2005 Cru tasting notes

Posted December 21, 2010 by Do Bianchi
Categories: 2005

Above: Dreams do come true… all of the Produttori del Barbaresco single-vineyard designated bottlings of 2005 Barbaresco, tasted in March at the winery with Aldo Vacca.

Over the years, I have had the great fortune to taste with winemaker Aldo Vacca of Produttori del Barbaresco on a number of different occasions and in a wide variety of contexts. Anyone who’s ever met Aldo knows that he’s a precise, meticulous man, who seems to transmit the wise and judicious frugality of his origins into the 21st-century with grace and elegance. After all, 38 growers and their families and employees depend on him each year to deliver the wines of this cooperative to market. Whenever you meet Aldo in the U.S. or Vinitaly, he always has four or five of the crus open to taste with is guests. But because I dropped in with the balance of the Barbera 7 on that wonderful late-winter day in March, he opened all nine of the single-vineyard designated bottlings of the 2005 Barbaresco. What follows are my notes, as brief as possible (I tasted them in the order of body, as recommended by Aldo).

Pora

In many ways, Pora could be considered the winery’s flagship wine (after the classic blended Barbaresco, of course). The vineyard was owned at one time by the winery’s founder, Domizio Cavazza, and it was among the first wines released as a single-vineyard designated wine in 1967 (the same year that Gaja and Vietti bottled their first single-vineyard wines). It lies in a central swath of famed vineyards of Barbaresco that include Faset, Asili, Martinenga, and Rabajà.

Rich tannin, balanced black and berry fruit, gorgeous nose.

Rio Sordo

The name Rio Sordo means literally the deaf river, in other words, the silent or underground river (remember my post Cry Me a Silent River about tasting with Giovanni Rizzolio?). The solitary Rio Sordo vineyard lies on the other side of a small valley from the Rabajà, Asili, Martinenga, and Pora swath.

Very mineral nose, savory, earthy notes, darker fruit, balanced tannin.

Asili

Many feel that Asili is the quintessence of Barbaresco and in many ways, would agree: perhaps more than another vineyard, it embodies that unique balance of power and grace, structure and elegance that defines Barbaresco. Some, like Bruno Giacosa, consider the greatest vineyard in the appellation.

Powerful tannin, more so than other expressions of the 05 Asili I’ve tasted, stunning wine, fruit has yet to emerge, but this will surely be one of the greatest expressions of the growing site for this vintage.

Pajè

This vineyard lies sandwiched in between the Pora, Faset, Asili, Martinenga, Rabajà (and Moccagatta) family to the south and the Secondine and Bricco crus to the north. Like the more famous expression of this vineyard bottled by the Roagna winery (whose estate overlooks the growing site), this vineyard can deliver tannic and powerful expressions of Nebbiolo (tending toward Secondine and Bricco, perhaps more than the southern neighbors).

At the time of tasting, this wine was surprisingly very bright and approachable. Of all the wines, it was the one I would have drunk most gladly that day. But I imagine it will be shutting down, based on my knowledge of the growing site. Need to revisit later.

Moccagatta

Lyle and I share a love for this vineyard, which sits at one of the highest points in Barbaresco, in the eastern section of the appellation. To the south it borders Rabajà and shares some of its savory, earthy power. It renders a very distinctive expression of Nebbiolo, thanks to its unique exposure.

Even, balanced tannin, chewy and juicy wine, earthy and rich in mouthfeel. One of my favs of the tasting, black and red berry fruit and mud.

Rabajà

The Rabajà vineyard has been the subject of much debate over the last few years because some of the rows have been reclassified as Asili, which lies to its western border. Historically, I’ve always found this vineyard to be slightly more powerful and with more tannic structure than Asili. The name Rabajà is believed to be a dialectal inflection of the surname Rabagliato (but its etymology is uncertain).

Bright, lip-smacking acidity, and gorgeous fruit despite the Herculean tannin in this wine, savory on the nose and in the mouth. Stunning wine.

Ovello

Ask Cory and he’ll tell you that Ovello is his favorite. It lies in the northern section of the appellation, on the west side, not far from the Tanaro. My personal experience with this vineyard is that it renders more balanced tannin and extremely delicious earthiness. The winery’s classic Barbaresco (which, for the record, is generally my favorite bottling for any given vintage), is sourced primarily from Ovello.

Very fresh, especially compared to the other crus, with judicious tannin, and great minerality and savory flavors. Drinking beautifully right now.

Montefico

Montefico is another vineyard, like Pora, that has played a historic role in the evolution of Produttori del Barbaresco and was once owned in part by the winery’s founder Domizio Cavazza. Like Montestefano, it renders one of them most powerful expressions of Nebbiolo bottled by the cooperative. In the series, ordered by weight and body, Aldo positioned it second-to-last for our tasting.

The tannin still prevails in this wine, definitely needs time for the fruit to emerge. The slightly warmer vintage may penalize this otherwise truly great wine in the very long term but it’s sure to get better with every passing year. I can’t wait to revisit it in another 5 years.

Montestefano

Located in the northeastern section of the appellation, Montestefano is the vineyard often described as the most “Baroloesque” of the Barbaresco crus. I take issue with such observations: while we were brought up to believe that Barolo is the more “important” of the two appellations, I find that ultimately Barbaresco is the appellation that inspires, intrigues, and bewitches more. It’s not a younger sibling to Barolo: if anything, it’s a cousin, related by blood, but raised by different parents. Together with Asili, Rabajà, and Pora, Montestefano is one of my favorites. It certainly produces one of the most long-lived expressions of the appellation and it is here that earthy, savory notes and black fruit combine in a sublime marriage. To me, tasting wine from this vineyard is like negotiating the tension created somewhere between grammatical and metrical rhythm in verse by Virgil or Petrarch. For the record, Beppe Colla bottled fruit from this vineyard as a single-vineyard wine in 1961, making it perhaps the first cru-designated wine in Barbaresco (although many point to the 1967 vintage as the birth of the cru system in Barbaresco).

Simply stunning wine, a humbling experience, too young to see where the fruit is going to go, but one of the greatest wines I’ve tasted from the 2005 vintage anywhere in Piedmont.

—Jeremy Parzen

Sophie’s Choice: 2006

Posted August 18, 2010 by Do Bianchi
Categories: 2006, vintage

This wine may be my favorite bottling yet, but not for the reason you think…

barbaresco

Above: Summertime isn’t exactly ideal for Nebbiolo but, after so much talk of this wine, I couldn’t resist opening a bottle of 2006 Barbaresco by Produttori del Barbaresco last night. Can you blame me? Dinner last night chez Parzen was cannellini dressed with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and a kiss of red wine vinegar, wilted spinach and boiled potatoes also dressed with evoo, and some fresh feta.

Between Bruno Giacosa’s controversial decision not to bottle his 2006 vintage in Barolo and Barbaresco and Produttori del Barbaresco’s much misunderstood decision not to bottle its 2006 single-vineyard designated wines, the 2006 vintage may very well be one of the most talked-about vintages in Langa in recent years.

Let’s get one thing straight: most folks agree that 2006 was a classic, solid vintage, with a relatively balanced growing season (if not for rains in September). It wasn’t GREAT (in all caps) but it was good to very good. And while Giacosa’s decision appears outwardly based on the personal setbacks Bruno suffered that year, the decisions by Giacosa and Produttori del Barbaresco were probably based on economic reasoning: in a tough market, it’s easier to sell a more reasonably priced wine. In fact, Aldo Vacca (winemaker at Produttori del Barbaresco) said as much in a comment he left on Do Bianchi.

I tasted the 06 for the first time in New York in the spring: it was a ringer in one of the blind Greek tastings. But last night, after reading one too many blog posts about the 2006 Produttori del Barbaresco (which is now in the market), the mimetic desire kicked in and I caved and opened a bottle.

While I continue to kick myself for not cellaring more 2004 (especially) and 2005, my negligence has been rewarded by this amazing bottle of wine, which is a cuvée of all the Produttori del Barbareso crus.

barbaresco

Above: I tasted all of the 2005 single-vineyard (cru) designated wines in March at the winery with Aldo. I’ll post my notes on these, which have also just hit the market, next week.

I have always been a bigger fan of the cuvée, i.e., the classic Barbaresco blended mostly from the Ovello cru, with smaller amounts of other crus depending on the vintage. But the 2006 classic blended Barbaresco is something truly special.

Antonio Galloni, one of the top 3 palates for Nebbiolo in the world IMHO, was a fan of the otherwise “average” vintage when he tasted the first bottling of the 06 (before the decision was made not to bottle the crus): “If the regular Barbaresco holds this much power,” he wrote, “I can only wonder what the Riservas might have in store. Simply put, this is a marvelous effort.”

The wine we tasted last night was fantastic, with all the earth and all the red fruit I dream for, extremely powerful and rich, more so than other classic vintages like the winery’s 99, 01, 04, and 05.

My only misgiving about this wine is that it’s one of the few instances where I will tell you to let it age in your cellar for a few years before approaching it. I believe that with the addition of grapes from crus like Montestefano and Montefico (the most tannic), the wine has a tannic power that will only reward the patient collector.

It’s not that this wine is “better” because “better” fruit went into it, as many sales people are however earnestly but erroneously saying. The crus are not “better.” They are just different among one another.

What’s special about this wine is how it shows that terroir is also about people and where and how they decide to grow and raise things. This wine is a true collector’s item from Produttori del Barbaresco: it’s an anomaly, a rare occasion where Aldo had a better vintage than many, but decided not to bottle single-vineyard wines.

In some ways, this wine is the best bottling of my enosentient lifetime. Keep in mind that the cru system began in the late 1960s (and 1967, the year of my birth, to be exact), when Gaja, Vietti, and Produttori del Barbaresco were inspired by the French cru system to bottle single-vineyard designated wines. Ultimately, whether it’s Aldo’s cru vs. cuvée or Vajra’s Barolo Bricco delle Viole vs. Barolo Albe, or even Gaja’s Sorì-designated wines vs. its Barbaresco (to use three different stylistic examples), I always find that it’s the classic, blended wines (like Bartolo Mascarello, who has never made a cru) that keep calling me back. They don’t express a growing site: they express a vintage, an appellation, and a way of life.

So in a way, the 2006 Barbaresco by Produttori del Barbaresco is the financial crisis’s little gift to us: a wine that harks back to an era before the advent of Barbaresco’s Francophilia.

In essence, for survival’s sake (and the sake of all those who depend on him), winemaker Aldo had to make a “Sophie’s choice.” I’m glad that he chose well.

—Jeremy Parzen

Produttori time

Posted August 18, 2010 by Do Bianchi
Categories: 2005, Produttori del Barbaresco, vintage

Both Tracie P and I had a tough week this week. Let me just put it this way, people: sometimes work is a bitch.

And so last night, when work was done, we decided to treat ourselves to an evening of dueling DJs (Tracie P took it over the top with MJ’s “Wanna Be Starting Something”), kitchen-dance-floor grooving, Polaroid self-portraits, and a bottle of 2005 Barbaresco by what is probably our favorite winery of all time in history: Produttori del Barbaresco.

The wine was bright, tannic but generously nimble in sharing its lip-smacking wild berry fruit and succulently muddy flavors. We paired with gruyère and crackers, we dedicated songs to each other, we danced around the dining room table, and we forgot all of the worries of our world. It was PRODUTTORI TIME.

Tracie P and I aren’t the only ones obsessed with Produttori del Barbaresco: one of the wine bloggers we enjoy and respect the most, Cory (and one of the funnest and nicest people to hang and taste with, above), wrote about Produttori del Barbaresco in his wrap-up to the 32 Days of Natural Wine, in a piece I highly recommend to you.

Like last year, Cory had to deal with plenty of משוגעת from folks who didn’t agree with this or that and other bullshit.* But, man, this dude deserves a medal. He’s the nicest sweetest and brightest guy and his hypertextual project, 31 32 Days of Natural Wine, represents a truly fascinating study in semiotics, not to mention an encyclopedia in fieri of natural wine around the world. Wine writing is by its very nature an affliction otherwise known as synaethesia — humankind’s overwhelming and at times unbearable urge to capture in words the literally ineffable, ephemeral, and ethereal experience of tasting wine. With his unique project, Cory has warped the boundaries of wine blogging in an exhilarantly meaningful way.

So, people, whether Puzelat or Produttori, pour yourself a glass of your favorite wine on this hottest weekend of the year, squeeze your loved ones tight and remind them how much they mean to you, remember that first kiss and the way you felt when those lips touched yours, and remember that very first moment you tasted a wine that made your heart flutter…

—Jeremy Parzen

* Yiddish meshugas, Esp. in Jewish usage: madness, craziness; nonsense, foolishness; (as a count noun) a foolish idea; a foible, an idiosyncracy (Oxford English Dictionary, online edition).

2006: a final clarification

Posted August 18, 2010 by Do Bianchi
Categories: 2006, 2008, Aldo Vacca, vintage

Above: As my good friend and top sommelier David Rosoff will tell you, “I learned more about Barbaresco talking to Aldo Vacca for 10 minutes” than I have in my whole career.

I wanted to draw your attention to a comment made by winemaker Aldo Vacca, Produttori del Barbaresco, posted the other day here at Do Bianchi. He was commenting in response to Charles Scicolone, who had asked plaintively whether or not Produttori del Barbaresco typically executed different bottlings destined for its domestic and international markets (the thread appeared in a post on the winery’s decision not to bottle its single-vineyard wines for the 2006 vintage).

Here’s what Aldo had to say:

Just a quick note: we at Produttori Barbaresco never bottle wines specifically for one market or another. We do not look for specific taste for specific market and all that, we just make the wine at the best of our knowledge in one very define style. If we do more than one bottling, we try to have a similar blend in all bottling.We do release our new vintage in the Fall in Italy and usually, because of the logistics of the market and because we like to give some more bottle aging when we can, the next January is most export market. So, it is usually the case that the first bottling is mainly sold in Italy while the second bottling (which is also larger in size) goes to export and Italy as well: it is just a matter of timing, not of deciding which market gets what.

Normally this will not make any difference anyway because the two bottling would be very similar.

The one thing that happened with the 2006 vintage was the late decision of not bottling the SV. If we had made the decision earlier, as we usually do, all bottlings would have been the same.

In a somewhat unrelated note, yesterday I poured the 2008 Langhe Nebbiolo by Produttori del Barbaresco in a tasting in Austin. Man, it’s light and bright and showing great right now, better than when it first came into the market. A tough vintage in Piedmont but great for entry-level wines like this, where some of the better fruit ended up in the front-line wines.

And in a totally unrelated note, in the light of Aldo’s love of Neil Young, we’re trying to get him out to San Diego on July 8 to sit in with The Grapes.

In other news…

I highly recommend my good friend Thor’s excellent post over at the 32 Days of Natural Wine on the natural wine scene in Paris. I really love his writing and I especially appreciated his hypercorrective neolgism oenopiphany. After all, there are men who know what the word epistemology means without having to look it up in a dictionary and there are others who have to go to Brooks Brothers to find out.

In other other news…

For the wine geeks out there and anyone else who wants to wrap her or his mind around what sulfur, sulfites, and SO2 have to do with wine, I highly recommend this post on the use of sulfur in wine by bonvivant Bruce Neyers, a man who needs no introduction to the oeno-initiated.

Buona lettura e buon weekend, ya’ll!

—Jeremy Parzen

1971 and 1974

Posted August 18, 2010 by Do Bianchi
Categories: 1971, 1974, vintage

It was about 8 o’clock in the evening, end of May, with the Manhattan moon rising above midtown and a look of hard wet rain in the distance of New Jersey. I was wearing my pinstripe blue suit, with a light checkered shirt and an orange square tie. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed sommelier ought to be. I was about to pour an 1971 Produttori del Barbaresco.

Words cannot begin to describe the sensations Tracie P and I experienced a few weeks ago in New York, when our dear friend Mary Anne treated us to dinner at Alto in midtown Manhattan, where Levi Dalton — the Philip Marlowe of the New York wine scene — had created a special flight just for us.

There a lot of talented wine professionals in New York but none is sharper than Levi, and man, he’s at the top of his game right now, really and truly in the zone. And I’m sure that anyone who knows Levi will concur: the dude’s dry wit and deftness at wordplay are matched only by the acuity of his palate. Raymond Chandler couldn’t have written a more perfect Philip Marlowe of wine.

I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a wine key and a serviette.

Like a mind-reader, Levi couldn’t have thrilled us more than by opening the flight with this Saignée de Sorbée by Vouette et Sorbée. Incredible freshness, sumptuous aroma, sexy but not overly generous fruit flavor.

Next came the 2005 Arbois Pupillon by Overnoy. I’d only ever tasted this wine in Québec, where it seems to be easier to find. To me, wines like this are the “unbearable lightness of being.” They are so light in body yet so rich in mouthfeel, delicately fragrant on the nose yet muscular in the palate. Perhaps only in Barbaresco do I find that same counter-intuitive, ineffable sensory experience. The same equine metaphors apply.

The whole restaurant turned around to see what the fuss was about when Tracie P and I gasped in delight at the appearance of this wine. 1974 not the greatest vintage for this wine but showing admirably. Little did we know what was about to come…

Dreams do come true. Awesome vintage (older than Tracie P!), beautifully cellared bottle. One of the great wine experiences of my lifetime (up there with 1989 Barbaresco Santo Stefano by Bruno Giacosa).

Angiolino Maule’s wines were a discovery for me on this recent trip to New York. Later in the trip, I tasted his declassified Soave. Fantastic wines. Great acidity even in this recioto di Soave. A true connoisseur’s wine.

And not to be outdone in the brandy department… The above photo needs no caption.

“How do you like your brandy?” asked General Sternwood. “In a glass,” said Marlowe.

From Levi Dalton to Romano Levi… what a night! What an amazing flight of wines.

Thanks again, Mary Anne for treating me and Tracie P to such an unforgettable evening in celebration of our wedding. And thanks, Levi, for being such a great friend (however from afar) and for creating such a special flight of wines just for us. I’ll never forget it.

—Jeremy Parzen

2006: an important clarification from Aldo

Posted August 18, 2010 by Do Bianchi
Categories: 2005, 2006, 2007, vintage

From the “department of keeping the world safe for Italian wine”…

aldo vacca

Above: I tasted with winemaker Aldo Vacca at Produttori del Barbaresco in March 2010. Anyone who reads my blog knows that I am one of the wineries hugest fans.

Reader Ken wrote me a private message recently, asking if I’d seen an email blast from a New York retailer in which the author claimed that there had been two bottlings of Produttori del Barbaresco classic Barbaresco 2006 — one made before the decision not to bottles the 06 crus (and thus not including the single-vineyard juice) and one made after the decision not to bottle the 06 crus (and thus containing the higher-quality single-vineyard juice).

“If there has, in fact, been a second release that now has included the single-vineyard grapes,” he asked plaintively, “how on earth can anyone distinguish the bottles?

“I’ve cut and pasted a recent e-mail from [a highly respected New York retailer] and highlighted the statement about a second release. I’ve collected a ton of the blended 05’s for cellaring and have only a couple of the blended 06s, which got initially reviewed (by fellow Cellar Trackers) as a ‘drink early.'”

The news, if you haven’t heard it: for the 2006 vintage the Produttori have decided not to bottle any of their single-vineyard Barbaresco Riservas. Aldo Vacca, manager of the Produttori, describes this [SEE THIS POST] as a business decision that was not based on the very high quality of the wines, but instead because there have been so many strong vintages in a row (basically 2004-2009) that they were concerned that there would be too much wine on the market. The wines were vinified and aged separately as per their normal practice; following an initial release of the 2006 Barbaresco (which was a terrific bottle at the time), all of the Riservas have now been blended together to produce just one wine.

Yesterday afternoon I wrote to Aldo, who promptly responded with the following message:

What happened is that we took the final decision not to produce the 2006 S[ingle]V[ineyard] one year later than usual, in the spring of 2009. At that point the first bottling of 2006 was already done so no SV in the first bottling. However this is the bottling that we release every year in Italy in the early Fall, so it is largely used for domestic market.

Second bottling was done in July and then a third bottling in the Fall. These two bottlings were a blend of SV juice and standard Barbaresco juice in very similar %. The wine you can buy in the States now is from the 2nd bottling and later this year will be from the 3rd, so very similar indeed.

So the bottom line is that there was indeed two bottlings, one without the crus and one with the crus (the former sold in Italy, the latter available in the U.S.). But if you’re buying the wine in the U.S., you’re getting wines that include the crus.

To this I would add that 2006 is not a forgettable vintage, as some of Ken’s Cellar Tracker buddies might insist. In fact, it was a good-to-great vintage (05 very-good-to-great, 07 FANTASTIC). IMHO 06 is best to drink 2011-2016 and beyond (but keep in mind that I’m a believer that these wines are to be drunk younger than most American fetishizers of old wine would tell you).

—Jeremy Parzen

2001 Pora left me speechless

Posted August 18, 2010 by Do Bianchi
Categories: 2001, Pora, vintage

pora

Above: Every once in a while you open the right bottle at the right time with the right people on the right occasion. The 2001 Barbaresco Pora by Produttori del Barbaresco left me and Tracie P speechless last night.

Yesterday, on our way back from Orange, Texas (on the Louisiana border), where we visited with Tracie P’s family and celebrated most-likely-soon-to-be-family-member Clark Dean’s graduation from Sam Houston State University with home-smoked ribs and brisket (Clark’s dating cousin Katherine), we stopped in Houston for an impromptu wine tasting and spaghettata with the Levy clan and family friend Taylor Holladay.

Cousins Marty and Joanne and Neil and Dana (of the Levy clan) are so generous to me and Tracie P and have so warmly welcomed us into their lives: we wanted to do something special for them by means of a wine tasting and — by request — Tracie P’s spaghetti alla carbonara.

Five wonderful wines were opened and you can imagine which wines they were, since they often appear here at Do Bianchi (the theme was our favorite wines to drink at home). But the wine that eclipsed them all — the bottiglia signora — was the 2001 Barbaresco Pora by Produttori del Barbaresco.

pora

Above: After the tasting, the Pora was the wine that everyone wanted to drink for dinner. I just can’t begin to explain how much I love Produttori del Barbaresco — excellent price/quality ratio, honest and real wine, poop and fruit in a glass.

“Poop and fruit in a glass,” were Tracie P’s words: this nearly 10-year-old expression of old-school Nebbiolo, from one of the best vintages of our lifetime (delivered in a bottle I picked up at a close-out last year for $35!), left me (nearly) speechless (if you can imagine that!). A nearly perfect equilibrium of tannin, earth, fruit, and acidity, the right bottle, the right wine, opened with the right folks, at the very right moment.

Pora is arguably the “softest” of the Produttori del Barbaresco single-vineyard bottlings but this bottle surprised me with its impressive tannic structure, integrated nicely with the wine’s gorgeous fruit. I promise that one day soon, I’ll post my notes from tasting all of the winery’s crus with winemaker Aldo Vacca back in March.

In other news…

On Saturday, Taylor had been bamboozled by the behemoth of Texas wine retailers (and it’s not hard to guess who that is). He had visited the flagship store in Houston asking for a bottle of Produttori del Barbaresco (my recommendation) intended for his late-night date Sunday night. He was sold an under $30 blend of barriqued Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese from Bolgheri (in a very “naughty” bottle, i.e., deep punt, thick glass, etc.) by a salesperson who told him, “this is very similar to Produttori del Barbaresco. If you like that, you’ll like this.” Wrong grape, wrong region, and wrong style… Tracie P and I just couldn’t send Taylor on his mission with a bottle of tricked-out Cabernet! Luckily, I had a bottle of 2004 Rosso del Veronese (a classic blend of Corvina, Molinara, and Rondinella, vinified in stainless-steel and aged in large cask) by one of Quintarelli’s protégés Luca Fedrigo, owner of L’Arco.

How did the wine work out? “Great… It got me a kiss!!”

Available at the Austin Wine Merchant, under $20 (the wine, not the kiss).

In other other news…

If you haven’t yet read Alice’s “Modern Love” column in the Times… run don’t walk!

—Jeremy Parzen


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