No matter how many times I’m in Piemonte (and every region in Italy), I’m discovering a producer I wasn’t aware of. Recently, I learned of a special Barbaresco producer named Rocche dei Barbari, and it’s a pretty unique story.
I was traveling from an appointment in Neive with my friend Sandro Minella, a Piemonte resident who specializes in organizing trips for journalists and the public in the region. I was fortunate enough to have Sandro’s company for two days by myself, so we had a bit of time to head to the main square in the town of Barbaresco on Via Torino, just a few steps from Produttori del Barbaresco, one of the zone’s most famous producers; ironically, here was one of the least known.
The wines are sold in a shop that is correctly identified on the website as a “boutique”; presentation is everything here, from the bottles wrapped in fine paper, to the display of wooden cases; all of this in a dimly lit show room, that seems more fit for the display of clothing rather than wine.
Of course, the bottom line is what’s in the bottle, and I can report that the wines are very good, even excellent with certain vintages. The Minuto family produces the Rocche dei Barbari wines, and their philosophy is to harvest the grapes late, so as to achieve the ripeness levels they are after; in many years, this means that they are picking Nebbiolo grapes in late October, even after most Barolo producers.
Aging is traditional, and the wines are released later than normal; the current release of Barbaresco is the 2012. The various offerings of Barbaresco are riservas and have the word Alivio on the label. Here are notes on the wines I tasted during my visit to the showroom – I mean boutique.
2012 Langhe Nebbiolo – Deep, deep garnet; aromas of sour cherry, date and subtle brown spice. Medium-full with excellent concentration; beautifully structured with excellent persistence. Enjoy over the next 5-7 years, perhaps longer. Excellent
2012 Barbaresco Riserva – Still youthful garnet; aromas of sour cherry, iodine and red poppies. Very good acidity, excellent persistence, impressive varietal character. Rich tannins. This should drink well for 10-12 years. Outstanding
2007 Barbaresco Riserva – Deep garnet; aromas of marmalade, strawberry and dried red flowers. Good acidity, with slightly harsh tannins. Give time to round out, best in 5-7 years. Very Good
2006 Barbaresco Riserva – Deep garnet with a brown edge; nutty, forest floor aromas with notes of dried cherry. Medium-full with excellent concentration. Strong tannins that area bit harsh. Best in 5-7 years. Very Good
2005 Barbaresco Riserva – Deep garnet; brown edge. Excellent freshness in the aromas, with notes of raspberry and a hint of brown sugar. Medium-full with excellent concentration. Impressive concentration and complexity; in lovely shape. Enjoy now and over the next 5-7 years, perhaps longer.
My thoughts on these wines and on Rocche dei Barbari in general. The wines overall are impressive, although I have to stop short of calling this a great Barbaresco producer. The 2006, from a superb vintage that resulted in dozens of long-lived examples of Barbaresco, was somewhat disappointing, as I expected a richer, more complex wine. However, the 2005 was very impressive, which I’m happy to report, as there has been little publicity about this elegant vintage.
I mentioned Rocche di Barberi to a few other Barbaresco producers, and several of them told me they had never heard of the wines. That’s not a criticism, especially when you consider that the wines are not available on any restaurant wine lists nor in any retail stores; you can only purchase the wines at the boutique. Bottom line is that here is a opportunity to taste and purchase several older vintages of older Barbaresco, which is not something you get to do everyday; overall, I was delighted to discover this producer and their wines.
Here is the link to the winery’s website.