Archive for the ‘2006’ category

Sophie’s Choice: 2006

August 18, 2010

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

2006: a final clarification

August 18, 2010

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

2006: an important clarification from Aldo

August 18, 2010

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