Posts tagged ‘asili’
The debate rages everywhere in the wine world – who are the great producers? The answer of course, often depends on the individual as greatness for one person is defined differently than it is for someone else.
So maybe the more important question should be, which are the most important producers? By that, I mean, which producers are looked upon as a reference point for their viticultural zone? What are the estates that everyone knows not only for their quality but for their leadership? In Barbaresco, there are several estates that are important for numerous reasons; certainly Angelo Gaja has done as much as anyone to make the name of this wine world famous. I’ll write more about him in a future post, but today, I’d like to discuss an equally famous producer, Produttori del Barbaresco.
The company was established in 1958 by a local priest from the village of Barbaresco, who believed that the local grape growers had to band together to produce wine in order to survive. The first few vintages were made in the church basement and today, the winery stands just across the corner from that location.
The managing director of the winery today is Aldo Vacca, who has done a brilliant job of securing fruit from 56 different growers in Barbaresco (all of whom are members of the Produttori), representing 250 acres of the finest vineyards. More over, Vacca has maintained a wine making philosophy of using only large wooden casks (grandi botti) in order to craft a wine that truly represents the local Barbaresco terroir. More than that, by favoring large casks over the small barrels that many producers find so appealing these days, each wine offers a special sense of place, especially the single vineyard offerings, so that the Asili Barbaresco tastes much different than the one from Moccagatta or Montestefano.
The winery makes wines solely from the Nebbiolo grape and there are three separate wine types: a Nebbiolo Langhe (Langhe is the larger zone where Barbaresco is located; Barolo is also part of Langhe), a Barbaresco normale and the cru bottlings of Barbaresco. The Nebbiolo Langhe represents 20% of the total production, while the regular and single vineyard bottlings of Barbaresco each account for 40% of the total output.
The typical Barbaresco from the winery has beautiful aromatics focusing on dried cherry, currant and orange peel, often with notes of roses or other flowers. The acidity is a key factor here, as the proper levels ensure not only a balanced wine, but one that will age gracefully. Even the normale bottling of Barbaresco from Produttori can drink well for 7-10 years in a good vintage (such as 2005), while the aging potential goes from 12-15 years in superior vintages such as 1999, 2001 and 2004.
There are nine separate cru bottlings of Barbaresco, which are produced only from the finest vintages. Thanks to excellent farming practices (the name of the grower or growers is on the back label- a nice touch) as well as the winemaking standards of Vacca, each wine is an outstanding expression of its site. On two separate occasions, I have had the opportunity to sample all nine bottlings at the winery; this is a special look into the terrroir of Barbaresco, as a bottling such as Pajé or Pora display the more floral, delicate side of Barbaresco, while Montefico and Montestefano are evidence of a more powerful version of the wine that will age for 15-25 years.
What truly makes the Produttori del Barbaresco such an important producer is that it serves as a reference point for Barbaresco. Even if you prefer a riper, flashier, oakier approach when it comes to this wine, one has to look at the wines of the Produttori as the bottlings that define the classic style of Barbaresco. After that, we can compare the products from other producers in the area.
For real Barbaresco lovers, these wines represent the soul of the zone. I cannot give these wines any higher praise than that.
A few months ago, I wrote a post on the great red wines of Piemonte made from the Nebbiolo grape. Included in that post were the two most famous reds of the Langhe, Barolo and Barbaresco. Today, I would like to go into greater detail about Barbaresco.
(Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Produced entirely from Nebbiolo, Barbaresco originates from vineyards in three communes east of Alba: Barbaresco, Treiso and Neive as well as a small section of Alba itself known as San Rocco Seno d’Elvio. The wine must be aged for a minimum of two years with one of those in oak casks of any size. The wine is released after three years (the 2006 vintage of Barbaresco is the current one on the market in 2009), while a Barbaresco Riserva can be released four years after the vintage.
There are more than 60 geographical designations that can be named on a bottle of Barbaresco. Most of these are cru (vineyard) designations, which were most recently reorganized in 2008. Among the most famous cru designations in the Barbaresco zone are the following:
- Sori Burdin (Bordini)
Asili Vineyard, Barbaresco
Soils throughout the area are generally Tortonian, which are the younger of the two predominant soil classifications in the Langhe; the other, older soil is from the Helvetian era. As the yonger soils are not as deep as the older ones, wines from these soils tend to be more approachable upon release and do not have as intense a tannic profile. This is one of the primary reasons why the wines of Barbaresco are more approachable than those from Barolo, as that zone is comprised of more Helvetian soils.
As Barbaresco is a much smaller area than Barolo and has a shorter history, Barbaresco is not as well-known as its neighbor. Add in the fact that Barolos in general can age longer than Barbarescos and you have a situation where Barbaresco is usually thought of as a “lesser” wine than Barolo. This is quite unfortunate, as Barbaresco is a great wine in its own right.
Two Great Producers
While there are not as many famous producers of Barbaresco as compared to Barolo, there are two in particular that have done a tremendous job of elevating the image of Barbaresco. These two producers – Angelo Gaja and Produttori del Barbaresco – have a different approach to winemaking, but each in their own way have done tremendous work in the promotion of Barbaresco.
Gaja is the master salesman who makes wines from great sites and charges a good deal of money for his wines – if you want a bottle of Gaja wine, you have to pay for it. But what you get is a wonderful offering with great depth of fruit and a lovely expression of site. The wines offer tremendous complexity, are elegantly styled and age well. They are made in a modern style of winemaking (aged in small oak barrels), yet the wood rarely overwhelms the fruit.
For years, Gaja produced several bottlings of Barbaresco, from a normale to cru bottlings from Sori San Tilden and Sori San Lorenzo, but some years back, he changed the designation on these last two wines to Langhe Nebbiolo. This has alowed him to alter the wines in slight fashion – often these wines now contain a small percentage of Barbera, to increase the acidity of these wines. Thus Gaja now only produces one bottling of Barbaresco each vintage, while his most famous offerings are no longer known as Barbaresco. This has angered some of his fellow producers in this area, yet the truth remains that for many consumers, the name Gaja is the most recognized with Barbaresco.
As for Produttori del Barbaresco, the message here is much more tied in with the land and not an individual; in fact, managing director and winemaker Aldo Vacca is about as far removed from Angelo Gaja as you can imagine. Reserved and insightful, Vacca produces wines that reflect the terroir of Barbaresco as well as any wines do. This is a cooperative producer with growers from several of the finest crus in the town of Barbaresco supplying their grapes.
Each year, there is a regular bottling of Barbaresco from the Produttori and in the finest vintages, the cru botlings – nine in all – are produced. The wines vary in intensity with examples such as Pora and Ovello offering less concentration and tannins than those from Montefico and Montestefano, yet all beautifully express their site’s terroir. One of the principal reasons for this is the winemaking, as each wine is aged solely in large casks (botti grandi), which minimize wood influence while emphasizing the varietal character. These wines offer aromas of dried cherry, cedar, persimmon and orange peel which changes to a profile of balsamic as they age. Impeccably balanced, these are in my opinion, the most classic representation of Barbaresco and some of Italy’s greatest red wines.
There are of course, dozens of other excellent producers of Barbaresco. These include:
- Bruno Giacosa
- Ada Nada
- Fiorenzo Nada
- Marchesi di Gresy
- La Ca Nova
- La Spinetta
- Bruno Rocca
- Rino Varaldo
The message then about Barbaresco is that it should be examined as a great wine in its own right instead of being constantly compared to Barolo. The 2007 bottlings of Barbaresco will be on the market in the fall of 2009 and these wines should offer exemplary proof of what a great wine Barbaresco truly is!
Text and photos ©Tom Hyland
This past week I conducted a class at Perman Wine Selections in Chicago that included some of Italy’s finest and most famous wine types. I dubbed the class “Italy’s Killer B’s”; the wines tasted were examples of Brunello, Bolgheri, Barbera, Barbaresco and Barolo.