Archive for the ‘Aldo Vacca’ category

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

Produttori-Care: The Public Option

April 5, 2010

After 4 days of intensive Barbera tasting, winery visits and Grissini belly stuffings the Barbera 7 experiences a nebbiolo fairytale visiting the ancient villages of Barbaresco and Neive, tasting at the Gaja, Produttori del Barbaresco and Bruno Giacosa wineries.

For yours yours truly the highlight of the day was our visit to Produttori Del Barbaresco lying underneath the great Barbaresco tower. We were greeted by Aldo Vacca, President and winemaker.

Aldo Vacca in front of a huge cement aging vats, bottoms covered in beautiful tartrate residue

Produttori Del Barbaresco is a cooperative winemaking company founded by in 1958 by the Barbaresco village priest in an effort to help his flock still struggling in the wake of WWII. 19 growers pooled their grapes and began making wine in the church basement, located across the street from the current facility. The focus was and is exclusively on the Nebbiolo grape. It was and still is difficult for the small farmer to reach out to the greater world and make an impact in the market. This cooperative, one of the greatest in the world, solved this problem. Growers then, as they do today, bring their grapes to the winery where they sell the grapes and share in the profit from the growing fame and resources of the venture. Aldo, perhaps the greatest wine educator I have encountered, explained to us in detail how the cooperative works and maintains such a high level of quality.

A grower within the cooperative brings his grape to market at the point of peak ripeness in September/early october taking into account potentially damaging inclimate weather. The grapes are weighed and computer tested for several elements that determine the grape’s value, including sugar level and polyphenols. Unlike a place like Napa where high sugar levels are a problem, the opposite is the case in Barbaresco’s slower ripening climate, You want proof of climate change, just talk to a grower of Nebbiolo that has seen alcohol degrees rise steadily over the past 20 years. The value of the grape is determined by these measured levels and the monetary range is quite wide, from 3-5 Euros per pound. This reward system gives growers a great incentive to do right in the vineyards and produce the best fruit possible, which for a traditionally made wine is most of the battle.

The grapes are weighed and valued in the town square just 100 feet from the tower, then destemmed, crushed and pumped down into the basement of the facility where fermentation and aging takes place. The facility is a no-nonsense operation and technology is kept to an absolute minimum. No small oak barrels or “barrique” just stainless steel, huge cement vats and large Slovenian oak casks known as Botti. The trademarks of Produttori is their traditional winemaking technique that brilliantly display the differences between growing sites and vintage.

Chutes leading to subterranean vats

2009 Asili. Considered by many as the top Cru

There is a saying that goes to the effect: Angelo Gaja that made the world know Barbaresco but it was Produttori that made the world drink it. Barbaresco is not typically a very affordable bottle, but Produttori’s prices have always been astonishingly reasonable. Aldo’s answer to why this is the case was very clear and I should note was told with great respect to his industry peers, especially his former employer of 5 years, Mr. Gaja. Some winemakers can choose to hold back wines if they don’t sell during bad economic conditions. The lean running, profit sharing cooperative doesn’t have this luxury and needs steady funds to pay growers for the next harvest.
Great use of the Fast nickel, Slow dime concept.

Aldo along with his right hand man Luca led us to a modest tasting room with walls lined with arial photographs of all of the growing sites. What really caught my eye was the lineup of all 9 PDB Barbaresco crus from 2005 waiting to be tasted! I’ve had the crus before but never all at once.

Aldo tasted us through all nine while circling the room showing us how different exposures to sun, soil type and the adjacent Tanaro River create vastly different bottlings. My personal favorite was thePaje that was drinking beautifully already.

David Rosoff told me the other night at Mozza that Aldo Vacca taught him more about Barbaresco in 20 minutes than he had learned in his entire life. For David, thats probably a bit of an exaggeration but in my case is was too true.

—Jaynes Gastropub

Side-by-side: 2004, 2005, and 2006

March 3, 2009

Originally posted at Mc Duff’s Food and Wine Trail.

One of the things I love the most about Produttori del Barbaresco is how its winemaking practices have remained virtually unchanged since it began making Barbaresco in 1958 (technically the winery was launched as a Cantina Sociale in 1894). Few Italian winemakers can rival this iconic label for the terroir- and vintage-driven characteristics of the wines.

And as much as I love its single-vineyard expressions of Nebbiolo, my favorite is always the blended classic Barbaresco: on my palate, these are the truest expressions of Barbaresco and its unique power and elegance because they represent an overarching manifestation of the entire appellation, made from grapes grown by multiple growers across the territory. Each year, the best grapes from the best growing sites go into this wine. How do you determine where the best rows are? Simple: just observe where the snow melts first, they will tell you. 1967 and 1982 are two memorable vintages of the classic Barbaresco that I have tasted over the last few years (and I’ve tasted the crus going back to the late 70s): the wines of today are very true to the winery’s beautiful, natural terroir-driven style.

The 2004 is surely to be one of the great vintages of this decade and the winery compares it to the “mythic 1990.” I’ve tasted it a number of times over the last year and it seems to be closing up right now and showing more tight than it was last summer. I believe it’s going through a tannic period of its development and as much of a joy as it is to drink it, I think it’s best to lay it down for a while. I want to revisit it again around Christmas and see where it’s at.

Although 2005 was a very good vintage and classic in its profile (part of a string a good vintages, 04, 05, and 06), unusually high temperatures in September made for a wine with fruit more forward than the 2004. Unfortunately, this more “American-friendly” vintage has driven up the price slightly. It showed wonderfully in the tasting the other day and while I don’t think it will age quite as long as the 2004, I think this is an excellent Barbaresco that we can enjoy sooner than later.

2006 was another classic vintage, although again warmer than the 2004. I was thrilled to taste the 2006 Langhe Nebbiolo (made from fruit not destined for the Barbaresco) and I think it’s an excellent value for the quality. I like to call it my “Saturday night wine” (the Barbaresco is a “special occasion” wine at my table).

I’ve translated the winery’s 2006 vintage notes below.

    The 2006 vintage began with nice spring weather. The warm temperatures in the first half of May caused early flowering around May 25 (flowering usually occurs in early June for Nebbiolo). Temperatures lowered at the beginning of June but without adversely affecting the flowering and fruit set of the vines. These conditions led to an abundant harvest. July brought temperatures higher than average. But August saw milder and more pleasant weather with warm days alternated with cooler and more ventilated days. Unlike other regions in Italy, rainfall was scarce and as a result, the season was relatively dry, especially for vineyards with the best exposure, which were warmer and drier. The abundant amount of fruit made summer thinning all the more important in order to rebalance production and allow for good ripening.

    September arrived with healthy fruit with somewhat high sugar levels. But the development of the fruit and its aromas was however delayed, especially in the warmest vineyards with the best exposure. Two intense September rainstorms marked a break from otherwise summery conditions. The first happened around September 10 and this actually helped aromatic ripening to begin again and thus was helpful. The second rainfall arrived later, on September 25 and 26, when the fruit was already ripe. At that point, there was no point in waiting any more and as soon as the sun dried the fruit, we began to harvest on September 29 and we finished picking on October 7 after nine days of good weather that allowed us to harvest excellent, healthy fruit.

    2006 Barbaresco will be an excellent Barbaresco with natural alcoholic content higher than 13.5%, with intense color and good acidity. A good wine for aging, from another vintage in a string of good vintages including 2004 and 2005.

My advice: buy these wines, drink them, lay them down, live with them, pair them with food, save a glass of each and taste it the next day, open them on special occasions, revisit them, record your impressions, blog them… They never disappoint and their value simply cannot be beat.

—Jeremy Parzen

A quick confabulation with Aldo Vacca, winemaker

February 12, 2008

Earlier this year, Produttori del Barbaresco’s president and winemaker Aldo Vacca (left) took time out from his importer’s grand portfolio tasting to talk to me about recent vintages and the cooperative’s approach to winemaking.

Produttori del Barbaresco has always stood apart for its steadfast traditionalist approach to winemaking. Where do you see Produttori in relation to the current trend of modern-style Nebbiolo?

You have to understand that the winemaking tradition in Langhe comes from an entirely agricultural mentality, a “farmer” culture. Early on, we were insecure, if you will. We didn’t have enough faith in our land. This insecurity led a number of winemakers to adopt a modern approach. There are also a lot of new producers who have only recently begun making wine in Langhe. Many of them don’t have the respect for our tradition of winemaking. This trend has developed over the last 20 years and has had a big impact. But I also see that many producers are returning to a more traditional approach.

Produttori del Barbaresco has never changed its style. From the beginning, Produttori has always made wine using traditional methods [extended maceration, natural fermentation, and aging in traditional botti, large oak casks]. The winery’s style is very distinct but the wines are always respectful of the terroir.

How are as-of-yet unreleased vintages showing?

Both 2007 and 2006 were very good vintages in Langhe. 2006 saw a warmer summer and it will be a more “fleshy”* wine, with softer tannins, while 2007 is comparable to long-lived vintages like 1996 and 2001.

The harvest came early in 2007, but this was not because of a hot summer. It was due to the fact that the mild, dry winter caused the growing cycle to begin early. As a result, we harvested early. 2007 has intense tannins and high acidity [good signs for long-lived Nebbiolo].

—Jeremy Parzen

* Aldo and I conversed in Italian and it’s interesting to note that he used the English “fleshy” to describe his impression of the wine.