Lying north east of Barolo, the town of Alba separates the two wine-producing areas. This region was conquered by the Romans in 89 BC, many of the locals fled to the woods which were named Barbaresco meaning woods of the barbarians. It is milder than Barolo thanks to the proximity of the Tanaro river meaning it ripens earlier, the soil is predominantly blue marl with much more silt than Barolo. Generally the wines are more approachable with less weight of tannin but this is still Piemontese Nebbiolo! The best vineyards in the right hands can really hit the heights, I have enjoyed some sublime mature Giacosa and Roagna which would rival any Barolo.
There are three main towns – Barbaresco, Neive and Tresio :-
Treiso is the least important, accounting for roughly a quarter of production. Known for elegant, lighter wines which mature early.
The town of Barbarescoitself is dominated by a medieval tower which, somewhat unfortunately, Angelo Gaja has added a lift to the outside of. It is home to a co-operative which accounts for 35% of all the production of Barbaresco and considered to be one of the finest examples in Europe. The best vineyards, such as Asili and Rabaja, are located just above the river in a mild microclimate. They produce wines of understated power and great finesse, some of the finest wines in the whole of Piedmont. Barbaresco is also home to one of the finest pasta restaurants I have ever eaten at.
Neive currently makes 37% of all wine produced in the Barbaresco zone, here the soils are more compact, great vineyards such as Albesani and Gallina produce burlier wines which have a similar profile to Barolo and require patience.
Despite the best efforts of internationally recognised names Gaja and Giacosa Barbaresco remains a tough sell. It has and will always play second fiddle to Barolo this is great news for the quality conscious consumer. If you began you Piedmont collection with Cantina del Pino and Piero Busso from the Lay & Wheeler range you wouldn’t be going far wrong.
Published on 21/10/2015 / By Nick Dagley