Stuart George

A new dawn? Barbera d’Alba at Barbera Meeting 2010

In Tastings on March 11, 2010 at 10:31 am

Happily, this morning’s tasting of Barbera d’Alba from the 2008, 2007 and 2006 vintages has confirming my pre-match expectations that Barbera d’Alba would prove to be the best of the wines tasted this week.

Here is the evidence that Barbera planted on the privileged terroir of Barolo and Barbaresco can reach heights scaled nowhere else in Piemonte. The consistency of colour, flavour and style in this selection of 30 wines far exceeded anything presented to us during the previous three days. Apart from one aberration, there were no real shockers here.

Bravi Astigiani!

But I am still no closer to finding the definitive Piemontese Barbera…

148 Rather neutral flavours but really nice texture. Good wine.

149 A hint of shoe-polish oak flavours spoils another nicely-textured wine. But I suppose I could force it down…

150 A bit dusty on the nose and finishes dry, but a pleasant enough mid-palate.

151 First bottle corked. Ditto second.

152 Chewily (oak) tannic. A pity because the fruit is, like all the wines here, good – much more concentrated and elegant than any wines that we have had previously.

153 Just a bit oak-dry on the finish but otherwise good – rich fruit, plenty of acidity and quite elegant.

154 Best one yet – rich fruit, not over-oaked, crisp finish. Good.

155 A bit more acidity than 154 but otherwise similarly styled.

156 Neon ruby, very vivid and viscous. Underwhelming by comparison on the palate! Rather neutral. But it looks good!

157 The first conspicuously oaked wine of this tasting. A travesty… Otherwise another flight of good wines.

158 Brett on the nose and palate. No.

159 As per 156 rather neutral and underwhelming…

160 Finishes dry and charmless. No.

161 Nice, juicy texture but spoiled somewhat by brett flavours.

162 This reeks of cheese! Blue cheese… Bacterial spoilage? Brett? Yuk.

163 Bright fruit and juicy acidity but the flavours are unappealing.

164 Not quite as bright as before… A return to the underwhelming style of 159 and 156.

165 Juicy acidity on the finish that buttresses the rather Brett-influenced flavours.

166 Ditto.

167 Chewy wood tannins. Unappealing.

168 Toasty new oak aromas. No.

169 Dusty nose but pleasantly supple and juicy palate. Not bad.

170 Farmyard nose – not necessarily unappealing to a silver fox like me – and a supple palate. Not bad.

171 Bretty nose. Palate much worse, finishing with deeply unappealing flavours.

172 Ok but rather neutral and underwhelming.

173 Slightly dusty nose. Palate not all that appealing in the middle but finishes bright, sweet and juicy. Not bad.

174 Nicely textured but rather neutral flavours. Perfectly drinkable though.

175 Vaguely oxidised on the nose. Palate even worse. No. The first of three Barbera d’Alba Superiore 2006s to be tasted.

176 Again rather neutral and underwhelming.

177 A bit oxidised on the nose but a Nebbiolo-like texture – silky tannins buttressed by plenty of acidity. Grown-up wine. Good.

  1. Haven’t been to the Barbera Meeting, so can’t comment on the specific wines, but definitely agree with your conclusions about Asti being generally overdone and underwhelming. (To the overoaking you mention, I’d definitely add overextraction and drying tannins).
    And while I agree with Barbera d’Alba being generally more interesting, I think the reason lies not with the better terroir. In Barolo and Barbaresco the Barbera is never a winery’s best wine (and it is never planted on a top site), so there is less incentive to use ‘progressive’ winemaking and try harder. In Asti, the various Nizzas and other Superiores are the most prestigious bottlings, and so where else would the vintners use their 100% new oak and 30-day macerations?
    Another reason is that Langhe producers have a longer tradition of high quality. The first new wave Barolos emerged in the late 1970s. Most of the good Barberas today come from estates that have been making ambitious Barolo or Barbaresco for at least 15 years. In Asti, other than a handful of names such as Braida or Rivetti, and offsprings of Langhe producers such as Vietti’s, it is a far younger bunch, really developing their production roughly since 1999/2000. No wonder they’re still in the nouveau rich stage.

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