TN: The pleasures of barbera in a warm vintage (Burlotto '18)

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John Morris
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TN: The pleasures of barbera in a warm vintage (Burlotto '18)

#1 Post by John Morris » September 11th, 2020, 7:02 pm

I don't have a hankering for a barbera all that often, but in the warmer vintages (e.g., 2009, 2015, 2018), they can be such a pleasure -- greater ripeness taking the edge off the natural acid. I like them best in vintages where I find many nebbiolos too ripe.

Comes now the 2018 Burlotto "Aves" Barbera. I have no idea why this smells like scorched earth to me. I have no idea what burned dirt smells like. But I swear that's what this calls to mind. Something earthy, but baked, dried and very dry. I find that in the best barberas that pass a certain ripeness threshold. Also some plumminess.

There's acid in this, to be sure. Enough to make the wine "crunchy." Enough acid that you expect red fruits, but it's darker, more like just-ripe black plum. Balanced all around, and not showing it's 15% at all, though that might be because I've drunk it somewhat chilled.

This was great with a tomato-based ragu and, tonight, with Turkish lahmacun (super thin pizza-like thing with hand-minced beef with tomato and pepper paste, sumac and other herbs). Earlier bottles have also been a delight. At $25, a pleasant change of pace from my steady diet this summer of syrah, grenache, nebbiolo and zin. (OK, I worked in a bit of cesanese, Montepulciano and pinot.)

Refreshing, enlivening. For me, sort of a cross between a good cru Beaujolais and a Ridge East Bench zin with an extra dollop of acid.
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Re: TN: The pleasures of barbera in a warm vintage (Burlotto '18)

#2 Post by Chris Seiber » September 11th, 2020, 7:08 pm

I would never in a million years have thought burned, baked and scorched would be descriptors you would use for a wine you liked.

But I commend you for an open mind. Sometimes a wine is just good, even if it doesn’t match the profile of other wines you usually like. It’s like movies or music — sometimes something that isn’t usually your thing is just really good anyway, and so who cares if you didn’t normally dig that style or category.

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Re: TN: The pleasures of barbera in a warm vintage (Burlotto '18)

#3 Post by Robert.A.Jr. » September 11th, 2020, 7:15 pm

Fantastic note!

Come to FL, we’ll teach you what scorched earth looks, feels, smells and tastes like!

And then some petrichor following the daily hot summer afternoon showers.

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Re: TN: The pleasures of barbera in a warm vintage (Burlotto '18)

#4 Post by Tom DeBiase » September 11th, 2020, 7:15 pm

Sounds nice John but I'll take all that extra acid all the time. For me the dark fruit and lack of tannin lets the acid structure shine in Barbera.

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Re: TN: The pleasures of barbera in a warm vintage (Burlotto '18)

#5 Post by Markus S » September 11th, 2020, 8:06 pm

John Morris wrote:
September 11th, 2020, 7:02 pm
This was great with a tomato-based ragu and, tonight, with Turkish lahmacun ...
Growing up I was always told these were Lebanese...

Barbera seems to handle extreme ripeness better than other varieties (in the same way that 15% fruiliano seems to work), but still, there's got to be a limit somewhere?
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Re: TN: The pleasures of barbera in a warm vintage (Burlotto '18)

#6 Post by John Morris » September 11th, 2020, 9:20 pm

Markus S wrote:
September 11th, 2020, 8:06 pm
John Morris wrote:
September 11th, 2020, 7:02 pm
This was great with a tomato-based ragu and, tonight, with Turkish lahmacun ...
Growing up I was always told these were Lebanese...
Lahmacun is the Turkish transliteration of the Arabic word. Like a lot of foods from the areas within the old Ottoman Empire (e.g., kebabs, feta), everyone claims it -- the Lebanese, Syrians, Turks and Armenians: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lahmacun
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Re: TN: The pleasures of barbera in a warm vintage (Burlotto '18)

#7 Post by Otto Forsberg » September 12th, 2020, 3:31 am

I can echo that sun-baked earth note, since that is something I very often find in Barbera - and it's not something from oak or baked fruit, since I can pick that up also in some stainless steel-aged cooler-vintage Barberas.

However, for me, warm-vintage Barberas are quite off-putting. I'm not a big fan of Barbera, but what I do love in it is its inherently high acidity, which is why cooler-vintage Barberas are really up my alley. Furthermore, Barbera seems to develop sugars both higher and earlier than Nebbiolo, so often warm-vintage Barberas tend to clock at 14,5% minimum, often hovering around 15% and sometimes even higher. That's just way too much for a fresh and relatively light red wine, at least for me.

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Re: TN: The pleasures of barbera in a warm vintage (Burlotto '18)

#8 Post by Marshall Manning » September 12th, 2020, 10:42 am

John, try the Pelaverga and Dolcetto...both delicious in '18 to my palate. I generally like both better than Barbera, but there are some exceptions. Some producers want to oak up Barbera, although I'm sure Burlotto doesn't.
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Re: TN: The pleasures of barbera in a warm vintage (Burlotto '18)

#9 Post by Oliver McCrum » September 12th, 2020, 11:58 am

Great notes, John, I totally agree about the roasted thing.

As opposed to the scorched thing, which is a common note now here in Northern California.
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Re: TN: The pleasures of barbera in a warm vintage (Burlotto '18)

#10 Post by John Morris » September 12th, 2020, 8:35 pm

Marshall Manning wrote:
September 12th, 2020, 10:42 am
John, try the Pelaverga and Dolcetto...both delicious in '18 to my palate. I generally like both better than Barbera, but there are some exceptions. Some producers want to oak up Barbera, although I'm sure Burlotto doesn't.
I know the pelaverga well. A very special wine, but calls for different foods than the barbera because it’s so light.

I can’t recall seeing the dolcetta on shelves in NY, and I don’t recall it from my two visits to the cantina, though I probably had it there.

Their friesa is the other non-nebbiolo standout in my mind.
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Re: TN: The pleasures of barbera in a warm vintage (Burlotto '18)

#11 Post by Otto Forsberg » September 12th, 2020, 10:57 pm

John Morris wrote:
September 12th, 2020, 8:35 pm
Their friesa is the other non-nebbiolo standout in my mind.
Agreed.

A few years ago we had a mini-blind tasting of four wines before the main tasting, which was something different from this mini-blind. The wines turned out to be Burlotto's 2013 Barbera, Dolcetto, Freisa and Nebbiolo. Freisa was my favorite in the lineup, although Dolcetto was a close second.

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Re: TN: The pleasures of barbera in a warm vintage (Burlotto '18)

#12 Post by James Billy » September 13th, 2020, 4:14 am

Dolcetto, the Gamay of Piedmont!

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Re: TN: The pleasures of barbera in a warm vintage (Burlotto '18)

#13 Post by Rob M » September 13th, 2020, 6:36 am

FWIW I don't think most consider 2018 to be a warm vintage by modern standards. For the Dolcetto for example, I heard several times last year people reference that the 2018 Dolcetto is a throwback to what they remember Dolcetto being like decades ago - at Elio Grasso, their 2018 dolcetto is 13% alc vs. 14.5% alc in 2017, so pretty extreme difference. The 2018 Dolcettos are very light - maybe a good thing given the purpose of these wines, but kind of threw me off. I wouldn't think it should be much different for Barbera if they're picked a few weeks later than Dolcetto.

I think 2018 is characterized by normal-ish temperatures, but high rainfall early on in the year. Trediberri has these graphs that are pretty interesting. See 2017 heat & drought vs 2018, and then see 2016, where temps were pretty much average throughout the entire year and there were no huge rainstorms.
2018 Vintage: https://www.trediberri.com/en/the-2018-vintage/
2017 Vintage: https://www.trediberri.com/en/the-2017-vintage/
2016 Vintage: https://www.trediberri.com/en/annata-2016/
2014 (to compare to 2018 rain): https://www.trediberri.com/en/the-2012-vintage-3/

So this all being said - I don't think what you are tasting in the Burlotto 2018 is due to heat, so I'd say it's more the style of winemaking. I think the Aves is a very aggressive Barbera. I like it but it's not what I would guess a Burlotto Barbera would be like based on their Barolo style. I think they do use some small barrels for this wine, I recall Galloni mentioned that in one review.
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Re: TN: The pleasures of barbera in a warm vintage (Burlotto '18)

#14 Post by John Morris » September 13th, 2020, 7:45 am

Rob M wrote:
September 13th, 2020, 6:36 am
FWIW I don't think most consider 2018 to be a warm vintage by modern standards. For the Dolcetto for example, I heard several times last year people reference that the 2018 Dolcetto is a throwback to what they remember Dolcetto being like decades ago - at Elio Grasso, their 2018 dolcetto is 13% alc vs. 14.5% alc in 2017, so pretty extreme difference. The 2018 Dolcettos are very light - maybe a good thing given the purpose of these wines, but kind of threw me off. I wouldn't think it should be much different for Barbera if they're picked a few weeks later than Dolcetto.

I think 2018 is characterized by normal-ish temperatures, but high rainfall early on in the year. Trediberri has these graphs that are pretty interesting. See 2017 heat & drought vs 2018, and then see 2016, where temps were pretty much average throughout the entire year and there were no huge rainstorms.
2018 Vintage: https://www.trediberri.com/en/the-2018-vintage/
2017 Vintage: https://www.trediberri.com/en/the-2017-vintage/
2016 Vintage: https://www.trediberri.com/en/annata-2016/
2014 (to compare to 2018 rain): https://www.trediberri.com/en/the-2012-vintage-3/

So this all being said - I don't think what you are tasting in the Burlotto 2018 is due to heat, so I'd say it's more the style of winemaking. I think the Aves is a very aggressive Barbera. I like it but it's not what I would guess a Burlotto Barbera would be like based on their Barolo style. I think they do use some small barrels for this wine, I recall Galloni mentioned that in one review.
I may have overstated the warmth, but the Trediberri graph shows above-normal temperatures in September 2018. Jancis Robinson summarizes the vintage thus: “A reversal of fortunes after a fairly dismal 2017, with high volumes of good quality in all the major varieties. The year started cool but finished hot, and good weather persisted throughout harvest.”

I've had some 2018 dolcettos that were on the ripe side, too: e.g., Cogno and Pecchinino.

2017 was a drought year with a summer heat wave, so not normal ripening.

To be sure, the barbera partly reflects winemaking. I know the freisa reflects a choice to pick fairly late. The freisa is a bit of an outlier because of that. To me, the barbera falls within the normal range.
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Re: TN: The pleasures of barbera in a warm vintage (Burlotto '18)

#15 Post by Todd Tucker » September 13th, 2020, 9:44 am

If you like a lighter bodied barbera than the Aves, Burlotto’s regular barbera is terrific. Lighter, fresher, and made for the table. I prefer its style to the Aves. It’s less impactful, but more enjoyable to me. It’s what I want to drink when I think of drinking barbera. That said, the Aves after a couple years settles and gains focus and depth. The ‘15 is drinking very well right now.

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Re: TN: The pleasures of barbera in a warm vintage (Burlotto '18)

#16 Post by John Morris » September 13th, 2020, 12:45 pm

Todd Tucker wrote:
September 13th, 2020, 9:44 am
If you like a lighter bodied barbera than the Aves, Burlotto’s regular barbera is terrific. Lighter, fresher, and made for the table. I prefer its style to the Aves. It’s less impactful, but more enjoyable to me. It’s what I want to drink when I think of drinking barbera. That said, the Aves after a couple years settles and gains focus and depth. The ‘15 is drinking very well right now.
A warm/ripe year!
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Re: TN: The pleasures of barbera in a warm vintage (Burlotto '18)

#17 Post by Todd Tucker » September 13th, 2020, 2:20 pm

John Morris wrote:
September 13th, 2020, 12:45 pm
Todd Tucker wrote:
September 13th, 2020, 9:44 am
If you like a lighter bodied barbera than the Aves, Burlotto’s regular barbera is terrific. Lighter, fresher, and made for the table. I prefer its style to the Aves. It’s less impactful, but more enjoyable to me. It’s what I want to drink when I think of drinking barbera. That said, the Aves after a couple years settles and gains focus and depth. The ‘15 is drinking very well right now.
A warm/ripe year!
Agreed. I think that, in general, Barbera handles a warm year the best of all the red grapes in the Langhe. Freisa would be my second on that list. That said, I usually prefer an average to cooler vintage for all the varieties. But, then again, a fleshy Barbera can be pretty fun.

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Re: TN: The pleasures of barbera in a warm vintage (Burlotto '18)

#18 Post by John Morris » September 13th, 2020, 3:02 pm

As I said at the outset, I shy away from ripe years when it comes to nebbiolo, but I prefer the warm vintages for barbera because, even when it's very ripe, it's never really low in acid.
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Re: TN: The pleasures of barbera in a warm vintage (Burlotto '18)

#19 Post by Michael_H » September 14th, 2020, 6:09 pm

I'm a big fan of the warmer vintage barberas as well, have had a few '17s that have been quite agreeable to my palate too
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Re: TN: The pleasures of barbera in a warm vintage (Burlotto '18)

#20 Post by J Henson » September 16th, 2020, 9:03 am

Interesting data point and descriptors, but count me in the category of not liking barbera in a warm year. Barbera pairs very well with tomato-based sauces, but loses that acidic zing in the warmer years. I am finishing up my ‘15 Barberas and am glad to not have gone very deep. Also, I find more joy in Barbara from the Asti region (Nizza) than Barbera d’Alba. YMMV.

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Re: TN: The pleasures of barbera in a warm vintage (Burlotto '18)

#21 Post by Otto Forsberg » September 16th, 2020, 3:22 pm

J Henson wrote:
September 16th, 2020, 9:03 am
Interesting data point and descriptors, but count me in the category of not liking barbera in a warm year. Barbera pairs very well with tomato-based sauces, but loses that acidic zing in the warmer years. I am finishing up my ‘15 Barberas and am glad to not have gone very deep. Also, I find more joy in Barbara from the Asti region (Nizza) than Barbera d’Alba. YMMV.
Don't know nothing about some Barbara in Asti [snort.gif] but I certainly feel the average quality of Barbera d'Asti is higher than that of Barbera d'Alba!
Last edited by Otto Forsberg on September 18th, 2020, 2:24 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: TN: The pleasures of barbera in a warm vintage (Burlotto '18)

#22 Post by J Henson » September 18th, 2020, 6:43 am

Hey Otto. While you are snorting, perhaps focus on the reference to Nizza, its own DOCG in the Barbera d’Asti zone. Why are so many people who comment on wine so tiresome?

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Re: TN: The pleasures of barbera in a warm vintage (Burlotto '18)

#23 Post by Markus S » September 18th, 2020, 7:39 am

J Henson wrote:
September 18th, 2020, 6:43 am
Why are so many people who comment on wine so tiresome?
Welcome to the Boring Club.
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Re: TN: The pleasures of barbera in a warm vintage (Burlotto '18)

#24 Post by J Henson » September 18th, 2020, 8:07 am

Ha! I agree. But with 6819 posts, you must have a higher tolerance for it.

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Re: TN: The pleasures of barbera in a warm vintage (Burlotto '18)

#25 Post by Greg Gardner » September 18th, 2020, 2:26 pm

I had the ‘15 Aves a couple of months back and found that it wasn’t wearing the 15% alcohol well - was noticeably hot. The ‘18 sounds more my style, will grab a bottle if I see it. Agreed on their Freisa and Pelaverga, too - subtle and delicious wines

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Re: TN: The pleasures of barbera in a warm vintage (Burlotto '18)

#26 Post by Jon Drummond » September 18th, 2020, 2:49 pm

Can someone enlighten me on Barbera?

I've had a few bottles now (G Rinaldi the main one)...and Barbera just seems to be a generic red wine with high acid. Fine on the table, but don't find it to be any character worthy of much discussion or introspection. Kinda feel that it piggybacks on the reputation of Barolo/Barbaresco.

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