Italian Wine ABC: B is for Barbaresco
For fans of Piemonte’s decisive, chewy reds looking for a wine that doesn’t necessarily cost an arm and a leg, Barbaresco is a fantastic choice. Made from Nebbiolo, the heavyweight grape that also produces the region’s Barolo, Gattinara and Carema, Barbaresco has a robust body and bouquets of roses or violets with flavour notes of fennel, truffle, cherry and liquorice. This wine can age for up to 20 years, and sometimes more, while its tannins tend to soften quicker than Barolo, making it appropriate for drinking earlier in its life.
Located south of the river Tanaro, the Barbaresco zone receives a slight maritime influence which allows Nebbiolo to ripen here a little earlier than it does in the Barolo zone. This allows the grape to get to fermentation earlier with a shorter maceration time. The early tannins in a young Barbaresco are not quite as harsh as Barolo and under DOCG rules it is allowed to age for a year less than Barolo. The Barolo wines that tend to be closer in body, fruitiness, and perfume to Barbaresco wines are generally the ones produced near the villages of La Morra and Barolo.
In a GQ poll in February of 2012, 60% of participants preferred Barbaresco to Barolo, which is proof that this ‘little brother’ in the shadow of its start sibling is coming up in the world of Italian wine connoisseurs. While both are undoubtedly examples of the country’s viticultural excellence, Barbaresco’s relative delicacy has been compared to France’s Burgundies. It also has a smoothness about it that creates a food pairing match made in heaven with truffles, both white and black, and has tannins that hold the wine together without sandpapering the mouth.
Vini Italiani has fine examples of Barbaresco wines, from the entry level 2007 and 2008 vintages to the superstar 1998 from Bruno Giacosa (magnum available for £205). The 2008 Barbaresco is from the ‘Asili’ cru, one of two that this reknowned producer cultivates. ’Asili’ and ‘Rabajà’ are two of Barbaresco’s most prestigious crus and, in part, share a common border. They both produce wines with well-definable characteristics, owing to differences in soil type: the former giving elegance and delicacy and the latter body and character.
Albino Rocca makes a lovely Barbaresco, of which we currently carry the 2008. Priced at £35.50, this wine has bright ruby with garnet reflections, it opens on elegant and fine notes with raspberry and cherry flavours. Warm, quiet smooth and rightly tannic, very persistent and intense, it pairs well with medium seasoned cheeses and pastas with meat sauce. The estate has been making Barbaresco for more than a century, and always seek to bring out the maximum expression of the terroir without enological shortcuts and never following frivolous industry trends. This passion and severity in the light of passing fads has given their wines recognisable character and staying power in the Barbaresco market.
For those looking for a more mature example, Barbaresco Montestefano 2006 from Serafino Rivella is an excellent choice (£49.50). With its seductive perfume, it is classic Nebbiolo at its best, full of sour cherry and rose-petal flavours, and tightly bound in a muscular structure of fine tannins and savoury acidity. Serafino Rivella is a small vineyard that produces wines from just two hecares, and has been around since the late 1960′s. The cantina’s wines are user friendly, approachable and this vintage in particular is drinking gorgeously right now.