Kristen’s April Winery of the Month
Simply stated, I love Nebbiolo. It is by far my favorite varietal, not just out of Italy, but the world. It’s one of those finicky grapes; late ripening yet thin skinned and very sensitive to different soils. It’s deceiving to most; often fooling guests as lighter bodied because its skin doesn’t naturally give much color to the wine. When done right, it translates to one of, if not THE most expressive, aromatic explosion out of a glass one could ever wrap their brain around. For me, that translates to one thing…PLEASE don’t kill it with wood! I actually have one wine rep that I taste with frequently who recently labeled me “The Barrique Police”. I can’t stand it, for Nebbiolo at least! Nothing is a bigger spoiler to the beauty of Nebbiolo than to put a wooden mask on it. It takes all of its character away.
Produttori Del Barbaresco is one of those wineries that continues to please the taste buds! They are a cooperative that was started in 1958. When the area was struggling economically and many were fleeing the farms and heading to the city to find work, the Priest of Barbaresco realized that he had to do something or he would have no parish to lead. He was one of 19 members to start the winery. While there are now 56 families, their original philosophy has remained true to itself. It’s pretty basic. Their belief is that “the land makes the wine.” They choose to impart as little human influence to the flavor of the grapes. They implemented a few simple rules, but quite stringent particularly for a cooperative. For instance, all members must bring 100% of their grapes to the winery. Additionally, members could not make any Nebbiolo-based wine on their own. Lastly, their compensation would be a fixed amount for the weight with generous bonuses for quality. In other words, their primary focus is not quantity like most cooperatives, but rather quality!
I have had the pleasant opportunity to meet and taste with Aldo Vacca, the Director and GM of Produttori on multiple occasions. Each and every time I am reminded of his soft spoken, humble disposition yet enamored by his wealth of knowledge of the area and each specific detail he can share with you about every single vintage. He truly is passionate about his land and you can tell that his mission is to try to share this knowledge with others. He never comes across as a pushy salesman. It’s not a winery that boasts a famous enologist. In fact, the winemaker is never even mentioned. You hear more about the families or should I say farmers that tend to the vineyards and treat them respectfully, proud of their contribution following the high standards that Aldo implements.
Produttori produces only Nebbiolo. In fact, I can’t think of another winery in Piemonte that doesn’t make any other wines. They produce a Langhe Nebbiolo, a normale Barbaresco and 9 cru Barbarescos (in only great vintages). They control the majority of the best vineyards in the region, equating to 1/6 of all of the vineyards in the area and 280 acres in total. I find the truly most unique appeal of this winery is that they vinify every single one of their wines the exact same way. That translates to reductions in yields, winter pruning, green harvests in the summer, long macerations and only the use of large barrels for ageing. You will not find any barrique in their cellar. That makes me happy. This results in a wine that expresses a true sense of place and vintage. If and when you ever have the opportunity to taste their crus side by side, seize the moment. It is then that you are able to pick up and decipher the particular nuances of the different vineyards and vintages and determine what your preference is. I have tasted each of the 9 crus at one time or another. While I haven’t had them all at the same tasting, I have been very close on a few occasions. My personal preferences have varied in different vintages. A few years ago, I was an avid supporter of Rio Sordo. It seemed to have a higher level of minerality that I was drawn to. The Ovello cru has and always will hold a special place in my heart as Mauro and I stayed at the Ovello Bed and Breakfast when we visited Produttori last spring. The inviting fresh, fruit forwardness of this cru has an immediate appeal to me, especially for restaurant service. At a recent tasting, I was sold on the Montefico. I had the opportunity to try the ’05 vintage next to the ’07 among four other crus and the ’05 Montefico stole the show. The Pajé was a close runner up. It had the most fragrant nose that screamed with scents of spearmint and eucalyptus. I’m pretty sure that the Montefico grabs me the most because it is a definite powerhouse. The ’07 showcased it’s approachability in its youth and was meatier on the palate, definitely highlighting the warmer vintage, but man does that ’05 knock my socks off! While it too was powerful and full-bodied, its tannins were firmer and it was more concise on the palate. It’s a vintage that is showing very nicely now and will also lie down very well in your personal cellar. Come on into Assaggio and enjoy a bottle for yourself (and company of course) for $90. If you prefer to pick any of the wines for your “at home” consumption, please feel free to reach out to me. I would be happy to help stock your cellar. (Subtle reminder, Assaggio has a retail license)!