Roja, a “hand-crafted” Rossese di Dolceacqua created with the objective of raising the profile of the Dolceacqua D.O.C., is the new wine from Roberto Rondelli. 

That of the vignaiolo is a profession which tends to be handed down from generation to generation or, as in Roberto’s case, begins because of one’s love for a genius loci that gives rise to a desire to combine nature with human intervention in order to create something that is beautiful and good. We are in the extreme western part of Liguria, just a few kilometers from the French border, in the commune of Camporosso. Here, at the beginning of the new millennium, when he had just finished high school, Roberto Rondelli began planting his vineyards where those of his grandfather had once been. 

It was in the Migliarina vineyard, covering a total of 3.5 hectares, that Roberto witnessed the fulfilment of his dream of highlighting the power and beauty of this area. From 2016 onwards, he conducted studies and research to select the finest parcels of his vines, in order to produce his estate’s premium wine: his Roja, Rossese di Dolceacqua Superiore, which has now finally been released with the 2022 vintage. 

«Roja represents a summary of my progress as a vigneron, created with the objective of stating the potential of Western Liguria (Liguria di Ponente) and of this grape variety. It is a wine designed to have a great propensity for aging, combining structure and balance. Its tannin content is notable yet silky; I have extracted all the fine qualities of Rossese: the fairly high level of alcohol and its mouth-filling, mellow fruit make it tend towards an interminable depth. What I am seeking is emotion». 

Rossese is a difficult variety to cultivate, given the grape’s rather thin skins and its natural predisposition not to have constant yields from one year to the next. This cultivar in fact calls for well-drained soils and well-aerated areas, factors that help prevent the fungal diseases that are caused by humidity. 

Migliarina, a nomeranza (“cru” in Ligurian dialect) of the Dolceacqua zone, is situated at 350 meters above sea level. The exposure is northerly, and the geological matrix is the ideal one for this variety: blue marl (Ortovero clay), with outcrops of Montevilla conglomerates. Moreover, it lies in the Roja valley, where strong air currents blow down from the Alps, mitigating the temperatures and creating a perfect microclimate for the grapes to ripen more slowly. The yield in the vineyards used for Roja is just over half a kilo of grapes per vine, therefore even lower than what is commonly the case for Rossese. The vines are alberello (bush)-trained, with very few productive spurs. Work in the vineyard is all carried out in a sustainable manner and with respect for the environment. 

In the winery, the watchword is “simplicity”, and a “manual” approach is preferred. «Our senses are the most efficient instruments and trace the route to excellence». 

The fermentations are conducted in small vats so that punching down the cap can be carried out by hand; the wine is devatted without the aid of mechanical instruments, in order to act in as delicate a way as possible. It then goes into barriques, some of which have been used several times before, and rests there for a year prior to being bottled, around September of the year following the harvest. It then spends a few months maturing in the bottle before being released onto the market. 

Roja is designed to be the product that encompasses all the characteristics of the unique zone of Western Liguria and of the extremely distinctive variety that is Rossese. The bottles produced of the first vintage to be released, the 2022, were 900. In 2023, on the other hand, production will be 2500 bottles. 

«I think that in a country that is as rich and complex as Italy– and which has thousands of years of history – the strategy for us Ligurian producers should involve a knowledge of the most important denominations, which have succeeded in giving added value to their regions, in the sense that there is now an awareness that the beauty that surrounds us can also be transmitted through our wines. We must keep on promoting our countryside, beginning with the land in a strict sense, not to make everything homogeneous but to do the exact opposite: to define the timeless, inimitable character and the recognizability of our wines». 

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