The Radical Stylings of Barbaresco's New Face
Some estates are great because of long, storied histories, and a track record of producing wines that end up in auction catalogues going back decades.
And then there is Olek Bondonio, whose greatness derives principally from sheer passion and hard work.
Not that there isn’t a bit of old history mixed into the magic. Olek’s great-great-great-grandfather was one of the inventors of Barbaresco, helping to found the Produttori di Barbaresco back in the 1890s.
Lucky for Olek, the family maintained a home up on the ridge of Roncagliette. That happens to be one of the very best Crus in all of Barbaressco – the site where Gaja produces her Sori Tildin.
Olek grew up in Torino, with the snow-covered alps visible from the streets on clear days. Olek had a choice to make, and he chose snowboarding. Good choice, it turns out, as he went on to become the champion of Italy!
Can you take all the hard work and passion that it requires to become a champion snowboarder and channel it into the world of wine? Well, when you have Grandpa’s home up on Ronacgliette, you might as well try. Ha!
First, there was the world tour of wine internships, and then, in 2005, settling down in Barbaresco for some hard work. Very hard.
Since the beginning, Olek has done everything himself: caring for every vine with laborious biodynamic methods, and then doing all the work in his ancient family cellars.
His philosophy mixes traditionalism and non-interventionism.
He is regarded as a natural wine star in Scandinavia and Japan, but we see him simply as a great producer of Barbaresco with a hands-off mentality and a preference to use as little sulfur as possible. He otherwise cleaves to tradition, with long macerations and aging strictly in giant casks.
Olek, as mentioned above, is already a star in certain corners of the globe and he certainly has the potential to be one here.
Taste his newly released Roncagliette and you will see why. It has all the elements of great, classical Barbaresco--like something from the Produttori or Giacosa. But there is also a beautiful, gushing drinkability to the wine.
It’s what you might expect if Marcel Lapierre or Eric Pfifferling were making Barbaresco. Or perhaps a champion snowboarder.
Olek Bondonio, Barbaresco Roncagliette, 2018