Produttori del Barbaresco has always been one of my favorite produces of Barbaresco. Their wines can last for 50 years or more even in mediocre vintages. Ernie De Salvo, a good friend and fellow wine lover, suggested that we invite some friends and do a tasting and lunch with these wines. There were 8 of us and we gathered at Il Gattopardo restaurant in NYC a few weeks ago.
The vertical tasting consisted of 8 wines in vintages from 1962 to 1989. They were all in good condition except for the 1970 Barbaresco Riserva Ovello, which was corked.
Produttori del Barbaresco is a wine cooperative, arguably the best in Italy. It has roots going back to 1894 when there were 19 members, but the co-op as we now know it dates from 1958. Today there are 52 members. Over the years, a few members have left the co-op to go out on their own.
Produttori has 100 hectares of Nebbiolo in the Barbaresco Appellation, 1/6 of the area. Each grower makes his own decisions as far as growing the grapes is concerned.
Produttori del Barbaresco only produces wine from the Nebbiolo grape, Barbaresco DOCG, a blend of grapes from different vineyards, and Langhe Nebbiolo DOC.
In great vintages, nine single vineyard Barbaresco’s are produced within the boundaries of the village of Barbaresco: Asilli, Rabaja, Pora, Montestefano, Orvello, Pagé, Montefico, Moccagatta and Rio Sordo. The co-op takes great pride in these wines and the name of the single vineyard. The total number of bottles produced and the name of the owners of the vineyard are on the label.
The 1996 Ovello Riserva, for example, has on the label the name of the single vineyard, the number of bottles produced (18,145) and the names of the vineyard owners: Cravanzola, Gonella, Maffei, Vacca, Varaldo.
In his book Italy’s Noble Red Wines, Wasserman states in the section on Barbaresco, “There are a few producers making Barbaresco in the same class as the wines of Produttori, but none who surpass them.” In the years since this was written I have drunk many bottles of Produttori and it is as true now as it was then.
All of these single vineyards basically have the same soil, calcareous limestone with sandy veins. The only difference is in the exposure. The grapes are hand harvested. They are also vinified in the same way. Traditional fermentation takes place with 18 to 20 days skin contact and aged for 36 months in oak barrels of 25 to 50 HL and 8 months in bottle before release. All of the single vineyards are reserve wines.
The regular Barbaresco is aged for two years in large oak barrels.
For the last number of years the winery has been run by Aldo Vacca the managing director.
Jason De Salvo took the notes on the wines that follow. I have great respect for his palate and his great attention to detail.
1962 Barbaresco Riserva
12/11/17 — 89 points. Light brick-garnet color. The nose is candied cherries, leaves, leather, tobacco and dried roses. On the palate this is supremely elegant and still holding together. It is amazing that this is still as alive as it is, given what I have heard about the 1962 vintage!
1967 Barbaresco Riserva Speciale Rabaya
12/11/17 — 97+ points. Light-medium ruby-brick color. The nose here is absolutely gorgeous with haunting notes of smoke, black cherries, wild flowers, balsamic-pine notes, fennel flowers and dried game. On the palate this is f*&%ing stunning with great grip, incredible balance, loads of flavor nuance and a long finish.
1967 Barbaresco Riserva Paijé (Cavaliere del Tartufo bottling)
12/11/17 — 98 points. Deep ruby color, nearly opaque. The nose here is extraordinary with deep black cherry fruit, loads of dusty minerals, lilies, potpourri, pomegranates and dried roses. On the palate this is deep, intensely flavored and positively youthful. Unreal juice. Absolutely stunning and still going strong nearly two hours after it was opened and poured. This was the wine of the day for Jason .
12/11/17 — 95 points. Deep ruby-brick color. Powerful umami notes on the nose with soy, black cherries, smoked game, black raspberries, flowers, pink lilies. In the mouth this is gorgeous with a grippe palate presence, beautiful balance and loads of dusty tannins leading to a long finish. A touch less complex than the two 1967 crus that preceded it, but otherwise virtually at the same level! Wow.
12/11/17 — 94 points. Medium-deep brick-ruby color. From a cooler vintage than the 1978 served alongside it. Aromatically this is actually more complex than the 1978 with just a stunning nose of dried game, black raspberries, sour cherries, smoke, leather and dried flowers. On the palate this is a tad more acidic, less opulent and lighter than than the 1978. I prefer the ’78 in the mouth and the nose of the ’79.
1978 Barbaresco Riserva Rabaja’
12/11/17 — 96 points. Deep ruby color. The nose here is black licorice, a distinct note of celery, leather, black cherries, earth, forest floor and dried porcini mushrooms. On the palate this is the most structured, deepest and intense wine of the tasting thus far. Massive quantities of ripe, dried black cherry fruit in the mouth with plush mid-palate and a long, structured finished buttressed by a good dose of classy, ripe tannins.
1989 Barbaresco Riserva Ovello
12/11/17 – 97 points). Medium-deep ruby color. Beautiful nose with gorgeous, soaring aromatics of red plums, black raspberries, minerals, dried roses, saddle leather and red cherries. On the palate this is gorgeously elegant with a wonderful nervosité, excellent mouth-puckering acidity and a gorgeously long, dusty tannic finish. Wow. This wine is right in its sweet spot right now and is really singing.
The best way to understand these wines is with food. Here are some of the dishes prepared by chef Vito Gnazzo of Gattopardo to go with the wines.
HAPPY NEW YEAR