Barbaresco’ s New Releases and More: Stellar 2016s, Difficult 2017s, Surprising 2018s and Highly Promising 2019s (Part Ⅱ)

The wines of Barbaresco are some of the most exciting red wines made in the world today. Grab all the 2016s you can, for they are the single greatest Barbaresco wines of all time; search out carefully for the better 2017s, buy and enjoy the approachable and slightly underestimated 2018s, and set some money aside for the promising 2019s, many of which (but not all) look to be excellent wines. Above all, be aware that a number of ‘17s and ’18s are much better wines than you might have heard, so try not to let the good ones pass you by.

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Last week we have published the Part I of the Barbaresco’ s New Releases, you can click here to review.

The wines and the producers

Cogno.

2017 Barbaresco Bordini                        94

Not exactly shy in its delivery of red and dark fruit, rosemary, plum, menthol and cinnamon aromas and flavours, all complicated by earthtones and balsamic oils, the 2017 Barbaresco Bordini from Cogno is a big, strapping, in-your-face sort of wine. Though finesse might not be its strong suit, it is utterly irresistible thanks to its almost over the top fleshy and opulent personality. Five years or so in the cellar will help this tone down and you’ll be rewarded with one of 2017s best Barbarescos from the Neive commune. Well done. Drinking window: 2026-2040

Cortese.

From this year on, there will be two Barbarescos, the Classico and the Rabajà: the first will go on sale at the beginning of 2021, the second will be on sale as of October (therefore, no longer in April or May as it used to be). The Classico ages one year and a half in large oak barrels made with grapes from the Trifolera cru (35-40 years old vines) and a few declassified tanks of Rabajà. About 8000 bottles of the 2017 vintage (the first ever) were made, but that number can climb up to 10,000 bottles (at most) in a good vintage. During my winery visit this summer when I had a really great time tasting out of all the tanks and vats and barrels with Gabriele Cortese, he told me that the making a Barbaresco Classico (rather than just the Rabajà cru and the Rabajà Riserva) was needed to fill a commercial gap. The estate owns nine hectares (four hectares at Rabajà and five hectares in Trifolera) and are in fact the biggest owners of Rabajà (they first made a Barbaresco from the Rabajà in 1971 and then proceeded to write the word Rabajà on the label in 1978). The estate makes about 58,000 bottles a year all told, of which 17,000 a year of Barbaresco Rabajà and up to 10,000 of the Barbaresco classico.

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2018  Barbaresco Classico                  92

Bright clean and fresh, this truly beautiful wine literally explodes from the glass in a waterfall of fresh sweet red fruit aromas and flavours. Very pretty and boasting a velvety mouthfeel, it finishes bright and long with hints of flint and cedar. Most likely, this will not be the most complex or concentrated Barbaresco you will ever drink, but its red fruit cocktail-like personality is utterly irresistible. Drinking window: 2025-2038

2018 Barbaresco Rabajà                    95

Bright and clean, with minerals, mint and flowers complicating notes of raspberry and other red berries. There’s a hint of citrus fruit here that is usually more typical of Rabajà wines at 5 years of age or more, but that in my experience appears sooner in cooler years (and sure enough, here it is!). Very clean, very juicy and smooth, there is a sneaky concentration that is remarkable for the vintage, though this is quite accessible already now. I was not surprised when Cortese told me he almost opted to age it longer and turn it into a Barbaresco Riserva. In ultimate analysis, I think he made the right decision, but I can certainly see why this beauty tempted him to go the Riserva route. Readers might want to make a note to latch onto any bottles of this beauty they can find, because it is a Barbaresco Classico that punches way above its weight category. Drinking window: 2026-2045

2017  Barbaresco                     92

Luminous red. Offers a very pretty nose loaded with nicely floral notes (violet, rose, lavender), less so with fruit (red cherry, mostly) that become complicated by earth tones with aeration. Enters juicy and fruity, then steely and very savoury in the mouth, with lively flavours of red berries that boast a grilled rare meat and earthy component. Finishes long, with a rising licorice note. Spends 18 months in oak and six-seven more months in bottle prior to release. Drinking window: 2024-2038

2017  Barbaresco Rabajà                          95

Vivid red. Perfumed aromas and flavours of red cherry, cocoa, camphor, minerals and sweet pipe tobacco. Richer and rounder than the 2017 Barbaresco “classico”, this is also very lively with greater purity and depth of fruit. Finishes very long, and with a welcoming saline (rather than savoury) note. I thought this was a truly outstanding wine given the difficulties posed by the year. Drinking window: 2025-2040

2016  Barbaresco Rabajà Riserva                        97+

Fully saturated red. Very fresh aromas of balsamic oils and mint complement sour red cherry, redcurrant and star anise aromas. Then also extremely pure red cherry flavours in the mouth, that are nicely complemented by hints of mint, star anise, and sage; this wine’s deep, rich, complex personality really builds and builds with aeration. Finishes long with loads of minerality and noteworthy chewy but noble tannic clout. This is really a great Barbaresco Riserva, magically able to deliver a combination of power and grace at every sip. Drinking window: 2026-2046

2013  Barbaresco Rabajà Riserva                        95+

Deep red. Floral red berries and mineral nuances dominate on the nose. Then at once juicy and fruity, with a strongly floral quality to the red fruit flavours present: in fact, the floral note was so strong I thought Cortese might have used a percentage of whole bunches to make this wine, but he told me this was not the case. Not as powerful as some past Rabajà Riserva wines from Cortese, this nicely balanced, juicy and very fresh wine has an edgy quality related to the vintage’s overall high acidity. Still very young, this very promising wine boasts considerable potential. Closes long and savory, with tannins of noteworthy polish. This is another great wine from Cortese. Drinking window: 2024-2046

Fletcher.

2017   Barbaresco                  93

Bright medium-deep red. Very pure, this boasts a vibrant core of steely red cherry and berries, complicated by floral nuances and just the faintest hint of sweet spices. Lovely acid-fruit balance, with the ripe year’s rich fruit presence nicely buffered by the acidity that leaves you salivating. The long aftertaste is very minerally, featuring assertive but fairly noble tannins on the long close. Lacks the flesh and sweet deep fruit of a memorable vintage such as 2016, but I found this to be an excellent wine in a difficult vintage such as 2017. Drinking window: 2024-2038

Fontanabianca.

2016 Barbaresco                   92

Bright red. Strongly saline nuances on the nose mingle with aromas of red cherry minerals and herbs. Then taut and lively on entry, with reticent red cherry and berry fruit notes boasting a mineral edge on the steely, mouthcoating steely and clean finish. This has sneaky concentration and very good length and it really grows noticeably with aeration, but will never be mistaken for an especially fleshy, fruit-forward wine. Made from roughly thirty years old vineyards in Neive at about 300 meters asl, this spent 12-15 months in a mix of large oak casks and barriques prior to being bottled. Drinking window: 2026-2032

2013 Barbaresco Bordini                         93

Pale garnet-tinged red: very pretty Nebbiolo colour. Reticent aromas of sour red cherry complicated by dried rose petals and minerals. Enters juicy and fresh, with a very pure core of star anise, sour red cherry, brimstone and aromatic herbs, nicely supported by a serious tannic spine and fresh balanced acidity. A very traditional wine in style that is less austere than the Barbaresco classico from Fontanabianca, closing long and vibrant with nicely persistent neural notes. No easy sweetness here but lots of stuffing and depth. Aged fifteen months in small oak casks. Drinking window: 2024-2038

Francesco Versio.

Francesco Versio is one of the most talented young winemakers not just in Barbaresco but all of Italy. When I first met him now many years ago, he was working at Bruno Giacosa and I remember only too well our first encounter ever at the winery during one of my numerous visits to say hi to Bruno and his daughter Bruna. To say I came away impressed with the wines is to be expected: but coming away impressed by how proud he was to work there and how well he knew the history of the Giacosa family and winery is something else. That sort of dedication and precision speak well for his own current winemaking project, the fruits of which are already there for everyone to see. Francesco’s grandfather Bartolomeo owned almost one hectare in San Cristoforo and Currà (obviously not one to be scared by hard work, “farmer” was Bartolomeo’s third job description after that of train driver and animal breeder). He used to sell his grapes to Bruno Giacosa but because he needed cash his yields were always a bit too copious for the quality-driven Giacosa; but the two were friends, and Giacosa did not want to turn him down and so sent him to one of the bigger Barolo estates where of course Bartolomeo had no problem selling grapes. Fast forward to the end of 2012, when Francesco, who had been chomping at the bit to try making his own wine, decided to take the plunge. He made his first wine in 2013: that vintage as well as the 2014 he vinified at Cascina Vano (friends of the family). He bought at 20 hectoliter new Stockinger barrel (hence the 2013 wine is 100% new oak), then in 2014 bought two 500 liter French oak tonneaux (once used). In that difficult vintage he only made ten hectoliters of wine in total (as opposed to the twenty hectoliters of the previous vintage); in 2015 he made twenty hectoliters again and used his 20 hectoliter barrel for the Barbaresco while filling the tonneaux with a blend of Nebbiolo (80%) and Dolcetto (20%). That proportion has changed since then, because Versio began renting a vineyard in Dogliani, and so has been able to source high quality Dolcetto grapes (not surprisingly, he now also makes a Dogliani, since 2018). In ultimate analysis the estate now makes four wines (the fourth is a Langhe Nebbiolo), of which only one is a Barbaresco but of course he’d like to make more Barbaresco, and from single crus too. Readers should note that as the source of grapes for his Barbaresco bottling have changed greatly over the years (depending on where Versio rented/bought grapes from in that particular year), the wines can be quite different, reflecting the different terroirs the grapes grew in, even though the winemaking has almost always remained the same (but not totally, as we have seen).

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Because it is of tremendous interest for all those truly interested in terroir, I give you here the complete list of grape sources of Francesco Versio’s Barbaresco over the years, the first time such a list has ever been made available in its entirety and reported on in the literature. The 2013 and 2014 Barbaresco: mostly San Cristoforo and 10% Curra; 2015: San Cristoforo; 2016: 65% San Cristoforo, 20% Starderi and15% Cottà. In 2017 he was hailed upon like everyone else in Neive (only the top part of San Cristoforo saved itself, so he had to look for and to buy grapes from new altogether sources outside of the Neive commune that had been reduced to a disaster zone, and eventually bought grapes from Rombone (hence the 2017 Barbaresco will be a blend of: 75% Rombone, 20% Starderi and 5% San Cristoforo); the 2018 is going to be 60% San Cristoforo and 40% Starderi, the same blend of the 2019 Barbaresco. This is an exciting young wine project and I will be following its progress closely over the next few years.

2017  Barbaresco                 94

Luminous red. Perfumed aromas and flavours of very pure mineral-accented red roses and red berries. Light on its feet and more refined than powerful despite the hot growing season, this very fresh, lively Barbaresco boasts excellent acid/fruit-tannin balance and lingers impressively on the long aftertaste. It’s precisely the sort of balanced, not over extracted and downright beautiful wine I expect Francesco Versio to make, a young man I have known for years and have been following the wines of very closely since the beginning. As I have written before, Versio, like Nicola Oberto of Trediberri over in Barolo (another young producer I was the first to praise internationally) is a shining young star of the Barbaresco wine scene. Drinking window: 2024-2042

Gaja.

A sign of climate change is the topsy turvy weather we are faced with every year. Today adverse weather effects are now occurring at times of the year when they never used to take place. And so, not just in 2017, but in 2018 as well, there was lots of hail in the Barbaresco denomination; for this reason, there will be no Gaja crus bottled in 2018. The San Lorenzo cru in the Secondine MGA was especially hit hard, while the Costa Russi and the Sori Tildin (this of the Roncagliette MGA) fared less poorly. However, in order to make a high quality Barbaresco classico (which in my view has been Gaja’s best wine for the last twenty years or so) the Gaja family decided to declassify all their crus into the 2018 Barbaresco, which is in fact a pretty amazing wine. There will also be no 2019 crus, as Gaia Gaja, who was delightful and informative as always during my late summer visit at the winery, told me they found them to have too high alcohol and size, and yet not much real structure. Furthermore they experienced pest control problems and so overall she believes the 2019 vintage was better, at least for them, in Barolo (though it rained a great deal in the summer and so those are not especially structured wines either). Last but not least, Gaja has bought vineyards in Alta Langa at 600-700 meters where their goal is to make world class whites (thirty hectares, four of which are planted; the 2020 will be the first harvest. There they planted Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Timorasso and Incrocio Manzoni, and are thinking of planting some Erbaluce too).

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Tasting with Rossanna and Gaia Gaja is always a pleasure

2018 Barbaresco               96

Good full red. Bright, perfumed nose of fresh flowers, sweet spices and red cherry. Then more austere, but also very refined, precise and deep in its delivery of pure red cherry, raspberry and minral flavours. Long, fresh and clean, this is a really outstanding wine given the difficult 2018 growing season. Really well done here. Drinking window: 2025-2043

2017  Barbaresco                 91

Fully saturated red. Slightly subdued on the nose, but large and ripe in the mouth, this boasts noteworthy ripe red fruit and herbal notes but aso slightly tougher than usual tannins thanks to the thick skins that characterized the 2017 Nebbiolo grapes. Drinking window: 2025-2035

2017  Barbaresco Costa Russi                       94

Bright deep red. Notes of sandalwood, herbs, tar and red cherry on the complex nose and mouth. A powerful wine that finishes long and mouthcoating but not at all gritty, this is a really major success in 2017. Costa Russi has always been thought of the “little brother” to Gaja’s more famous Sorì San Lorenzo and Sorì Tildin wines, but in recent years it has easily become their match, producing wines of at times even greater extract and size. In a difficult year, this is a beauty. Drinking window: 2024-2042

2017  Sorì Tildin                     93

Moderately saturated red. Fresh and floral at first, then more fruity and mineral, this is a very pretty Sorì Tildin that is bigger and riper in style than the 2017 Sorì San Lorenzo, with more dark fruit, spices and savoury elements compared to that wine’s more floral personality. Finishes long and powerful, with a strong saline note which is very typical of the warm year for this wine. Drinking window: 2026-2040

2017  Sorì San Lorenzo                  94

Good full red. A very pretty wine that showcases lovely balance and a suave mouthfeel, the 2017 Sorì San Lorenzo offers precise red cherry, mineral and floral nuances on both the nose and the palate. Less herbal and less savoury than the 2017 Sorì Tildin, and with more polished tannins. And though some of the aromatics are unavoidably suppressed, Sorì San Lorenzo’s typical mineral presence is very evident despite the hot vintage. Drinking window: 2026-2040

Giorgio Pelissero.

2017 Barbaresco Nubiola                     92

Though Nubiola is lower in the pecking order of importance than Pellissero’s Barbaresco Tulin and Vanotu, I have always been a big fan of it, enjoying its slightly more austere and purely fruity personality. Not the most complex or concentrated Barbaresco in 2017, Nubiola nonetheless offers plenty of early appeal in its fruit-forward red cherry-loaded and sweetly spicy personality. Enjoy this over the next eight years or so while your 2017 Tulin and 2017 Vanotu age in your cellar. Drinking window: 2022-2030

2017 Barbaresco Tulin                       93

Bright and juicy, this lovely Barbaresco boosts an up-front, exotic personality of sweet spices and ripe red fruit that is absolutely enchanting and easy to like right from the first sip. Though the tannins are still on the youthfully chewy side (and it would be really strange if it were otherwise) they are polished and noble, allowing you to cellar this beauty for at least another four years or so before digging in at what will be the beginning of the wine’s optimal drinking phase. Drinking window: 2023-2034

2017      Barbaresco Vanotu                      94

Always the fleshiest and most voluptuous wine in the Pellissero portfolio of Barbarescos (a producer whose wines tend to be on the pleasantly forward and fleshy side) it is no different in the hot and dry 2017 vintage. Once again, Vanotu is loaded with sexy, soft, round, even exotic aromas and flavours of ripe red cherry, strawberry jam, and sweet spice aromas and flavours, while being downright creamy in its texture. There’s plenty to like here and though I wouldn’t hold on to this for thirty more years, you are guaranteed marvelous drinking over the next fifteen or so. Drinking window: 2024-2036

Giuseppe Nada.

2017 Barbaresco Casot                     91

Pretty red colour. Soft and supple, with lovely nuances of licorice and tobacco complementing the ripe red and blue fruit, this has a gently tannic personality that nicely frames the ripe fruit flavours present. Finishes long and clean. Nicely done, in a difficult vintage. Drinking window: 2024-2033

2016 Barbaresco Casot                            93

I was really sorry not to have been able to visit the Giuseppe Nada estate this past summer as my visits were cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic; I had one more one week trip planned for the end of September and another fifteen or so estates to visit, but unfortunately infection rates began rising steadily by the middle of the month and I called it a day. It really was too bad as I have been studying the Casot cru for my new upcoming book on Barbaresco and nothing would have made me happier than to sit down and go over carefully this MGA’s characteristics from someone who knows more about it than I do. Nevertheless, I did manage to buy a bottle and taste the wine and liked what I found: pretty aromas and flavours of red cherry, licorice, sweet spices and menthol. Not an especially powerful Barbaresco (as those from this part of the denomination rarely are), this still youthfully edgy red has real personality and charm. The aftertaste is nicely persistent and fragrant. Drinking window: 2024-2036

La Ca Nova.

2017  Barbaresco                        91

Powerful, strapping young Barbaresco that won’t remind you of the more elegant wines you’ll have tasted in your lifetime but that is immensely appealing and charming. This would prove a hit at any barbecue, and grilled meats of any kind are going to marry with its juicy red fruit, smoky tobacco-accented personality extremely well. Drink this beauty over the next ten years or so. Drinking window: 2024-2032

2017  Barbaresco Montefico Vigna Bric Mentina                     NR

The bottle I tried was overripe, tired and frankly undrinkable (at least to my palate), possibly due to poor storage. I imagine it’s just a matter of getting stuck with a poor sample as other people whose palate I trust have told me they found this vintage of the wine to be enjoyable. Unfortunately, as I did not have another sample to try, I cannot make a recommendation one way or the other.

2017  Barbaresco Montestefano                             92

Deep red. Clean and fresh on the bright fruity and herbal nose. Enters sweet and broad, with woodsy hints of forest floor and balsamic oils complementing smoky red cherry and blackberry flavours. This very powerful, almost massive wine by Barbaresco standards is clean and fresh, with mounting tannins but with enough ripe fruit to avoid coming across as drying. Closes long and clean with notes of licorice and menthol. Drinking window: 2024-2037

La Ganghija.

2017  Barbaresco                       91

Bright red. Piercing nose of dark fruit, metals and iron is complicated by smoked meat and balsamic oils. Ripe and fleshy, with rising tannins and toasty notes but not overly oaky, this finishes medium-long with hints of oatmeal and red berries, and an enticing smoky nuance. Drinking window: 2024-2035

2017  Barbaresco Giacosa                         88

As much as I liked the Barbaresco classico from La Ganghija in 2017, I found the 2017 Giacosa slightly tough going. The mostly balsamic, herbal and leathery aromas are really not my cup of tea, and the fruit is clenched, with gritty tannins coating the palate in a vice-like lock. Cellaring this for a few years isn’t going to hurt it any, but I doubt the tannins will ever become truly smooth. I liked La Ganghija’s 2016 Barbaresco Giacosa more. Drinking window: 2024-2033

2016  Barbaresco                       93

Though I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Barbarescos that exude strong notes of leather and tobacco, the 2016 Barbaresco by La Ganghija also boasts so much sweet, pure red and blue fruit notes that everything else fades (almost) into the background. A dusting of inky herbs and spices adds further complexity, and the seamless texture and balanced acidity only further this wine’s cause for a successful score. Well done here. Drinking window: 2024-2036

La Licenziana.

2017  Barbaresco Vicenziana                              92

Deep red. Soft and ripe, with red cherry jelly and raspberry cordial flavours that are nicely complemented by sweet spices, this strikes me as being very ripe but not overripe. You can tell it was made in a warm year but the wine manages to stay just this side of over ripeness, and though it does clock in at a highish 15% alcohol, it’s well balanced enough that you can hardly tell there are quite so many octanes there. I’d say this is a very good effort from a little-known cru and producer. Very well done! I think this would make a good buy as a “wine by the glass number” in restaurants, given it’s not likely to be a prohibitively expensive Barbaresco. Drinking window: 2024-2035

La Spinetta.

2017  Barbaresco Bordini                                  91

Smooth and easygoing, with an obvious presence of spicy French oak to help complement very ripe aromas and flavours of red and blue fruit and sweet spices. La Spinetta’s 2017 Bordini is an excellent if slightly simple Barbaresco that is perfect for drinking over the short term. Drinking window: 2024-2034

2017   Barbaresco Valeirano                                92

The Valeirano cru gives relatively gentler Barbarescos and this 2017 plays the part, a good thing, as at times La Spinetta wines can be characterized by too much oak and structure for palates both trained and not. This La Spinetta 2017 Barbaresco Valeirano is perfumed and elegant, very pretty in its not overly dark red colour, while offering crisp aromas and flavours of red and dark fruit, menthol and lavender. It closes with youthfully chewy tannins that are manageable, and with good length and freshness. Drinking window: 2024-2036

2017      Barbaresco Gallina                                     91 

Good bright red-ruby. Cassis on the nose, dominated by nutty oak, balsamic oil and violet essence. Chewy but smooth and relatively sweet, with ripe blackberry, smoky plum and graphite flavors joined by exotic oak tones. The long, youthfully dusty finish features noteworthy tannic heft as well as plenty of ripeness, in typical La Spinetta style that undoubtedly has a lot of fans. Drinking window: 2024-2038

2017      Barbaresco Starderi                                    91

Always a big and tough wine, the 2017 Starderi is a little bit lighter on its feet than usual, something I noticed in all of the Barbarescos from La Spinetta in this vintage and that generally I view this lighter more approachable slightly less oak-dominated interpretations in a favourable light. This wine’s deep red colour is nicely matched by a deep, perfumed nose of vanilla, cinnamon and red fruit; the flavours are similar to the aromas and nicely framed by serious but polished oak on the long assertive finish. Drinking window: 2024-2038

La Spinona.

2016      Barbaresco Secondine                                 94

Bright red. Downright excellent Barbaresco that offers very pure mineral and floral nuances to the red fruit aromas and flavours. A beautiful wine that is more politely-styled than powerful. Finishes long and multilayered, this complex, well-balanced wine is deceptively easy to drink already now. Drinking window: 2024-2044

2016 Barbaresco Bricco Faset                                 94

Deep red. Less refined but richer and fleshier than La Spinona’s 2016 Barbaresco Secondine, this offers a very clean profile of dense red and darker cherry, licorice, and herb (cumin, sage, cloves) aromas and flavours. Finishes with building tannins and real power lurking below its deceptive, easygoing, forward personality. Though it’s already fun to drink now, this is likely to age quite well. Drinking window: 2024-2043

Lano.

Looking for a great red wine that won’t break the bank and is furthermore one of the absolutely best wines made from the grape variety in all of Italy? Look no further than Lano’s magnificent Langhe Freisa, a thing of real beauty and I wine I not only urge you to try, but to buy. It is everything a great Freisa ought to be, and in fact reveals just how close a relative of Nebbiolo it is with the wine smelling looking and tasting like a medium-weight Nebbiolo of real class. That said the estate also makes very fine Barbarescos too, so don’t miss out on them either. Current owner Gianluigi Lano is estate bottling, while his grandfather Giovanni and father Giacomo sold mostly bulk wine, although the latter did bottle some wine (beginning in1982) though mostly in demijohns; as these were found to be, not unreasonably, a bit too bulky and too easy to break, Gianluigi did away with and began bottling in 1991 vintage. Today the estate has 5 hectares but also makes wine from the vines owned by a country bed and breakfast (2 hectares) in the area of Ressia: its Barbaresco cru it farms is the little known Rocche Massalupo that gives medium-bodied perfumed Barbarescos of charm. The farming is organic and the winemaking features minimal intervention. Depending on the vintage, Lano will keep the must on the skins for longer or shorter amounts of time, use natural yeasts, temperature controlled-fermentation (he strives for maximum fermentation temperatures of 28 degrees Celsius) in cement tanks and then age in 25 hectoliter Slavonian oak barrels where the wine stays two years; then six more months in cement tanks and in bottle for 6 months (so the 2017 Barbaresco will be out in 2021).

2017      Barbaresco Rocche Massalupo                                   89

Very dark ruby-red. Frankly, this is not my idea of a typical colour for Barbaresco. By contrast, the wine’s nose of flowers, red and blue fruits is lovely and very typical of Nebbiolo. Its mouthfeel is both easygoing and suave, marked by violet and blue fruit with hints of botanical herbs kicking in on the medium-long but not especially concentrated back end. Only 3200 bottles made. I would have scored this higher, but this Barbaresco’s too dark colour is not for me. Readers might like to know that Lano makes one of Italy’s best Freisa wines: given that Freisa is Nebbiolo’s second-closest relative, it is not at all surprising that his Langhe Fresa is very much like a lighter-styled Barbaresco. Drinking window: 2023-2035

2016      Barbaresco Rocche Massalupo                                   93

Vivid bright red: this is a truly beautiful and true-to-type colour for a Nebbiolo wine. Captivating aromas of sour red cherry and sweet spices are complicated by a strong note of red rose petals. Enters juicy and spicy, then offers vibrantly fresh raspberry and strawberry flavours nicely lifted by balanced acidity and neatly supported by a steely backbone of noble tannins. Finishes long with noteworthy balance and considerable lift. This is really quite good, but unfortunately, there were only 3500 bottles made. I say “unfortunately” because there is real winemaking talent here, and this is a producer worth getting to know: for example, readers might like to know that Lano makes one of Italy’s best Freisa wines, which, not surprisingly given that Freisa is Nebbiolo’s second-closest relative, is really very much like a lighter-styled Barbaresco. Drinking window: 2024-2038

2015      Barbaresco Rocche Massalupo                          92

Beautiful bright red. Strawberry, ripe red cherry and herbs on the nose and in the mouth. Not as complex or as long as the 2016 but fairly ready to drink, this is a lovely Barbaresco offering early accessibility and varietally-accurate colour, aromas and flavours. Finishes round and soft in typical 2015 style, but with more than enough acidity for lovely lift, balance and vibrancy. Drinking window: 2024-2035

Luigi Giordano.

2017      Barbaresco Montestefano                              92

Vivid ruby-red. Blackberry, blackcurrant, bitter chocolate and violet on the nose. Dense and sweet but a bit youthfully clenched, with dark fruit flavors needing a good deal of aeration to emerge fully. Currently a little shut down, but there’s very good inherent sweetness here. The wine is promising but requires a little patience, not to mention a good temperature-controlled cellar. Drinking window: 2025-2035

2017      Barbaresco Cavanna                               90

Good full red. Dark plum and berries, mocha and oak on the nose, plus a whiff of game. Ferrous and woodsy underbrush qualities dominate the angular palate, where slightly gritty tannins are not successfully camouflaged by the ripe dark fruit flavours present. Although this has the middle to support its oak and tongue-dusting tannins and a pleasantly long aftertaste, I think that wine lovers who prefer graceful wines of nuanced purity might want to look at Luigi Giordano’s 2017 Montestefano rather than this Barbaresco. Then again, those who value chewy heft and size in their red wines will be more than pleased with the Cavanna’s “take no prisoners” approach to one’s unsuspecting tastebuds. So to each his own. Drinking window: 2024-2033

2017      Barbaresco Asili                               91

Brightly saturated red. Musky aromas of redcurrant, dark plum, tobacco, herbs and menthol. Bright and juicy on entry, then smooth in the middle, with nicely concentrated flavours of redcurrant, chocolate, menthol, licorice and black pepper. Savory and rather wild on the lingering finish, with noteworthy tannic clout that will take years of cellaring to resolve fully. Drinking window: 2024-2033

Luigi Oddero.

The estate owns 35 hectares in total of which 32 are under vine (twenty-two of Nebbiolo). The technical team at Luigi Oddero is first-rate: consultant winemakers Dante Scaglione and Francesco Versio were brought on board in November 2012 and in January 2017 respectively (both of whom were previously at Bruno Giacosa). Likewise talented agronomist Luciano Botto arrived in December 2017. Though more famous for their Barolos, the estate owns plots in the Barbaresco denomination’s Rombone cru, but had until recently chosen to bottle the wine as a Barbaresco Classico (despite it was all Rombone); but beginning in 2013, when they found the wine to be especially good and distinctive, they decided to label it as such.

2017      Barbaresco Rombone                               93

Vivid dark red. Enticing aromas of sour red cherry, red berries, mint, and camphor. Then fresh and smooth, with a balsamic note complementing the red and dark cherry flavours. Closes long with hints of woodsy underbrush and licorice. I found this to really improve with aeration, developing increased sweetness and tannic strength, but never becoming needlessly overpowering, remaining instead balanced and easy to drink. As far as a wine from Rombone goes, this has almost magical balance and grace, something the cru is not exactly known for (but rather for fleshy, rather big wines that impress right out of the gate). Made from partly estate-grown and partly bought grapes, the 2017 Rombone was aged in large, non-toasted French oak; the estate has also bought a 90 hectoliter oak vessel from an Austrian barrel maker but they aren’t sure they will change their Barbaresco’s oaking regimen. Time will tell. Drinking window: 2026-2042

Marchesi di Barolo.

2017 Barbaresco Serragrilli                         91

Deep red. Aromas and flavours of red and dark plum, herbs and menthol. Finishes with decent length and hints of mocha. Nicely balanced and with a spherical, edge-free mouthfeel, this strikes me as being a lovely wine that will hold lots of early appeal. Drinking window: 2024-2034

Marchesi di Gresy.

2017      Barbaresco Martinenga                         92

Very pretty medium-pale red and a garnet rim. Then cedar, menthol, underbrush and blood orange complement faded flowers and red cherry on both the nose and the mouth. A solid acid spine and polished tannins provide support and nicely extend the flavours on the persistent back end. A very pretty wine. Drinking window: 2024-2037

2016      Barbaresco Martinenga Gaiun                           94  

Bright red with a pale garnet rim. Deep, powerful nose hints at minerals (quarz, chalk), red cherry, blood orange juice, lemon peel, aromatic herbs and lavender. Then just as powerful in the mouth, where a two by four of dense red cherry, fresh citrus fruit and peach flavours hits the taste buds leaving them dizzy and reeling from the wallop. Finishes long and with mouthcoating texture that is noble and pure. Though I know many people often describe the Barbaresco Gaiun as plush, luscious or rich, I basically have never, and I mean absolutely never, fond it to be so (while I do think that those descriptors suit the Marchesi di Gresy’s Barbaresco Camp Gros in most years) and actually believe The Gaiun to be one of the more structured, tannic and austere of all Barbarescos in youth. With time Gaiun does pick up a little volume and flesh, and so in a cool climate year like 2016, you know what you need to do: forget about this in the cellar for another 10 years at least and then enjoy this beauty for another thirty after that. Drinking window: 2028-2046

2015      Barbaresco Riserva Martinenga Camp Gros                            93

Dark red with a hint of pale rim. Explosive aromas of red and black cherry, cumin, cinnamon, cocoa and violet soar from the glass. Then similar flavours to the aromas, with a truly noteworthy tannic spine providing backbone and support. Not for the faint of heart, this wine will require extended cellaring to reduce the tannic assertiveness that is currently present; no doubt, getting tannins to ripen perfectly in the 2015 vintage’s heat was a tall order and I wonder if this wine, independently of how impressive it is (and it is) will ever truly ever mellow out completely. Drinking window: 2025-2044

Michele Chiarlo.

2017      Barbaresco Faset                              92

A terrific Barbaresco from a site that I’ve never been especially fond of, Chiarlo’s 2017 Barbaresco Faset ticks all the right boxes. The wine boasts a pretty red colour, fragrant aromas of red cherry, minerals and flowers, and is both dense and light on its feet in the mouth, where healthy acidity nicely extends the flavours similar to the aromas on the long suave back end. As is often the case with wines from Faset cru, this wine is not meant for an extremely prolonged aging period, but then again, Chiarlo’s 2017 is so much fun to drink already that I can see why people would refuse to wait even if they were told to do so. Drinking window: 2024-2033

2017  Barbaresco Asili                            92

Bright red. Aromas and flavours of red fruit, spices and herbs. Enters suave and plush, then more rigid in the middle, with building sweet flesh on the rising tannic, ripely soft finish. An easygoing Barbaresco good for drinking, but though a lovely wine, the hot and dry 2017 vintage flattens the signature of site somewhat. Drinking window: 2024-2035

Moccagatta.

2017 Barbaresco Bric Balin                            91

The 2017 Bric Balin has turned out nicely enough for what is a very difficult year. A pretty wine bearing the signature of Minuto’s easygoing, delicious wine style, this is clean and juicy and brimming with early appeal. Rose, violet, lavender and red cherry or vie for attention from your nose and taste buds and succeed admirably in getting across a message of balance and charm. I’d drink this wine up sooner rather than later (say over the next ten years). Well done. Drinking window: 2024-2036

2016  Barbaresco                          93

Bright deep red. Aromas of crushed raspberry, violet and mocha are expressive and pure. Then juicy and boasting moderate sweetness but noteworthy verve to the blueberry and black cherry flavors, nicely complicated by hints of balsamic oils and herbs. This stellar Barbaresco classico closes with lovely floral lift and smooth tannins. Drinking window: 2024-2036

Musso.

Perhaps not as well-known as it should be, Musso is one of the best and most underrated producers not just of Barbaresco but of Italy. An historic family of Barbaresco (an ancestor was mayor of Barbaresco in the mid-1800s), the Musso estate was founded in1929, so they have been making wine for quite some time. Hail devastated vineyards soon thereafter and so the owner at the time, Sebastiano Musso, became a grape mediator (he was the official grape buyer for the Borgogno winery for something like ten years until the 60s). When his son Agostino came back to the winery in 1969, they bought vineyards in the excellent crus of Rio Sordo and Pora (about 1.5 hectares of Pora and one hectare in Rio Sordo). Today the estate can count on 10 hectares, and makes about 75,000 bottles.

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Tasting with the father and son team at Musso

2017     Barbaresco                                92

Deep, viscous red. Apricot, red cherry and red berries plus a whiplash of stony and spicy nuances on the knockout nose. Then absolutely brimming with pure red fruit complicated by steely, mineral, citrus peel and floral elements. Closes long with a late hit of spices. Aged in old 50 hectoliter barrels for fifteen months at least. Drinking window: 2024-2037

2017      Barbaresco Rio Sordo                          90

Pale red with a garnet rim. Delicately smoky aromas of red cherry, herbs and balsamic oils. Enters sweet, with vanilla-laced plump red fruit and sweet spice flavours then turns more acid and drying with herbal notes and mouthcoating tannins. Finishes long, but the tannic mouthfeel is not for the faint of heart. Try cellaring ten years and see what happens, but I’m not sure those tannins will ever resolve fully. Made with grapes picked from vines planted in the early 1970s and in 1998, this is aged in 25 hectoliter barrels of Austrian and French oak (30-40% new). Highly traditional winemaking (15 days cappello emerso with 4-5 pump overs at temperature control, then 40-50 days of cappello sommerso). Drinking window: 2028-2038

2017      Barbaresco Pora                                94

Bright medium red. Perfumed red cherry and sweet spices and flowers on the drop-dead gorgeous nose. Much fuller and deeper than Musso’s 2017 Barbaresco Rio Sordo, this also strikes me as being less marked by new oak (because there was probably more richness of fruit to begin with). Closes very smooth and long. The grapes are sourced from four plots of very old vines: two plots were planted in 1969 and 1979, but the other two are so old that even Musso isn’t exactly sure just when they were planted. For sure, they are both at least 60-70 years old; and anyone who has built up even a modicum of experience with Musso’s outstanding Barbaresco Pora wines over the years, fully realizes that these old vines are in no small measure responsible for a good chunk of the wine’s magic. Drinking window: 2024-2037

2016      Barbaresco Pora Riserva                                97

Medium-red colour. Captivating aromas and flavours of very pure red cherry, raspberry ice, minerals, peach, and roses, complicated by hints of menthol and tobacco. At once dense and juicy, with a stony undertone and lively acidity that nicely extend the pure flavours on the very long, precise back end. Made with the oldest grapes in Musso’s Pora holdings and planted on the highest part of the slope, this is a majestic Barbaresco that will improve and live for decades to come. Drinking window: 2026-2046

2015      Barbaresco Pora Riserva                             98

Bright medium red. Perfumed spicy red fruit, orange liqueur, sweet spices (mostly cinnamon and vanilla, plus a whisper of nutmeg) and minerals on the mesmerizing nose. Beautifully long and very complex, this boasts deep red cherry and spicy red berry flavours, complicated by a delicate herbaceousness adding further complexity on the long finish. Like a red berry cocktail with alcohol and a little bit of oak, this is just a fantastic wine that is best cellared for another five-six years to have it really showoff all its greatness. Musso first made the Pora Riserva in 1967, then again in 1971, 1974, 1978, and then, after a hiatus, started again in 2013, something all wine lovers should be immensely happy about. Drinking window: 2026-2045

Nada Fiorenzo.

A total of ten ten hectares and the first bottling made in 1982. Back then they only owned four hectares, all in the Rombone cru (so the 1982 Barbaresco was made with 100% Rombone grapes, though it was not stated on the label, as the first time the cru’s name appears on the label is with the 1997 vintage). They then bought vineyards in the Manzola cru in 1998 (from which they made their first wine in 2004). Then in 2013 they bought vineyards in Montaribaldi (1.5 hectares roughly). The three vineyard sites give very different wines, as Manzola gives elegant and fresher wines, perhaps without the complexity or depth of Rombone, but rounder and fleshier than those of Montaribaldi, the wines of which are perfumed but have less fruity flesh.

2017      Barbaresco Rombone                                92

Good bright dark red. Aromas and flavours of ripe red cherry, dark plum, smoke and lavender. Juicy and sweet on entry, then slightly leaner in the middle, then picking up size and flesh on the long mellow finish. Not as balsamic and big as some past vintages of this wine, I have to say I liked this wine’s brighter, easier going personality. Certainly, the tannins have been very well managed in a tough year like 2017. Drinking window: 2024-2037

2016      Barbaresco Manzola                                     92

Deep ruby-red. Intensely balsamic on the nose but happily not excessively so, with the red fruit still able to emerge. Rich and fleshy with plenty of fruit on entry, then with more deep fresh red cherry notes but also more linear and piercing, both in the middle and on the long, slightly oaky aftertaste. Aged for 25 hectoliter in French oak for two years. Drinking window: 2024-2038

2016      Barbaresco Montaribaldi                                   93

Fully saturated red. A relatively big, strapping wine that features nuances of black plum and spices. More savory than the estate’s Barbaresco Manzola, and also much bigger and more mouthcoating (one taste you can tell the wine is made with grapes from Barbaresco and not Treiso), with a touch of alcohol-derived heat on the long back end. Still very young, I hope that wine lovers will be able to resist opening their bottles for another six to eight years or so in order to fully revel in all this really beautiful Barbaresco has to offer. Drinking window: 2026-2040

2016      Barbaresco Rombone                              94

Good full red-ruby. Spicy and balsamic nuances on the nose and in the mouth complicate rich ripe dark and red cherry notes. At once elegant and powerful, rich and quite ripe for the year, but still it’s very obviously a wine of Treiso with that commune’s typical steely core and high acid mouthfeel extending the flavours on the long mineral finish. Very well done. Drinking window: 2025-2044

Oddero.

A change of style is in the works with the 2016 Barbarescos at Oddero, that saw the estate produce generally gentler, less austere wines by introducing things such as an overnight cold temperature room in which to hold grapes; new gentler presses, natural yeasts, lower temperatures during fermentation (they felt that previously their fermentation temperatures were too high and rose too rapidly which exasperated extraction levels).

2017 Barbaresco                               92

Bright red. Precise, piercing delivery of steely red fruit, minerals and tobacco aromas and flavours. Youthfully chewy and mineral, I’d say this offers good clean aromas and flavours typical of a Barbaresco with a slightly austere personality (in keeping with the highly traditional and age worthy Oddero house style). While this is not a single vineyard or cru wine, it is actually the better of the two Barbarescos made at Oddero in 2017, as the blend of vineyards from which the grapes were sourced benefited from the different soil makeup, always a good thing in difficult, droughty and hot years such as 2017. Drinking window: 2026-2037

2017      Barbaresco Gallina                                 89

Boasts excellent inner-mouth perfume and a strongly saline presence on the long finish featuring red plum and vanilla nuances. However, it became a little animal and gamey with aeration, and the tannins also turned slightly gritty. Aged 18-20 months in large oak barrels. I’m normally a fan of Barbaresco Gallina wines, as the cru gives usually nicely balanced, politely styled wines that are deceptively easy to drink when young but that also age well. That said I think there was just only so much you could hope for in the hot and dry 2017 vintage, the type of year that places a sandy-rich soil like that of Gallina at a big disadvantage. Drinking window: 2027-2035

Orlando Abrigo.

In 1988, Gianni (Giovanni) Abrigo joined his father Orlando Abrigo (who had begun producing wines under his own label in 1971) in running the family winery located in the Treiso commune of the Barbaresco denomination. Gianni, the ex-husband of Virna Borgogno (another very talented and well-respected producer in Barolo) is an apparently easygoing and laid-back man but who obviously has done his homework and sitting down to talk to him is enlightening. He has studied the Barbaresco denomination well, and is a pleasure to talk to about not just the Nebbiolo variety but of the Treiso viticultural area. With his father, he bought more hectares of land increasing the winery’s holdings to the current twenty-one hectares (and an annual production of 100,000 bottles a year), built a beautiful winery (designed by the talented Marco Ferrero in a very modernist, minimalist style that nonetheless blends in very well with the surrounding countryside rather than sticking out like a sore thumb), and brought in new technology in order to produce higher quality wines. His next goal is to add to the crus he already offers in his Barbaresco range (Montersino, Meruzzano and the Rongalio Riserva made from a specific plot within the larger Meruzzano MGA). In 2018 they bought one hectare in the Rocche Massalupi cru, located nearby, and from which he aims to make a cru once he finishes replanting it (which means it will be at least ten years before a bottle of wine will come to market). Last but not least, Abrigo’s natural curiosity and intellectual bent have led him to bottle a brand new wine, the Barbaresco Centoundici, made with 100% Nebbiolo Rosé thus making him only the second Barbaresco producer to make a wine wholly with this variety (along with Cascina Baricchi).

2018 Barbaresco Centoundici                                  93

Beautiful pale red color that is absolutely typical of Nebbiolo Rosé. Clean, precise aromas of red rose, violet, lavender and peony, with sour red cherry and potpourri nuances. Perfumed on entry, then very mellow and round, with red cherry and candied red rose flavours complicated by a strong presence of brown spices. Quite vibrant and long on the clean, precise finish, which features repeating sweet brown spice nuances also typical of some bottlings of Nebbiolo Rosé (but interestingly enough, not all of them). In its organoleptic profile, if not in its size and texture, this wine will remind knowledgeable Barolo and Barbaresco lovers of Cogno’s Barolo Riserva Vigna Elena. This is an extremely exciting wine, one of only two Barbarescos to be 100% Nebbiolo Rosé (and only the third Nebbiolo 100% Nebbiolo Rosé red wine if we also count Barolo, given that Cogno’s Riserva Vigna Elena is the only 100% Nebbiolo Rosé Barolo made today). More exciting still is that the 2019 Barbaresco Centoundici waiting in the wings and that I tasted at the winery is even better (not surprisingly, given 2019 is a much better vintage than 2018). A beauty, wine lovers have something to look forward to when it goes on sale. Drinking window: 2026-2038

2017      Barbaresco Meruzzano                                93

Deep red. Outstanding perfume on the nose, with aromas of sweet tobacco, red cherry, strawberry and hints of cinnamon and nutmeg; this wine is made with 10% Nebbiolo Rosé along with the Nebbiolo, and boy, can you tell. Then long and luscious, with ripely sweet and round flavours of red fruit, this is less taut and tannic than Abrigo’s 2017 Barbaresco Montersino. The raspberry nectar and strawberry cordial nuances on the smooth, long aftertaste are absolutely captivating. The vines are planted at roughly 400 meters above sea level in a really beautiful part of the Barbaresco denomination. Made with organically grown grapes. Drinking window: 2025-2038

2016  Barbaresco Montersino                                  94

Nicely opaque red. Red rose, lavender, herbs and menthol are complicated by a balsamic note that is absolutely typical of the site (and that in my experience will only get stronger with age). Enters rich, round and ripe, then becomes sharper and tighter in the middle, finishing long and very taut with excellent lift to the steely red fruit and herbal flavours. Ages in barriques for fifteen months (15% new oak). Drinking window: 2024-2038

2015  Barbaresco Riserva Rongalio                                 95

Fully saturated bright red-ruby. Citrus, balsamic and hematic notes on the nose and in the mouth complement Nebbiolo’s more typical red cherry and red berry notes. Large-scaled and nicely textured, this finishes long and youthfully chewy, delivering atypical size and mouthcoating richness for a wine from this part of the Barbaresco denomination. That said, readers need to be aware that Rongalio is an Orlando Abrigo monopole and its wines are characterized by a different evolution than those of Abrigo’s Barbarescos from the Meruzzano and Montersino (Rongalio is located within the larger Meruzzano MGA, but its soil, unlike most of that of Meruzzano, is characterized by a higher proportion of loam and clay making for bigger and more structured wines than those of Meruzzano). The Barbaresco Rongalio is aged in tonneaux and in 25 hectoliter barrels for roughly twenty months and then another two years in bottle. Drinking window: 2026-2040

2014   Barbaresco Riserva Rongalio                               94

Vibrant red. Exotic aromas of Oriental spices and woodsy underbrush complement red rose and cherry aromas and flavours. Hints of flinty minerality and of balsamic oils are evident on entry, then pick up steam in the middle and colour the spicy, cocoa-accented red and black fruit flavours on the long, lively back end. This 2014 is relatively more advanced than other vintages of the Barbaresco Riserva Rongalio were at the same stage of development (meaning at the time of writing: six-seven years from the vintage) but is in keeping with the characteristics of the 2014 vintage, which gave lighter-styled, high acid Barbarescos. And so not surprisingly, this is an easier drinking version of Rongalio, which is usually more closed up in its youth and more reticent in giving up all it has to offer. A really lovely wine that is irresistible to drink already now, you can tell why owner Giovanni (Gianni) Abrigo values this specific plot of old vines (planted in 1984 and 1991, but the vines average between 35-40 years of age) and decided to bottle it as a cru within the larger Meruzzano MGA). The Barbaresco Rongalio has been made as a Riserva only beginning with the 2011 vintage, and is only made in the best vintages. Drinking window: 2024-2036

Paitin.

The estate started life out as Elia Giuseppe, then became Elia Pasquero Secondo, and finally in 1982 became Paitin (which is the name of an area between Neive and Castagnole Lanze). The family used to grow not just grapes, but also apricots, peaches and hazelnuts, plus raised hens for the eggs. Today, the estate owns eighteen hectares of which roughly eleven are of Nebbiolo. In 2018 they added vineyard plots in the Basarin cru (1.45 hectares near Sottimano) and in Faset in 2019 (about 0.6 hectares); and from both these crus they aim to make two new Barbarescos.

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Tasting with the winemaking team at Paitin

2018      Barbaresco Serraboella                               93

Medium-dark red. Pure aromas and flavours of red cherry and berries have a pretty floral top note: the presence of Nebbiolo Rosé is unmistakable here. At once big and quite tannic (but not gritty: you can tell there was 50% lower production because of poor flowering, a consequence of the early growing season’s poor weather), but also nuanced and graceful thanks to the precise, pure and piercing floral contribution of the Nebbiolo Rosé. A very refined, elegant wine. Drinking window: 2025-2040

2018      Barbaresco Serraboella Sorì Paitin                        94

Medium dark red colour; this is paler coloured than the Serraboella, showcasing the greater presence of Nebbiolo Rosé in the blend. Refined, almost steely in fact, with a vivid tannic backbone nicely framing the red cherry, inky and red berry flavours on the long, taut and highly fragrant finish. Drinking window: 2024-2044

2017      Barbaresco Serraboella                                  94

Bright medium-deep red. Floral strawberry and red cherry notes are complemented by sweet pipe tobacco, licorice, blood orange and camphor. This is also very mineral, with a downright stony undertone lifting the kirsch and red berry aromas and flavours. The finish is long and refined, and features more steel and minerals. About 5% Nebbiolo Rosé in this vintage. Drinking window: 2024-2038

2017 Barbaresco Serraboella Sorì Paitin                                  95

Luminous red. Deep, enticing aromas of red cherry, minerals, iron shavings, white truffle and violet. Lovely, linear delivery of steely raspberry and sour red cherry flavours nicely lifted by a bright violet top note. You can tell there’s plenty of Nebbiolo Rosé here: in fact, after making this observation, I was told that this vintage of Sorì Paitin has about 20% Nebbiolo Rosé in the blend because they decided against making their Barbaresco Vecchie Vigne in 2017, and so all the Nebbiolo Rosé, which is all old vines, went into this wine. You can also tell the wine is the product of low yields (the area was hailed upon hard in 2017: a section of Serraboella was essentially wiped out, an abnormal occurrence in that the hail hit late, around April 15). And proving Murphy’s law to be true, the area was then also hit with late season frost a week later¸ but despite the bad weather, this is a standout wine. In fact, if I really want to be picky, I could say that the only problem here is that it isn’t that much better than its stablemate Serraboella : chalk that up to the combination of the Pasquero family’s winemaking talent, the greatness of the Serraboella cru (as I have said and written before, in my estimation, one of the top dozen crus of Barbaresco), and the hot 2017 vintage, which tends to compress wine aromatics to a greater or lesser degree leveling the playing field somewhat. Drinking window: 2025-2042

2016 Barbaresco Riserva Vecchie Vigne                              96

The 2016 Barbaresco Riserva Vecchie Vigne from Paitin is a monumentally good wine that speaks clearly both of the Neive cru of Serraboella and of the 2016 vintage. Sleek and cool, but with sneaky concentration and power underneath where there lurks a steely core of red fruit and minerals that is absolutely beguiling. Not at all opulent or fleshy, but rather elegant and refined but with real complexity and a multilayered air to it, this is a smashingly good wine that like all its stablemates at this address needs time to emerge in order to show all its considerable worth. Drinking window: 2026-2045

Piero Busso.

2017 Barbaresco Mondino                                       92

Nicely supple and pliant, the 2017 Barbaresco Mondino from Piero Busso offers plenty of fruit-forward appeal and a nice sweetly spicy touch on the aftertaste. Though not the last word in complexity or concentration, it is a very well-made wine that offers plenty of appeal and early drinking pleasure. Drinking window: 2024-2033

2016 Barbaresco San Stunet                                 90

The San Stunet is rather ripe for a 2016 wine, with pretty but soft aromas and flavours of red cherry, berry nectar, sweet spices, menthol and herbs. The long finish features hints of cedar and chocolaty tobacco but also considerable alcoholic warmth. Drinking window: 2024-2034

Pio Cesare.

2017 Barbaresco                                  93

This 2017 Barbaresco, in what was a hot droughty growing season, is a work of art. Bright medium red in colour, nicely perfumed with red cherry, mint, lavender and orange peel nuances on both the nose and in the mouth, and a delicate, graceful tannic frame that nicely supports the repeating orange and red fruit flavours on the long fresh finish. Well done. Drinking window: 2024-2037

2016 Barbaresco                                       94

Bright red. Expressive Nebbiolo aromas of red cherry, strawberry, Oriental spices and woodsy underbrush. Taut and precise in the mouth, with very pure floral red fruit flavours, this lingers impressively on the suave finish. A lovely Barbaresco but with an inner core of sheer steel, there’s a lot of wine for the money here. Drinking window: 2024-2041

2016 Barbaresco Il Bricco                                     95

Good full luminous red. Perfumed aromas of sour red cherries, redcurrants, cinnamon, violet and rose are complemented by a steely note. Then also steely on the palate, where bright acidity nicely lifts and extends the red fruit, star anise, and mineral flavours on the long, clean, and very floral finish. This is an absolute knockout wine from a cooler section of the Barbaresco denomination that always reminds me a little of Ceretto’s Barbaresco Bernadot in that both express the steely side of Barbarescos from this part of the Treiso commune so well. The Barbaresco Il Bricco is also, in my opinion, Pio Cesare’s best wine in almost every vintage. Clearly, those who prefer their red wines to be endowed with lots of sexy new oak and big ripe fleshiness need to look elsewhere to find their Barbaresco joy. Not me. Drinking window: 2024-2042

Poderi Colla.

2017 Barbaresco Roncaglie                                    93

Deep red. Smoky underbrush and potpourri complicate red cherry and mineral nuances on both the nsoe and in the mouth. Clean and pure, with noteworthy vibrancy for such a hot year, this lingers nicely on the smooth close. A very nicely balanced Barbaresco that showcases just how great a wine a top-notch site such as Roncaglie can deliver. Drinking window: 2024-2038

2016 Barbaresco Roncaglie                                      95

As good as Poderi Colla’s 2017 Barbaresco Roncaglie is (and it is outstanding), the 2016 Barbaresco Roncaglie is just so much better. Beautifully pure and deeply powerful, its ripe core of red fruit, flowers and sweet spices is still tightly wrapped up in a cloak of youthfully chewy tannins and bright but balanced acidity. Closes long with a vibrant aftertaste. Drinking window: 2024-2042

Produttori di Barbaresco.

2016 Barbaresco                                94

When you are talented and know what you are doing, plus have the luxury of choosing the better grapes from many of an area’s best vineyards, the likelihood of making good wines is high even in difficult years. But when the stars align and the year is a memorable one, then clearly chances are high the wine you make will be memorable. And this is exactly the scenario with the Produttori’s “regular” bottling of Barbnaresco, which is most likely, unless memory fails me, the best such wine this coop has ever made. Technical director Aldo Vacca and his team at this standout cooperative of Produttori di Barbaresco have made an absolutely delicious 2016 Barbaresco Classico that is better than many Barbaresco cru wines I have tasted over the years. This 2016 wine is everything you’d want a Barbaresco to be: a wine that delivers Nebbiolo’s beautiful perfume, noteworthy power and texture, and yet boasts bright, harmonious acidity to help it age. Beautifully perfumed and textured, with uncommon levels of depth and richness to its red cherry, sweet spice and floral aromas and flavours that linger impressively for what is normally a very good wine, but that in 2016 is even better than usual. A really outstanding buy. Drinking window: 2025-2035

2015  Barbaresco Riserva Montefico                            93

Bright red. Ripe aromas and flavours of ripe red cherry, raspberry jelly, Oriental herbs, smoke, licorice and minerals. Big dense and tactile, with a mouthcoating but refined palate presence, this big wine is still closed down but is obviously ripe and broad, a product of the generally warm 2015 vintage. Finishes nicely persistent and suave with fine tannins. Produttori handled the heat well and the wine is excellent, though perhaps less reminiscent of Montefico than other examples from cooler vintages were. Still, this big strapping wine will make a lot of big red wine lovers more than happy. Drinking window: 2024-2038

2015 Barbaresco Riserva Asili                                    94

The 2015 Barbaresco Riserva Asili from the Produttori cooperative showcases why Asili is such a great site, truly one of the four or five best in all Barbaresco. Despite the warm vintage, this 2015 neatly combines power and elegance, where the precise, dense red fruit and aromatic herb aromas and flavours remind me of the Asili site. Oriental spices, sandalwood and flowers complement deep red cherry and mineral nuances on the nose and in the mouth. The finish is both suave and long. Drinking window: 2024-2040

2015 Barbaresco Riserva Rabajà                                   95

Luminous red. Offers ripe but piercing aromas and flavours of ripe red cherry, coffee, menthol, rosemary, lavender, plus a hint of tobacco and of licorice. Powerful yet smooth, the finish ligers impressively on the taste buds (and on the mind). A marvellous Barbaresco that is atypically powerful (even by Rabaja’s usually powerful standards) boasting noteworthy tannic clout, this 2015 Riserva Rabajà will need to lie comfortably forgotten in a good cellar for a number of years before  being ready to showcase all it has to offer (which is considerable). Tasted blind, Rabajà is always easy to recognize among its Produttori stablemates: deeper than the Pora, more complex than the Ovello, more powerful than the Rio Sordo, denser than the Montestefano, more nuanced than the Pajè and fleshier than the Asili. One of my top two wines from Produttoir this year, but a little patience will; be required for this big wine to come around. Drinking window: 2025-2040

2015 Barbaresco Riserva Montestefano                                    96

Piercing red-ruby hue. Red cherry, sweet spices, sage, menthol and violet duke it out on the expressive, powerful nose. Follows an uppercut of black and red cherry flavours that leave the taste buds teetering on the edge of total hedonistic submission, brought back from the edge by a whiplash of welcome refreshing acidity. Finishes long and rich, with a dense core of ripe red fruit that lasts and lasts. Barbaresco lovers and wine insiders know that, sort of Grands Échézeaux like at DRC, the Produttori’s Barbaresco Riserva Montestefano is often their best wine, even though other crus in the lineup enjoy greater fame. This is especially true in wamr vintages like 2015, and so it’s no surprise this is the cru Barbaresco from produttoir I liked best this year. Knockout wine. Drinking window: 2025-2040

2015 Barbaresco Riserva Pajè                                        95

Big and almost brawny, the 2015 Barbaresco Riserva Pajè from Produttori is one of my three favourite wines of this vintage from this fantastic coop. Hinting at the slightly blue-tinged fruit this cru is capable of delivering, but with plenty of ripe red fruit (cherry, raspberry, redcurrant) aromas and flavours, the 2015 Barbaresco Riserva Pajè also delivers notes of sweet spices, woodsy underbrush, camphor and licorice that add depth and complexity. Dense and multilayered, with a really long smooth finish. Well done. Drinking window: 2024-2038

2015 Barbaresco Riserva Pora                                          94

Pora is an underrated Barbaresco cru because it usually gives more politely-styled wines that don’t grab attention immediately. A great Pora wine is a magical balancing act between fruit and tannin, acidity and fruit, and the Produttori’s Barbaresco Riserva Pora usually offers an archetypal example of what the cru can offer, though in recent years I have found it to have turned into a slightly more muscular wine than I remember it being in the past. In 2015 I’d say the Riserva Pora is back to where it used to be, with very juicy red cherry, sweet spice and pipe tobacco aromas and flavours, complicated by hints of menthol. In my experience well-made Barbarescos from the Pora cru age remarkably well despite their relatively lithe frame (but again the Produttor’s version has been throwing curveballs of late) but this very pretty wine will also age well. Drinking window: 2023-2036

2015 Barbaresco Riserva Ovello                                  93

Deep red with ruby tinges. Minerals, licorice and herbs complement clean red fruit aromas. Then similar nuances on the palate, with the Ovello-typical tannic power slightly less evident than usual with softer than usual tannins wrapping themselves around a core of soft red fruit. Finishes nicely persistent and suave. Drinking window: 2026-2044

2016 Barbaresco Riserva Muncagota                                  93+

Opaque ruby. Dark red cherry and even cassis on the cola and tobacco accented-nose. Then similar flavours in the mouth, with a deeper licorice quality building with air. Easygoing and increasingly sweeter with air, finishing with very good breath and length for the year. My score might be a little low, but the plus sign next to it means I think it could easily deserve 2-3 point more in six, seven years time. Drinking window: 2023-2036

2015 Barbaresco Riserva Rio Sordo                             92

The Produttori’s 2016 Barbaresco Riserva Rio Sordo is a wine I have always approached for its relatively early appeal and softness of texture, but lately it has impressed me less than it used to. Normally, Barbarescos from Rio Sordo are softer and rounder than the wines from Barbaresco crus such as Rabajà and Montestefano, but in 2015 the Produttori’s wine strikes me as the simplest of the bunch. Lavender, dried herbs and menthol only accentuate the soft ripe easygoing qualities this wine seems to embody currently. Ready to drink sooner than other crus in this coops range, it does boast lovely balance. Drinking window: 2023-2035

Prunotto.

2017      Barbaresco Bric Turot                                  90

Medium red. Musky notes complement redcurrant, leather, roast coffee and cedar on the nose. Then nicely concentrated and pliant, with the typically ripe and candied quality of the 2017 vintage coming to the fore with aeration, but there is good lift to the flavours of smoky red fruits and tobacco flavours. The firm finish hints at licorice and herbs. A lovely Barbaresco that is best drink up over the next eight years or so for maximum enjoyment. Drinking window: 2024-2034

2017      Barbaresco Secondine                                     92

Good bright red. Suave aromas and flavours of cherry liqueur, mocha, mint, orange peel and licorice. Dense, spicy and relatively bright for the vintage, this struck me as being at once solidly built and light on its feet, with its sweetness contrasted by a savoury quality. Not the last word in complexity but nicely ripe, with a firm tannic spine that will require years of patience to resolve fully. This is Prunotto’s first vintage of Barbaresco Secondine, the MGA where Gaja’s Sorì San Lorenzo is made from. Drinking window: 2025-2036

Renato Fenocchio.

Renato and Milva Fenocchio founded their estate in 1993 and began estate-bottling in 2001 the Barbaresco. The estate has been organic-certified since two years but had been following organic farming practices already in the 90s when practically nobody else in the area did (in fact Milva is the daughter of Dario Giacone and Mariuccia, who run their own Barbaresco estate, but as they were uninterested in farming organically, she decided to set off on her own). Today the estate owns vineyards in crus Starderi (it was first vineyard they bought in 1993, so in fact, their Barbaresco classico was made with Starderi grapes, though the label did not state this), in Rombone (they first made a Barbaresco Rombone in 2016), and in Basarin (they age this wine two years in oak and two more in bottle), in Cottà and Ca’Grassa, for a total of about eight hectares. The Fenocchios speak highly of Bruno Giacosa, a family friend, who back in 1993 when they set out helped them both in the vineyard and in the cellar (Bruno was a very good friend of Dario Giacone and he liked the idea of helping out the two youngsters making their own go at it). However, Renato Fenocchio is no slouch in the winemaking department, as he worked in the cellar at the Marchsi De Gresy for four-five years as well. His and Milva’s goal is to make clean wines that have plenty of acidity, and so are not afraid to harvest earlier than most other estates, provided they feel the grapes have reached physiologic maturity (Renato says that at De Gresy he worked with winemaker Piero Ballario who liked clean wines and so he wants to make similar wines).  

2018      Barbaresco Cottà                               92

Bright red colour, this very easygoing, very fruity Barbaresco is neither too long nor fleshy, but offers early drinking pleasure and charm, not to mention remarkable sweetness of fruit. Will make a perfect lunch wine, if it weren’t so good that it will undoubtedly cause people to loiter rather than getting back to work! Drinking window: 2025-2038

2017      Barbaresco Rombone                                92

Medium red with an ample garnet rim. Clean red cherry, sweet spices, herbs and a metallic nuance are lifted by a hint of nail varnish hat instead of being unpleasant actually adds interest and complexity. Then similar flavours to the aromas, with a touch of alcohol and lots of rose petal nuances. Well balanced and lovely, this is just plain fun to drink. About 6500 bottles made. Drinking window: 2024-2032

2016     Barbaresco Starderi                              90

Slightly opaque bright red; not dark at all. Very balsamic and loaded with licorice on both the nose and the palate, but I wonder if there isn’t just the faintest touch of a green streak here. Enters ripe and round, then turns finer and suave in the middle and on the long finish, which features a trace of alcohol-derived heat. Drinking window: 2026-2036

2015      Barbaresco Basarin                              91

Darker red than the other wines I tasted at Renato Fenocchio’s winery. Also, more herbaceous and spicy (the spicy notes probably come from the oak) and less characterized by the glorious red cherry and berry notes of some of the other Fenocchio Barbarescos I tried during my visit. Very smooth, this is a long clean fresh and beautiful wine that will have many admirers, though personally I prefer the sour red cherry, red berry and steely nature of the other Barbarescos I tasted at Fenocchio. Drinking window: 2024-2033

Rivella Serafino.

Founded in 1967, the family used to sell grapes but mostly wine in demijohns, but decided to estate bottle. They had 2 hectares, all in the top quality Montestefano cru (planted with Nebbiolo in 1963, so the estate can count on some really old vines); they placed the cru’s name on their wine label right after the creation of the Barbaresco DOCG. The wines are very traditionally made, with the Barbaresco spending four years in 35 hectoliter Slavonian oak barrels and about eight months in bottle before release.

2017  Barbaresco Montestefano                 90

Vivid red. A hint of volatile acidity blows off to show bright aromas of flowers and red fruit. Then rich, ripe and mellow, with alcohol-derived power and very sweet red cherry, plums, tobacco, herb, spice, plus a peppery edge on the finish. A rather broad, large sized Barbaresco that closes with late hits of cinnamon and nutmeg. This will be out on sale in April 2021. Drinking window: 2024-2032

2016 Barbaresco Montestefano                        91

Deep red. Richly ripe: in fact, dangerously close to being overripe, with a panoply of red cherry, plum, raspberry, cinnamon aromas and flavours neatly complemented by a twist of black pepper. Yet more of a spicy kick hits at the long back end, which is both intensely saline and savory. Less sweet than the 2017, but also less alcoholic heat than that one. Drinking window: 2026-2035

Rizzi.

2017  Barbaresco Rizzi                            93

Good full red. Aromas of dried cherry, apricot, earth and menthol; started a bit medicinal but became more floral with air. Concentrated and lively, with ripe acidity framing the dark and red berry and spice flavors. Finishes savory and fairly ripe, with good persistence but also noteworthy freshness. The 2017 vintage’s hot weather probably helped Rizzi express a bit more flesh than usual. Drinking window: 2025-2033

2017  Barbaresco Nervo                               91

Good bright, dark red. Pure aromas of red cherry, menthol and licorice, lifted by a violet topnote. Then fairly juicy and rather approachable, offering flavors of Morello cherry and spices. A bit less fruity than the Rizzi and a little angular overall, this finishes with chewy tannins and excellent persistence. Drinking window: 2025-2033

2017 Barbaresco Pajorè                           94

Bright medium red. Terroir-driven aromas of raspberry, sour red cherry, iron, minerals and earth tones.  Utterly seamless texture, but very precise, with a strong note of cinnamon adding complexity and nuance. The remarkably vibrant finish (for such a hot vintage) shows a refined tannins architecture and outstanding length. Drinking window: 2024-2035

2016 Barbaresco Rizzi                      91

Good red. Reduced aromas of smoked meat, herbs and minerals. Then flavours of sweet red fruit, nicely framed by harmonious acidity. Finishes clean and nicely balanced wine with a late blast of iron and tannins that are firm but not hard, and a metallic note. Drinking window: 2026-2035

2016 Barbaresco Nervo                      92

Ruby-red. Expressive musky aromas of red berries, tobacco and herbs. Then sweeter and lusher than the Rizzi but a bit youthfully reduced. Most impressive today on the tangy, fine-grained finish, which displays sneaky length and concentration. Cellar this for four or five years before pulling the cork. Drinking window: 2025-2035

2016 Barbaresco Pajorè                            95

Medium red. Red fruit aromas are complicated by sweet spices, steely notes, licorice and rose petals. Smooth and precise on the palate, offering focused intensity and perfumed lift with sappy red fruit and licorice flavors. The rising, palate-staining, minerally finish is a marvel. Drinking window: 2025-2038

2015 Barbaresco Riserva Boito                  94+

Deep red. Ripe red berries, cocoa and flowers along with a suggestion of crystallized fruits on the nose. Dense, silky and suave on entry, then a bit inexpressive in the middle finishing with chewy but noble tannins and outstanding length. Needs time. Drinking window: 2026-2040

Roagna

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Ian and Luca Roagna in the cellar

2015 Barbaresco Pajè                   93

Deep red. Herbs, flowers and camphor complement the red berries and citrus aromas and flavours. Very savory rather than saline on the long finish that features the delicate earth tones that so characterize this cru. The pungent floral note clearly indicates some whole bunches were used here; Luca told me it was the first time he did so to lower alcohol and give freshness, and liked what he found, at least in this specific vintage (that was not an especially cool one). Drinking window: 2025-2035

2015      Barbaresco Asili Vecchie Viti                        93+

Deep luminous red. Aromas and flavours of geranium, lavender, faded rose petals and delicate red berries: much more floral-herbal than fruity (it is so currently, at least). Rich and dense, but the floral note is intense to the point of pungency and sharpness, at least to my taste. There is noteworthy purity to this wine, but the pungent note and the relatively tough tannins maybe a little too much for some wine lovers, so my suggestion is to forget about it in your cellar to let it mellow and transform for another six to eight years at least before pulling the cork. Drinking window: 2027-2038

2015 Barbaresco Montefico Vecchie Viti                  97

Deep bright red. Beautiful wine that offers an explosion of ripe, very pure raspberry and red cherry aromas and flavours, complicated by rose and violet nuances. Very dense and rich yet juicy, balanced acidity gives this a laser-like precision on the floral, fragrant aftertaste. There is a bit of the floral pungency typical of whole bunch use (5% percent whole bunch used here), but not to the degree of the Asili Vecchie Viti bottling. This is a knockout wine that you should do anything you can to get your hands on, but unfortunately only 1100 bottles were made. Drinking window: 2026-2042

2015 Barbaresco Pajè Vecchie Viti                     98

Deep red-ruby. Clean, dense, juicy rich and very glycerol, this amazing Barbaresco is at once powerful yet refined and boasts truly uncommon levels of depth and complexity. The midpalate density especially is noteworthy, as is the extremely long, clean finish that features repeating minerally-accented ripe red fruit on the aftertaste. There is a less obvious use of whole bunches here, with more fruit and less flowers in the fore. Drinking window: 2026-2042

2012 Crichet Pajè                         97+

Deep bright red. Perfumed aromas of red cherry, camphor, licorice and candied violet. Enters very sweet then mouthcoating and assertive, finishing very long. There’s mindboggling levels of density and concentration here, yet the wine stays light on its feet and comes across as remarkably graceful. Only about 800 bottles made (750 mL and magnums). Drinking window: 2026-2042

Runchét.

2017      Barbaresco Meruzzano                     92

Good full red. Steely on the nose and in the mouth as you’d expect from a wine from Treiso, with hints of sweet spices and flowers complementing red fruit. Not a fruit bomb and not especially complex, but very refined. I also like this wine’s overall balance, so I was really surprised to learn it has 15% alcohol. I don’t think you’ll be able to tell either. Drinking window: 2024-2033

Roberto Abellonio.

2017      Barbaresco Casot                      88

Bright red. Very floral and clean on the nose. Light and lively but with an underlying very tough tannic spine, this strikes me as being a little fruit-challenged (in keeping with the droughty, hot year). Finishes with juicy acidity but the mounting tannins are tough going, so I’d say this really needs food. Smells like some whole bunches were used. Drinking window: 2025-2031

Ronchi.

2016 Barbaresco                          92

Dark red-ruby. Youthfully brooding aromas of dark cherries, licorice and black tea, plus a hint of lavender. Powerful and broad but focused dark berry and bitter cherry flavors are somewhat compressed by a tannic cloak on the back half. Deeply pitched but lively, with strong finishing cut and good length, this is a wine that benefits from decanting a lot ahead. A solidly, well-made Barbaresco that will appeal a great deal more to those who like their wines powerful and big as opposed to nuanced and graceful. A case of different strokes for different folks, I guess. Drinking window: 2025-2036

2016 Barbaresco Ronchi                      93

Good full red. Aromas of raspberry, cocoa and licorice are lifted by welcome, refreshing mint and violet elements. Juicy and pliant, with lovely inner-mouth perfume to the flavors of redcurrant, candied violet, tobacco and iron. Closes clean and long, with noteworthy but suave rising tannins and repeating notes of mint and flowers. Drinking window: 2026-2040

Socrè.

2017 Barbaresco Roncaglie                         92

Deep red, with likewise deep aromas and flavours of red and dark fruit, licorice and menthol. This powerful wine may not be the last word in finesse but has plenty to offer. The tannins need some time to resolve fully, and might in fact always remain a little on the tough side, courtesy of the hot and dry 2017 vintage. But this strapping young Barbaresco from one of the best crus of the denomination is certainly a youthfully impressive wine that will likely repay cellaring. Drinking window: 2025-2038

Sottimano.

2017      Barbaresco Cottà                       92

Good medium red. Aromas of red cherry, raspberry, orange zest and spicy oak. Like liquid velvet on the palate, but with outstanding lift and intensity to the ripe flavors of raspberry, pomegranate, flowers and sweet spices. The bracing finish features rising noble tannins and a magically light touch for such a hot vintage. Drinking window: 2025-2035

2017      Barbaresco Pajorè                            94

Deep medium red. Candied raspberry, blood orange, peach, licorice and white pepper. Then ripe and showy, but with good juiciness and lift to the sweetly ripe red fruit, citrus peel and floral flavours that carry through on the explosive aftertaste. Drinking window: 2025-2035

2016      Barbaresco Basarin                             94

Saturated, bright red. Red cherry, crushed rock, licorice, mint, violet and white pepper on the pure fresh nose. Silky, savory, rich and juicy with red fruit and mineral flavors coating the entire mouth. Boasts a positive high-toned character and lift of the cooler 2016 vintage. Finishes with palate-staining persistence. Drinking window: 2026-2040

2016      Barbaresco Fausoni                              93

Good full medium red. Slightly reduced aromas of strawberry, rose petal and herbs, plus a hint of flint. smoky minerality and a whiff of game. Fresh and juicy, with a restrained sweetness but a nicely suave texture. Finishes with a slightly wild nuance and outstanding persistence and grip. Drinking window: 2025-2038

2016      Barbaresco Cottà                                    96

Dark red. Crushed red and blue fruits, licorice, flowers and sweet spices, with hints of coffee. Explosive on the palate, offering extremely concentrated flavors of sappy red and black fruits, rose, and lavender that are both rich and round. As always, Cottà boasts an outstanding sucrosite and polished tannins coated with fruit on the long ripe round finish. Looks like another classic Cottà in the making. Drinking window: 2026-2042

2016      Barbaresco Pajorè                           97

Good full medium red. Deep, perfumed aromas of strawberry, rose petal and spices, along with a nuanced balsamic minerality. Focused and generous at the same time, with a restrained sweetness but a velvety texture that’s an essence of this cru. Wonderfully pure and light on its feet but ripe, boasting outstanding persistence and grip. Drinking window: 2026-2042

2015      Barbaresco Currà                           96

Good full red. Knockout aromas of red berries, minerals, flowers and flint, complicated by sweet spices. Creamy-sweet but with a near-magical lightness of touch, this precise and dense wine boasts a three-dimensional mouth feel thanks to bright energy and uncommon focus. Finishes with great subtle length and wonderfully fine and suave tannins. When young, this wine can be overshadowed by the broader and fleshier Cottà, but I love Currà’s steely, refined elegance and sneaky concentration. Drinking window: 2026-2042

2010      Barbaresco Riserva                              97

Bright red. Captivating nose offers a panoply of aromas, including raspberry, rose, cinnamon, licorice, damp earth, sandalwood, balsamic oils, espresso and orange peel. Then pure velvet in the mouth, with underbruishy and coffee nuances lingering nicely on the uncommonly long and dense finish. There’s noteworthy finesse and thrust here, not just simply power and size. Drinking window: 2024-2045

Tenuta Barac.

Originally owned by the Piazzo family (Armando is current owner Alberto’s grandfather). The family first opened a bed and breakfast as Casicna Barac (Baracco is a common family name in Treiso: in fact, there is a piazza Leopoldo Baracco in the centre of Treiso). When in 2007 Armando Piazzo died, his daughter Wilma inherited twelve hectares (eleven around the home and one in Novello) but they had no cellar to work with and so sold their grapes; however, they did have some wine made with their grapes (mostly by a Barolo coop and later by Vignaioli Pertinace) so as to sell it to the bed and breakfast’s clients. But the goal was to make and estate-bottle their wine, and so building of a cellar was completed in 2015. Today Cascina Barac makes about 25,000 bottles/year (with a potential for 90-100,000 bottles/year). Of their twelve hectares, ten are planted to Nebbiolo with which they make mostly Barbaresco and a little Barolo (from the one hectare in Novello). The average age of the Barbaresco vines is 30 years (a small plot is much older, planted in 1966). Their Barbaresco cru is made from a two hectares section of the five they own in the Rocche Massalupo MGA (the grapes from the remaining portion are used to make a Langhe Nebbiolo and also sold). Winemaking is fairly modern in style, with the must spending only eight days on the skins and fermentation temperatures reach at most 27 degrees Celsius. The wine is aged twelve months in 25 Hl and 50 Hl french oak barrels, and left in bottle for one year before going on sale. Their consultant winemaker is Roberto Vezza who has made a name for himself for wines made at Marchesi di Barolo (he sued to work there when Luciano Sandrone was still there too) and Josetta Saffirio. Cascina Barac practices organic farming and has been so certified since 2015.

2017      Barbaresco Rocche Massalupo                        92

Relatively deep red colour for a Barbaresco, which I don’t particularly like. Perfumed red and black cherry, medicinal herbs, violet and a light spicy touch on the intriguing nose. Very light on its feet, with lively red fruit and spice nuances on entry, then rising, slightly tough tannins in the middle and on the long back end really speak of the vintage. Needs time to resolve its tannic heft, but I think has enough juicy fruit to outlive the tannins. A lovely wine that will show even better with food. Drinking window: 2025-2036

2016      Barbaresco Rocche Massalupo                          93

Bright red. Strawberry, red cherry, sweet spices and herbs on the enticing nose. Then rich and dense, with red fruit, camphor and tar notes complicating the dark red cherry fruit flavours. Finishes long and juicy with polished tannins and a whiplash of more ripe fruit nicely supported by assertive but polished tannins. Drinking window: 2025-2040

2015      Barbaresco Rocche Massalupo                            91

Deep red. Ripe red and black cherry, sweet spices, vanilla and herbs on the perfumed nose. Then black plums and herbs on the ripe, nicely textured mouthfeel, with a long suave aftertaste of plums and balsamic oils. Not the most complex Barbaresco you’ll ever taste, but very smooth and balanced and very enjoyable. Drinking window: 2025-2036

Ugo Lequio.

2017 Barbaresco Gallina                                   93

Deep red. Forward aromas of ripe dark plum, red cherry, cinnamon, violet and coffee. At once dense and juicy, with good ripeness of fruit and tannins and nicely persistent on the fruit-forward, expressive finish. I have always been a big fan of Ugo Lequio’s wines, naming his Barbaresco Gallina among Italy’s “Best 100” wines when I used to co-write my own little guide to the “100 Best Wines of Italy” back in the first decade or so of the 21st century. I just find Lequio’s wine to be often very appealing in its fruity, fleshy personality and early accessibility, while managing to boast real size and depth too. Drinking window: 2024-2032.

2016 Barbaresco Gallina                                     92+

Bright vivid red. Enticing nose offers hints of dried herbs, sweet spices, peony, faded flowers and orange peel complementing sour red cherry and strawberry aromas. Then similar flavours to the aromas, with mineral tinges adding complexity on the long finish. This needs time to develop fully, it’s still quite young presently, and so I expect this grow further (hence the plus sign on my score). The Gallina vineyard has always been one of my favourites in the Neive township, and Lequio farms one of its best portions (planted in 1953, ’63 and ’71, this is from where Bruno Giacosa used to source fruit for his own lovely Gallina wine when he used to make one). Drinking window: 2025-2035.

Ian D'Agata
Ian D'Agata

Editor-in-Chief of Terroir Sense Wine Review
President of Terroir Sense Academy
Vice President of Association Internationale des Terroirs
Chief Scientific Officer of TasteSpirit

Ian D’Agata has been writing and educating about wines for over thirty years. Internationally recognized as an distinguished expert, critic and writer on many wine regions, his two most recent, award winning books Native Wine Grapes of Italy and Italy's Native Wine Grape Terroirs (both published by University of California Press) are widely viewed as the "state of the art" textbooks on the subject. The former book won the Louis Roederer International Wine Awards Book of the Year in 2015 and was ranked as the top wine books of the year for the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times and the New York Times, while the latter was named among the best wine books of the year by Food & Wine Magazine and the NY Times.

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