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Old Italian Wines 1996 – 1949 | Part 2 Barbera

This is the second post about the Old Italian Wine tasting.  This grouping focuses in on Barbera, in part due to an interesting tasting of Italian Barbera from 1964 to 2013 held last summer.

Barbera

These wines proved to be of rather miserable performance with only two out of six Italians Barbera wines being of any interest.  Of these two, the nose of the 1978 Alfredo Prunotto, Barbera d’Alba is deep and consistently attractive.  In fine shape it is a fresh bottle with more acidity than the aromas lead on to.  I only wish the flavors were as complex as the aromas.  Acidity is also present in the 1970 Scarpa, Barbera d’Asti Superiore.  It is, by far, the lightest in color of the 1970, 1964, and 1961 Scarpa trio.  The color difference is so remarkable that either some issue with the 1964 and 1961 bottles, perhaps some VA, fixed the color or winemaking changed in the late 1960s.  In the end, the 1970 takes on some sweetness which balances out some of the acidity.

1978 Franco-Fiorina, Barbera d’Alba
Founded in 1925, this wine was made from purchased fruit as they owned no vineyard at the time.  They did not make any single-vineyard wines so this would have been a blend from multiple areas.  Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 12%. Strong aromas of volatile acidity. It is possible to find some core of fruit in the middle but the wine is undrinkable. Not Rated.

Mystery Wine – 1977 Sebastiani Vineyards, Prioprietor’s Reserve Barbera, Northern California
Alcohol 12.6%. A light to medium bricking color. Smells like redwood or some different wood with sweet fruit and just a touch of V.A. Similarly sweet flavors at the start, modest body, and modest acidity. Second time tasted and I believe it was never that complex to begin with. *(*) Now.

1978 Alfredo Prunotto, Barbera d’Alba
Prunotto was founded in 1904 and purchasing all of their grapes at the time of this vintage.  It is possible this wine was aged in chestnut and Slavonian oak.  Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 12%. A deep nose of sweet old aromas, and mature red fruit. Good structure with fresh acidity. Actually, more acidity than I expected. The best so far. **(*) Now.

1964 Alfredo Prunotto, Barbera Riserva Cru Pian Romualdo
Prunotto only designated the cru of a wine when they felt the vintage warranted it.  Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 12%. Smells of must and menthol. Undrinkable.  Not Rated.

1970 Scarpa, Barbera d’Asti Superiore
Scarpa was founded in 1870.  Imported by T. Elenteny. The lightest of the Scarpa trio by far. A little stinky on the nose but it cleans up. In the mouth, there is initially red fruit followed by a short finish with acidic kick at the end. With a bit of air some sweetness develops with a touch too much citric acidity. Good persistence of flavor. **(*) Now.

1964 Scarpa, Barbera d’Asti
Imported by T. Elenteny. Very dark, the darkest. Cheese aromas on the nose and some old-school flavors like the Sebastiani. But then it cracks up becoming undrinkable. Not Rated.

1961 Scarpa, Barbera d’Asti
Imported by T. Elenteny. Almost as dark as the 1964. The nose is clearly of grass and V.A. A good acidic crunch at first then the wine becomes too high-toned with red flavors. * Now.

Excellent 2016 Barale Dolcetto and Barbera

November 6, 2017 Leave a comment

Founded in 1870, the estate of Barale Fratelli is still run by the Barale family.  It is an interesting estate in that  traditional methods are still employed, as in the aging of the Barolo crus in glass demijohns, as well employing the new technique of fermenting with a starter of indigenous yeast selected from the oldest Nebbiolo vines.

The pair of wines that I tasted are meant to be expressive of the varieties without requiring long aging.  I also found that both of these wines offer plenty of texture for you to enjoy.  The 2016 Barale Fratelli, Castle, Barbera d’Alba drinks the most forward straight from the bottle.  It combines both orange and old-school red flavors that I particularly like.  The 2016 Barale Fratelli, Le Rose, Dolcetto d’Alba managed to surprise me.  After one hour of air it went from showing focus to revealing savory, mouth filling flavors.  It is Dolcetto as I have never tasted in my limited experience.  The wine did oscillate so I suspect it will improve over the course of next year.  I recommend you try both of these wines which you may find at MacArthur Beverages.

2016 Barale Fratelli, Le Rose, Dolcetto d’Alba – $18
Imported by Williams Corner Wines.  This wine is 100% Dolcetto sourced from vines located between Barolo and Monforte.  The fruit was fermented in stainless steel with indigenous yeasts from the oldest Nebbiolo vines on the estate.  It is briefly aged in oak barrels to allow malolactic fermentation.  Alcohol 12.5 %.  A focused wine, not to be confused with firm, with savory flavors of black fruit and minerals.  It takes one hour to open up developing grapey texture and a perfumed finish.  This tangy wine has a very fine tannic structure  and watering acidity that borders on juicy.  The savory aspects kept me returning to the glass.  ***(*) Now – 2022.

2016 Barale Fratelli, Castle, Barbera d’Alba – $18
Imported by Williams Corner Wines.  This wine is 100% Barbera sourced from the Castellero and Preda vineyards. The fruit was fermented in stainless steel with indigenous yeasts from the oldest Nebbiolo vines on the estate.  Alcohol 14.5%. There are riper flavors of orange and some old-school red fruit.  With ripe orange citrus and pleasing textured tannins on the gum this wine has ample presence in the mouth.  There is moderate density to the flavors which morph from deep black through red in spectrum.  *** Now – 2021.

Barbera d’Alba from Burlotto

September 27, 2017 Leave a comment

I admit I am relatively new to the wines of G. B. Burlotto despite the winery having been founded in the mid 19th century.  My experience is limited to a few vintages of the ancient variety Pelaverga and one Barolo from 1961.  Today the wines are made by Fabio Alessandria, great-great-grandson of the founder G. B. Burlotto.  Alessandria is said to have reinvigorated the winery through the use of traditional techniques.

He typically produces two Barbera but in 2014 the fruit for his top cuvee Aves was combined to make a single bottling of the 2014 G. B. Burlotto, Barbera d’Alba.  It is a tangy, bright wine with a mouth feel that is even better than the flavor for the suppleness seemingly comes from fat.  The 2015 G. B. Burlotto, Barbera d’Alba Aves  is deeper in flavor with more obvious structure and a stronger mineral presence.  A floral component adds to the complexity.  It will improve with age but is hard to resist right now and yes, the fat impression helps.  Both of these wines are still available at MacArthur Beverages.

2014 G. B. Burlotto, Barbera d’Alba – $20
Imported by Elite Wines.  Alcohol 13.5%.  A light to medium ruby with a hint of garnet.  A fine nose.  The tangy and bright start becomes tangier with air. With air the wine mores from a red start to a black finish with pencil lead.  There is moderate suppleness coupled with some surprising fat.  The fat is attractive.  **(*) Now – 2020.

2015 G. B. Burlotto, Barbera d’Alba Aves – $26
Imported by Elite Wines.  Alcohol 15%.  Dark purple-tinged ruby.  A scented nose.  The tangy red fruit is of fine quality and in perfect balance with acidity and structure.  With air the wine becomes mineral, amost black towards the finish where it picks up floral flavors.  It shows a polished wood note, a mineral structure, and fat in the aftertaste.  *** Now – 2023.

Italian Barbera from 1964 to 2013

The gray weather parted allowing a small group of us to taste through a range of Barbera on my back deck. Unspoken etiquette ensured we had bottles of Champagne and white wine to occupy ourselves as the bottles of Barbera were opened and I fussed with the grill. Both starter bottles were excellent. Having now tasted NV Demiere Ansiot, Champagne Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs I can state that I want to drink it again. This is surprisingly complex Champagne with frothy bubbles and balance such that it should be drunk up right now. If you like mature Champagne go buy several bottles. The 2007 Red Newt, Gewurztraminer, Curry Creek Vineyard, Finger Lakes is comparatively younger in profile with its dense flavors of nuts and tropical fruit. It is a lot of wine.

We began the Barbera tasting with a trio of four old wines, one of which was bagged. My favorite is the 1967 Casa Vinicola Antonio Vallana, Barbera del Cantina di Bacco. Some did not like it which meant I was left with the lion’s share of old-school sweaty aromas and sweet, concentrated, silky fruit. From the same vintage I also liked the 1967 Cattaneo Adorno Giustiniani, Castello di Gabiano Riserva which with one “b” is one of Italy’s smallest DOCs from Monferrato and not to be confused with the estate from the south of Florence. The brighter fruit and blood are gently delivered making for a different expression of Barbera. This brightness could be attributed to the wine containing up to 10% Freisa and Grignolino.  Our oldest bottle of 1964 Poderi di Luigi Einaudi, Barbera is a survivor for I drank a glass of leftovers the next night with only slightly diminished pleasure. It is bright, tart, and bit acidic making it more of a curiosity. The brown-bagged 1974 Angelo Papagni, Barbera is a wine that is simply too old.

Our next two bottles were flawed. It is a shame because the 1990 Poderi Aldo Conterno, Conca Tre Pile, Barbera D’Alba has the potential to be very good. There is not telling what the 1999 Elio Grasso, Vigna Martina, Barbera D’Alba should be like.

In young territory the 2005 Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa, La Bogliona, Barbera D’Asti is young primary and attractively floral. In contrast the 2006 Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa, La Bogliona, Barbera D’Asti sports heft, brawn, and good flavor. It is one to age for many more years. Also promising is the elegant and impeccably balanced 2008 Bartolo Mascarello, Barbera D’Alba. The last bottle of 2013 Coppo, Pomorosso, Barbera d’Asti proved to be the youngest and most modern wine. It is a good, articulated wine but not of my preferred style.  Based on these wines I would like to repeat the tasting but focus in on 1990s and older.

NV Demiere Ansiot, Champagne Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs
Becky Wasserman selection imported by USA Wine Imports. This wine is 100% Chardonnay. Alcohol 12%. The nose begins with a yeast hint then toast and apple orchard aromas which together make for a very satisfying nose. In the mouth are racy flavors of delicate berries, definitely fruity, and frothy bubbles. The fizz is not hard rather it is subtle. This is an excellent wine for drinking now, it is complex with baking spices and a clean finish.  **** Now.

2007 Red Newt, Gewurztraminer, Curry Creek Vineyard, Finger Lakes
Alcohol 14.7%. The color is bright and golden with a green hint. The flavors mix nuts with tropical fruit with a tilt towards sweet flavors. This fine, dense wine has a minerally middle.  Good stuff! **** Now – 2020.

1964 Poderi di Luigi Einaudi, Barbera
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports. Alcohol 11%-14%. The nose is musky at first morphing to old leather as it cleans up and with air adds in cinnamon. The wine itself is earthy with bright acidity and a clean flavor profile of tart cherry and cranberry red fruit. It is a little tired towards the finish but the tart fruit persists in the aftertaste. ** Now.

1974 Angelo Papagni, Barbera (brown bagged mystery wine)
Alcohol 12.5%. A garnet color but one sniff and taste tell that this wine is way past prime. Not Rated.

 

1967 Cattaneo Adorno Giustiniani, Castello di Gabiano Riserva
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports. This wine is probably a blend of 90%-95% Barbera with the rest Freisa and Grignolino.  Alcohol 11%-14%. The nose smells of blood. In the mouth this is a bright, forward wine with nice bright acidity and up-front grip. It sports an old-school gentleness and softness. Notes of polished wood eventually come out. The blood returns in the aftertaste. *** Now but will last.

1967 Casa Vinicola Antonio Vallana, Barbera del Cantina di Bacco, Colline Novaresi
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 12.5%. The nose is old-school, sweaty and sweet. In the mouth the ripe fruit is sweet with concentration. This silky, smooth wine gains focus and length with air. There is fine texture and weight to the core of fruit which is surrounded by sweaty notes and wood. **** Now but will last.

1990 Poderi Aldo Conterno, Conca Tre Pile, Barbera D’Alba
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports. Alcohol 11%-14%. Sadly cooked on the nose. In the mouth though are gobs of mouth filling fruit with a fine, ripe texture from the tannins. There are tart red fruit flavors in the finish. Correct bottles should be quite good. Not Rated.

1999 Elio Grasso, Vigna Martina, Barbera D’Alba
Alcohol 14.5%. Bad bottle! Not Rated.

2005 Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa, La Bogliona, Barbera D’Asti
Alcohol 14%. The nose is still young and clean with finely scented aromas of violets. Still youthful in the most this primary wine is fresh with watering acidity. ***(*) Now – 2027.

2006 Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa, La Bogliona, Barbera D’Asti
Alcohol 14%. The color is darker with a purple tinge. The nose sports more heft to the aromas. In the mouth the flavors are brawnie and matched by additional tannins. There is dark red fruit, rounded feel, and a good personality. This will age for a long time. ***(*) Now – 2032.

2007 G. D. Vajra, Barbera D’Alba Superiore
Imported by The Country Vintner. Alcohol 14.5%. It is hard to get past the over-ripe, full-bore fruit. The wine becomes tangy with serious weight.  ** Now.

 

2008 Bartolo Mascarello, Barbera D’Alba
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 14%. An elegant nose moves on to bright red fruit over a black fruit foundation. This wine is balanced with grippy personality, texture and some ink. The structure is finely integrated with the fruit. ***(*) Now – 2027.

2013 Coppo, Pomorosso, Barbera d’Asti
Imported by Folio Wine Partners. Alcohol 14.5%. This is an articulated, young, modern wine that is not without attraction. Not really my style but I can appreciate it.  *** Now – 2025.

The lively 2015 Fratelli Alessandria, Barbera d’Alba

Fratelli Alessandria has produced a Barbera d’Alba from “slimy limestone” soils since 1968, though the family has owned the winery since the 19th century.  The current 2015 Fratelli Alessandria, Barbera d’Alba is a lively, tangy wine that provides good fun.  After a small period of breathing it comes into its own offering flavors from tangy red fruit to blue and black by the finish.  There is structure for short-term development but the acidity will make you want to drink it this year.  This is available at MacArthur Beverages.

2015 Fratelli Alessandria, Barbera d’Alba – $16
Imported by The Country Vintner.  This wine is 100% Barbera sourced from 20 year old vines.  It was fermented stainless steel tanks then aged in a combination of stainless steel and cement.  Alcohol 14.5%.  There is lively, tangy fruit, spices and mineral.  The acidity is immediately attractive.  The wine quickly opens up with air.  The bright entry brings tannins, red fruit, and a minerally tang then the wine morphs to a blue and black fruited middle.  *** Now – 2019.

David finds “A Barbera Masterpiece”

Conterno1

2006 Giacomo Conterno, Barbera d’Alba Cascina Francia
Needs two hours of decanting to really open up.  An infant.  A wine that demonstrates that Barbera can be great in the hands of a great winemaker.  Bitter chocolate.  Dark cherries.  Earthy. And a mineral streak and acid backbone that makes this irresistible.  An incredible midpalate.  Great length on the finish.  Tough to think of a better Italian food wine.  A stupendous Barbera that will provide an easy decade more of great drinking.

Tasting notes for Italian wines opened these last few months

The buying of the new house followed by the sale of our old house was a massively time consuming effort.  We mostly drank from a rotation of a dozen different wines but there were new bottles opened as well.  Throughout that period I continued to post on what I felt were the most interesting wines.  I did manage to take other notes and transport many empty bottles to the new house.  In this post I feature a range of Italian wines tasted during our house transition.

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The Italian selection at MacArthur Beverages provides a steady cache of affordable wines with some age.  The 2004 Calabretta, Nerello Mascalese, Vigne Becchie, Sicilia Rosso is old-school both in style and price.  It is a wine that everyone should try but I would suggest you set aside your bottles for the next several years.   The 2009 Pino, Barbera d’Alba offers the most maturity right now out of all that were tasted.  Two selections that drink well now but are poised to open up within the next few years include the 2008 Firmino Miotti, Cabernet Sauvignon, Breganza and the 2009 Pelissero, Tulin, Barbera d’Alba.  For those looking for a good wine to drink tonight then grab the 2013 Azienda Agricola 499, Freisa, Langhe and 2012 Pico Maccario, Lavignone, Barbera d’Asti.

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2008 Batzella, Pean, Bolgheri Rosso – $26
Imported by Simon N Cellars.  This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Cabernet Franc which spent 15 months in barriques.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose revealed dark tobacco aromas.  In the mouth this dry wine had a leather note followed by fresh, black fruit and an earthy hint.  The finish was lively with drying structure.  With air the structure became harsh and the wine unevolved though it developed more leather, tobacco, and spices in the aftertaste.  ** Now-2025?

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2004 Calabretta, Nerello Mascalese, Vigne Becchie, Sicilia Rosso – $26
Imported by Williams Corner Wine.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This wine had more coiled power with upfront and lovely  integrated acidity, lots of texture, and verve.  Clearly a young wine it sported complexity from an earthy and foxy hint in the acidity driven finish.  It even took on a perfumed note.  It has a vibrancy that reminds me of a glass aged wine that will develop for years to come.  **(*) 2020-2030.

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2012 Calabretta, Gaio Gaio, Sicilia – $17
Imported by Williams Corner Wine.  Alcohol 13%.  The attractive nose bore subdued aromas of roses, tar, and cherries.  In the mouth were tart and focused flavors of red and black fruit that were somewhat rounded.  The wine had salivating acidity, grip from the tannins, and an old wood note.  It continued to show very focused fruit.  **(*) Now – 2022.

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2012 Paolo Cali, Mandragola, Vittoria Frappato – $17
Imported by RWK Imports.  This wine is 100% Frappato.  Alcohol 13%.  There were heavy, wafting Frappato aromas highlighted by fresh pepper.  This was a light to medium bodied wine with fruit that bore weight and fine texture with extract.  It had the expected, unusual flavor with a dry finish of ripe, orange-creamsicle and dry black fruit.  The flavors were clearly hard for me to describe.  With air it became riper and a touch softer.  ** Now – 2016.

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2007 Castelluccio, Ronco dei Ciliegi, Forli – $23
Imported by Winebow.  This wine is 100% Sangiovese that was fermented in stainless steel then aged for 12 months in French oak barrels.  Alcohol 13%.  There were dark, leaner aromas with some wood.  This firm wine, was stone-like with black fruit, watering acidity, and old polished wood.  The flavors were lighter in weight with a dry nature and a  hint of roast.  Even with only a bit of structure left this will live for quite some time.  **(*) Now -2025.

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2011 Cesari, Bosan, Valpolicello Superiore Ripasso – $31
Imported by Opici Wines.  This wine is a blend 80% Corvina and 20% Rondinella.  Alcohol 14%.  The fresh nose revealed ample tobacco aromas backed by cola with undertones of raisins.  The flavors began with a mineral thread before a brief spell of maturity.  There were drier raisin flavors and a developing tobacco note.  This gentle wine had a rather subtle structure that matched the compote of fruit and underlying black flavors.  Though forward drinking, I would give this another year or so to integrate the ripasso flavors.  *** Now – 2022.

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2011 Conterno Fantino, Vignota, Barbera d’Alba – $26
Imported by Neil Empson.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The linear, black fruit took on extract and strawberry flavor.  It had juicy acidity and a dark, rather ripe note.  *** 2016 – 2022.

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2009 Gagliasso, Vigna Ciabot Russ, Barbera d’Alba – $17
Imported by .  Alcohol 14.5%.  This rather dark wine had matching aromas of dark red, raisined fruit.  The flavors were similar in the mouth but the forward acidity kept things sharp.  The drying structure was a touch coarse but the sweet, spiced, old wood was attractive.  With air tart, black and red fruit flavors developed some weight and became puckering in the finish.  Unfortunately some heat was breaking out.  ** Now-2020.

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2012 Pico Maccario, Lavignone, Barbera d’Asti – $16
Imported by Massinois Imports.  Alcohol 13.5%.  I kid you not, but the nose smelled of cat fur.  In the mouth were bright, yet tart and ripe red fruit which tasted fresh.  This wine had clean fruit, water acidity, a tough of verve and grip, and even some density.  A wine for now.  ** Now-2017.

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2013 Massolino, Barbera d’Alba – $22
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The firm fruit flavors were of tart black fruit that took on a subtle red grapefruit note.  The acidity was noticeable from the start and matched the fresh structure which was evident in the finish.  There was a lovely, ethereal flavor in the middle which, when combined with the suggest of strength from the tannins, indicate this wine should develop.  **(*) 2016-2022.

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2008 Firmino Miotti, Cabernet Sauvignon, Breganza – $21
Imported by Il Pioppo.  Alcohol 13.5%.  There was a complex nose of cherry fruit that made way to round flavors of red fruit in the mouth.  Accented by some greenhouse notes this wine tasted like a cooler climate Cab.  The flavors turned blacker with more focus, integrated acidity, and some drying structure on the gums.  There were minerals in the finish followed by a tart aftertaste.  With air the wine tastes even young and should continue to develop for several more years.  It maintained good tension that keeps one’s interest.    *** Now-2022.

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2009 Pino, Barbera d’Alba – $23
Imported by Potomac Selections.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This was reasonably aromatic with dark, plummy notes.  In the mouth was a mixture of cedar and red fruit before the mature flavors of the middle took on minerals.  There was some firmness in the finish with almost puckering acidity that left impressions of ripe fruit in the aftertaste.  *** Now – 2020.

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2009 Pelissero, Tulin, Barbera d’Alba – $26
Imported by Vinifera Imports.  Alcohol 14.5%.  There were low-lying aromas of fruit on the nose.  In the mouth were savory flavors of blue and black fruit that worked well with the integrated acidity.  The wine tightened up in the finish with both tannins and polished wood.  With air, it exhibited cleaner fruit, that was tart and lighter but had a strength in the middle.  There was a touch of a spicy finish before the racy hint in the aftertaste.  *** Now-2025.

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2013 Azienda Agricola 499, Freisa, Langhe – $18
Imported by Free Run Wine Merchants.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The red fruit bore a touch of greenhouse the morphed into fuzzy red and black fruit.  There were fine,dry, coating tannins that did not overwhelm the fruit.  ** Now.