Piedmont 2000 & 2001

Piedmont, Barolo, Barbaresco People & Places Articles
  • Wednesday 15 September 2004

Barbaresco producers have become used to living in the shadow of their counterparts in Barolo. Yet tasting the latest releases, TOM MARESCA senses a case of role reversal

Anticipation ran high among the 50-odd wine journalists who gathered in Alba in May to taste the new releases of 2000 Barolo and 2001 Barbaresco. The 2000 vintage in particular had received a rush of early publicity, creating the impression that it would be a superb vintage. In fairness, it should be noted that the hype originated with journalists, not winemakers, many of whom were far more measured in their assessment.

In the final analysis, such caution was justified. The unexpected stars of the Alba show turned out to be the Barbarescos of 2001, plus the few barrel samples of Barolo 2001 offered by producers at private tastings.

As one of the most accomplished of the new generation of winemakers, Chiara Boschis, succinctly put it, ‘2001 will be one of the best vintages ever.’

Barbaresco is the smaller of the two prestigious Alban zones, about a third of the size of Barolo. It lies opposite its renowned neighbour, northeast of the town of Alba, which has long served as the centre of gravity for the small villages and communes that together make up the two appellations.

Barolo has for some time been viewed as the more important wine – a judgment that seems to stem from outmoded characterisations of the two as masculine (Barolo) versus feminine (Barbaresco); powerful versus sleek.

Public perceptions of Barbaresco have centered on Angelo Gaja, a fine winemaker and a maverick whose name obscured the appellation’s. But with his recent withdrawal of his most important crus from the DOCG, many smaller producers who have laboured

in his shadow have begun to step forward into the limelight.

As a result, Barbaresco is enjoying what could be called a renaissance, were it not for the fact that quality producers have been quietly at work there all along.

Vintage differences between Barolo and Barbaresco are usually small-to-invisible, though localised weather can have a significant impact on individual producers. The 2001 season kept growers nervous well into October, with its alternating wet and dry days, record low temperatures and sweltering highs. The paradoxical result was a crop of Nebbiolo grapes that the consorzio described as ‘in excellent condition, with fine acids and good sugar content’.

Aldo Vacca, director and winemaker of Produttori di Barbaresco, compares the vintages: ‘The 1999 has great character, while 2001 is less powerful, and more elegant. In 2000 the vintage is more alcoholic; its fruit is almost sweet because the grapes had higher than normal sugar levels at harvest.’

Bruno Rocca, a prestigious small producer, makes the same comparison even more emphatically: ‘Both 1999 and 2001 are fantastic vintages, much better than 2000.’

Human skill has matched nature’s generosity in 2001 and that’s what makes the vintage so special. The Barbarescos I tasted had marvelous, deeply characteristic Nebbiolo fruit – black cherry and plum, with tar and tobacco accents – and an excellent balance of alcohol, firm tannins and lively acidity.

New oak, now widely used, was evident only in elegant grace notes on big, harmonious wines and rarely as an over-riding vanilla flavour, though the opposite was true with many of the Barolo 2000s (see p160).

Though very young, many of the wines revealed the distinctive flavours of their terroir, particularly in the mineral notes evident in many of the wines from the commune of Neive.

The 2001 Barbaresco vintage promises that magical combination of early drinkability and long life, with the generous fruit needed for the former and the robust structure required for the latter.

Start drinking as soon as 2006/2007, though all wines will be better in 2010 and should continue to improve gradually for another ten years after that. Properly stored – and barring problems with corks – these are wines that could give pleasure for decades.

BARBARESCO: FIVE STARS

Ada Nada, Cichin, Barbaresco 2001

Traditional tar-and-roses Barbaresco, with all the balance of a fine harvest clearly expressed. 2007-2025. N/A UK; +39 0173 638127

Ada Nada, Riserva Cichin, Barbaresco 1999

Classic Nebbiolo nose; gorgeous balance; very traditional, no-barrique Barbaresco. 2005-2025. N/A UK; +39 0173 638127

Angelo, Negro e Figli Basarin,

Barbaresco 2001

Fruit, leather, tar and roses. Beautifully balanced, with the structure to last many years; tar and roses sing in the finish. 2007-2025.

£22.50; GWW

Armando Piazzo, Vigna Giaia,

Barbaresco 2001

Big black fruit, great structure. 2007-2025. N/A UK; +39 0173 440703

Bruno Rocca, Coparossa, Barbaresco 2001

Round and minerally on the palate; long-finishing and elegant. 2006-2020. N/A UK

Bruno Rocca, Rabajá, Barbaresco 2001

Tar and black pepper nose; well-proportioned and harmonious. Would benefit from a little more time. 2007-2025. £45.95; Lib (2000)

Carlo Boffa, Vigna Vitalotti,

Barbaresco 2001

Textbook Barbaresco – tar and roses on the nose; black fruit, leather and tea on the palate. 2006-2020. N/A UK; +39 0173 635174

Cà Romè, Maria di Brun, Barbaresco 2000

Concentrated, with the heft usually ascribed to Barolo; sweet fruit and firm tannins, leading to a tar-and-leather finish. Will last. 2007-2025. N/A UK; +39 0173 635126

Cascina Luisin, Sori Paolin,

Barbaresco 2001

Lovely earthy, mineral notes, a characteristic Neive gout de terroir– very fine. 2006-2020.

N/A UK; +39 0173 635154

Castello di Neive, Riserva Santo Stefano Barbaresco 1999

Classic aromas precede an elegant, complex and long-lasting wine – very, very fine. 2005-2025. N/A UK

Dante Rivetti Bricco Barbaresco 2001

Very firmly put together, with the right flavours and a big structure for ageing. 2006-2020. N/A UK; +39 0173 67125

La Cà Nova, Montestefano,

Barbaresco 2001

Elegant and big, with abundant but easy tannins; built for the long haul. 2006-2020.

N/A UK; +39 0173 635123

Molino Ausario, Barbaresco 2001

Classic Nebbiolo aromas and flavours, beautiful balance – a poised, lovely wine. 2005-2020. N/A UK

Montaribaldi, Sori Montaribaldi, Barbaresco 2001

Espresso and tar nose; wood notes over black fruit; needs time. Potentially a top modern style. 2006-2016. N/A UK; +39 0173 638220

Paitin, Sori Paitin, Barbaresco 2001

Huge aromas of earth, leather, tar and roses ahead of textbook flavours, big, full and long – very fine. 2006-2020. N/A UK

Pio Cesare, Barbaresco 2000

Almost Barbera-like in its freshness; deep, chocolatey fruit; lingering cherries, espresso finish. Very fine. 2005-2020. £20.18; Cib (1999)

Produttori di Barbaresco, Riserva Montestefano, Barbaresco 1999

Evolving aromas of leather and roses and a gorgeous palate of sweet fruit. Dark and complex. 2005-2020. £19.95; V&C (Feb 2005)

Stefano Farina, Barbaresco 2001

Rich, dry fruit; elegant through to the finish. 2006-2020. N/A UK; +39 031 626445

BARBARESCO: FOUR STARS

Ada Nada, Valeirano, Barbaresco 2001

Fine fruit, soft tannins, long finish; needs time to integrate, but fine. 2007-2017. N/A UK

Albino Rocca, Vigneto Brich Ronchi, Barbaresco 2001

Still slightly closed, tar and roses aroma, black fruit and leather in the mouth, with a big tannic structure. 2007-2020. J&B; £280 (Per case in bond)

Bruno Rocca, Coparossa,

Barbaresco 2001

Classic nose; big, round, mineral flavours; very long finish; elegant and fine. 2006- 2020. N/A UK

Cà del Baio, Asili, Barbaresco 2001

Intriguing mineral notes in nose; round, soft, with very easy tannins; almost sweet black-plum finish; very promising. 2006-2020.

N/A UK; +39 0173 638219

Cà Romè, Sori Rio Sordo, Barbaresco 2001

Scents of black pepper and tar lead. Gracefully balanced, of medium heft. 2005-2015. N/A UK

Elvio Pertinace, Marcarini, Barbaresco 2001

Great Nebbiolo fruit ever so lightly sweetened with oak; elegant, big. 2006-2016. N/A UK;

+ 39 0173 442238

Fontanabianca, Sori Bordin,

Barbaresco 2001

Very composed; should develop beautifully for years. 2006-2020. £19.50; Can (2000)

Giuseppe Cortese, Rabajà, Barbaresco 2001

Aroma of tar and roses; dark fruit on the palate, with a long, drying finish; already poised, should improve with age. 2006-2020. £21.75; Bbr (1999)

Pio Cesare, Barbaresco 1999

Coffee aroma; fresh on palate, accessible already but with the structure of a long-distance runner; a wine to cellar. 2005-2025. £20.18; Cib

Produttori di Barbaresco, Riserva Rabajà 1999

A complex, balanced wine marked by sweet, dark fruit; great depth of flavour. 2005-2020. V&C; £19.95 (Feb)

Sottimano, Cottá, Barbaresco 2001

Soft, plummy fruit supported by excellent acidity and firm tannins; very lovely. 2005-2021 N/A UK; +39 0173 635186

Sottimano, Fausoni, Barbaresco 2001

Elegant, with mineral flavours atop dark fruit; big, supple and composed. 2005-2021 N/A UK

Tom Maresca is the author of La Tavola Italiana, £10.89, Trafalgar Square.

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