Review of Barbaresco 2017 and Barbaresco Riserva 2015
BARBARESCO and Barolo wines are often inseparable — both being Piedmont’s most renowned wine regions, and both proudly made from 100% nebbiolo grapes. Both Borolo and Barbaresco were also established as DOC at the same year in 1966, and both were promoted together to DOCG status in 1980. The difference geographically is that Barolo is located in the southwest of Langhe, the province of Cuneo in Piedmont, while Barbaresco is located in the northeast. Barbaresco also lies closer to the river Tanaro and the Ligurian Sea. These twin maritime influences plus the lower altitude vineyards make the nebbiolo grapes grown in Barbaresco ripe faster than those nebbiolos planted in Barolo. The resulting wines are often more approachable, softer, have fewer tannins, and are fresher. For this same reason, the Barbarescos are allowed to be commercially released earlier than Barolos. In the last Nebbiolo Prima, we previewed the Barbaresco DOCG 2107 and the Barbaresco Riserva 2015.
BARBARESCO DOCG PARTICULARS
For the 2017 vintage, the total production of Barbaresco was around 4.2 million bottles, from its 750 hectares of vineyards. Barbaresco aging requirements are higher than those of the Roero region which I covered in my previous column, but less than those of Barolo, which I will cover in my next column. For Barbaresco DOCG, ageing a minimum of 26 months, of which minimum of nine months should be in barrel, is required before earliest commercial release, and this is basically pegged at Jan. 1 of the third year from vintage. For Barbaresco Riserva DOCG, a minimum of 50 months, of which minimum of nine months should be in barrel, are required before earliest commercial release, equating to Jan. 1 of the fifth year from vintage. These lower aging requirements make Barbaresco slightly lower in price than their Barolo counterparts.
MIX FEEDBACK FROM 2017 VINTAGE
I love my Barbarescos as much as I love my Barolos, and this year’s newly released vintage of 2017 was a bit of a mix batch. From this relatively big sample size, the Barbaresco’s typical freshness, racy raspberry and strawberry flavors were still noticeable in this vintage, but I did detect more wines with very perfumed nose that exuded lavender, violets, red roses, and all the other fragrances I typically call “detergent scents,” which I actually like for its elegance and sophistication. The difference was in the consistency of the vintage as some wines tasted green and unripe, and others were a bit too thin. This was not the case for the Barbaresco 2016 vintage I reviewed last year, which I found to be a lot more consistent in quality across the batch.
This year, we had slightly more to blind-taste of both Barbaresco DOCG and Barbaresco Riserva wines compared to last year: a total of 59 Barbaresco 2017 and 15 Barbaresco Riserva 2015 vs last year’s 55 Barbaresco 2016 and eight Barbaresco Riserva 2015 entries respectively. Coincidentally same as last year, I gave 22 wines 90 points or over for the Barbaresco 2017. But this was relatively lower in percentage compared with the 2017 with 37.3% getting 90 points or above, against 40% of the 2016 scores in the same range. For the Barbaresco Riserva 2015, the blind tasting result was astounding as I gave seven of the 15 wines (46.7%) 90 points and above, with every wine (with one exception) scoring 88 points or over. In recent memory, this 2015 is one of the best Barbaresco Riserva vintages for me by far. In contrast, at last year’s Nebbiolo Prima, I only liked one out of the eight Barbaresco Riserva 2014 I blind tasted.
Sadly though, not many Barbaresco Riservas come our way here in the Philippines. So if you come across a Barbaresco Riserva when traveling abroad, in particular the 2015 vintage, grab a few bottles quickly before it runs out.
Please note these wines were tasted blind, and each wine was tasted for only a few minutes, given the huge quantity being tasted at any given morning during the entire Nebbiolo Prima event. Also understand that judgment on these wines was purely based on my personal biases and experience drinking, appreciating, and enjoying wines.
BEST BARBARESCO DOCG 2017
My top 22 wines from this lot of 55 wines are the following:
1-2. Castello Di Neive Barbaresco 2017: 93 points. “lavender, red petal, yet deep and intense, cherry fruit, long and very flavorful”
Voghera Luigi Barbaresco 2017: “vanilla, pie crust, lavender, violets, so much happening in the nose, voluminous, extremely round and delicious all the way”
3-6. Adriano Marco E Vittorio Barbaresco 2017: 92 points. “very succulent and juicy on the nose, stewed tomatoes, meaty, supple and long finish”
Cascina Saria Barbaresco 2017: “cassis, figs, cherries, alluring nose, long, deep and jammy”
Montaribaldi Barbaresco 2017: “tangy, fruit cocktail nose, juicy acids, very sweet and ripe at the end”
Poderi Colla Barbaresco 2017: “black currant, fresh, soft tannins, satin-like texture, crisp and delectable finish”
7-13. All with 91 points. Cascina Alberta Barbaresco 2017; Cascina Luisin Barbaresco 2017; Cascina Morassino Barbaresco 2017; Grasso Fratelli Barbaresco 2017; Il Bricco Barbaresco 2017; Prinsi Barbaresco 2017; Taverna Barbaresco 2017
14-22. All with 90 points. Collina Serragrilli Barbaresco 2017; Figli Luigi Oddero Barbaresco 2017; Giuseppe Cortese Barbaresco 2017; Icardi Barbaresco 2017;
Moccagatta Barbaresco 2017; Pelissero Barbaresco 2017; Pertinace Barbaresco 2017; Rattalino Massimo Barbaresco 2017; Tenuta Barac Barbaresco 2017
Three of my top six wines in this list — namely Castello Di Neive, Adriano Marco E Vittoro, and Cascina Saria — were also in my top 22 wines with score of 90 points and above on my vintage 2016 review last year. Seven other brands were also in this same list of 90 points and above on both vintages 2017 and 2016, namely: Pertinace (tied for No. 1 in my 2016 vintage preview), Cascina Saria, Collina Serragrilli, Rattalino Massimo, Cascina Morassino, Giuseppe Cortese and Moccagatta.
BEST BARBARESCO RISERVA DOCG 2015
My top seven with scores of 90 points and over from a group of 15 wines:
1. Punset Barbaresco Riserva 2015: 95 points. “luscious nose, long, deep and intense, supple texture, juicy acids, lovely taste with intertwined flavors of vanilla and plums, delicious bitter-sweet finish”
2. Piazzo Comm. Armando Barbaresco Riserva 2015: 93 points. “a fruit bomb from first whiff onwards, lovely bouquet with nice acacia and vanilla, juicy and plummy all the way”
3-4. Both with 92 points. La Bioca Barbaresco Riserva 2015: “black currant nose, leafy, herbal, dark fruits, nicely structured, crisp with peppery notes, complex, dry at the end” Massimo Rivetti Barbaresco Riserva 2015: “mentholated nose, pine tree, very fresh, but tannins are soft, balanced acids, round finish”
5. Castello Di Verduno Barbaresco Riserva 2015: 91 points.
6-7. Both with 90 points. Francone Barbaresco Riserva 2015; Molina Barbaresco Riserva 2015
Last year, the Francone Barbaresco Riserva 2014 was the only Barbaresco Riserva I gave 90 points to, and by coincidence once more (after the blind tasted wines were revealed), this same wine on its Riserva 2015 vintage got the same 90 points score from me.
In my next column, I will tackle the Barolo 2016 vintage.
Let us all pray for the containment and eventual end of this COVID -19 pandemic that has reached almost 100 countries. Italy is one of the most severely hit countries. I was in Northern Italy just over a month ago before the first recorded case of coronavirus in Italy. It is in the northern part of Italy where the virus has the most cases, and also were several wine regions are in fact located. As of this writing, Italy is closing in on 4,000 cases, with the second highest number of deaths recorded (after China) and has one of the scariest increments of COVID-19 cases on daily basis.
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