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Barbaresco Weekend: Annual Barbaresco a Tavola 2019 Vintage Blind Tasting Dinner notes

Casa Nicolini, Barbaresco May 27th 2022

Introduction

The WanderCurtis team were delighted to have been invited to attend our first Barbaresco a Tavola dinner on Friday May 27th 2022. For the unacquainted, this is an annual tradition held by the region’s winemakers to showcase their latest bottled vintage. Held over three successive weekends in different restaurants, wine makers from across the area bring and pour their latest bottled vintage to other wine makers, members of the trade, journalists and others, to give a sense of how the vintage has turned out.

For those who have yet to encounter the Barbaresco region, well, the best thing to say is that what is commonly referred to as one region is comprised of the three regions of Barbaresco, Neive and Treiso, that collectively work under the single communal name of Barbaresco DOCG. While the star of the show must be made from 100% Nebbiolo, aged for a minimum of 12 months in oak with a further 9 months of bottle ageing, the region is also widely planted to Barbera, Dolcetto, Arneis and many other international varietals that can be bottled and sold under the Langhe DOC label. This affords the local winemakers an opportunity to honour more ancient traditions of blends, provides an outlet for the wines made from young vines and gives opportunities to experiment with more international varietals such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot.

We attended the third of the three Tavola dinners, held at the restaurant Casa Nicolini in Tre Stelle. Set on one of many sensational ridges that run across the top of the vineyards, we were greeted with breath-taking views of key Barbaresco vineyards such as Asili, Rabaja, Rio Sordo and Martinenga. The potent aromas of ripe jasmine, although enticing, made it difficult find some of the finer edges of the aromas in these very young wines. We were the guests of Jeff Chilcott, Kiwi cellar master of Marchesi di Gresy, who we visited on Sunday for an amazing tasting (more on this later).

The format of the dinner is simple: 20 wines are set up on a central table, labelled 1-19, and you are invited to taste and score your way through the wines. Later in the evening, the wines are revealed, and you find out that most of people pouring the wines are the wine makers themselves. Over the course of the evening, we were served a typical and delicious multi-course regional meal. As the light faded, our palates tingling from the young vintage’s tannins and acidity, we left feeling full, fortunate to have taken part and maybe just a little tipsy.

The wines uncovered

Impression of the vintage

The 2019 vintage has been described by many as pure, energetic, and authentic with good fruit expression, fine abundant tannins and elevated levels of acidity – all typical characteristics of strong vintages. Our tasting left an impression of a vintage of balance, elegance and with good bones for the long haul. We would caveat this to say that with many having been bottled within a few weeks of the dinner, there was a high degree of wood on show, with many wines showing baking spice characteristics of cinnamon, and nutmeg, with a muted fruit expression. There were a range of wine making styles on show, with many made in the traditional neutral oaked manner and some showing the signs of flashy new barriques. We scored all the wines fully blind on a scale of 1-20, and frequently returned to wines that, on discussion, proved either hard to understand or sparked an interest.

I have put our scores together in a table by wine, with our average, maximum, minimum and standard deviation scores listed (for those who like a bit of statistical wine geekiness).

Casa Nicolini Barbaresco

Tasting note comments

On balance, you will see that our average across all wines from the evening scores a 16.2 out of 20, which one could normally interpret as representing an average to good vintage. In context, however, given the extraordinarily young, freshly bottled wines, and examining the structural characteristics (acidity and tannin) and winemaking styles on show, I believe these wines will be showing beautifully in the medium term, and will reward the patient given their exquisite balance and structure.

In terms of individual wines, there was much debate on which of these was our favourite on the night. Initially, we were besotted with number 18 (Pelissero), a producer that clearly likes the full barrique approach, creating a ravishing, fuller bodied version of Barbaresco. On reflection and discussion, we marked it down on the basis that vanilla is not something that we feel belongs so overtly in Barbaresco of any age.

While our collective scores of number 12, the Marchesi di Gresy Barbaresco Martinenga, was rather low, our tasting on Sunday showed just how wonderful their wines are with a bit more age, and we therefore conclude that this wine was being a little shy. We would say the same for number 3 from Ada Nada, which split opinions, and whom we visited the next afternoon and had a wonderful tasting.

Our clear favourite, number 2 from Silvia Rivella, shone out as both an approachable yet structured newer style barrique-aged wine with potential to age into something truly beautiful. Other strong showings included the Castello di Neive (6), the ever-dependable Produttori del Barbaresco (10) and the Francone (8) which all stood out.

Stuart Grostern


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2007 Gaja Sori Tildin Barbaresco-Langhe, Piedmont, Italy

It’s a bit cheeky putting this as wine of the month. Firstly it’s a couple of hundred pounds a bottle and secondly it should be wine of the year.
Hard to find the right words but haunting, ethereal, sensual, evocative and deeply alluring come to mind. A wine you just want to keep smelling and can’t put down.
A wine that takes you to another place. Maybe a Christmas treat if you get a good bonus!


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Barolos and wines of Piemonte, Italy at Giovanni Rana

Aged Barolo and Barbaresco live up to their international reputation but lesser known local varieties such as Arneis, Dolcetto and Barbera can be fantastic value in the hands of great wine makers.

Thirty-two guests attended this tasting, which was held at Giovanni Rana’s swish and airy new restaurant, in the Regents Place development on Euston Road. The tasting was designed to give an overview of the various wines of Piedmont. Most people have heard of Barolo (made from 100% Nebbiolo), arguably the region’s most famous wine and one that inspires wine buffs to launch into rapturous praise of its unique character, complexity and aging potential. But the region is also host to a  range of other grape varieties that produce great value delicious drinking wines and the evening set out to show some of these too.

Rebecca Nightingale of Montforte Wines and Roger Barlow of Gerard Seel kindly introduced the region and presented the wines on the evening. The restaurant provided a superb selection of antipasti and some memorable pasta dishes that complimented the wines perfectly, proving just what food friendly wines these are.

The first wine sampled was a white Arneis from Roero by the fabulously named Gigi Rosso. This wine was fresh with a persistent lingering and unique flavour. Aromas of flowers and unripe pear, really very well balanced with a long finish. Lovely and very popular amongst the guests.

Round 1: Dolcetto (introduced by Rebecca)

  • Dolcetto d’Alba ‘Duset’ 2010 by Le Vigne di Ca Nova. Fresh, with morello cherries and savoury notes. A wine to drink in his youth as a light and refreshing lunchtime drink.
  • Dolcetto d’Alba Rutuin 2007 by Caibot Berton. Slightly older, this wine was less fruity but slightly more complex on the palate with a note of golden Virginia tobacco. At five years old, it’s probably reaching its peak. A lovely, tasty, moreish drop. These wines  have fairly low tannin but are nevertheless fresh and good with food.

Round 2: Barbera (introduced by Rebecca, contrasting oaked and unoaked)

  • Barbera d’Alba 2010 by La Licenziana. Fresh with lots of acidity, a wine that really reacted well to the prosciutto and salami on the table. On the nose, fresh, light strawberry and red fruits. Again, a wine for drinking in its youth.
  • Barbera superiore ‘Bric de Maschi’ 2007 by Le Vigne di Ca Nova. Delivered a slightly smoky nose with vanilla, perhaps chocolate and still plenty of cherry fruit. Absolutely delicious on the palate with sticky crust of cherry tart and savoury notes. Fantastic value for money and a delicious drop of wine from 2007.

Round 3: Barolo (introduced by Roger)

  • Barolo Roggeri 2007 by Caibot Berton. In Piedmont, where Barolo has a reputation for huge tannins that need many years in the bottle to tame, 2007 is thought to be a very approachable and friendly year with lovely soft integrated tannins. The Roggeri proves the rule with absolutely delicious complex notes of fruit, classic tar and floral aromas on the nose. In the mouth, again gorgeous, still plenty of tannin but smooth and tasty. This wine has structure and hints of how it may develop in complexity with age. No wonder Decanter gave this five stars and rated it top for value for money in recent review of Barolo 2007.
  • Barolo Serralunga d’Alba 2007 by Fontanafredda. Also a 2007 and if it if anything even more approachable with notes of tobacco and mushrooms and a little liquorice on the nose. On the palate nice, fresh and fruity with a bit of spice and very soft integrated tannins. Perhaps a little brief but a really approachable and tasty Barolo. In fact a wine that many people found easier to enjoy than the slightly more structured Roggeri.

These lines were accompanied by a great range of pasta including pappardelle al ragù d’anatra (duck) and porcini ravioli, again proving how well these winds even in relative youth go with food.

Round 4: Style and Age – Barbaresco and Barolo

The final round of wines contrasted a Barbaresco with an older Barolo. Barbaresco wines are considered again to be more approachable more soft and feminine softer and less fiercely tannic. On the other hand Barolo is famed for the way it delivers a delicate cocktail of aromas and flavours once the tannin has reduced with age.

  • Barbaresco Bric Balin 2005 by Moccagatta. This single vineyard Nebbiolo has lovely savoury notes then toffee, condensed milk some floral scents perhaps a little bit of the famous tar, complex. In the mouth, long, savoury, sweet and delicious. Really an outstanding wine. Still young, but with beautifully integrated tannins and that great long future ahead of it.
  • Barolo Carobric, 1997 by Paulo Scavino. A big name in Barolo and a blend of three of their best vineyards. Stealing the show and providing a brilliant lesson in just what the Barolo can deliver, but even at 15 years of age it still needed time to open up in the glass. Notes of tar, earthiness, a bit of mushroom and a whiff of violets on top complex notes. In the mouth, still quite tannic but slowly opening up and providing more of those savoury sweet notes with a core of ripe fruit bellow. Changing flavours, complex and persistent still, with many years ahead of it. Fantastic.

We finished the evening with a glass of Moscato d’Asti 2010, Santa Vittoria. Another white, lightly fizzy and sweet, but also fresh to cleanse the palate and end a hedonistic evening.

Kiran’s wines of the evening

  • Barolo Carobric, 1997 by Paulo Scavino (£86.00 – Fine & Rare)
  • Barbaresco Bric Balin 2005 by Moccagatta. (£32.75 – Gerrard Seel)

Kiran’s best value wines

  • Barbera superiore ‘Bric de Maschi’ 2007 by Le Vigne di Ca Nova (£12.25 Montforte Wines)
  • Dolcetto d’Alba Rutuin 2007 by Caibot Berton (£9.95 – Gerrard Seel)

Must have for Kiran’s cellar

  • Barolo Roggeri 2007 by Caibot Berton (£29.95– Gerrard Seel)

Contact

  • wine@gerrardseel,co,uk
  • rebbecca@montfortewines,com