Opinion

In Praise of Co-operatives – Part 2 – Produttori del Barbaresco

Very few co-operatives are talked about in the same revered tones as Produttori del Barbaresco (“Producers of Barbaresco”, known as “Produttori” for short).  They have something of a cult following, and in good vintages their nine single vineyard (or “Cru”) Riserva wines are eagerly anticipated.

In fact, the single vineyard wines are only released when the winery believe that all nine are deserving of an individual release, otherwise the wines are blended into the Barbaresco DOCG (and, I’d imagine, some of the grapes which would go into that wine in a good year are declassified down into Langhe Nebbiolo).  That doesn’t mean that every single grape from those Cru will go into the Riserva wines; there is strict quality control.

The family name of each grower is included on the back label of each single vineyard wine (see below), even if there is an odd year where their grapes are not included for some reason.  As some of the owners’ surnames are the same there might appear to be some who own land in several different Crus!

Key Facts:

  • Founded: 1958
  • Location: Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy
  • No. of members: 50*
  • Grape varieties: Nebbiolo (100%)
  • Vineyard area: 250 acres / 100 hectares
  • Annual production (typical): 550,000 bottles / 45,000 cases
  • Labelled as (in good vintages):
    • Barbaresco (50%)
    • Single vineyard Barbarescos (30%)
    • Nebbiolo Langhe (20%)

A crucial fact about the whole winemaking process is that grapes from all nine single vineyards are treated the same, so that terroir rather than winemaking is the distinguishing factor.  For the 2013 vintage the following applies to the Crus:

  • Vinification: fermentation at 30°c (85°f), 28 days of skin contact time, malolactic completed
  • Ageing: 36 months in large oak barrels and 12 months in bottles
  • Bottling date: April 2017
  • Longevity: 20 years from the vintage

Below are brief tasting notes from the full range of wines supplemented by some relevant information from the Produttori website and a concise** overall summary of each Cru by Managing Director Aldo Vacca.

Produttori del Barbaresco, Langhe Nebbiolo 2015 (14.5%, RRP €28)

Langhe Nebbiolo

Website info:

  • Soil: limestone and clay, rich in calcium with sandy veins
  • Vinification: fermentation in concrete tanks at 28°C (83°F), 24 days on the skins, pumping over twice a day, malolactic fermentation completed
  • Ageing: in large oak barrels (25, 35 and 50 HL)
  • Bottling date: September 2017
  • Total production: 100,000 bottles (8,500 cases)

The Langhe Nebbiolo is made from lighter grapes across the 100 hectare estate, especially from younger vines or those with a less directly southerly aspect.  Quite floral on the nose, it shows lots of soft red fruit on the palate, particularly fresher red berries such as cranberry and raspberry.  The finish has plenty of tannin to remind you that you’re drinking Nebbiolo, but this is an approachable style and a great starting point for the estate.

Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco 2013 (14.0%, RRP ~€45)

Barbaresco 2013

Website info:

  • Vineyard exposure: south, west, east
  • Soil: limestone and clay, rich in calcium with sandy veins
  • Vinification: in stainless steel tanks, at 30°C (85°F), 28 days on the skins, pumping over 2-3 times a day, malolactic completed
  • Ageing: 24 months approx.
  • Bottling date: April 2016
  • Total production: approx. 220,000 bottles
    (18,500 cases)

This regular (non “Riserva”) Barbaresco is a midway point between the Langhe Nebbiolo and the single vineyard wines.  The texture is super smooth, showing that Barbaresco’s tag as “feminine” rings true.  It has the same fresh red fruit as the junior wine but moving into softer red fruits such as strawberries.  This has a lovely balance to it and a long finish.

Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco Riserva “Pora” 2013 (14.0%, RRP ~€60)

Pora2013

Bottle tasted: 7,525 / 16,666

Website info:

  • Vineyard size: 10.7 hectares (26.4 acres)
  • Vineyard exposure: south, south-west
  • Soil: calcareous limestone with sandy veins
  • Vineyard owners: Dellaferrera, Manzone

Aldo Vacca one word review: Approachable

I concur with the “approachable” description, though it is a little more serious than the standard Barbaresco.  There’s lovely red fruit in there but the finish is a little tannic and drying for my tastes when drunk on its own.  (Pro Tip: drink it with food!)

Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco Riserva “Rio Sordo” 2013 (14.0%, RRP ~€60)

Rio Sordo

Bottle tasted: 12,439 / 13,333

Website info:

  • Vineyard size: 4.5 hectares (11.0 acres)
  • Vineyard exposure: south – west
  • Soil: calcareous limestone with sandy veins
  • Vineyard owners: Alutto, Marengo

Aldo Vacca one word review: Elegant

This is an altogether deeper, richer wine than the Pora.  It shows a range of delicious red to black fruits with a pinch of exotic spice.  Sumptuous and well balanced, this is an outstanding wine.

Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva “Asili” 2013 (14.0%, RRP ~€60)

Asili2013

Bottle tasted: 10,432 / 13,333

Website info:

  • Vineyard size: 2.28 hectares (5.63 acres)
  • Vineyard exposure: south / south – west
  • Soil: calcareous limestone with sandy veins
  • Vineyard owners: Conti, Giacosa, Viglino

Aldo Vacca one word review: Austere

I didn’t find this wine austere, but it was medium rather than full bodied with considerable acidity.  We’re back to red fruit and floral notes here; the Asili is finely balanced and poised – a fine wine in several senses.

Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva “Pajè” 2013 (14.0%, RRP ~€60)

Paje2013

Bottle tasted: 7,698 / 10,000

Website info:

  • Vineyard size: 1.8 hectares (4.5 acres)
  • Vineyard exposure: south – west / west
  • Soil: calcareous limestone with sandy veins
  • Vineyard owners: Basso, Giordano

Aldo Vacca one word review: Bright

Among the red fruit notes which are close to ubiquitous in Produttori’s wine, the Pajè has a whole rack of herbs.  This is a tangy wine which I found to be slightly shorter than the others, but very nice drinking nevertheless.

Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva “Ovello” 2013 (14.0%, RRP ~€60)

Ovello2013

Bottle tasted: 7,572 / 17,160

Website info:

  • Vineyard size: 20.3 hectares (50 acres)
  • Vineyard exposure: south – west / south east
  • Soil: calcareous limestone and clay
  • Vineyard owners: Audasso, Cavallo, Cravanzola, Gonella, Grasso, Maffei, Odore, Sarotto, Unio, Vacca, Varaldo

Aldo Vacca one word review: Lively

The clay in Ovello’s soils has helped to produce a wine which has less pronounced acidity and tannin than most of its counterparts.  Instead there’s fruit – lots of fruit! – and power.  There are tannins at the end but they are fine and not drying.  This is a Nebbiolo that is delicious on its own.

Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva “Muncagota” 2013 (14.0%, RRP ~€60)

Muncagota

Bottle tasted: 12,892 / 13,333

Website info:

  • Vineyard size: 4.5 hectares (11 acres)
  • Vineyard exposure: south – west
  • Soil: calcareous limestone
  • Vineyard owners: Bellora, Casetta, Lignana, Viglino

Aldo Vacca one word review: Floral

Muncagota is floral but it’s also the results of a raid on your spice cupboard.  Bright red and black cherries greet the palate, with a finish of tobacco and liquorice which are reminiscent of a Tuscan Sangiovesi.  This is no shrinking violet and would pair well with game such as venison or wild boar.

Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva “Rabajà” 2013 (14.0%, RRP ~€60)

Rabaja

Bottle tasted: 8,512 / 17,040

Website info:

  • Vineyard size: 3.7 hectares (9.14 acres)
  • Vineyard exposure: south – west
  • Soil: calcareous limestone with sandy veins
  • Vineyard owners: Antona, Arossa, Casetta, Lembo, Lignana, Manzone, Rocca, Vacca, Vezza

Aldo Vacca one word review: Complete

With nine families owning a total of just 3.7 hectares (only the much larger Ovello has more owners), the Rabajà shows exactly why co-operatives can be the best choice of ownership and vinification models.  The 2013 is powerful but on the dry side, with some intriguing menthol notes, herbs and spices overlaid on the red fruit.

Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco Riserva “Montestefano” 2013 (14.0%, RRP ~€60)

Montestefano

Bottle tasted: 8,114 / 17,104

Website info:

  • Vineyard size: 4.5 hectares (11 acres)
  • Vineyard exposure: south
  • Soil: calcareous limestone
  • Vineyard owners: Gonella, Maffei, Marcarino, Rivella, Rocca, Vacca

Aldo Vacca one word review: Powerful

For me the Montestefano is a great all-rounder, with the positive points from all the others rolled into once – lovely fruit and floral notes, decent but not harsh acidity and tannin, balance and poise – the full package.

Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco Riserva “Montefico” 2013 (14.0%, RRP ~€60)

Montefico2013

Bottle tasted: 11,099 / 13,333

Website info:

  • Vineyard size: 3.9 hectares (9.6 acres)
  • Vineyard exposure: south
  • Soil: calcareous limestone
  • Vineyard owners: Grasso, Rocca, Vacca

Aldo Vacca one word review: Austere

As this was the last of the wines I tasted, perhaps my palate had become well accustomed to the above average acidity and tannin in these wines – I didn’t find it austere at all and actually quite similar to the Montestefano.  In my defence they have the same calcareous limestoil soil type and southerly aspect, and they are both delicious!

Conclusions

These are all fantastic wines, and great value at each price point.  It’s a fascinating way to taste your way round a wine region, so if you have the means and opportunity I highly recommend trying as many of them as you can.

Unlike Aldo Vacca, I can play favourites, but I can’t pick just one – so my three favourite of the range would be the Rio Sordo, Asili and Montestefano.


* The precise number of growers differs throughout the website

** 7WWR eat your heart out!

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