The story behind La Licenziana vs. Vicenziana Barbaresco

Silvio Giamello 2005 Barbaresco Vicenziana, made from grapes in the Ovello cru of Barbaresco. Vicenziana is a named place (a lieu-dit, in French) in the cru and lies in the northernmost area of this famous growing site. Photo by Tracie B.

We depend so much today on the immediacy of the internet for information and today, more than ever, there is so much information available to consumers on wines, wineries, and wine prices — via blogging, chat rooms, bulletin boards, and subscription archives like WineSearcher and CellarTracker.

I was thoroughly impressed when I tasted the 2005 Barbaresco Vicenziana by Silvio Giamello the other day but deeply disappointed when my Google search for info about the wine proved fruitless. So I figured I’d do things the old-fashioned way: I decided to call Silvio and looked for his number at PagineBianche.it. But this dude’s not even in the phone book!

I finally found another Giamello who owned an azienda agricola (literally a farming estate or farming company) and called him in the hopes that they were relatives (there are a lot of Giamellos in Piedmont!). He didn’t have Silvio’s number but he gave me just enough geographical information to find the winery. Sheesh!

So here’s the story behind this wine…

The estate, Silvio told me, is called La Licenziana. It was planted to Nebbiolo and Dolcetto by Sivlio’s grandfather and it lies in the northernmost part of Barbaresco in Ovello (one of the famed Barbaresco crus), just a few rows in the western part of the cru, with south-eastern exposure. Silvio’s father used to bottle small amounts of the wine but sold most of the fruit to Langa négociants and also made some bulk wine. About ten years ago, Silvio decided to start bottling Barbaresco and when he researched the origins of his family’s growing site, he consulted municipal records and discovered that the name Licenziana was a dialectal corruption of Vicenziana. In antiquity, the estate was owned by a Roman noble named Lolio Vicenziano (I was able to find some info on Lolio but not much and I imagine his Latin name was Lollius, but I’ll have to get to the bottom of that later). According to Silvio, the estate was called Villa Gentiana in antiquity: villa means farmhouse in Latin and my hunch is that the designation gentiana might have been derived from gens, which means race, clan, or house, and often denotes Roman upper-class Roman citizens. In other words, it probably meant noble farmhouse. Somewhere along the way, Villa Gentiana became Vicenziana, according to Silvio.

I liked the wine so much that I bought a bottle and Tracie B and I drank it last night with a little sausage ragù that I made.

This wine was all earth, mushroomy and savory, my favorite style of Barbaresco, what I like to call “rustic.”

Silvio told me that he employs integrated farming practices and vinifies (no surprise here) in a traditional style (large old-oak cask aging).

His maximum production is around 5,000 bottles and he made roughly 3,000 of the 2005.

When I mentioned to him that there is very little info available about his wines on the internet, he said that he likes it that way: “I’m in no hurry to let people know about my wines,” he told me. It reminded of the story that Maria Teresa Mascarello told me about how her father, the legendary Bartolo, didn’t want a phone in their home. When the young Teresa complained, Bartolo finally relented and told her she could have a phone but it had to be registered in her name.

Silvio does have an email address and he promised to send me info on the 2009 harvest… but only when they’re done picking the grapes. I guess I’ll just have to wait!

Great wine, highly recommended for the pricepoint.

8 Responses to The story behind La Licenziana vs. Vicenziana Barbaresco

  1. Jeff Porter says:

    You got me wanting a bottle bad…I mean really bad. Who is the importer? Can I get any in my glass in California? Thanks!

  2. tracie b says:

    You forgot that intense cherry in your tasting notes! in a blind tasting, that wine would scream barbaresco, real barbaresco.

    if anyone can get to the bottom of something, it’s my 2B!

  3. Jesse Becker says:

    Thanks for telling us about this producer–also would love to know the importer.

  4. Do Bianchi says:

    @jeff and jesse thanks for reading: it’s kermit.

    @jesse we need some dispatches from your new place!

    @tracie b I’m so glad you liked it as much as me… I’m so geeked for us to try the 07 Martinenga by Gresy. tvbtlb

  5. Andreas says:

    I was in Barbaresco in August, by chance the local tourist info recommended this winery. They called upfront and I went there. They have no tasting room.
    He is a great guy. His wife translates for him.

    I have been into wine for a decades and so we had a lot to talk about. His 2003 Barbareso which was brilliant despite the heat of that vintage was an eyeopener. The 2006 was already in the bottle and great as well. I did not taste the 2005 it was gone Bought ten bottles usually I carry six in my suitcase the rest are still in a cellar in Germnay.

  6. Do Bianchi says:

    @Andreas I’ve never met Silvio in person but he was super nice on the phone. His wine is a true standout for me at the pricepoint and he’s totally off the radar among Nebbiolophiles. I’m dying to taste his 07… Thanks for reading and the comment.

  7. [...] Click here to read Do Bianchi’s post on the origin of the wine’s vineyard designation. [...]

  8. Barolista says:

    Outstanding Old School wine! Many thanks for sharing the spotlight on this producer. Bravo!!!

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