2007 Produttori del Barbaresco
An unknown for me, Barbaresco. So I was very keen to attend this month’s Society tasting.
It provided the very rare opportunity to taste an cellared horizontal of wines from one fine producer – a co-operative – from across each of the Barbaresco crus, with the exception of Pajè. Our Cellarmaster was kind enough to round out the flight with Rabajà from his own cellar.
As usual, the notes provided were excellent, this time by AH:
The current cooperative was founded in 1958 by the Reverend Don Fiorino Marengo as a countermeasure to the urban drift that was gradually depleting his congregation. It was effectively a revival of a previous cooperative, the Cantine Sociali, started by Domizio Cavazza, a Barbaresco resident and head of the Royal Enological School of Alba. The original cooperative went into decline during World War I and closed in 1923 after failing to survive the harsh economic conditions under the fascists.
The Produttori del Barbaresco currently comprises 51 growers, led since 1991 by Managing Director Aldo Vacca, son of the founding Managing Director Celestino Vacca, who retired in 1984. Gianni Testa has been the winemaker at Produttori since the late 1980s and under the current management the cantina sociale has earned a reputation as one of the world’s best best cooperatives, certainly as far as value for money is concerned. Production is around 550,000 bottles per year. In years when the riserve are made they are divided among Barbaresco (50%), single vineyard Barbarescos (30%) and Nebbiolo Langhe (20%).
At harvest the farmers bring their grapes to the piazza where they are analysed for parameters such as sugar, phenolics and tannins, which determines the amount each producer is paid. This ensures that quality does not take a back seat to quantity. The grapes are sent down a chute to the cellar, which makes use of the steep hill on which the town sits to permit gravity feeding between the three levels for fermentation and racking before the wine is taken to another facility next to the nearby Ovello vineyard for aging in 22 – 55 hectolitre botti.
The Barbaresco “normale” spends two years in botte. In good years the cooperative may decide to produce individual riserve from each of the nine Barbaresco crus, which spend three years in botte. The decision on whether to bottle riserve is made, not so much on the quality of the riserve in good years, but on the quality of the normale in poorer years. In other words, if higher quality fruit is needed to maintain the standard of the normale, the riserve will not be made.
As with every vineyard in the Langhe, aspect and position on the hillside are important determinants; the south facing sites on the mid to upper producing the best wine. When asked to describe each of the nine Produttori crus in one word, Aldo says Pora is approachable; Rio Sordo, elegant; Asili, austere; Pajè, bright; Ovello, lively; Moccagatta, floral; Rabajà, complete; Montestefano, powerful; Montefico, austere. I usually find that the crus starting with “p” are softer, more elegant expressions, whereas those starting with “m” are more structured, especially Montestefano. Asili and Rabajà usually stand out in the line-up for their balance and complexity. Whereas Aldo would be no more likely to rank his children in order of preference than rank the Produttori crus, my personal order of preference would look something like Rabajà, Asili, Montefico, Ovello, Montestefano, Rio Sordo, Moccogatta, Pajè, Pora.
On the quality of 2007 vintage the opinions of critics vary. Jancis Robinson says simply…”Hail and arid conditions resulted in a low-yielding year, but of good quality fruit”….but she is referring to Piemonte as a whole and what is true for Barolo is not necessarily true for Barbaresco, thanks in part to the influence of the Tanaro river. The Galloni and Tanzer web site Vinous rates 2007 as the best vintage in Barbaresco since 1996, giving both these vintages 96 points. Here is their description of the 2007 vintage: “The 2007 Barbarescos possess dazzling aromatics, silky tannins and generous, at times explosive, fruit. Although 2007 was a warm year, temperatures were remarkably stable throughout most of the summer, which allowed for full ripening, even in less well-exposed vineyards. As a result, many entry-level Barbarescos are unusually delicious. One of the defining characteristics of the vintage is that the differences from vineyard to vineyard are more attenuated in 2007 than they were in more typical, cooler years such as 2001 and 2004. Because of the unusually warm weather in the spring, the entire growing season was moved up in the calendar, but the cycle from flowering to harvest turned out to be close to normal. These conditions resulted in wines that combine elements of warm and cool vintages to an extent I have never seen previously.
We would be tasting all but one of the nine riserve; Pajè missing the cut on this occasion
2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Montestefano
2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Asili
2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Rio Sordo
2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Montefico
2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Muncagotta
2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Ovello
2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Pora
2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Rabajà
And to the wines:
2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Pora – Deep tawny red colour. Florals, roses, vanilla, oak, almonds, lifting. An excellent start. To taste I saw raspy acid, tannic dryness, bright red fruits – plums and cherries. Refreshing. It softened in the glass, and was transformed by food. I scored it Silver.
2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Rio Sordo – Deep tawny red colour. Vanilla pod notes, somewhat reticent to begin with. There was engaging suppleness in the glass, refreshing, with a good tannic backbone. Deep red fruits. Lively acid finish. Lovely length. Charming. I scored it Silver.
2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Asili – Deep tawny red. Vanilla notes on the nose, softer than the previous wines, with elegance, spice, almost dusty. Brambly red fruit to taste, bright entry, delicious complete marriage of acid and fruit. Ripeness and persistence. A drying finish. Ticked my box. I scored it Gold. One of my two Wine of the Night(s) WOTNs.
2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Rabajà – Deep tawny red. Dusty, with boxwood, tannins, & superb concentration. A step up in intensity. It showed lighter and sweeter in the mouth than the previous wines. Delicious again, ripe gorgeous fruit, svelte balance, complete. I scored it Gold.
2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Muncagotta – Deep tawnier red. Aromatic, and dusty. With oak, vanilla, roses and varnish. Sweet entry on palate, mouthcoatingly textural, with red fruit flavours. Some hint of dryness and austerity on a long finish. I scored it Silver.
2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Ovello – Deep tawnier red. Slightly dumber than previous. Some vanilla, baking spice, cloves, dry straw and oak. Grippy dense black fruit, austere, slight body, sinewy and drying. I scored it Silver.
2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Montefico – Deep tawnier red. Spice, pepper, violets, volatile acids, deep perfume and roasted meat on the nose. Layered, intriguing, complex. In mouth I saw this as a complete expression – ripe red fruit, acids, texture, length and bosy. It was made in a bigger style, almost full throttle. Power and balance. I scored it Gold. My second WOTN.
2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Montestefano – Deep tawny red. Dusty, with phenols (whiteboard cleaner), most primary. Admirable flavour and grip. Great balance and structure, drying finish. I scored it Silver
The wines were all dusty on nose, with bouquets of roses and cloves and vanilla, and textural on palate. There was great concentration of fruit. The acid and tannin profiles point to years and years of life ahead for these wines
This had to be one of the most enjoyable tastings I have attended. It was a new variety (for me) and the similarities and subtle differences between the wines really made me work hard and think.
Here we had the same winemaker, same grape, same winemaking, and same vintage. All the same, yet differences emerged. Fascinating, illuminating.