Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Produttori del Barbaresco: What every Nebbiolo lover should know.

The Produttori del Barbaresco is, without a doubt, the largest producer of quality-to-price ratio wines in Piedmont. With access to nine highly esteemed vineyards and a grower’s cooperative that is focused on quality wine production, the Produttori is able to provide a portfolio of Nebbiolo-based wines that can satisfy any palate and fit into any budget. The declassified Nebbiolo ($15 - $17) is one of the best in the region for the price and the Barbaresco normale ($25 - $35) can stand tall against its higher-priced competition in most vintages. For the serious nebbiolofile, the single cru riservas ($40 - $50) are all beautifully unique examples of Barbaresco and capable of aging for decades.

Our tasting group convened at Braeburn Restaurant in the west village to taste through 11 bottles spanning eight vintages of Produttori del Barbaresco. Initially the idea was for bottles from 1990 or older, but after hearing high praise for the recently released 2006 Barbaresco, it was decided to include a bottle for an early peak into its evolution. I will say early on that I’m glad we did because the 2006 was spectacular.

Flight 1 – Old bones, yet beautifully alive. The 1967 will be a wine I’ll remember for a long time.

The 1967 Calvalari de Tartufo Paij√© Riserva was everything I wanted from an aged Nebbiolo. In this case, the sediment had been mixed in with the wine, yet it detracted only from its appearance. The aromas coming from the glass were of sweet dried raspberry fruit, a hint of Christmas spice, and tobacco, with a soured cream component and dusty potpourri. On the palate this came across as soft, full-bodied and warming, with tight red fruit verging on cranberry, leather and a hint of mineral-like copper penny. The finish was redolent of sour red fruit. I could drink this wine all night. Another taster, whom I respect highly, noted that it was over the hill. He’s probably right, but I loved it all the same. (93 points)

The 1979 Produttori del Barbaresco Asili Riserva, came across as slightly corked, but you could still sense this wine’s dark, earthy qualities through it all. On the nose, there was a burst of old library books, but with a little more exploration I found green peas, with dark, almost black fruits and topsoil. The palate showed tight with faded cherry and tar, but it gave way to a pleasant sour red fruit finish. I’d love to try another bottle of this wine to see it in all its glory. (Not scoring due to flaws in this bottle)

Flight 2 – The mature vintages – The 1982 showed what perfectly cellared Barbaresco can become with age.

The 1982 Produttori del Barbaresco Montestefano was nearly a showstopper, and it was the first wine that I put to the side for post-dinner exploration. The nose was classic with soft, elegant red cherry, a floral perfume, earth and tobacco. The palate showed a yin yang of fresh acidity and bitterness that kept this wine fresh, yet highly interesting, as red cherry fruit rushed across the palate with a bit of honey and sweet tobacco showing through to the finish. (95 points)

The 1988 Produttori del Barbaresco Trentennio came across as a bit ripe and disjointed. I had trouble deciding if I liked, hated or loved this wine. The palate showed very ripe, yet tannic with a torrent of acidity. The nose came across as big and burly with red and black fruits. On the palate, I found ripe raspberry jam leading to a sour mid-palate performance and a finish of tobacco and ash. (84 points)

Flight 3 – The structured vintage – I’ll admit that I expected more form this wine, but I suppose that’s the problem with preconceived notions. It’s possible that it couldn’t live up to the hype I had expected on this night; it may bloom in a few years, but only time will time.

The 1989 Produttori del Barbaresco Pora Riserva was another star performer, yet it didn’t make it to my top three. All the components are there for this to be a giving, feminine and elegant Barbaresco, but I believe it will take time to show. On the nose I found herbal tea with honey, soil, rose petals and the slightest hint of black pepper. The palate was very balanced showing red fruit and spice with cedar box and cherry tobacco. This wine was very open for the first couple of hours, and then it shut down in the glass. (89 points)

Flight 4 – “It was hard to not make good Nebbiolo in 1990” were the words from one taster’ lips. 1990 is showing to be a truly great year for Produttori del Barbaresco. The last time I tasted through so many vintages, it was the ’85’s that truly stood out as the drinking vintage; but after last night, I’m willing to put the ’90’s high on my list of priorities. If you want high quality, mature Nebbiolo, 1990 is drinking very well.

The 1990 Produttori del Barbaresco Rabaja Riserva was a roller coaster ride of a Barbaresco. Rabaja has always been one of my favorites from the Produttori, and this one did not disappoint. The nose showed elegant, sweet dark fruit with leather strap and fresh-turned soil. The palate showed a great structure with rich red fruit held tight by a tannic grip. This bottle reminds me a bit of the ’90 Conterno Cascina Francia as it comes across with a balanced and dark core of ripe fruit that’s still held tight by its structure. I’d say to buy this wine on sight and then put it away for another five years or possibly more. (95 points)

The 1990 Produttori del Barbaresco Ovello Riserva had an all-star performance this night, and a number of tasters listed it as their wine of the night. This wine came across as all grace and elegance wrapped in a package of soft, sweet fruit. The nose showed aromas of black cherry, red floral notes, hints of molasses and tobacco. The palate showcased the refined structure of a Nebbiolo just coming to maturity, as soft red fruit washed across the tongue followed by clove and bitters. This was all kept in check by a balanced acidity, which left the mouth watering for more. (94 points)

The 1990 Produttori del Barbaresco Rio Sordo Riserva was the least favorite of from all the 1990s. This wine left me feeling as if it never found its place between ripeness or finesse. The nose showed dark fruit with brown sugar, yet it had a freshness to it that was very inviting. On the palate I found red cherry and cedar, but it was a bit muddled and with a tannic finish. Honestly, it may not have been great, but it was still enjoyable. (88 points)

The 1990 Produttori del Barbaresco Moccagatta Riserva showcased another good, but not great, performance with sour red fruits, pepper, licorice and undergrowth on the nose. The palate had a good balance with resolved red fruit, holiday spice and honey. The finish was fresh. (89 points)

Flight 5 – High Praise – The 2000 vintage received such high acclaim from critics when the bottles first hit the market, but now we are watching as these wines battle with issues of balance. Unfortunately, I feel that the 2000 Rabaja is suffering the same fate. It is a big and, at times unruly wine that’s not completely unenjoyable but it’s certainly not my style.

The 2000 Produttori del Barbaresco Rabaja Riserva was big and burly on this evening. It was very ripe but with a lot of structure beneath it all. One thing that kept entering my mind while inhaling the aroma of this wine was spiced ginger cookies. There was red fruit and tar, but it was so dark and hot that I couldn’t get past that almost sickeningly sweet aroma. The palate showed black cherry and licorice with tannins and acidity fighting for superiority. It’s very possible that this wine will calm down one day, but for now, I found it unpalatable. (86 points)

The 2006 Produttori del Barbaresco Normale was fantastic for a young Nebbiolo. It was a textbook example with elegant red fruits, roses and tobacco on the nose. There was black cherry on the palate, as this showed to be very young, yet highly enjoyable, with a fresh balance of acidity and a big tannic shutdown on the finish. I will buy this wine by the case. (92 Points)

Find the 2006 Produttori del Barbaresco Normale on Wine-Searcher.

If nothing else, this tasting served to prove, once again I might add, that the Produttori del Barbaresco is a force to be reckoned with in Piedmont. Cooperative wineries are not usually held in such high esteem, but in this case, it’s the exact opposite. The Produttori delivers such fine examples of Barbaresco, and at such fair prices, that a lover of Nebbiolo would have to be a fool to pass them up.

For now I must sign off… so that I can go buy some for my own cellar.

For another great perspective on this night of wine, check out The Fine Wine Geek


  1. Hey neighbor or at least fellow new yorker. I live in New Rochelle and the two stores near me are horrible for finding most of the wines you're drinking. Do you have any suggestions for finding these?

  2. Two places come to mind, the first with slightly less selection but much better customer service. The second with a huge selection but sometimes too big to properly cater to their customers.

    Grapes The Wine Company is in White Plains and you should make the attempt to go there in person.

    The there's Zachys. Great selection but the store is so busy it's kind of like shopping in home depot. I spend more time waiting for service than shopping. (there are in Scarsdale.)

  3. Produttori del Barbaresco 2006 Barbaresco

    This was a different lot from my first tasting note. Lot # 9.097

    I opened this bottle with the intention of having a single glass on the first night and allowing the rest to slow-o for 24 hours.

    The first night it showed fresh, ripe cherries, leather strap and rock dust on the nose with deep, rich red fruit on the palate. A silky tannic structure combined with a juicy and vibrant core of fruit, made this wine extremely enjoyable on the first night. It was hard to imagine it getting much better.

    Night two showed just how good this bottle of wine really is as the nose took on dried fall leaves, tar and sweet and sour cherry fruit. With further exploration I found dusty potpourri and fresh turned soil. On the palate, the wine had softened, showing sweet dark red fruit, plum and cedar. Even with 24 hours of air, if someone told me that this bottle had just been opened, I may have believed it. It came across as light on its feet yet with impeccable balance and structure. The finish is long as dark red fruit lingers on the palate.

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