2018 VISIT TO PRODUTTORI DEL BARBARESCO WITH ALDO AND DAVID
We began Barbaresco Monday with a visit to Produttori del Barbaresco.
At the tasting we were joined by Wine Berserker D@vid Bu3ker who had come down from Turin for the morning tasting. It was great fun to meet, and taste with, David.
Aldo Vacca began the visit with a brief winery tour. Aldo allowed us a quick tank tasting of the 2017 Pora.
Aldo gave us a brief, potted history of the collective. Produttori del Barbaresco was founded in 1958, in the same year as Terre del Barolo. He said that the early years were difficult in Barbaresco. For example, he mentioned that Sori Tildin had been a wheat field when bought in the 1970s by Angelo Gaja’s father.
Aldo explained that there were three key decisions or design features that ultimately led to Produtorri’s modern day success:
- The decision to be Nebbiolo (Barbaresco) only. In the beginning, Dolcetto was actually the more valuable grape than Nebbiolo.
- The requirement that all member farmers must deliver 100% of their Nebbiolo grapes to the collective, to prevent farmers skimming off their best grapes or vintages.
- The decision to pay for grapes, in the parcels delivered, based on their quality, not just on their quantity.
There are now 54 growers in Produttori del Barbaresco. Today, even beyond wine, Produttori must be one of the most successful cooperatives of any type in the world.
Aldo talked about recent harvests and vintages:
2017: This was a very challenging vintage in Barbaresco. For example, Aldo noted that, two nights of frost killed 50% of the vines in Gaja’s Costa Russi right to their roots. After the frosts came the hail. Three Produttori growers lost 100% of their harvest to hail. The last hail in Ovello was in June and then it was pretty dry, across all Produttori vineyards, until November. Aldo thinks Riservas will “probably” be made for 2017. It is very early, obviously, to assess but he compared the results with 2011s or 2015s, expecting robust, full wines, “not elegant”, as he said.
2016: Riservas will be made. There are good volumes.
2015: Riservas will be made, again there are good volumes.
2014 (and 2013): Riservas were bottled in May, this year. The Riservas will be released in February 2019. There will be reduced quantities for most Cru. 2014, Aldo said, had been a wet season until 12 August, but then largely dry after that. He described the 2014 Cru as much more aromatic and elegant than the very structured, classic, spicy 2013s. He called the 2014s “Burgundian” or a “unique, Pinot-like vintage”. I have tasted a number of the 2013 Cru. Although they had similar (late) harvest dates (8 and 12 October, respectively), and on my previous visit in 2016 tasted fairly similar (as both were from classical, cooler vintages), they have now markedly diverged, each clearly expressing their vintage characters. This tasting cemented my overall preference for the more perfumed, refined 2014s over the earthier, more structured 2013s. Still, I rate the 2013s very highly, ahead of the 2011s or 2009s, and expect the 2013s to be a very long-lived vintage.
During the tasting, Aldo also talked about drinking windows for his Riservas. Generally, his personal drinking window for his Cru, most vintages, is eight to 12 years. For the 2011s, he mentioned, he would recommend finishing them within 15 years of vintage (ie around 2026) because, for this earlier drinking vintage, “20 years may be too much”. Of recent vintages, he specifically noted the 2008 and 2014 Cru as having “the chance to go longer” (than this 20 years period). Aldo rates his 2008 Riservas as his best vintage of the first decade this century.
We tasted three of the 2014 Cru side-by-side. Then Aldo treated us to a deep dive into Ovello, the largest volume producer of the Produttori Cru, following the 2014 with all Riserva vintages back to 2004.
- 2017 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Pora - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
Tank sample. Small pour. A dark nose of blackcurrants, black cherries and earth. Dense with good weight. Lots of power. Dark fruit. Reasonably elegant and fine however.
- 2014 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Pora - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
“Expressive aromatics” said David. I agreed, seeing notes of red and black cherries, violets and other dark florals. On palate, a gorgeous, attractive, elegant Nebbiolo I could drink with dinner tonight, I thought. “Big fruit” said Andrew. Vibrant and energetic. Svelte, spherical tannins. “Almost pinot-like”, said Aldo. Attractive minerality.
- 2014 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Ovello - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
Thierry noted that he “loved the aromatics” here. Earthy with brushwood, bramble, red cherries and raspberries. On palate, savoury and brambly and again clearly Burgundian. “Wow the depth”, said David. Not the normal overt earthiness of a Produttori Ovello. Slightly rustic finish that may settle down with time. My favourite of the three 2014s.
- 2014 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Montestefano - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
As is typical for this most Barolo-like of Barbaresco sites, a precise, mineral bouquet of black currants, black cherries and some lifted dark florals. In the mouth, quite tight and closed, with large scale, but fine grained, tannins. Austere with a steely core. Very mineral with a “slight saltiness” Thierry detected. This Cru will need 8-10 years to fully uncoil, I’d imagine.
- 2013 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Ovello - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
An attractive, Ovello-typical bouquet. “Earthy, spicy”, said Aldo. I detected underbrush and sottobosco elements with David noting a “cinnamon bark” quality. Seemingly relatively open on the nose. Anything but open on palate. Tight and very structured. Grippy tannins. Powerful. Aldo noted that the “finish is a little more aggressive here due to the clay”. It is more accessible than recent 2013 Asili and Rabajas I have opened. Still it needs 7-10 years cellar time, I think.
- 2011 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Ovello - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
Very different from the 2013. A lovely bouquet of red cherries, redcurrants, dry clay and rose florals. On palate, fairly accessible with attractive red fruit, soil and a touch of secondary, orange rind. Fully ripe, but not overripe, and rich. “Quite youthful with nice tannins”, said Aldo. Svelte and refined with fine grained tannins. Good volume and body. I liked this Ovello very much. Drinking well now, but ideally, hold for 3+ years.
- 2009 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Ovello - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
“An early vintage and warm, but with some tannins”, said Aldo. The first Ovello where the colour suggests a little development. A forward wine, potentially for drinking right now. This was my second to favourite Ovello for drinking tonight (after the 2005). A beautiful bouquet, classic Produttori Ovello. Earth, brushwood, cinnamon and plums and other mainly red fruit. On palate, mellow, complex, earthy and spicy with cocoa and red and black cherries. I agreed with Aldo that the 2009 was “right in the zone” but I worried about how quickly it had got there. Aldo’s advice of drinking 2009s in the next 3-5 years seems good.
- 2008 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Ovello - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
Aldo introduced the 2008 Ovello as “the best Riserva vintage of the last decade, like 2001 a long cellaring vintage”. A bouquet of earth, spices, red cherries and other red and black fruit. “Dried flowers”, said David, which seemed right. On palate, clay, red currants, red cherries and other red fruit, but with a steely core. Very tight and closed. The best wine at the tasting but it needs at least 5-8 more years in the cellar.
- 2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Ovello - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
Aldo spoke glowingly of the 2007 vintage. “2007 was a perfect climactic vintage, maybe so perfect it was boring. It allowed a long harvest – 24 days – of homogenous fruit with the same pH, sugar etc every day. It produced refined, polished wines”, he said. A beautiful bouquet of fresh and dried red berries and cherries, cinnamon, smoke and highlights of red rose. In the mouth, much more available than the 2008, yet in a similar direction. Earthy with spices, autumn leaf and fully ripe red currants and red cherries and even some suggestions of strawberry. A lovely wine now that’ll be even better in 3-4 years I’d imagine, but not the long-term cellar proposition of the 2008.
- 2005 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Ovello - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
A lovely bouquet. Spicy, red fruited – fresh red currants, red cherries and plums - and floral perfumes. In the mouth, as Aldo said, “more fruit driven than the ‘04”. “Very fleshy”, said Andrew. Plump, generous, ripe and rich but bone dry. Nice acidity to balance the fruit and tannins. Classy, velvety tannins. Drink or hold. My wine of the tasting.
- 2004 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Ovello - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
An exquisite but very different, “cooler” nose than the 2005. Largely red berries and cherries, spices, citrus, tar and cut, fresh herbs on bouquet. On palate, a classical Barbaresco. “A lot of dry extract but slightly vegetal”, as Aldo noted. Well integrated tannins. Red cherries, red currants, earth and slightly salty minerals. Aldo suggested either drinking the 2004 now or holding for 4-5 years. Very good, not far behind the 2005 in quality, for me.
- 2015 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
Aldo finished up with accessible 2015 Normale. An attractive nose of spices, cherries, soil, rose petals and underbrush, with a touch of tar. In the mouth, savoury and earthy with fresh and dried mainly red berry fruit, brushwood and a little tobacco. Well balanced with decent acidity and integrated, relatively fine tannins. Good ripeness, volume of fruit and concentration. A good vintage for the Normale.
- 2016 Renato Ratti Dolcetto d'Alba Colombe - Italy, Piedmont, Alba, Dolcetto d'Alba
Opposite Produttori, Trattoria Antica Torre Barbaresco is a favourite restaurant for lunch with the local rabbit the signature dish. To accompany the Coniglio we had the Ratti … Deep purple red colour. A bright nose of blackcurrants, black cherries, plums and a touch of balsamic. In the mouth, mainly black fruited with relatively fine grained, silky tannins. Good Dolcetto typicity but a relatively straightforward favour profile. A little below medium bodied. A good lunch wine.
Overall, the tasting was a reflection of what I love so much about Produttori del Barbaresco’s Riservas. They are, of course, one of the great values of the fine wine world. But for me, Produttori’s consistent, traditional, non-interventionist winemaking over the years and its nine different sites means that you can get that Burgundian phenomenon where the imprints of terroir (in this case, Ovello) and vintage are what you can analyse in the glass …
Not everyone sees it that way … Aldo said one of his importers once said “Nine Riservas is interesting, just six too many. Make more Rabaja!”
Posted from CellarTracker