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David finds “A Barbera Masterpiece”

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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.

Four Barbera d’Alba from the 2012 vintage including the excellent Andrea Oberto

As we continue to seemingly spend all of our money on paint, cleaning supplies, and pillows for staging, we maintain a need for affordable, interesting wines.  The 2012 vintage is a strong one for Barbera d’Alba so in this post I focus in on four selections priced from $13 to $18 per bottle.  These selections were all vinified in stainless steel with all but one aged in wood.  The wines ranged from rather ripe and forward to balanced.  The 2012 Mauro Molino, Barbera d’Alba offers a decent value with subdued flavors of tangerines, red fruit, and bacon fat. The 2012 Rocca Giovanni, Pianromualdo, Barbera d’Alba steps up a bit with better acidity, minerality, and structure leaving the impression of a good wine for the price.  Our hands-down favorite is the 2012 Andrea Oberto, Barbera d’Alba.  From the aromatic nose to the long aftertaste it is a wine you will want to smell and drink.  What’s great is that it is approachable right now, just give it half an hour in the decanter.  It is a clear step up from the other selections so go grab a few bottles! These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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2012 Cascina Chicco, Granera Alta, Barbera d’Alba – $17
Imported by Vinifera Imports.  This wine is 100% Barbera sourced from vines averaging 10 years of age.  It was fermented in in stainless steel then aged in wood casks and used French barriques.  Alcohol 14%.  There seemed to be some volatile acidity on the nose along with linear aromas of fresh floral black fruit.  In the mouth were nice focused flavors of floral citrus fruit, watering acidity, and some rough structure. *(*) 2016-2019.

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2012 Rocca Giovanni, Pianromualdo, Barbera d’Alba – $14
Imported by Monsieur Touton.  This wine is 100% Barbera sourced from vines planted in 1958 that underwent temperature controlled fermentation followed by 10 months aging in barrique.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose bore very ripe, grainy fruit aromas.  In the mouth the flavors were fruit forward before a tight, ripe core of black fruit came hint.  This had a mineral hint with salivating acidity and a dry, textured finish.  The wine shows some density, a little wood note, and leaves the impression of being a nice wine for the price.  ** Now-2018.

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2012 Mauro Molino, Barbera d’Alba – $13
Imported by J.W. Sieg & Co.  This wine is 100% Barbera that was vinified then aged for six months in stainless steel tanks.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose of black fruit was lifted by both greenhouse aromas and fresh tangerines.  In the mouth were attractive flavors of tangerine red fruit that came across in a slightly creamy and subdued fashion.  It took on some tart flavor but that was tempered by bacon fat flavors.  ** Now-2017.

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2012 Andrea Oberto, Barbera d’Alba – $18
Imported by M R. Downey Selections.  This wine is 100% Barbera sourced from vines in La Morra.  The fruit was vinified in stainless steel then 60% was aged for 8 months in stainless steel and 40% was aged for 6 months in new barriques.  Alcohol 14%.  This wine had a fine, proper nose.  In the mouth the black and red fruit was slightly brighter than the nose suggested.  There was both a citrus flavor and bacon fat aspect.  There was moderate structure with citric pithe tannins.  The aftertaste left flavor on the inside of the gums. Top-notch.  *** Now-2018.

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Five different Barbera d’Alba

It may be that there are not enough hours in the day to prepare my house, work, and write about the history of wine.  Fortunately, I can still taste wine! It was great fun to go through the five Barbera d’Alba wines featured in this post because they were all so different.  I will keep my commentary short as I plan to taste through a second set. The 2013 De Forville, Barbera d’Alba is a well-priced, grapey wine that will develop over the short term.  The evergreen forest aroma was a new experience for me!  The 2011 A&G Fantino, Cascina Dardi, Barbera d’Alba had a rather ripe nose but in the mouth it was all in balance with bonus  earthy flavors.  Of all five wines this is the one you can drink right away.  The 2009 Domenico Clerico, Trevigne, Barbera d’Alba has a killer nose but packs in some serious structure that still needs many years to resolve.  Definitely lay a few bottles down. The 2009 Giacomo Grimaldi, Pistin, Barbera d’Alba might be too funky for some but I was oddly attracted to this elegant wine.  Finally, the 2009 Marziano Abbona, Rinaldi, Barbera d’Alba came as over ripe and a bit to much for my preference.  If it were dialed back a notch it would then be in balance with the earth, fruit, and cedar.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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2013 De Forville, Barbera d’Alba – $17
Imported by Rosenthal Wine Merchants.  This wine is 100% Barbera sourced from vines averaging 30 years of age in Barbaresco, Neive, and Alba.  The fruit  was fermented in stainless steel then aged for one year in oak barrels.  Alcohol 13%.  The nose revealed clean fruit that morphed into aromas of an evergreen forest.  The tart red fruit changed to black fruit with acidity driven flavors noticeable on the front of the tongue.  With moderate structure the wine came across as classically tight.  With air the wine was very grapey with forward acidity, a tart, linear middle, wrapped up with a nice grapey structure.  **(*) Now-2023.

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2011 A&G Fantino, Cascina Dardi, Barbera d’Alba – $20
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is 100% Barbera sourced from 60 year old vines on sandy clay soils that was fermented with indigenous yeasts and aged for 18 months in stainless steel.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose bore ripe aromas that approached that of raisins.  In the mouth this was clearly a more forward wine with ripe flavors that were balanced by tart flavors on the tongue tip.  It had grip, salivating acidity, and an attractive earthy hint in the aftertaste.  With air the ripe, earthy flavors filled the mouth and developed well, taking on citrus undertones.  *** Now-2020.

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2009 Domenico Clerico, Trevigne, Barbera d’Alba – $25
Imported by Bacchus Importers.  This wine is 100% Barbera sourced from the Trevigne cru that was fermented in stainless steel then aged for 12-16 months in 40% new French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose of pure licorice remained attractive over two days.  In the mouth were fresh, dry black flavors, licorice, and obvious structure.  The acidity was integrated with the drying tannins mixing with minty fresh finish that was slightly spicy.  With air the wine remained very much the same.  Young! **(*) 2028-2026+.

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2009 Giacomo Grimaldi, Pistin, Barbera d’Alba – $26
Imported by Banville & Jones Wine Merchants.  This wine is 100% Barbera sourced from Monforte d’Alba, Barolo, and Novello that was fermented in and aged for 9 months in stainless steel.  Alcohol 14%.  This was quite funky at first on the nose but then it cleaned up.  The flavors showed restraint and were fresh from the acidity with both ripeness and texture in good balance.  It showed spices and some roughness.  With air the flavors became slightly funk with raspberry candy, hard red fruit, and lovely acidity.  There was moderate structure and just a hint of old wood.  *** Now-2023.

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2009 Marziano Abbona, Rinaldi, Barbera d’Alba – $20
Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons. This wine is 100% Barbera sourced from a single vineyard in Monforte d’Alba with 35-50+ year old vines.  It was fermented in stainless steel where it was aged for six months followed by eight months in French oak casks. Alcohol 15%.  The nose bore dark aromas.  In the mouth the flavors coated the tongue with ripe, earthy red fruit, mushrooms, and almost raisinated fruit.  The acidity was supporting but there was a touch of heat in the finish after which the structure became noticeable.  With air this dense, ripe wine showed extract and picked up a bit of cedar in the finish.  ** Now-2020.

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A Pair from Castello di Neive

December 18, 2012 Leave a comment
Castello di Neive, Image from Castello di Neive

Castello di Neive, Image from Castello di Neive

Castello di Neive has its roots in the original vineyards purchased by Giacomo Stupino.  As a surveyer he had good knowledge of the land and purchased ideal vineyards or land whenever possible.  In 1964 the Stupino family purchased Castello di Neive from Count Guido Riccardi Candiani.  They subsequently renovated the extensive cellars and reorganized the vineyards.  Today the property is run by the Stupino brothers and sisters who produce wine from some 62 acres.  Though many of the vineyards were purchased in the 20th century the castle is rather historic and built for the production of wine.  The castle dates to the mid 18th century when it was built on 16th-17th century foundations.  It features a two level cellar which is built into the hill.  The cellar features tall vaulted ceiling to accommodate large barrels.  There is also an infernotto or cold larder use to preserve cured meats, eggs, cheese, and wine.  Wine is produced from eight different vineyards.  The wines featured in today’s post are specifically from i Cortini and Santo Stefanoi Cortini is the closest vineyard to the castle and only features 1.25 hectares of Pinot Nero.  The Santa Stefano vineyard was originally fallow land acquired during the purchase of the castle.  It was transformed into a vineyard right away with the oldest vines currently being replanted.  Here they farm Nebbiolo, Riesling (!), and 1.58 hectares of Barbera.

i Cortini Vineyard, Image from Castello di Neive

i Cortini Vineyard, Image from Castello di Neive

Both of these wines were solid bottles but not thrilling.  While I liked the grippy nature of the Pinot Nero I preferred the Barbera d’Alba.  It might be best in half a year or so to allow the nose to open up, it remained quite tight over two nights.  The flavors, which I wish had more depth, were certainly delivered quite expansively.  These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

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2008 Castello di Neive, Santo Stefano, Barbera D’Alba – $16
Imported by Castello di Neive.  This wine is 100% Barbera sourced from vines planted in 1948, 1979, 2001, and 2005 on calcareous soils at 825 feet.  It was fermented in stainless steel tanks, underwent malolactic fermentation, then aged for 9 months in stainless steel and 3500 L used French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14%.  The color was a medium garnet cherry.  The nose was tight, only revealing some red and black fruit.  In the mouth there was tangy red fruit which was delivered with some gusto.  The acidity expands the flavors into the sides of the mouth.  A gritty texture comes out with some gentle salivation.  There is a long finish with some cranberry flavors in the aftertaste. ** Now-2017.

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2010 Castello di Neive, i Cortini, Pinot Nero, Langhe – $17
Imported by Winebow. This wine is 100% Pinot Nero sourced from vines planted between 1988 and 2008 on marl soils at 750 feet.  It was fermented in stainless steel, underwent malolactic fermentation, then aged for one year in both stainless steel and used French oak barriques.  Alcohol 14%.  There was a nice, light nose of grapey, ripe red fruit.  In the mouth there was bright and tart red fruit with a little hint of red grapefruit.  The wine itself was a bit more linear than the Barbera d’Alba.  There was more red fruit in the finish which was a bit grippy.  ** Now-2015.

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We Try Dolcetto and Nebbiolo

Barrles Aging in Cellar, Image from Paitin

The Giovanni Rocca is a Farello Wine Selection imported by Monsieur Touton and available for $17 at MacArthurs.  The Paitin is imported by the Roanoke Valley Wine Company and available for $20 at MacArthurs.  I would recommend trying both of these wines.  I suspect the Giovanni Rocca will appeal to a wider audience with its soft, creamy, approachable nature.  The Paitin has more complex flavors which are livelier due to the structure.  I would give it another year or two to see how it develops.  For maximum enjoyment taste both of these wines with friends then let me know what you think!

2008 Azienda Agricola Giovanni Rocca, Pianromualdo, Dolcetto d’Alba DOC
This wine has dark cherry flavors which are primary and dense.  Tart fruit and acidity comes out mid palate with a tickling on the tip of the tongue.  It is creamy, delicate with butter notes.  This may be drunk now or within a few years. ** Now-2014.

2008 Paitin de Pasquero, Ca Veja, Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC
This wine is 100% Nebbiolo aged for one year in French tonneaux and barriques.  The spritely red fruit has pomegranate like qualities mixed with bright blue fruit.  There is a bit of texture to the fruit.  The ripe tannins coat the top of the cheek and along with the acidity provide noticeable structure.  With air the nose takes on more floral aromas and the fruit gains texture. **(*) 2014-2019.