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).
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.
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.
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.‘
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.