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Wine Legend: Bruno Giacosa, Asili Barbaresco Riserva 2004

Wine Legend: Bruno Giacosa, Asili Barbaresco Riserva 2004, Piedmont, Italy

  • Bottles produced 14,040
  • Composition 100% Nebbiolo
  • Yield 40hl/ha
  • Alcohol 14.5%
  • Release price $210
  • Price today £570

A legend because…

Born in 1929, Bruno Giacosa began working with his winemaker father Mario – his grandfather Carlo had also produced and bottled wines in their home town of Neive. His initial career was as a merchant, sourcing the best grapes for other producers, but inevitably Giacosa wanted to produce wines under his own label, which he began doing in 1961. He was able to identify what he considered the finest plot and his portfolio grew – the most highly esteemed vineyards, including Asili, were the source of his celebrated red-label riservas. Giacosa, unhappy with the treatment- heavy farming practices of the 1970s, started buying outstanding vineyards to give himself maximum control over the entire production process. A perfectionist, he refused to bottle or release wines that he considered even slightly below the standard he set.

Looking back

Giacosa bought his best parcel of Asili in 1996, and other Barbaresco vineyards in Rabajà; the wine from the latter ceased to be made from 2007 on after boundary changes allowed the Rabajà grapes to be used in the Asili wine. In 2013, Giacosa bought 0.5ha of Rabajà, so in that year a limited production of the wine resumed. Asili, however, remains one of the most sought-after wines in the range. Giacosa made the 2004, but a stroke in 2006 required a very long convalescence. Some vintages that followed were made by other winemakers hired by Giacosa and his daughter Bruna, notably Dante Scaglione, who had worked at Giacosa’s side for many years. Giacosa still kept an eye on wine production until his death in 2018.

The vintage

A mild summer followed a wet spring, and the end of the season in September and early October was dry. Growers in both Barbaresco and Barolo were thrilled with a vintage that delivered an abundant crop as well as exceptional quality. Voluptuous on release, the wines had sufficient acidity to give them finesse, while bold tannins gave some structure. However, 10 years later doubts had arisen, and both critics and producers noted that many wines were ageing more quickly than expected.

The terroir

Sheltered and warm, the 14ha Asili vineyard lies at 200m-280m in the commune of Barbaresco. Silty loam and sand, as well as clay, are important components in the vineyard, and Giacosa believed they accounted for the wine’s incomparable perfume and finesse.

The wine

Giacosa tried, whenever possible, to ferment his grapes using indigenous yeasts, although specially selected yeasts were employed when natural fermentations proved tricky. Vinification took two to three weeks in stainless steel tanks, while ageing took place in large casks of French oak: up to 18 months for the regular Asili, 24 for the riserva.

The reaction

James Suckling admired the wine in 2008: ‘Full-bodied, with chewy tannins and lots of fruit. Focused and very well done, but really tight at the moment.’ Stephen Brook wrote in 2010: ‘Sweet, intense, mint and raspberry nose, showing a light smokiness. Supple yet rich and full-bodied, this is very concentrated and still youthful, with fine acidity and spiciness. Very long.’

In 2016, Antonio Galloni reviewed the wine: ‘Easily one of the greatest wines Bruno Giacosa made during his long and distinguished career… the Asili Riserva is defined by its stunning inner sweetness, soaring aromatics and silky tannins. One of the attributes all great wines share is their ability to stimulate all the senses, from the intellectual to the hedonistic. The 2004 Asili riserva hits all the right spots and then some. This is just about as good as it gets.’

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