The 2019 Langhe Nebbiolo Perbacco might be an easy-drinking wine but it shows all the sophistication of Nebbiolo fruit that could easily pass for a village Barolo with grapes often sourced from Cru vineyards such as Fiasco, Bussia, Fossati, Bricco delle Viole and Ravera di Monteforte. Indeed, the name “Perbacco” as the story goes, translates into a somewhat entertaining “golly gosh” or “wow” because that was the reported reaction winemaker Luca Currado’s mother made when she first tasted the wine and was told it was not a Barolo!
The grapes for this wine are grown in various selected vineyards sites mostly in the Barolo area and a minor part in Barbaresco. The vineyard’s soils are made up of mostly marl (limestone in combination with clay) and the alcoholic fermentation generally lasts around three to four weeks at controlled temperatures (28°-32°) with the subsequent malolactic fermentation continuing in stainless steel tanks. Each parcel is processed and aged separately until the components are selected to be included for either the final blend of Perbacco or else left to age an extra two years longer to become DOCG Barolo Castiglione. Total ageing time for Perbacco wine components is approximately 16 to 18 months before bottling.
Vietti Perbacco Langhe Nebbiolo 2019, 14% Abv.
Deep, dark and richly coloured, there is every suggestion this is going to be a big old wine! On the nose, the Nebbiolo fruit delivers aromatic layers of ripe sweet red cherries, red liquorice, hints of crème de cassis together with sweet herbal notes of freshly chopped parsley. But it’s on the palate where the true power and pedigree of this wine is revealed, showcasing intense concentrated small berry fruits, delicious purity and intensity, compact concentrated tannin extract and plenty of textured glycerol mouthfeel laced with pithy cherry and peppery spice notes. With quality and intensity like this, you can easily see why the Langhe Nebbiolo denomination is one of the fastest growing wine categories in the entire Piedmont region. Drink now with some rich wintery cuisine or else bury in your cellar for 3 to 5+ more years before revisiting.
The undisputed red co-operative champion of the wine world, Produttori del Barbaresco produce, year after year, some of the most scintillating wines of Barbaresco and indeed Piedmont. Masters of Nebbiolo, the 2018 vintage with its cool, damp and fresh weather conditions served up a long list of challenges for producers, yet after all was said and done, many wineries made some exceptional wines fully deserving of the vintage’s 4-star rating with an emphasis on short to medium-term drinking over long-term cellaring.
Produtorri del Barbaresco Barbaresco 2018, DOCG Barbaresco, 14.5% Abv.
We all know when Produttori del Barbaresco decide not to bottle all their great nine grower crus, the resulting wines are all blended into the Barbaresco DOCG normale cuvee. 2018 is just such a vintage and sure enough, eager collectors have been waiting for this super charged Nebbiolo release. On initial examination, the wine shows the most pretty, lifted, inviting aromatics of dried rose petals, crushed coriander, tart red cherries, salty blueberries and a seductive red liquorice complexity. On the palate, there is an attractive translucent purity and silky filigree tannins that combine with a suave, lithe, harmonious concentration of red cherry candied fruits, touches of tar, saline cassis, sloe berries and a finish that typifies true, pure classical Nebbiolo fruit. While the seductive allure of the perfumed aromatics currently outpace the slightly backwardness of the palate fruit density and structure, all the signs in the glass point to another extremely fine and supremely attractive Barbaresco release. Drink from 2022 to 2034+.
With the Gaja Crus of Sori Tilden, Sori San Lorenzo and Costa Russi now almost out of the financial reach of many fine wine consumers, the annual new release of Gaja’s perennially impressive DOCG Barbaresco has certainly taken on a new level of interest and attention from the broader ranks of the global fine wine trade. So when Gaia Gaja made her first trip back to London since the beginning of the pandemic, the stage was set for an exciting Barbaresco launch.
After the warm and dry 2017 harvest, the 2018 vintage was characterised by early flowering and then a cooler summer with periods of rain that proved challenging to grape growers. Indeed, between the 1st of May and the 15th of June, the region saw pretty much uninterrupted rain showers which resulted in downy and powdery mildew in many areas. To compound the problems, the 17th of July saw hail hit the Barbaresco vineyards… “because the hail canons of the town were not used in time because all the villagers were watching Italy play France at football”… Gaia Gaja joked. A more windy, dry and hot September brought on the start of the harvest slightly ahead of schedule with picking finishing on the 9th of October. Despite the challenges of the weather during the growing season, 2018 is generally considered a better vintage than the warmer 2017, yielding wines with great purity, minerality and refinement.
In 2018, no Crus were made at Gaja for the first time since 2012, with all the Sori Tilden fruit and half of the Costa Russi fruit being blended into the DOCG Barbaresco (part of Costa Russi is being replanted). No Sori San Lorenzo wine was produced. While normally a blend of 14 parcels around Barbaresco, the 2018 did see some of these parcels excluded from the blend but the additions of the Cru fruit certainly acted to bolster the cepage quality considerably.
Gaja Barbaresco 2018, DOCG Barbaresco, 14% Abv.
Wonderfully pure and translucent with gorgeous red cherry and ruby hues. The nose shows impressively perfumed, opulent, hedonistic notes of stewed strawberries, fraise des bois, cured bresaola, tilled earth, tar, salty red liquorice and beautifully detailed nuances of aniseed stick. The palate texture is dense yet crisp, fresh, creamy and full in the mouth with a weighty mid-palate concentration, layered chalky, stony mineral Nebbiolo tannins over black cherry and tart blueberry fruits. This is a classical expression of Barbaresco that will appeal to the purists and collectors alike – Very fine, perfumed and beautifully expressive but also powerful, super seductive and accessible. Drink now and over the next 25+ years.
Admittedly, I love Barolo and drink a lot of all the top producer’s wines at any chance I get, but I have to be honest that while I’d heard a little bit about the Luigi Pira wines, I had never tasted any. So what a way to acquaint oneself with a new Barolo producer’s wines than to taste their blockbuster 2016s!
Founded by the Pira family in 1950, this Serralunga estate consists of 12 hectares of vineyards at 300 metres above sea level with winemaking duties overseen by Giampaolo Pira. Vigna Marenca and Vigna Margheria are reputed to be some of the best vineyards in the township of Serralunga and this estate produces single vineyard Baroli from plots owned in all of these crus (which can be seen from the azienda’s terrace). In the 1950s the grapes were initially sold off. In the subsequent years, small quantities of Barolo started to be bottled at the estate.
In 1993 the Baroli Margheria and Marenca were produced followed by Barolo Vigna Rionda in 1997. The wines from these three crus are typical of the great terroir of Serralunga displaying great minerality, intensity and power. Barolo Margheria, made from 50-year-old vines, is the most classical. Barolo Marenca and Barolo Vigna Rionda are structured and complex, with a lot of muscle and age ability. But tasting all these crus for the first time was certainly an exciting exercise.
Luigi Pira Serralunga Barolo 2016, 14.5% Abv.
The Luigi Pira 2016 Barolo Serralunga is another fabulously dense and sweetly fruited Nebbiolo that has just the most seductive aromatics of dried rose petals, violets, potpourri, orange peel, tea tree oil, tart red cherries and an exotic licorice and wild herb botanical top note. The palate is cool, plush and powerful with fleshy layers of red and black cherry, char grilled herbs, dried ginger and plenty of dried thyme and sage. True to the iconic 2016 vintage, this wine combines classical Serralunga structure and power with a beautiful fruit opulence and concentration. Deliciously accessible and fresh, this is another Barolo beauty from the vintage.
(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Luigi Pira Margheria Barolo 2016, 14.5% Abv.
The Luigi Pira 2016 Barolo Margheria is an exotic, complex expression of the vintage with the most intricate aromatics of pressed purple flowers, pink musk , cherry cola, licorice and tar, dried rose petals and the most personality filled botanical, herbal vermouth spice nuances. The tannins are powerful and grainy coating the mouth with a fabulously plush mineral grip. On the palate there are hints of saline cassis, black cherry and bramble berry spice with a long, liquid mineral stony finish. This possess all the power and structure to last a very long time in the cellar. Something very serious but also very magical from a fantastic Barolo vintage. (7,000 bottles produced.)
(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Luigi Pira Marenca Barolo 2016, 14.5% Abv.
With one of the only other Marenca Crus produced going into the Gaja Sperss Barolo cuvee, you know this is a very special site. So with Sperss 2016 garnering a perfect 100 points from the Wine Advocate, you would expect this wine to also show something extra special sharing the same terroir. This Marenca is almost like a subtle blend of the Pira Margheria and the Pira Serralunga Barolo wines with rich, plump, bold dark berry nuances, pink musk, charcoal embers, licorice and potpourri spice but also notes of freshly tilled earth, crushed gravel, iron and blood together with a fabulous dried herb and wood spice melange. The palate is deceptively generous and cool with seductively textured layers of blue and black berry fruits, cassis, black currant, purple rock candy, graphite and the most suave fleshy plump tannins I have tasted on a Nebbiolo in a long time. This really is classy and classical, yet supremely ripe, intense and just drop dead gorgeous. A very fine effort from Pira!
This famed co-operative in Piedmont dates back to 1894; forced to close in the 1920s because of fascist economic rules, it was regenerated and revived in 1958 by the village priest of Barbaresco who recognized that the only way the small properties could survive long term was by joining forces and combining their efforts. Today the cooperative has 56 members and 100+ hectares of Nebbiolo vineyards in the Barbaresco appellation, which amounts to almost 1/6 of the vineyards of the area.
Their Langhe Nebbiolo in particular has long been one of the greatest and most profound value reds on the international wine market, recognised and lauded unanimously by critics far and wide. With murmurings of ‘another great vintage’ in 2019 possibly to rival 2016 being whispered by some producers last year, anticipation and excitement has been building steadily for the first Langhe Nebbiolo releases as these wines undoubtedly act as a harbinger of the future potential quality of Barbaresco and Barolo releases!
Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo 2019, 14% Abv.
Produttori del Barbaresco makes its Langhe Nebbiolo with declassified Barbaresco fruit (often from parcels on lower slopes) so production volumes are notably reduced in the better vintages when more of the prime fruit finds its way into the delicious village Barbaresco DOCG or indeed one of the classy nine Cru Riservas. This young Nebbiolo is utterly seductive with intricate perfume that wafts out the glass in waves of wild strawberry, red cherry, violets and pink blossom and an underlying hint of garrigue, vermouth botanicals, blood orange and dry roasted nuts. Very classy and quite individual with exceptional quality year in, year out, the 2019 palate is sleek, silky and wonderfully fresh with a mouth watering acidity, youthful chalky tannins and a real melange of cranberry, red cherry, vermouth bitters and subtle liquorice nuances on the finish. Fabulously elegant and energetic, this vintage is ripe and characterful with impressive fruit concentration but also a supple, elegant texture. Another cracking vintage that should drink well over 6 to 8+ years.
Founded back in 1958 and now representing a group of 51 growers with a combined total of 100 ha of vineyards, Produttori del Barbaresco under the leadership of Aldo Vacca has gone from strength to strength. The 2017 vintage certainly has a tough act to follow with the Produttori co-op producing one of their finest modern era wines ever with their 2016 release. But there is a reason that Produttori del Barbaresco is rated as the best red wine Co-operative in the world. Wines like the 2015, 2016 and 2017 exemplify top quality village Barbaresco! When they need to really deliver, they exceed expectations time and time again.
Produttori del Barbaresco 2017 Barbaresco DOCG, 14.5% Abv.
The deliciously serious 2017 is the product of a warm, dry growing season that perhaps pushes the 2017 towards a darker, deeper more broody expression. The aromatics are dense and rich, layered with black cherry, tar, melted black liquorice, salty cassis, maritime sea breeze, asphalt and perfumed violets. Where the 2016 was bright and more red fruited, the 2017 is more rustic, dense, tannic and slightly chewy in a positively Piedmontese style. The palate shows a sinewy, muscled richness and ample crunchy black cherry and black berry with tart bright acids, rock salt, aniseed root and yet more black tarry liquorice nuances. Always fabulously balanced and texturally tightly focused, this is another very impressive follow up to the stellar 2016 with the main components of the blend coming from the Ovello, Montestefano, Muncagota, Pora and Rio Sordo vineyards. Drink now to 2035+
Poderi e Cantine Oddero was established in the late 18th century by the Oddero family, who have lived in La Morra since the first half of that century. In the 1890s, Giovanni Battista Oddero began vinifying grapes, which lead to the winery’s establishment. Later, his sons, Lorenzo and Luigi followed in his footsteps. It was the first Giacomo Oddero, who started selling wine in bottles. However, it was the second Giacomo Oddero, who renovated the ancient farm and began elevating the quality and prestige of the region’s wine. Today, his legacy lives on through his daughter, Mariacristina, and his grandchildren, Isabella and Pietro, who represent the seventh generation of vinicultural tradition.
Located in Santa Maria, La Morra, the raised vineyards are naturally terraced and overlook the Langhe hills. With a total of 35 hectares, they cultivate some of Piemonte’s most renowned wines through the use of traditional knowledge paired with modern production techniques. 16.5 hectares are cultivated to produce Nebbiolo for Barolo and Barbaresco. Several of those vineyards are codified “Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntive”, meaning they are prized for Nebbiolo cultivation, under the new Production Regulations (Disciplinari di Produzione) for Barolo and Barbaresco.
Oddero Barolo 2016 DOCG, 14% Abv.
Another fabulous Barolo blend from the exceptional 2016 vintage made from fruit harvested from three sites, namely Bricco Chiesa and Capalot both in La Morra, and Fiasco in Castiglione Falletto. Like all great Barolo, there is a beautifully classical balance between cool, delicate red cherry fruits notes, dried herbs, potpourri, red liquorice, smoky graphite minerality and hints of fennel seeds and dried aniseed root. The palate is taut, linear and pure with a subtle weight of red and black cherry stone fruits, hints of bramble berry and sundried cranberries with a fabulously fine grained chalky tannin finish that boasts notes of red cherries, juniper and hints of blood orange citrus zest. A structured and finely delineated wine with wonderful balance and intensity married with classical restraint that offers excellent value for money. Plenty of youthful mineral grip at the moment but you can certainly drink this now after decanting or cellar comfortably for 3 to 5 years before tucking in.
July 2020 sees the new release of the famed Gaja Barbaresco 2017 vintage produced from 14 vineyards situated in the municipality of Barbaresco. The land, at a height between 250 and 330m above the sea level, covers a surface of 21.4 hectares and vines are between 40 and 45 years old on average.
After the abundance of rainfall at the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017, a suitable amount of water combined with the warm spring, led to an earlier than anticipated bud break, which occurred 15 days earlier than usual. By mid-April 2017, three days of frost had hit the Barbaresco area, leading to a strict selection in the vineyards which resulted in the loss of -10% of the overall production.
However, the sudden drop in temperatures led to a positive slow-down of the vegetative growth cycle, whereas the summer proved to be one of the warmest in the last 10 years. Overall, 2017 will be remembered for the healthiness of the grapes, due to the dry growing season and for the overall drop in the production which the Gaja estate estimated at up to -20% to -30% by the time of picking. The harvest began on September 13th with the Merlot, followed by the Barbera and ending with the late ripening Nebbiolo grapes on October 20th.
Gaja Barbaresco DOP 2017, 14.2 % Abv.
The 2017 Barbaresco is a vintage of low quantity but undoubtedly high quality. After the warm dry vintage, the final expression is one of concentration of fruit as well as acidity and tannins from grapes with a low juice to skin ratio. The nose is perfumed and inviting from the first pull of the cork, showing a complex bouquet of cherry blossom, rose petals, red liquorice, sour red and black cherries, sun raisined strawberries and a classical, cranberry and aniseed root spice. Powerful in the mouth yet notably fine grained in texture and classically mineral with sweet velvety tannins balancing the fruit concentration of red cherries, sour plums and hints of ripe blood orange. Despite the heat of the vintage, the wine retains impressive linearity and classical restraint more reminiscent of a vintage like 2015 while the fruit of the 2017s are purer, more elegant and harmonious and a little less plump, fleshy and rounded in comparison. A beautifully expressive wine showing fabulous freshness, precise and considerate extraction and a grand Nebbiolo intensity and persistence. Drink from release until the aromatics and palate start to tighten up and then over the next 15+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
(The Gaja wines are imported and distributed to the UK wine trade by Hatch Mansfield.)
The warm 2015 vintage in Barbaresco was considered another excellent year in the region and merited the bottling of the Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Single Vineyard wines. Produttori del Barbaresco only produce the Riserva labels if all nine Cru’s in their co-operative stable meet the same high quality standards, else all the Cru wines are declassified and blended into the village DOCG Barbaresco.
Managing Director Aldo Vacca was recently in London to presents the new releases of Produttori del Barbaresco’s 2015 Barbaresco Riserva Single Vineyard wines from all nine Cru sites; Rio Sordo, Pora, Pajè, Asili, Ovello, Montefico, Muncagota, Rabajà and Montestefano.
This was a fantastic opportunity to taste these iconic wines, side by side and learn from one of Piedmont’s greatest ambassadors about the uniqueness of Barbaresco, it’s terroir and the characteristics of the individual Cru sites.
Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo 2018, 14.5 Abv.
Beautifully lifted perfumed nose of red liquorice, violets and macerated red cherries with hints of exotic herbs and spices. Palate shows overt ripeness and a generous fleshy upfront opulence. Tannins are grippy and mineral holding the tarry red and black cherry fruits in check. The finish is long and textured with plenty of four square power, ripeness and complexity.
(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco 2016, 14.5 Abv.
Like only the finest vintages, this immaculate Village Barbaresco oozes character and complexity with some of the prettiest aromatics elicited from the Nebbiolo fruits. Seductive perfume of violets, rose petals, cherry blossom, pink musk and cherry rock candy overwhelm the senses. The palate intensity and piercing concentration is also knockout fabulous with tart sweet and sour red cherry, red liquorice and a smokey graphite minerality on the finish. Broad, mouth filling and just an outstanding effort!
(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Produttori del Barbaresco Pora Cru 2015 Riserva, 14.5 Abv.
Lovely broody dark fruited aromatics with black plum, black cherry, tar and black liquorice with lifted hints of dried herbs, thyme, graphite and stony dust. The palate is dense, full and compact with silky fine grained tannins, a solid core of robust black fruits and a creamy, textural black cherry and wood spice finish.
(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Produttori del Barbaresco Rio Sordo Cru 2015 Riserva, 14.5 Abv.
Another rather dark and broody expression of Nebbiolo with black earthy fruit nuances, black cherry, damson plum and hints of salty black liquorice. The palate is saline and crisp with tarry layers of liquorice, piquant black berries and spicy mineral tannins. Plenty of power, density and frame. Give this a few years in the cellar to open up.
(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Produttori del Barbaresco Paje Cru 2015 Riserva, 14.5 Abv.
This fabulous Paje shows exotic red and black fruit spice with notes of grilled herbs, dried herbs, sun dried red cherries and subtle red bramble berry spice. The tannins are pinpoint precise, fine grained and drying, sleek yet powerful highlighting the incredible precision and balance of this Cru. Very classical and classy indeed.
(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Produttori del Barbaresco Muncagota Cru 2015 Riserva, 14.5 Abv.
This neighbouring vineyard of Paje shows fine aromatics that mixes an exotic array of baking spices with stony minerality, graphite, black liquorice, spiced plums and black cherry pith. The palate is super dense and focused, dark fruited and broody but also revealing massive concentration, creamy textural tannins and seamless harmony. Serious expression.
(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Produttori del Barbaresco Ovello Cru 2015 Riserva, 14.5 Abv.
The Ovello shows a taut, tight focused aromatic lift with precise notes of red cherry, wood smoke, graphite and kirsch liquor hints. The palate is fleshy and bright, opulently red fruited but also powerfully grippy, structured and intense with tart red cherry, sour red plum and a mineral bite on the vibrant finish. A lively Ovello that’s full of life and energy.
(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Produttori del Barbaresco Asili Cru 2015 Riserva, 14.5 Abv.
This is a very grown up expression of Barbaresco with restrained classical aromatics that suggest there is plenty to come but the wine is just a little bit shy about revealing its soul in its youth. There is subtle red cherry and blood orange spice that melts into notes of graphite, stony minerality and black berry spice. The palate is wonderfully balanced showing a powerful structure, creamy dense drying tannins but also piercingly sweet focused red and black berry fruits. Impressive harmony and textural balance, restraint and classical power, the archetypal Asili.
(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Produttori del Barbaresco Montefico Cru 2015 Riserva, 14.5 Abv.
The aromatics are slightly muted but manage to squeeze out high toned notes of tart red cherry, kirsch liquor and graphite minerality. Some notes of pink musk, sweet grilled herbs and red cherry rock candy sweetness develop in the glass. Texturally dense and beautifully creamy, the palate shows wonderful vibrancy and energy, bright spicy stony red cherry fruits and a compact, powder tannin finish. Lovely focus and balance.
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Produttori del Barbaresco Rabaja Cru 2015 Riserva, 14.5 Abv.
This is another classy expression with purity and perfume, lift and crystalline focus of red cherry fruits and ruby grapefruit citrus. The palate retains super freshness but is buffered by dense fleshy sweet red cherry pastille fruits, red apple spice and tart sour black plum. Dense and delicious, classically attention grabbing and opulently powerful. Fabulous!
(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Produttori del Barbaresco Montestefano Cru 2015 Riserva, 14.5 Abv.
A rather exotic aromatic melange reveals itself on this opulent, ripe Montestefano with pronounced notes of cherry confit, graphite and kirsch liquor. The palate is seductively opulent and powerful, expressive and fleshy with a flamboyant mouth filling intensity, sweet cherry pastille fruits, grilled herbs, wild strawberry and a fleshy, creamy, soft plump finish that caresses the palate on a long persistent length. Bit of a show stopper.
It all started way back in 1886, when Paolo Conterno founded the Casa della Ginestra winery dedicated to the production of Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto wines. A hard worker with a mind of great intuition, he devoted the most favourable parts of the Ginestra hillside to the growing of the best grapes, subdividing them by type, exposure and terrain.
He also had the foresight to predict a growing demand from a market of educated connoisseurs for superior quality red wines, leading to him selling his own wines in wooden casks produced in his own cellar. Succeeded by his son Carlo and his wife Giuseppina, the winery was subsequently run by Paolo and Caterina Conterno and now today by their son, Giorgio Conterno. As in the past, each generation has made its own individual contribution both in the winery and also in the vineyards.
Their 10 hectares of calcareous-clayey loam is favourably situated at an altitude of between 300 and 350 metres on slopes of up to 38 degrees, prevalently exposed to the south and in part to the south east. The Ginestra Cru in Monforte d’Alba is today one of the most important vineyards in Barolo producing iconic age worthy Nebbiolo red wines.
Paolo Conterno Barolo Cru Ginestra 2015, 15 Abv., Piedmont
2015 was a warm and opulent vintage in Barolo producing wines with great breadth, depth, power and concentration. The aromatics on this Ginestra are bold and punchy with layer upon layer of salty red liquorice, sun dried red cherries, pink musk and aniseed root nuances. The palate is ultra compact and powerful, almost muscular with a real intensity of sweet mineral tannins, raisined cranberries, stewed wild strawberries and a subtle, savoury, earthy, creamy textured finish. A very confident, ripe Nebbiolo expression from one of Barolo’s great Cru terroirs. Should drink well in its youth and also perform over the long term.