Mauro Veglio: a whole greater than the sum of its parts

The Veglio family have tended land in La Morra since the early-1900s. As was customary, the family produced a range of crops as well as livestock. Each winter, Angelo Veglio—born in 1928—turned his hand to butchery, making salami in his neighbour’s farm. Life was difficult and opportunity scarce. Post-Second World War, though, a small, impassioned collective began drafting regulations, lobbying for cooperation, improving practice, and championing quality. In 1960, an inspired Angelo purchased a parcel of vines in Gattera. Two decades later, he purchased a dilapidated farmhouse in Annunziata, as well as its associated land. Cascina Nuova—a shabby house and a hayloft—came with five hectares of vineyards, including enviable holdings in Arborina and Rocche dell’ Annunziata. In 1986—amidst a revolution in Langhe—Angelo’s son, Mauro took over management of the estate. Encouraged by his neighbour Elio Altare—Barolo’s central protagonist—Mauro seized on a recipe, steadily adapting each facet, making his wine his own. Philosophical conflict notwithstanding, the years spanning 1980-2000 brought unparalleled prosperity to Langhe. Through this flurry of change, Mauro continued to invest, expanding his holdings and constructing a new winery. In 2016, he invited his nephew, Alessandro to merge their eponymous estates, marking a notable shift in tempo. Today, a series of sensible decisions yield noteworthy wines at this La Morra estate. Herein is the story of Mauro Veglio.

mauro-veglio-vineyard

Until the mid-19th century, farmers in Langhe tended many crops, negociants bought fruit, offering punishingly low prices, encouraging growers to seek ever-greater yields. For most, there was seldom any sense in pursuing quality. Born amidst the second phase of Italy’s mass migration, Angelo Veglio dreamed of a different life. Having spent his younger years working the land—selling peaches in the summer and salami in the winter—he soon saw an opportunity in dedicating himself to making wine. Prices then were not as inhibitive then as they are today. By the mid-1960s, Angelo had saved enough money to purchase a parcel (planted in 1950) in Gattera—a desirable vineyard in La Morra dominated by a large cedar tree at its summit. By 1979, having sold his wine in demijohn—retaining a small number of bottles for family events—Angelo took out a bank loan—a brave decision at the time—to expand his holdings, later purchasing Cascina Nuova. Little more than shabby walls and a hayloft, the estate required a great deal of work. Notably, though, the purchase included five hectares of vineyards, including enviable holdings in Arborina and Rocche dell’Annunziata. Despite innumerable neighbours of laudable quality, Rocche is indisputably the most highly regarded cru of this commune. Then, as they do today, many of the regions greatest producers farmed within its 29 hectares. With this purchase, Angelo had carved a new path for his family. 

Angelo—who unfortunately fell ill and died young—had three sons; however, only Mauro showed interest in following his father’s footsteps. Progress notwithstanding, life in Langhe remained difficult until well into the late 20th century. Even in 1960, elderly producers recall young women at local discotheques disregarding Langhe farmers, favouring those men working in nearby Turin. Though Elio Altare—the Veglios neighbour—had visited Burgundy in 1976, the revolution of the 80s had not yet gripped the region. Challenges notwithstanding, in 1986, at 25 years old, Mauro took over management of his father’s estate. Shortly after, he restored the winery and adjoining farmhouse, renewed the vineyards, and experimented with winemaking. In 1987, Mauro married Daniela, then in 1992 began producing wine under his eponymous label, and by 1996, had added Daniela’s family vineyards in Monforte d’Alba to the estate. The years spanning 1980 to 2004 were transformative; Mauro—inspired by Elio—felt empowered, as did many others. Then, Mauro was considered a modernist; today, astute drinkers disregard this facile distinction, appreciating a gloriously pluralistic range of styles. 

mauro-veglio

In 2016, Mauro invited his nephew Alessandro—who owned and rented several hectares, producing wine under his eponymous label—to visit. After 10 minutes ‘speaking of the winds and clouds’, Alessandro recounts that his uncle suggested they merge their estates and begin working together. Alessandro enthusiastically obliged. Since their inaugural vintage in 2017, the pair have worked together harmoniously. Though of different generations, the two are complementary, together they hoped to achieve higher appeal with the critics, collectors and new markets. As well as changes in the winery and more fastidious agronomy, the pair now vinify a further Barolo, adding Paiagallo—Langhe fans will associate this site with Giovanni Canonica— to their six-strong Barolo range.

A donkey will never be a racehorse

A succession of world wars left Italy destitute, the mass migration of Italians to America devastated rural communities. Compounded by a poor string of vintages and greedy negociants offering rock-bottom prices, all but the wealthiest and most notable growers turned to mechanisation and indiscriminate use of systemic chemicals and fertilisers. Necessity notwithstanding, successive generations sought to correct this abuse. Today, visitors will find a small but laudable renaissance in artisanal viticulture in Langhe. Alessandro tells me that he and his uncle are proud to admit their most significant changes have been in the vineyard. Today, the duo farm Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto. 

The vines are pruned guyot—Nebbiolo cannot be spur-pruned due to poor basal bud fertility—and today, they are pruned shorter than before, a technique commonly thought to reduce yields and better ripen fruit. Green harvest remains popular, as it does next door at Altare. Alessandro and Mauro make several passes, sometimes as many as three. Herbicides have not been used since 2008, a decision that pays off many years later. A sentiment Silvia Altare has reiterated to me during visits. Manure is preferred even to organic fertiliser, and weeds are managed with specialist tools. Finally, the pair are paying more attention to new ways to treat, keen to minimise cooper and sulphur applications. Since revising their agronomy, Alessandro notes a marked increase in insect life and looser, more airy soil, not to mention improved fruit quality. That ‘larger’ producers—Mauro Veglio produces 120,00 bottles each year—now foreground viticulture, and are making concerted efforts to enhance fruit quality, is cause for celebration. 

From the field comes wine

In the winery, Dolcetto, Barbera and Langhe Nebbiolo are fermented primarily in rotary fermenters. Ferments are started using either a pied de cuve—as has become popular in Langhe—or with must inoculated with native yeast. Barolo Classico ferments part in rotary fermenters for ten days and part in stainless steel vertical vats for 15 days. The single-vineyard Barolo undergoes fermentation in dedicated stainless-steel vertical vats for 20-25 days. Keen tasters will spot the difference, albeit not necessarily qualitative. The Langhe Nebbiolo is more playful, tending more toward darker fruits and a chalky tannin profile. Meanwhile, the single-vineyard Barolo—idiosyncrasies notwithstanding—are far more serious, their profiles tending toward red fruits, violet, clove and pepper. Admittedly, the latter is my preference. 

mauro-veglio

For the Barolo, the pair perform a couple of pumpovers a day during the first 2/3 of fermentation, reducing this to one for the last 5-7 days. Most of the wines are aged in small French barrels, though the percentage of new oak has been reduced in recent years—no more than 30% for the single-vineyard wines. Further, since 2019, Barolo Paiagallo and Barolo from Serralunga are aged in larger barrels.

With these decisions, Mauro Veglio eschews dichotomies—no longer easily defined simply as a ‘modernist’. Instead, with a breadth of experience and a sense of rejuvenation, the pair define their own style. For some Langhe winegrowers, confronting change has been difficult. Not only personally but philosophically and publicly. Together, though, Mauro and Alessandro are making sensible decisions, both in the field and the winery. Tasting with their team from barrel this year, the pair were pleased. Their single-vineyard Barolo is an exciting indicator of what’s to come at Mauro Veglio; centred, exuberant and highly enjoyable for collectors and casuals alike. If you were in the dark about this La Morra estate, I encourage you to taste with gusto. 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.