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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Wednesday, 26 May 2010 16:28

Wine Travels: Barolo and Barbaresco- Burgundy of Piemonte

Barolo and Barbaresco- two majestic Italian DOCG wines coming from two appellations  barely 20 kms apart, have a lot of similarity with the Burgundy region, including the single varietal, price, terroir and micro-climates along with their penchant to highlight the historical vineyard, writes Subhash Arora who was at the Nebbiolo Prima, the first edition of which was organised last week by Albeisa.

Sad news awaited us on reaching Hotel Barolo, in downtown Barolo (Centro would be a more appropriate word, if you love Italy and its wines and history)- parts of Barolo appellation had been stuck on Friday morning  by a severe hail storm that might have knocked off half the crop. La Morra, about 6 kms from Barolo and Serralunga d’Alba- a couple or three Kms from there, as the crow flies, had been badly hit. Stung by a similar loss due to heavy rains last November, the farmers of Nashik would be even more sympathetic to the calamity. Such are the vagaries of nature the wine makers have to live with everywhere.

Burgundy, Barolo and Barbaresco- the Trio

If the sounds of Cotes de Nuits and Cotes de Baune bring music to your ears, you will be at home in Barolo and Barbaresco. If Gevrey Chambertin, Vosne Romanée and Chambolle Musigny bring excitement, La Morra, Serralunga, Barbaresco and Neive would be as enchanting when you are in this neighbourhood. If you know that La Tâche, Richebourg and Clos de Vougeot are at the pinnacle of vineyards of Burgundy, you might also be aware that you have to give an arm and a leg or more to acquire today the vineyards in Cannubi, Sarmassa, Brunate, Rabajà and Basarin because then you are assured of the top quality wines of Barolo and Barbaresco.

The Terroir and Micro-climate

The rolling hills in this Piemontese  region change their character as fast as in Burgundy and the soil and the direction of the sun changes drastically practically at every step, bringing the similarity closer to Burgundy. If hate the confusion of blended grapes as in Bordeaux, you will be happy to know that most of Burgundy reds are made from Pinot Noir and the Barolos and Barbaresco must have 100% Nebbiolo to get the docg appellation.

Though not as pricy as Burgundy, the top producers command a high price with Barolo still commanding on the average, around 20% premium.

Appellation of Barolo and Barbaresco

Room with a View- Castello di Barolo from Hotel Barolo

While a majority of Italian wines are named after the regions/area of production rather than the grapes, Barolo and Barbaresco, are not produced only in the towns they are named after but in zones and sub-zones as defined in the appellation laws.

Barolo is produced in the heart of Langhe hills in 11 different municipalities/towns, the more important being Barolo, La Morra, Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’Alba and Monforte d’Alba. Other comunes included are Verduno, Novello, Grinzane Cavour, Roddi, Cherasco and Diano d’Alba.

Barbaresco, on the other hand also consists of Neive,  Treiso and a very small proportion in Alba. Neive produces more docg Barbaresco (37%) than the town of Barbaresco (34%). The wine label may display the name of the comune too. Interestingly, as in Burgundy, the terroir is quite different in different zones giving wines a different character from different sub-zones.

In the Barbaresco tasting organised by Albeisa in Alba last week, while tasting Barbaresco 2007, I suddenly found a distinct change in wine flavours suddenly as I was going through my daily quota of around 80 wines for tasting. After 4 wines had a distinctly different flavour, I went back to my notes and discovered that the wines had changed from Neive to Barbaresco. It is interesting for the Indian fans of Barbaresco to note that a Barbaresco may not always have the similar flavour.

Vineyard Geographical Nomenclature

Mr. Pietro Ratti, president of the Consorzio explaining the concept of Menzione Geografica

This is where the difference in nomenclature begins.Whereas in Burgundy, only the top Grand Crus vineyards like Le Tâche or Richebourg are allowed to mention their names on the label, in both the Italian appellations, the name of the historic vineyards may also mentioned (Menzione geografica).

Pietro Ratti, owner of Cantina Renato Ratti in La Morra and the new President of the Consortium of Barolo, Barbaresco and Roero explained that the work of sub-zoning has been completed and has already become mandatory in Barbaresco, to respect the village names as approved, based on the actual surveys of the land. He was hopeful that the process might be completed in Barolo too this year and ‘we hope that after the democratic process that has been going on for 20 years, the name of the vineyards in Barolo zones may also be mentioned in the appellation.’ 

However, whereas in Burgundy, the vineyard names on the bottle would certainly signify the quality of wine- being the top level Grands Crus, in both these two areas, the names would not necessarily signify quality, Ratti took pains to explain. However, historically up market vineyards like Cannubi, Ornato, Cerrati, Rabaja , Basarin and Asili already have an unbeatable  brand image internationally.

A view of Barolo Vineyards from Cordero di Montezemolo winery in La Morra

The 4-day tastings of the full bodied, young Nebbiolos did cause a temporary loss of palate at the end of every day but was a fabulous opportunity to taste around 400 wines-the wide spectrum of wines from Roero 2007, Barbaresco 2007 and Barolo 2006, the youngest releases, according to the appellation laws.

A majority of wines scored 3.5-4 stars out of a possible 5 on my palate. Following wines however, impressed me more-being 4+ to 5 stars. Naturally, my palate might be different from others; it might give you some idea of the wines tasted at the 4-day Nebbiolo Prima event and bring to focus some of the noteworthy wines of the area:

Tasting: May 17

Barbaresco 2007- Piazzo Armando, Pertinace, Rizzi, Prunotto, Ca du Rabajà, Cascina Morassino, Moccagatta, Produttori del Barbaresco, Bruno Rocca, La Spinona, Giacosa Carlo, Cascina delle Rose, Ca Rome Sori, Bruno Rocca

I wasn’t much impressed with the Barbaresco 2005 Riserva except Casetta and Piazza Armando Nervo  

Tasting May 18

Barbaresco 2007-Castello di Neive, Rinaldi Pietro, Punset, Antichi Poderi dei Gallina, Fontanabianca, Sottimano Cotta,  Moccagatta, Giacosa Fratelli (both labels), Adriano Marco e Vittorio,

Barolo 2006- Pasquale di Barolo, Marchesi di Barolo, Barale Serraboella, Piazzo Armando, Bric Cenciurio, Famiglia Anselma, Germano Angelo, Bartolo Mascarello, Sandrone Luciano, Le Ginestre, Poderi Einaudi, Virna Borgogno, Gianni Gagliardo, Da Milano, Cascina Adelaide, Michele Chiarlo, Brezza Giacomo, Pira Chiara Boschis, Burlotto Comm. Cavalier Bartolomeo, Giuseppe Rinaldi, Vajra, Boroli, Brezza  Giacomo, Scarsello Giorgio, Borgogno Giacomo

Tasting on May 19

Barolo 2006

Rocche Costamagna,  Molino Mauro, Tenuta  L’illuminata, Monchiero, Bovio Gianfranco, Cascina Ballarin, Mario Gagliasso, Mauro Veglio, Cordero di Montezemolo, Voerzio Gianni, Bosco Agostini, Vietti, Marcarini, Cavallotto Tenuta Bricco Boschis, Oddero,

Barolo 2004 Riserva from Cavallotto Tenuta Bricco Boschis was singing on my palate.

May 20th tasting

 Barolo 2006 brought to the fore: Prunotto, Pio Cesare, Simona Scaletta, Josetto Saffirio, Pecchenino, Ascheri            Sorano Coste &Bricco, Cascina Cucco, Brovia, Grimaldi Bruna, Cascina Luisin, Germano Ettore, Schiavenza and Paolo Manzone with a higher than 4 star ratings,

Gianni Gagliardo Barolo 2004 Riserva was my personal top favourite of the day although Giacomo Fenocchio, Franco Conterno, Rivetto Schiavenza and Massolino also came very close.

The production of both these wines took a hit last year due to the recession and prices were under pressure too. It may take some time yet to bring the price because of the same reason. But the wines continue to rule the hearts and palates of true lovers of Italian wines with a character.

Subhash Arora

More articles on the region and these wines to follow-editor 



Subhash Arora Says:

Thank you for the comments. My emphasis was on the fact that the names of the vineyards like I have mentioned, would be used as Menzione Geografica. And as Pietro emphasised, it would not indicate the quality of the vineyards. Obviously, my passion and knowledge for Langhe does not match yours and I appreciate your inputs. Subhash Arora

Posted @ May 27, 2010 11:33


Bart Van Hemelrijk Says:

It is always nice to read that more winelovers reach Piemonte. It is one of the most exciting regions in the world. But sometimes I cannot but react on some things the people wright. I read that Basarin would be one of the topcru's in Barbaresco? I'm sorry, but that is a mistake. It is too sandy for that. Why do you think that some producers make a common Langhe nebbiolo of it, instead of a Barbaresco? (For example Sottimano). This surely isn't a topcru as Montestefano, Montefico, Asili or Rabaja... The same for Barolo. The biggest part of Sarmassa isn't even completely south, so not the best exposition for nebbiolo. Although I must say that the Brezza Sarmassa is a great wine in some years. Brunate shurely is great, as is Cannubi (but only the historical part, not the new parts added to it!). Please note that all other legendary Barolo's come from the terroir of Serralunga d'Alba! From vineyards as Vigna Rionda, Cascina Francia, Rocche del Falletto and also the Bricco Boschis owned entirely by Cavallotto in Castiglione Falletto. This is not an exhaustive list of course. If you send me newsletters, I cannot but react on the things that are not correct to my knowledge. I love the Langhe too much for that! All the best, Bart Van Hemelrijk Importer in Belgium and lecturer for WSET

Posted @ May 27, 2010 11:10


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