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.