfect harmony. Ruby red, delicate and at times transparent. Intense expressive aromas of violets, withered roses layered over small red berry notes. Silky tannins envelop the palate with personality and vivacious energy.”

Luigi Baudana, Langhe Bianco “Dragon” 2015
80% Chardonnay, 20% Sauvignon, Riesling and Nascetta
“Dry perfumes of stone, flowers, and summery grass with a slightly savory taste on the palate. This is the promise of a Serralunga white. The touches of Riesling and Nascetta add to an extra hint of elegance, giving it a long refreshing finish.”
“Luigi planted Chardonnay and a touch of Sauvignon in the early 80s, at the peak of the Langhe Chard-boom. Admittedly, it is not easy to farm Chard and Sauvignon on land which has produced the most structured Barolos since ancient times. However, the Vaira family wanted to carry on Luigi’s tradition and were excited to work with more mature vines with lower yields and beautiful fruit. To give the wine more depth and elegance, the kids decided to steal a little bit of their father’s beloved Riesling as well as add the local grape variety Nascetta.”
***
This picture was taken at Aldo’s steep new vineyard with a “belvedere” or beautiful view of the town of Barbaresco. The ground was naked except for the lines of stakes marking where the vines were to be planted come spring. On the southern facing slope the soil was white or “terra bianca” and on the eastern slope was red soil or “terra rossa.” The terra bianca is the classic Piedmontese soil for Nebbiolo (which makes Barolo and Barberesco) and Dolcetto, while the terra rossa is ideal for Barbera. In the photo, Aldo is holding a handful of each soil type.
The Wine Advocate:
“For some reason the wines of Aldo Vajra remain less well known than they deserve to be, but this set of new releases may go a long way towards rectifying that situation. It is fairly easy for a producer to make one great wine, and it is also not uncommon to find a large quality gap between an estate’s top wine(s) and the more modest wines. Not here. Every wine I tasted was impeccably made and shows this producer’s elegant, graceful style at its finest.”

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