Valmaggiore is the product of Luciano’s incredible passion for the Nebbiolo grape variety and the desire to show just how its expression can vary depending on the soil in which it is cultivated. Just 15 miles away from Barolo, in the Roero region, Nebbiolo produces a lighter structure and ripe, smooth tannins that are not unlike those of Pinot Noir. The wine drinks well from about age 6 to 12 but will easily last longer in the best vintages. This is not a “baby Barolo” or a second wine at all – it is a distinct interpretation of a completely different geographic winemaking zone. The wine shows delicious floral elements and red fruits, wrapped around a medium-weight structure with a long, delicious finish and modulated, ripe tannins.
The grapes used to make this wine are cultivated in one of the historical cru vineyards in the Roero district - Valmaggiore - situated in the municipality of Vezza d’Alba. Valmaggiore is a project that took years to fully realize and is further evidence of the Sandrone winery’s complete commitment to the expression of great Nebbiolo-based wine. Sandrone’s Valmaggiore is a distinct site of exceptional terroir that was assembled over 8 years from almost 40 different previous owners. Luciano believed so passionately in the qualitative potential of this site that he was willing to wait years for parcels of this hill to become available. The last holdout sold in 1994, and at the end of that year the vineyard renovation and drainage projects (which had started years before) were completed. Now completely replanted and organized for maximum potential quality of fruit the resulting wines show the unique terroir characteristics of one of the best Roero sites.
The Roero is a different world from the Barolo: it is a wilder and less developed place when compared to the orderly rows of vines that blanket the Barolo. Deep forests hug the northern sides of the steep hills, and game runs wild, including foxes, boar and rabbit. The flat narrow valley floors are planted to fruits and vegetables. Typically the Valmaggiore is 3-9 degrees warmer than in Barolo, and spring arrives a week or two earlier.
The Valmaggiore hill itself is incredibly steep: a 100% grade (45 degrees) in places. The soil is comprised almost entirely of sand from shallow sea and beach deposits – fossils are common. There’s almost no organic matter in the soil and the vines have to grow deep down for nutrients. As the sandy site is so well drained, in dry years the vines may suffer.
The steepness of the site prohibits any mechanical work – everything must be done by hand. The single-lane road that winds up through the vineyard allows access for a tractor to the top, but work in the rows on the plants is entirely done by hand. . At harvest, a specially designed “sled” which holds 10 picking crates at a time is winched up in the aisles between sections of the vineyard to haul up the just-picked grapes.
Plants are closely spaced for competition and to help hold the hillside up. A walk through the vineyard is an incredible experience. Because it is so steep, you can often see over the plants in the row below you, affording magnificent views of the vines and, on clear days, of the snowcapped Alps. The Sandrone Valmaggiore vineyard is a magical, special place and the wines that are made from these vines show all the uniqueness of the incredible terroir.
Each block is vinified separately. After destemming and light crushing, the must is covered with CO2 for a gentle warm maceration of approximately a day. Alcoholic fermentation begins about 24-36 hours later from native yeasts. A gentle maceration takes place in upright open-top steel tanks for the first 7-9 days of alcoholic fermentation. Immediately after alcoholic fermentation, which takes around 25 days, malolactic fermentation takes place in 500 liter French oak casks. The wine is aged in these casks for 12 months, followed by 9 months bottle aging. Around 1,400 cases are produced in a typical vintage.
"Luciano Sandrone's 2014 Nebbiolo d'Alba Valmaggiore is a terrific drinking wine that offers fresh fruit, pretty balsam intensity and crisp acidity on the close. A bottle like this begs for a wood-oven pizza topped with spicy sausage or wild mushrooms. It exhibits fine tannins and an easy overall approach. The 2012 Luciano Sandrone wines are very good, but remain far from the amazing heights achieved by this historic winery in the best years. Like many of the wines from this vintage (across the various townships that make up the appellation), they are slightly less expressive and they speak at a lower volume."
89 Points Wine Advocate
"The 2013 Nebbiolo d'Alba Valmaggiore is lifted, precise and beautifully delineated, all signatures of the year. Crushed flowers, sweet red berries, mint and rose petals are some of the many scents that lift from the glass. Weightless and gracious, the 2013 impresses with its exceptional balance and overall harmony. It will be interesting to see if the 2013 gains volume with time in glass."
93 Points Vinous Media
"The 2013 Nebbiolo d'Alba Valmaggiore delivers many unexpected surprises. There is nothing standardized or predictable here. Instead, this fresh Nebbiolo is teaming with energy and verve that peels back with menthol layers, herbs, licorice and wild berry. Blue flowers and moist earth fill in the rear. One year of tonneaux has imparted accents of cinnamon and dark spice."
91 Points Wine Advocate
"Plenty of dried-cherry, strawberry and watermelon undertones. Full body, firm tannins and a bright finish. Drink now."
90 Points James Suckling
"Freshly cut roses, sweet red cherries, wild flowers and cinnamon all lift from the glass as the 2012 Nebbiolo d'Alba Valmaggiore shows off its polished, refined personality. This is an especially, weightless Nebbiolo built on perfume, silkiness and harmony."
92 Points Antonio Galloni (Vinous Media)
"Sandrone’s 2011 Nebbiolo d’Alba Valmaggiore graces the palate with savory herbs, dried flowers, red cherries, licorice and mint. Already a touch forward, the 2011 looks to be best suited for drinking over the next handful of years, even if Nebbiolo can be quite deceptively in its ability to hold over long periods of time. Nothing in particular stands out, just the wine’s lovely sense of balance and poise.”
90 Points Vinous (Antonio Galloni)
"The supple texture embraces cherry, strawberry, mineral and earth flavors in this solid, medium-weight red, showing some grip on the persistent finish. Drink now through 2018."
88 Points Wine Spectator
"Made from grapes grown in the top vineyard site in Roero, this elegant wine entices with aromas of violets, perfumed berries and sweet cake spices. The juicy palate doles out lip-smacking cherry-berry fruit accented by mint, clove, and orange peel, accompanied by lithe tannins and bright acidity. Drink now through 2018."
92 Points Wine Enthusiast
"The 2010 Nebbiolo d’Alba Valmaggiore is surprisingly shut down today. The Valmaggiore is often open and accessible when young, but that is far from the case with the 2010. Firm yet well-integrated tannins frame red cherries, sweet herbs, menthol and spices in this surprisingly large-scaled, broad Valmaggiore. Layers of fruit continue to build to the vibrant, layered finish. Readers will have to be patient here."
92 Points Wine Advocate
"The 2009 Nebbiolo d’Alba Valmaggiore is striking. It flows from the glass with sweet red fruits, flowers, spices and herbs in a very representative expression of this site. This is a gorgeous, poised Nebbiolo with wonderful mid-palate sweetness and fabulous overall balance. A clean, saline finish gives the wine its focus and proportion on the finish."
92 Points Wine Advocate
"Medium red. Perfumed aromas of strawberry, raspberry, cranberry, minerals and flowers; a bit pinot-like. Then intensely flavored and perfumed in the mouth, with noteworthy purity to the tart red berry flavors. Finishes with firm, dusty tannins and excellent cut. This is already very sexy nebbiolo but I\\\\\\\'d still give it a couple years in the cellar. Sandrone purchased this parcel in 1994 and replanted the vines in 2001 at a density of 9,000 per hectare."
91 Points International Wine Cellar
"Sandrone-s 2007 Nebbiolo d-Alba Valmaggiore reveals sweet dried roses, cherries, flowers and spices on an expansive, mid-weight frame. Ripe, refined tannins frame the elegant and subtle finish. In 2007 the Valmaggiore shows impeccable balance and tons of class."
90 Points Wine Advocate
"Medium red. Ripe cherry and flowers on the nose; began with some superripe notes but gained in purity and lift as the wine opened in the glass. Ripe, elegant and dry, softening nicely with time in bottle. Best today on the broad, pliant back half, which features suave fine-grained tannins and lovely persistence."
91 Points International Wine Cellar
"The 2006 Nebbiolo d’Alba Valmaggiore is made from a vineyard in the emerging Roero district. It is an especially generous Nebbiolo in this vintage. Perfumed aromatics meld into super-ripe red cherries, spices, flowers and toasted oak. The wine offers outstanding depth and richness in a full-bodied, racy style."
90 Points Wine Advocate