La Raia

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La Raia encompasses 180 hectares in Gavi, in the rolling hills of Piedmont’s southeast, with 48 hectares planted to grapevines and the remainder devoted to pastures and to woodlands of chestnut, elder, and acacia which teem with wildlife. The farm was acquired in 2003 by Giorgio Rossi Cairo, who immediately converted to biodynamics and obtained Demeter certification in 2007. Run today by Giorgio’s young and deeply committed son Piero, La Raia’s embrace of biodynamics extends far beyond winegrowing: they have a Waldorf school on the premises, as well as a home-delivery grocery business supplying organically grown produce to local clients.

La Raia’s 48 hectares of vines are planted 90% to the local Cortese and 10% to Barbera, in a diverse array of soil types—mainly chalky clay, with pockets of volcanic-derived iron which give the soil a reddish hue. Gavi DOCG requirements stipulate a maximum yield of 95 hectoliters per hectare, but La Raia’s are between 60 and 70—a sweet-spot range which ensures concentration without sacrificing briskness. All parcels are picked by hand, with certain special vineyards bottled separately, and they are one of only four producers in the appellation to bottle a Gavi Riserva. All bunches are destemmed before pressing, and fermentation begins via an indigenous yeast strain which La Raia cultivated from their own vineyards. (Piero feels that outside yeast strains lead to particularly anonymous-feeling Gavi.) Malolactic is neither blocked nor induced, and while it occurs 50 to 80% of the time, the wines never feel unduly creamy or round. After a stint on the fine lees, the length of which varies according to the wine, the wines are bottled with a maximum of 40 milligrams per liter of sulfur dioxide.

The Rossi Cairo family’s commitment to sustainability extends even to the winery itself. Built using an ancient method known as pisé (“rammed earth”) developed in the Novi Ligure district in which La Raia is situated, the structure was made from clay excavated from fields surrounding the estate, which was batched by color and consistency then painstakingly layered and dried. This sort of thoughtful, meticulous approach to pre-modern-technological methods is the same that informs La Raia’s wines, which are produced in a consciously low-intervention manner yet which are clean, precise, and composed. Theirs are not boundary-pushing “auteur” Gavi; rather, they capture the fresh, likable, mineral-driven qualities that make Gavi so popular, yet with much greater depth and energy than is commonly encountered in the category.

Gavi: La Raia’s workhorse Gavi is produced from southwesterly exposed Cortese planted at around 400 meters altitude on the estate’s gently undulating hillsides, and harvested at 60 to 70 hectoliters per hectare. After destemming and pressing, fermentation occurs via an indigenous yeast strain cultivated from the estate’s own vineyards, and aging takes place on the fine lees for three months in stainless steel, with lees-stirring every two or three weeks as needed. Clean, clinging, and vibrant, it evokes the orchard in its aromas and flavors of fresh herbs and green apples, with complicating notes of lemon zest and sea salt.

Gavi Riserva “Vigna Madonnina”: Representing less than 10% of their production, La Raia’s Gavi Riserva—one of only four examples of a Riserva in the entire zone—comes from 20-year-old vines planted in the chalky white soils of the southeast-facing Madonnina vineyard. Harvested 10 to 14 days later than the basic Gavi, it spends an entire year on its fine lees (compared to three months for the basic) in stainless steel before bottling, with an additional six months of bottle aging before being put up for sale. This is broad yet focused on the nose, with an intense Chablis-like chalkiness; the palate possesses concentration and cling, with the chalk echoing and carrying the flavors of apricot and apples through an impressively lengthy finish.

Gavi “Senza Solfiti”: La Raia bottles small quantities of Gavi with no added sulfur dioxide, showcasing their beautifully farmed and healthy fruit in purezza. The contrast with the flagship Gavi is striking, with the “Senza Solfiti” showing deeper fruit notes—apricot jam, yellow fruits—and a rounder, crunchier texture framed by an acidity slightly less piercing than the basic.

Barbera: Barbera comprises just 10% of La Raia’s vine surface, and their charming, snappy basic version is fermented and aged entirely in stainless steel and bottled the summer following harvest. The extraction is gentle without being shy, and the vibrant acidity and chalky undertones which characterize the white wines are on full display here as well.

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