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Schiavenza is located in Serralunga d'Alba in the heart of Piedmont's Langhe district, celebrated for its great Barolo vineyards. The estate was founded in 1956 by the brothers Vittorio and Ugo Alessandria; the estate and surrounding area were formerly part of the Opera Pia Barolo (a castle that is kind of like the Hospices du Beaune: part educational institution and part hospital) whose vineyards were traditionally worked by sharecroppers. The local dialect for sharecropper is schiavenza. Today, the estate is run by the second-generation Alessandria sisters, Enrica and Maura, and their husbands Luciano Pira and Walter Anselma. Their holdings include 9.2 hectares in Serralunga with a small 0.5ha plot in Monforte d’Alba, and include the heralded crus Prapò, Cerretta, and Broglio. For the last 19 years, they have also run Trattoria Schiavenza, right in the middle of the village of Serralunga, where their traditional fare draws in both local winemakers and tourists.
In the vineyard, they do not use pesticides or herbicides. Harvest is manual and is conducted according to the phases of the moon. In the cellar, they use only naturally occurring yeasts, and ferment the wines in cement cisterns. In terms of aging, this is no modern barrique-aged Barolo estate: the wines here are aged for extended period of time in the traditional large Slovenian barrels called botti. Tasting the three crus side by side, one realizes what Schiavenza is all about. All three crus are on the east side of the Serralunga ridge, so exposures are all same, to the southeast. Yields are more or less the same. Cellar treatment (fermentation, length of maceration, vessel, and length of aging) is all the same. The differences one feels have only to do with the variations in cru and vintage. The quality here is shockingly good. Schiavenza's wines are elegant, pure expressions of Nebbiolo that would embarrass many a more famous address. to the market at prices that are lower than ever.
For more information, please consult this excellent blog post.