Val del Prete or Valley of the Priest takes its name from the exiled Bishop of Asti, who lived here in 1850. In 1977 Bartolomeo Roagna and his wife Carolina bought the farm ‘Val del Prete’ where they had worked as sharecroppers. The first thing they did was replace some grain and fruit with vines.
The vineyards are situated in a beautiful, south facing amphitheater at the northeastern edge of the Roero. Although we’re right across the river from the Langhe, unlike the every-inch-covered-with-vines landscape of Barolo and Barberesco, the Roero remains an area of mixed agriculture. Although the soils in the Roero are sandier than those in the Langhe, Val del Prete’s subzone has some sand, but more clay and marl, and thus leans towards Barbaresco.
Mario Roagna, the son of Bartolomeo and Carolina, now takes care of the vineyards. He is a thoughtful, observant farmer who gets a kick out of things like different wild herbs and flowers between each row of his biodynamically-farmed vines. His philosophy is to plant only autochthonous grape varieties, such as arneis, barbera and nebbiolo, and to let the characteristics of the terroir speak through the wines. Fermentation in the cellars is spontaneous with indigenous yeasts.
We had a wonderful tour around the vineyards, winery and cellar with the son of Mario, Giovanni. A young, motivated, eccentric winemaker that will, according to us, put ‘Val del Prete’ even a little bit more on the wine-map. He let us discover the different wines, and even though, according to him, it wasn’t a nebbiolo-day, all the different wines had a very interesting story to tell. We’re excited to see what this young man will have up his sleeve in the years to come.
The old vines which were planted by Carolina and Bartolomeo now provide two excellent wines that got their name out of gratitude: "Vigna di Lino" (Nebbiolo d'Alba) and "Carolina" (Barbera d'Alba Superiore). This family produces nice quality wines that you must discover for yourself.