06 Barbaresco: a final (?) clarification from Aldo Vacca, Produttori del Barbaresco

Above: As my good friend and top sommelier David Rosoff will tell you, “I learned more about Barbaresco talking to Aldo Vacca for 10 minutes” than I have in my whole career.

I wanted to draw your attention to a comment made by winemaker Aldo Vacca, Produttori del Barbaresco, posted the other day here at Do Bianchi. He was commenting in response to Charles Scicolone, who had asked plaintively whether or not Produttori del Barbaresco typically executed different bottlings destined for its domestic and international markets (the thread appeared in a post on the winery’s decision not to bottle its single-vineyard wines for the 2006 vintage).

Here’s what Aldo had to say:

    Just a quick note: we at Produttori Barbaresco never bottle wines specifically for one market or another. We do not look for specific taste for specific market and all that, we just make the wine at the best of our knowledge in one very define style. If we do more than one bottling, we try to have a similar blend in all bottling.

    We do release our new vintage in the Fall in Italy and usually, because of the logistics of the market and because we like to give some more bottle aging when we can, the next January is most export market. So, it is usually the case that the first bottling is mainly sold in Italy while the second bottling (which is also larger in size) goes to export and Italy as well: it is just a matter of timing, not of deciding which market gets what.

    Normally this will not make any difference anyway because the two bottling would be very similar.

    The one thing that happened with the 2006 vintage was the late decision of not bottling the SV. If we had made the decision earlier, as we usually do, all bottlings would have been the same.

In a somewhat unrelated note, yesterday I poured the 2008 Langhe Nebbiolo by Produttori del Barbaresco in a tasting in Austin. Man, it’s light and bright and showing great right now, better than when it first came into the market. A tough vintage in Piedmont but great for entry-level wines like this, where some of the better fruit ended up in the front-line wines.

And in a totally unrelated note, in the light of Aldo’s love of Neil Young, we’re trying to get him out to San Diego on July 8 to sit in with The Grapes.

In other news…

I highly recommend my good friend Thor’s excellent post over at the 32 Days of Natural Wine on the natural wine scene in Paris. I really love his writing and I especially appreciated his hypercorrective neolgism oenopiphany. After all, there are men who know what the word epistemology means without having to look it up in a dictionary and there are others who have to go to Brooks Brothers to find out.

In other other news…

For the wine geeks out there and anyone else who wants to wrap her or his mind around what sulfur, sulfites, and SO2 have to do with wine, I highly recommend this post on the use of sulfur in wine by bonvivant Bruce Neyers, a man who needs no introduction to the oeno-initiated.

Buona lettura e buon weekend, ya’ll!

Emozionante! Produttori del Barbaresco Pora 2004

Above: No mixed emotions for me when it comes to 2004 Produttori del Barbresco. This is the stuff dreams are made of…

Last week took me to Dallas where I attended the Vias Imports tasting at the Italian Club of Dallas. It was an emotional occasion for me: I still hadn’t tasted any of the 2004 Produttori del Barbaresco crus and I was entirely geeked to taste the Pora (the only cru presented). I’ve been drinking 2004 Produttori del Barbaresco classic Barbaresco (i.e., blended from different vineyards) and the wine — from a cool and climatically balanced vintage — is showing gorgeously now. It’s going through a beautiful, open period in its youth. (Tracie B and I opened a bottle the other evening for dinner but finished it the next night with her killer nachos as we watched the Golden Globes: the wine actually became more tannic the next night!)

In my experience, Pora is among the softer Produttori crus and can be more approachable in its youth. No mixed emotion for me about this wine: I was thrilled to taste it and it’s sure to be one of the greatest expressions of this wine in my wine-drinking life.

Above: Always the gentleman, Alfonso Cevola jumped behind the tasting table to pour for food and wine writer Renie Steves.

I was also excited for my first taste of the 2005 Produttori del Barbaresco classic Barbaresco. The wine from this warmer vintage is more concentrated and not quite as elegant as the 2004. It is already very approachable and leans toward fruit flavor more than its older sibling.

Above: Salvioni’s 2003 Brunello di Montalcino is probably the best 2003 Brunello I’ve tasted.

Other highlights for me were the 2002 Gravners (Breg and Ribolla, less extreme than in previous vintages I’ve tasted — thank goodness!), Damijan 2004 (always), Dettori 2004 (probably my favorite wine from Sardinia, totally natural in style), Salvioni 2003 Brunello (incredibly balanced alcohol for this super hot vintage, so elegant and terroir-driven), and the 2006 bottlings of Dolcetto by Pecchinino (classic vintage for this wine, I really dug them).

Above: The Italian Club of Dallas has a busy social and cultural calendar.

One surprise was a wine that Robin really likes, Tenuta San Leonardo (Gonzaga) 2004 San Leonardo. I’m never such a fan of Bordeaux-style wines from Italy but this was showing nicely. It was interesting to taste it side-by-side with the 2003: I think that the cool summer of 2004 made for some great wines in Italy.

In other news…

Don’t forget to come see me, Tracie B, and NNP at the Mercury Lounge in NYC on Monday February 9. I’ll be posting updated info for our France 2009 mini-tour next week: we got bumped up to a better show than we thought in Paris… details to follow…

Above: Pickled jalapeños at a wine tasting? Only in Texas!


The 1980s Richard Simmons look didn’t really work so well for Mick, did it?

What to serve with home-smoked ribs in Austin TX? Produttori del Barbaresco, what else?

Above: what else would I pair with home-smoked ribs? 2004 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco (classico), of course. I’ve tasted this wine a number of times since I first tasted it in NYC at a Vias portfolio tasting with Alfonso, Alice, and winemaker Aldo Vacca early last year. Over the last few months, it’s been in what I call a “state of grace”: a period of sensational drinkability before it shuts down again for the long-term. The bottle we opened on Sunday night in Austin showed signs of tightening up again but was delicious nonetheless.

Italian wine bloggers — me, Tracie B., Alfonso, and Wolfgang — converged on Austin last weekend for the Austin City Limits music festival and some general honky-tonking.

My festival highlight was Erykah Badu: man, that lady is one bad-assed mother… (and I mean that on multiple levels: played an amazing show, rocked a great percussion solo on with her digi trigger, and how many months pregnant is she?). We watched her set with my friend, roomate, and licensing agent Michael Nieves. He and I raised a beer to toast the phat placement he did for our song Fille Atomique on Gossip Girl on Monday.

Alfonso, Tracie B., and I were the guests at the home of Misti and Nathan, Tracie B.’s good friends. Nathan smoked pork ribs — one rack with a spicy rub, one with a bbq sauce finish, and one plain. He began smoking them in the morning, keeping them at about 200° F. all day long, using chips from old whiskey barrels (Franco would agree with me that this would be an excellent use for barriques! Nathan said, however, he prefers pecan). Misti made steamed corn with jalapeño rounds and a great potato salad (with olive oil instead of mayonnaise). Lena and Dean were there, too. Nathan’s a pretty mean guitar player and so we traded some riffs and played Beatles and Bruce Springsteen into the night (on the ladies’ request).

Above: what do Italian wine bloggers drink when they get together? Mexican beer, of course! Wolfgang and Alfonso at Güero’s Taco Bar in Austin. I wasn’t sure about getting fish tacos in a land-locked taco joint so I went with the roast pork, which was very good, but the sides were just so-so. The salsa bar was excellent if meager and I love the way they serve the beer with small, old-school glasses, like the ones you find in Mexico.

Above: Tracie B. at Ginny’s Little Longhorn, my new all-time favorite honky tonk. The night we were there, the caliber of the playing just made me want to go sell my geetar at a pawn shop. Tracie B. moved back to Austin earlier this year from Ischia where she wrote her fantastic blog, My Life Italian, about Italian food and wine and the life of a Texana in Campania, Italy. She’s a little shy on camera but, man, that girl’s got the prettiest eyes this Italian wine blogger’s ever seen!


Post scriptum

Strappo and Marco: we missed you at the Italian wine blogger summit, Austin, 2008 edition.

What it’s all about: real people and real wine.

Reader and wine professional Scott Luetgenau (left) recently wrote the following comment on my post A Quick Confabulation with Aldo Vacca, Winemaker and President, Produttori del Barbaresco. He really captured what’s so great about Produttori’s wines:

“Nice. Real Barbaresco. A recent bottle of the 96 Pora jogged my memory of just how magical wine can be. After a long night of work I curled up on the couch with a great book and enjoyed the lengthy, layered transformation even more than the finished product. It is refreshing to see the coop retains its incredible value while most Piemonte producers have obviously shed their ‘insecurity’ as their prices increase every year.”

He makes a very important point when he describes “the lengthy, layered transformation”: one of the greatest elements in the wine experience is how a wine evolves from the moment you open the bottle until the last drop is poured. In America, we often lose sight of wine’s beauty because we overly festishize its delivery to our palates: is the serving temperature correct? has it aerated long enough? is the aperture of the glass correct? is the vintage “ready to drink”? is it too young? etc. etc.

For me it’s more about: how does the wine change as it begins to aerate? as it begins to warm in the glass? and even how does a left over glass taste the next day?

Scott gets it right: it’s not about the “finished product” its about the “layered transformation.”

Thanks, Scott, for the insightful comment.

Scott is Director of Operations and Beverage Manager for The Urban Food Group, which owns and operates four restaurants in Raleigh, North Carolina.

An Odd Couple: BBQ and 1996 Barbaresco Pora


Above, an odd couple, styrofoam and crystal stemware: Produttori del Barbaresco 1996 Barbaresco Pora (Cru) paired with bbq ribs from Dinosaur (take-out from Harlem).

Life has always been full of surprises — some good, some not so good — and I am still coming to terms with the recent changes in my life. Frankly, it’s not been easy. Luckily and thankfully, I have been offered a place to stay through the end of the year by my good friend and bandmate Greg Wawro, who is not only the drummer in my band Nous Non Plus (codename = Prof. Harry Covert) but is also a distinguished professor of Political Science at Columbia University.

Greg is a true gourmand and cheese connoisseur. Over the years, on the road and in the apartment where I used to stay, we have enjoyed many a great meal together and many a great bottle of wine. On the occasion of my first night at his apartment, he ordered ribs from one of his favorite barbeque restaurants, not far from his place near Columbia University, Dinosaur BAR B QUE.

A few months ago, when I had to scramble to find a place to live, Greg generously let me store my wine library at his apartment. While Lambrusco would have been my wine of choice to pair with bbq ribs (which were pretty darn good, btw), the closest bottle at hand was a Barbaresco Pora 1996 Produttori del Barbaresco, one of my favorite crus (single-vineyard wines) from one of my all-time favorite producers. Bottlings from the legendary 1996 vintage in Langhe (Piedmont) will probably drink at their best in another 10-20 years but this bottle drank superbly nonetheless (however oddly paired). The fruit and acidity were vibrant, the tar and rose petal flavors rich, and a few more years in bottle would have softened the tannins, which were still very pronounced.

Of all the Produttori del Barbaresco Crus, Pora tends to be the “softest” and it “evolves” more quickly than the others (Asili is perhaps the most coveted and long-lived).

Here’s what Produttori’s winemaker Aldo Vacca has to say:

“PORA: The Dolce Vita Wine. The sandier soil gives to the Pora wine a smoother character, tannins are soft and the aromas always tend to evolve a little faster. This vineyard shows a more exotic character, sometime earthier, than others; it has a ‘lay back’ attitude and it makes me feel like I want to sip it resting in my comfortable armchair, eating pieces of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, watching an old Fellini movie.”

Although the tanginess of the sauce on the ribs wasn’t the ideal pairing, the wine drank beautifully and opened up nicely, the tannins mellowing by the time we poured the last glass.

Life has thrown me some truly “odd” curveballs over the last few months and so an “odd couple” of Barbaresco and BBQ didn’t seem so strange.


On November 13, Felix Unger was asked to remove himself from his place of residence. (Unger’s unseen wife slams door. She reopens it and angrily hands Felix his saucepan) That request came from his wife…