A Conversation with Mauro Veglio of Annunziata
“Ultimately, it was the collective, the collaboration that lifted Piemonte from the poverty it experienced in the 1950’s and 60’s,” said Mauro Veglio. And though Veglio has opted to make his wines without the help of a consultant, to avoid any chances of homogenization, he does share ideas and taste with his peers. Living alongside Elio Altare, to whom many attribute the beginnings of a vine revolution in Piemonte, Veglio learned from Altare the base of his current practices. “It wasn’t until Altare came along that people started farming properly,” he said. Green harvests, shorter macerations, small barriques and clean practices in the cellar–these are just some techniques that were passed along from Altare to Veglio, good friends who still share ideas and equipment in the vineyard and cellar, just as they share thoughts on each other’s wines before bottling. “If you taste only your own wines, you might not see the necessary changes,” said Veglio, before admitting that “this type of exchange is very difficult to find amongst winemakers in Italy.”
Taking over the family’s vineyards in 1992, Veglio now works 14ha of vines, up from the 5ha that the family had held for three generations. “Prior to 1992 was a difficult time in Barolo,” said Veglio, “young people were leaving the countryside for the cities, and the wine was in the hands of a few people.” With big wineries then favoring quantity over quality, the younger generation couldn’t sustain a life from vines. “It was a lucky time to start,” he added, explaining how he first sought to lower yields while engaging organic practices to improve the quality of his fruit.
And while the quality of fruit alone isn’t responsible for the current state of Barolo, Mauro has Altare’s generation to thank for the individual bottlings of Barolo’s cru vineyards. “The crus always existed,” said Veglio, “but no one separated the crus until the late ’80’s, when US importers wanted to put cru names on the labels.” Traditionally based on regions and not plots, these blending practices began changing in the late ’70’s and early 80’s. For Mauro Veglio, the change occurred once Mauro took over the family’s estate, bottling his first cru in 1993– Barolo Vigneto Rocche.
Located in La Morra, just one km from the winery, “Rocche dell’Annuziata” is a 0.5ha plot with 20-30 year old vines planted to limestone and sandy soils that yield intensely deep wines that are very elegant. First bottled in 1994, “Arborina” is a 2.5ha plot that is also located close to the winery in La Morra, with 30-40 years old vines that are planted to clay/limestone soils. With SE exposition, the soil’s humidity “keeps it fresh even when hot” yielding wines that are fresh and worthy of aging. Also in La Morra, “Gattera” was first produced in 1995, from a 1ha plot that’s home to the winery’s oldest vines (70 years), planted to limestone soils with SW exposition. Described by Mauro as a “warmer wine with a lot of structure and potential” that warrants “earlier drinking”, the “Gattera”, like all of Veglio’s Barolos, ages for two years in French oak barrels (50% new) followed by one year in bottle.
As Veglio’s only cru from Montforte d’Alba, “Vigneto Castelletto” was first made in 1996, from a vineyard that is owned by the family of Mauro’s wife, Daniela. A 1.5ha plot with S/SE exposure that yields five tons per hectare from limestone and sandy soils, Castelletto is home to vines that were two-thirds planted in 1967, with the remaining replanted in 1995, following the floods of 1994. This “area yields stronger, masculine wines,” said Mauro, while “the La Morra wines are more elegant and feminine.
Of his organic vineyard practices, Mauro said, “You’re doing the right thing for nature and for you. We work in the vineyards, so you have to know what you’re eating and drinking. In the past, 40-years-ago, the vineyards were just producing a lot of fruit, now,” he added, “you need vineyards of the best quality.” With more and more of his neighbors practicing organic, Mauro said, “starting natural allows you to end natural too.” Practicing organic since 1992, Mauro also began at that time to conduct shorter macerations, of six or seven days. “In 1992 this was more unusual, but now it’s more common with 80-85% now using seven to ten day macerations because it gives a wine that’s easier to drink.” In regards to longer macerations, he said, “It’s not true that more tannins allow wines to keep longer. It’s just something that people say. You can taste white wines from France that are 20-30 years old and still taste good.”
For more on the wines of Mauro Veglio, read here…