Produttori del Barbaresco - The Single Vineyard Riservas

By Gavin Smith

It is a rare chance to taste all the single vineyards side by side and the best opportunity to really try and understand the nuances and terroirs of each of the separate sites. What is immediately clear is however variable in their tannin profiles, aromatics and fruit flavours, they are all incredibly consistent in quality. There isn’t a bad wine in the line-up, more than that, there isn’t a single wine that is less than excellent. All the wines share the same composure: the acids vibrant yet beautifully integrated, the tannins present but never awkward, despite Nebbiolo’s tendency to be slightly grippy and astringent, particularly in youth.

After visiting the winery in June we knew Aldo was extremely excited about the 2016 vintage and rightly so, it is an outstanding wine and an incredible buy for the price. If you missed our initial release in the summer of last year, don’t miss an additional allocation to be released next week. But he is also very proud of this latest line-up of single vineyard Riservas from 2015 released for the first time on to the market this week.

2016 as a vintage is always going to overshadow the 2015, despite it being a lovely vintage in Barbaresco and certainly in great contrast to the much cooler 2014. These single vineyards certainly express both the warmth of the vintage and the quality of each specific site. None of the wines were raisined, but perhaps as Aldo describes a “little tighter” than the 2016 Barbaresco (tasted alongside) as the dry, warm vintage meant the grapes were picked perhaps 5 – 6 days earlier than the ideal picking date, in order to retain the acids and freshness at the expense of the tannins achieving complete phenolic resolution. Aldo is not afraid to give a very honest picture. But he still is immensely proud of these wines and he should be.

It was this additional 6 – 7 days of phenolic ripening on the vine that perfected the 2016 vintage. Aldo feels that 2015 produced wines that in their youth are slightly more reserved in style, with sharper tannins and warm fruit flavours. Unlike the 2016s these wines will need more time to bed in (3-4 years) and will reach their peak around 10 years of age.  The 2016s in comparison are already fully integrated due to the phenolic ripeness and will age 20 years plus. The contrast in the vintages doesn’t take away the quality of the wines in 2015, it just provides them with a more limited drinking window.

Aldo states the wines are already much more open than they were in September and tasting them this week they already feel beautifully expressive and open apart from the more austere vineyards of Asilli, Rabaja and the Montestefano.

The single vineyards are not made every year and none were made in 2018 vintage, but when they are, all nine of the vineyards are produced in varying quantities. In 2015 the lowest productions come from Paje and Asili, which will not be made available to buy in stand-alone cases. The best part of the Riserva release is the opportunity to buy all 9 vineyards in a mixed case containing one bottle of each.

The Single Vineyards

Produttori del Barbaresco produces nine single vineyards, all historical sites within the boundaries of the Barbaresco commune. First released in 1967 as Riserva Special (five vineyards were produced then), they are bottled only in outstanding years. In such vintages the best grapes from each vineyard site are selected for single vineyard bottlings, while the remaining grapes are used in the Barbaresco blend.

*Descriptions of each vineyard courtesy of Produttori del Barbaresco

 

Pora – The Dolce Vita Wine

Proximity to the Tanaro River creates a unique microclimate for the Pora, a beautiful hill with West and South exposures, while the northern side of the hill is a sheer bluff that drops into the river and where the famous white truffles can be found in season. Due to the proximity to the valley floor, Pora is relatively warm in the early morning hours, but breezy with slightly higher humidity through most of the day. Soil fertility is slightly higher here too and this gives to the wine a smoother character, tannins are soft and the aromas always tend to open up in the early years of its life. Pora is also one of the most historical vineyards in Barbaresco, as it was part of the property of Dominizio Cavazza, the father of Barbaresco, who in 1894 founded the first Cantina Sociale. Produced as a single vineyard by Produttori del Barbaresco since 1967.

 

2015 – There is a lovely plushness to this Nebbiolo particularly in the front palate with ripe juicy red berry fruits beautifully integrated with very sandy tannins. The nose needs a little coaxing but has a lovely floral perfume. Very well balanced and already quite open and little to no bitterness on the finish.

 

Rio Sordo – The Silky One

The vineyard is a long, southwest exposed hillside in the southern part of the Barbaresco village, not far from the river. The light limestone soil with a relatively low calcium content compared to other areas of Barbaresco produces wines where tannins are never dominant, instead they show a silky quality on the palate that makes them extremely attractive and seductive, never imposing, always elegant. Behind the smooth elegance however lies a core of powerful structure and very well balanced tannins that give to the Rio Sordo its complexity and longevity. First produced as a single vineyard by Produttori del Barbaresco in 1978.

 

2015 – Very exuberant aromatics jump out of the glass. Beautifully uplifting fragrant perfume. A little touch of ripe molasses mixes with sweet baked berry fruits without any surmaturity  or raisining. Touch of orange bitters but still very fleshy juicy, ripe and precise.

 

Asili – A World on its own

This spectacular vineyard has created some of the greatest Barbaresco ever and it has a strong following all over the world. The main part of the Asili vineyard is a protected bowl facing southwest next to Pora, but farther away from the river and the valley influence with warmer and less breezy microclimate during most of the summer. To the East, Asili ends with a bricco, top of the hill, also facing southwest and with a similar soil composition, bordering Rabaja. The wine is intense, certainly not a full bodied Barbaresco, but nevertheless showing a very imposing personality. Usually quite closed in its youth it opens up slowly with impeccable complexity and style… a classic Barbaresco, and also one of the most distinctive vineyards of the region. First produced as a single vineyard in 1967.

2015 – Fairly closed on the nose but with plenty of brooding earthy, savoury tones. There is tremendous power on the palate, with very compact tannins that despite their intensity retain a level of elegance and refinement. You can taste the sunshine too with ripe baked berry fruits that the palate remains very vertical, tense and focused. This will benefit from a good 5 years of ageing.

 

Paje – Evergreen

The vineyard is a small bowl facing southwest and it lies between the village itself and the famous Asili vineyard. However, Paje is slightly lower in altitude and the vineyard is more open to the Tanaro River influence resulting in a cooler microclimate. The soil is limestone with high calcium level. In result the wine combines elegance and complexity with intense tannins and it is never shy in acidity. The latter makes Paje somehow sharper and brighter in its first years, with lovely youthful fruit and flowery notes, almost minty in cooler vintages. Paje is particularly attractive after some ageing, when the wine still retains a fruitful and fresh palate. First vintage produced was 1967 as a small commemorative label for the “Cavalieri del Tartufo” association. Regular production started from the 1982 vintage.

 

2015 – One of the stand outs in the line up with a distinct energy on the palate that get the blood pumping. A lovely focused floral undercurrent with wonderfully vibrant precise fruit on the palate. The tannins start very fine but begin to firm up on the finish adding structure and power and will no doubt integrate with age. This is really excellent with real breadth and natural concentration on the palate.

 

Ovello – The Tomboy

Ovello is the northernmost vineyard in the village of Barbaresco, higher in sea level and dropping down to the river in a 300 feet abrupt bluff. It is a relatively large area with a number of subzones with West and East exposure, all sharing a similar calcareous soil rich in clay. The extra clay and the cooler microclimate give the Ovello its exuberant and youthful quality in the fruit and its fuller body, which defines its distinctive personality. Explosive fruit on the palate and firm, sometimes rough tannins on the finish, these wines always bring a lot of joy to the palate and delivers powerful structure, that needs some years of bottle ageing to balance out. Domizio Cavazza had vineyards in Ovello (and Pora) when he started producing Barbaresco in 1894. It was among the first five vineyards produced as a single vineyard by the Produttori in 1967.

 

2015 – There is an amazing density and power at the centre of the palate that oscillates round the palate. The palate is stunning with incredibly pure rose petal and stem aromas. Full bodied, powerful and structured  but beautifully managed with a textural complexity that creates a stunning layering on the palate. Still contains a level of austerity that requires time to meld and mellow.

 

Muncagota – Pristine Beauty

This single vineyard looks South/East, facing the cooler morning sunshine instead of the warmer afternoon sun. Because of that, the Muncagota vineyard shows beautiful floral characteristics and often a specific mint character on the nose. Calcareous soil and a low level of sand gives to the wines of Muncagota extremely focused fruit and firm stylish tannin. Muncagota is a perfect example of the elegant, intense qualities that makes Barbaresco one of the most interesting and unique wines of the world. First produced by Produttori del Barbaresco as Moccagatta in 1967. Muncagota is the piedmontese dialect version of the word Moccagatta, same vineyard, different spelling.

 

2015 – There is distinctly sweeter fruit on the Muncagato and lots of perfume and a baked fruit profile that again retains precision and is not at all over ripe. Definitely more austere tannins on the palate but the fruit concentration contours beautifully over this structural powerhouse.

 

Rabaja – Pure Breed

Rabaja produces quintessential Barbaresco, one of the most complete and balanced of the single vineyards. The vineyard lays at the conjunction of the two main ridges that from the Barbaresco village, one starting at Rabaja and going West towards the Tanaro River (with progressively less calcium content in the soil) The meeting of these two different soils gives to Rabaja its incredible complexity. Bordering both Asili and Muncagota it combines the personality of these two great vineyards with an extra richness due to the South/West warm exposure. First produced by the Produttori as a single vineyard in 1971.

2015 – Incredible aromas oscillate from the Rabaja – wow, the perfume again gets the blood pumping. Very complex concoction of white stone, lavender, dried herbs, wild flowers. The palate is dense and compact but the tannins beautifully refined despite their intensity and structure. The tannins are extraordinary really almost elasticated, creating so much breadth on the palate and beautifully integrated. So powerful yet so balanced.

 

Montestefano – The Barolo of Barbaresco

It is one of the vineyards with higher concentration of calcium in the soil that gives the wine a powerful tannic structure. The extra heat of the South facing slope is responsible for the Montestefano full body and almost meaty texture. It produces deep flavoured wines with massive tannins, but quite ripe and well integrated. In a wet season its grapes can hold rain well and is usually the last one to be picked among the Barbaresco vineyards. For all these reasons it is probably the Barbaresco that more reminds of Barolo where tar and rose prevails on the refined violet flavours. Despite this massive attitude remains a true Barbaresco, never too heavy on the palate and with a classy finish that lingers on the palate without overwhelming your senses. First produced by Produttori in 1974.

2015 – A really vibrant zesty citric uplifting aromatic profile really contrasting with dense structural tannins full of power and intensity. The contrast is quite unique contrasting vibrant freshness, mouthwatering acidity and more earthy savoury dryer mineral savoury tones and a clay-like structure.

 

Montefico – The Academic

A not widely known vineyard, yet highly sought after by the Barbaresco aficionados. It is often compared to the slightly larger and more famous Montestefano vineyard because of the similar soil (high calcium) and close proximity between the two. It lays halfway between the Montestefano and the Ovello.  Exposure is full South, therefore quite warm, but it is not unusual for Montefico to have brisk morning hours during the growing season because of the cooler northern wind that occasionally funnels in form the Tanaro River and into the narrow valley between the villages of Barbaresco and Neive. Austere when young and somehow less fleshy than Montestefano, it shows a beautiful mineral finish. It produces wine with the breed of any classic Barbaresco and with incredible complexity behind the tannins. First vintage released was 1970.

2015 – There is a lovely energy to this wine matched by its finesse on the palate, another highlight in the in the line up. Fantastic exuberant complex floral perfume with added sweeter berry fruit notes. High level of ripeness but no raisin like qualities retaining precision and freshness. The clarity of fruit here is exceptional and the long length is testament to the quality here. This has everything.

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