Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Barbaresco Tasting @ 121BC


When I spent a few days in Barolo in 2009, I visited Barbaresco almost by accident. There was so much to see and do in a few days that I had planned just to focus on the “King” of Italian wines, rather than venture across to the domain of the “Queen” in Barbaresco. Someone had highly recommended Sottimano as a winery to visit however, and I booked an appointment with them before I even realised that the winery was actually in Barbaresco. As it turned out I was very glad my wife and I made this detour, as it was a fantastic tasting we had with Sottimano. It smashed any notions I may have had that Barbaresco was any less worthy of my time and wine appreciation than Barolo (especially when price is considered). Since then I’ve continued to be impressed by the Barbaresco that I’ve had the opportunity to drink, and the 2004 Produttori Del Barbaresco Rabaja that I shared with Brown on New Year’s Eve was one of the best wines I’ve had in the past year.

A Babaresco tasting at wine bar 121 BC in Sydney provided a great opportunity to gain further insight into the wines of the region. It was matched by some absolutely superb regionally influenced food that made it an altogether memorable tasting. All wines were served blind initially. I’ve slightly edited my notes (in italics) from the night for readability.

Flight 1 – matched with Carne cruda di manzo, artichoke, walnut, and parmigiano

Wine 1 – 2009 Moccagatta Buschet Chardonnay – a nice surprise to see a white wine first up. Straight away I’m thinking Chardonnay, though as ever with Italian whites you have thoughts as to whether it might be some obscure variety you’ve never heard of. Nice oak, ripe fruit and some lovely creaminess are evident, though its not without restraint. Nice length to finish.

Wine 2 – 2009 Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolostrawberries and a bit of burnt rubber on the nose. A bit of a rustic feel to this wine, some nice sour cherry and a hint of bitterness. Better with a bit of air. Thinking it’s a Langhe Nebbiolo but a bit unusual.

Wine 3 – 2008 Ca’du Rabaja Langhe NebbioloComes across as a more standard Langhe Nebbiolo offering. Perfumed nose, roses, and a hint of that burnt rubber again. Nice depth of sour cherry fruit and lovely tannins. Very good.

Wine 4 – 2009 Sottimano Langhe NebbioloStands out as the wine of the flight. A Barbaresco? A beautifully perfumed nose with classic hints of tar. Beautiful fruit on the palate with notes of liquorice and tar. Great length and tannins. The reveal shows it to still be a Langhe Nebbiolo rather than a Barbaresco, but given the quality not surprised to find out the producer is Sottimano.


Flight 2 – 2007 Barbaresco matched with Chestnut soup, Toma della Rocca

Wine 5 - 2007 Produttori del BarbarescoA ripe strawberry nose, and that ripeness comes through on the palate, being generous and warm with some lovely spice. Pretty accessible but lacks a little of the structure I’d like to see with a Barbaresco.

Wine 6 - 2007 Taliano Michele Barbarescodisjointed and needs time. Time in the glass saw it flesh out a bit but still a long way off being accessible. There’s some good fruit and complexity there so would be interested to see this again in 5 years time.

Wine 7 - 2007 Castello di Verduno Barbarescoa bit closed on the nose but the palate reveals a wine of real quality. Lovely fruit, ripe tannins, and excellent persistence, this is a wine of real balance. Should age very nicely.

Wine 8 - 2007 Traversa Staderi Barbaresco the wine of the flight, and perhaps unsurprisingly this is the one wine that sees barriques as opposed to the traditional big format Slavonian oak. Personally I prefer to see slavonian oak used, but for a young Barbaresco, french oak tends to produce a more approachable wine. A seductive nose is matched by a beautiful palate with a distinct earthiness and lovely tannins. A beautiful barbaresco that is good now or in 10 years time.


Flight 3 – 2001 Produttori del Barbaresco from the following vineyards – Ovello, Rabaja, Asili, Montestefano – matched with Rabbit Agnolotti (which was an amazing dish)

Wine 9 – 2001 Produttori del Barbaresco Ovello – Ovello is a west/south west facing sight at an altitude of 220-280 metres. An understated yet perfumed nose. On the palate – lovely liquorice, beautiful tannin, and a long, warm (in a good way) finish. Plenty of yum factor and should be better again in another 5 years.

Wine 10 – 2001 Produttori del Barbaresco Rabaja – By reputation one of the greatest Barbaresco vineyards. A South-West facing site that is renowned for a muscular expression of Barbaresco. A bit of funk and burnt rubber on the nose along with some notes of liquorice. On the palate this wine is marked out by its beautiful spice. It’s still very tannic, but the beautiful fruit is more than up to it. This wine has years in front of it. This is Barbaresco. Thinking that either this or wine 1 is the Rabaja.

Wine 11 - Produttori del Barbaresco Asili – Rivals Rabaja in reputation but is famous for a more elegant expression of Barbaresco. My wine of the night. It has an amazingly supple and elegant entry before building in power and complexity through to a lengthy finish. Wow. Elegance and power at once, the beautiful fruit and tannins have largely integrated. Complexity plus. Once again years in front of it. That elegance is surely Asili.

Wine 12 – Produttori del Barbaresco Montestefano – Montestefano, which sits on a steep, south facing site, is often referred to as the Barolo of Barbaresco, producing a typically powerful and tannic wine. As with wine 10 there is a bit of funk on the nose along with some spice and liquorice. It’s still very tannic and a bit disjointed. Some air saw the fruit build but it’s a big barbaresco and needs some more time in the cellar. Good but perhaps the lesser of the 4 wines in this flight.

Flight 3 was a real highlight, with Rabaja and Asili, in particular, strutting their stuff. A great exposition on the influence and interest that terroir brings to wine. Same vintage, same producer but four distinctly different wines.

None of these wines are cheap, but in the context of great imported red wines you could purchase, Barbaresco represents some fantastic value. Langhe Nebbiolos are generally around the $30-$40 mark. The "entry-level" Barbaresco tend to weigh in at around $70. Then we get to the single vineyard wines. Rabaja and Asili are unquestionably grand cru vineyards, that produce wines of wonderful complexity that can age for three, four, sometimes five decades. The Produttori del Barbaresco wines from these great sites can be bought for a bit over $100. A lot of money no question, but nowhere near what you’ll pay for any rough equivalent from Burgundy, Bordeaux, or even Barolo in many cases. Depending on your budget, all three tiers of wine are worthy of exploration and drinking.


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