This wine may be my favorite bottling yet, but not for the reason you think…
Above: Summertime isn’t exactly ideal for Nebbiolo but, after so much talk of this wine, I couldn’t resist opening a bottle of 2006 Barbaresco by Produttori del Barbaresco last night. Can you blame me? Dinner last night chez Parzen was cannellini dressed with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and a kiss of red wine vinegar, wilted spinach and boiled potatoes also dressed with evoo, and some fresh feta.
Between Bruno Giacosa’s controversial decision not to bottle his 2006 vintage in Barolo and Barbaresco and Produttori del Barbaresco’s much misunderstood decision not to bottle its 2006 single-vineyard designated wines, the 2006 vintage may very well be one of the most talked-about vintages in Langa in recent years.
Let’s get one thing straight: most folks agree that 2006 was a classic, solid vintage, with a relatively balanced growing season (if not for rains in September). It wasn’t GREAT (in all caps) but it was good to very good. And while Giacosa’s decision appears outwardly based on the personal setbacks Bruno suffered that year, the decisions by Giacosa and Produttori del Barbaresco were probably based on economic reasoning: in a tough market, it’s easier to sell a more reasonably priced wine. In fact, Aldo Vacca (winemaker at Produttori del Barbaresco) said as much in a comment he left on Do Bianchi.
I tasted the 06 for the first time in New York in the spring: it was a ringer in one of the blind Greek tastings. But last night, after reading one too many blog posts about the 2006 Produttori del Barbaresco (which is now in the market), the mimetic desire kicked in and I caved and opened a bottle.
While I continue to kick myself for not cellaring more 2004 (especially) and 2005, my negligence has been rewarded by this amazing bottle of wine, which is a cuvée of all the Produttori del Barbareso crus.
Above: I tasted all of the 2005 single-vineyard (cru) designated wines in March at the winery with Aldo. I’ll post my notes on these, which have also just hit the market, next week.
I have always been a bigger fan of the cuvée, i.e., the classic Barbaresco blended mostly from the Ovello cru, with smaller amounts of other crus depending on the vintage. But the 2006 classic blended Barbaresco is something truly special.
Antonio Galloni, one of the top 3 palates for Nebbiolo in the world IMHO, was a fan of the otherwise “average” vintage when he tasted the first bottling of the 06 (before the decision was made not to bottle the crus): “If the regular Barbaresco holds this much power,” he wrote, “I can only wonder what the Riservas might have in store. Simply put, this is a marvelous effort.”
The wine we tasted last night was fantastic, with all the earth and all the red fruit I dream for, extremely powerful and rich, more so than other classic vintages like the winery’s 99, 01, 04, and 05.
My only misgiving about this wine is that it’s one of the few instances where I will tell you to let it age in your cellar for a few years before approaching it. I believe that with the addition of grapes from crus like Montestefano and Montefico (the most tannic), the wine has a tannic power that will only reward the patient collector.
It’s not that this wine is “better” because “better” fruit went into it, as many sales people are however earnestly but erroneously saying. The crus are not “better.” They are just different among one another.
What’s special about this wine is how it shows that terroir is also about people and where and how they decide to grow and raise things. This wine is a true collector’s item from Produttori del Barbaresco: it’s an anomaly, a rare occasion where Aldo had a better vintage than many, but decided not to bottle single-vineyard wines.
In some ways, this wine is the best bottling of my enosentient lifetime. Keep in mind that the cru system began in the late 1960s (and 1967, the year of my birth, to be exact), when Gaja, Vietti, and Produttori del Barbaresco were inspired by the French cru system to bottle single-vineyard designated wines. Ultimately, whether it’s Aldo’s cru vs. cuvée or Vajra’s Barolo Bricco delle Viole vs. Barolo Albe, or even Gaja’s Sorì-designated wines vs. its Barbaresco (to use three different stylistic examples), I always find that it’s the classic, blended wines (like Bartolo Mascarello, who has never made a cru) that keep calling me back. They don’t express a growing site: they express a vintage, an appellation, and a way of life.
So in a way, the 2006 Barbaresco by Produttori del Barbaresco is the financial crisis’s little gift to us: a wine that harks back to an era before the advent of Barbaresco’s Francophilia.
In essence, for survival’s sake (and the sake of all those who depend on him), winemaker Aldo had to make a “Sophie’s choice.” I’m glad that he chose well.