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Nebbiolo Part III - Barbaresco DOCG

Last week, I hope you enjoyed the Barolo Blog. As I mentioned, it is definitely considered the King of the Wines in Italy. But its sister or wife ( The Queen of the wines) is Barbaresco, still made with 100% Nebbiolo but considered more feminine, more approachable in its youth.

So this blog, will focus on this outstanding wine which compliments Barolo and introduce new Nebbiolo nuances.

Local growers were producing wines from Nebbiolo in the area of Barbaresco since the 18th century, however the wines were not associated to the name of the village. Prior to 1890, the grapes from Barbaresco were used to make Barolo wines. In 1894 Domino Cavazza, director of the Royal School of enology of Alba , acquired the castle of Barbaresco (including the surrounding vineyards) and founded the first cooperative in Barbaresco ( still active today). From this moment the wines were called Barbaresco and slowly the bang to acquire their own personality.

In the late 50s and early 60s producers such as Gaja and Giacosa became to demonstrate Barbaresco real potential and the wines gradually acquired more recognition.

Angelo Gaja in particular is credited for transforming Barbaresco from a wine of local renown to a world class wine with cult status. Karen MacNeil describes Gaja in this way:

No man has heralded the virtues of Piedmont more than the dynamic, ambitious, and inventive Angelo Gaja (pronounced GUY-ah).

For decades he has traveled around the world, talking about Barbaresco and Barolo to every journalist and restaurateur who would listen (and making converts of most of them). Gaja’s wines can have spellbinding intensity and power. The best seem not simply great but virtually unreal in their ability to be massively opulent and yet finely etched at the same time. They are also gaspingly expensive. Gaja made his mark with his estate-grown Barbarescos, especially his intense single-vineyard Barbarescos called Sorì Tildìn and Sorì San Lorenzo. Later, he bought a famous but rundown property outside Alba and began making the now legendary single-vineyard wine called Sperss (dialect for nostalgia) in the Barolo region (but not labeled Barolo because it contains a small amount of barbera blended in with the nebbiolo).

For all of his inventive vineyard and cellar practices, Gaja is a traditionalist in his devotion to nebbiolo.

When he made Piedmont’s first cabernet sauvignon in 1978, he called it Darmagi, in honor of his father. In the local dialect, darmagi means “what a pity”; this was what Gaja’s father mumbled every time he passed the cabernet vineyard and thought about the nebbiolo vines that had been pulled out to plant the cabernet.

Although Darmagi was highly praised internationally (as were Gaja’s two chardonnays, Rossj-Bass and Gaia & Rey), Gaja maintains that it was merely a marketing ploy. Making a cabernet that could rival the great Bordeaux, he says, was just a clever way of drawing the world’s attention to Barbaresco and Barolo, and to Piedmont.

Barbaresco DOCG is on the right bank of the TANARO river to East and North East of Alba. The Commune of Barbaresco accounts for the majority of production. The vineyards of Barbaresco are approximately 160 ft lower than those of Barolo. Nebbiolo is planted in the middle of the South facing slopes, between 500-1200 feet in order to maximize ripeness.

Barbaresco soil belongs to the Tortonian formation like the one from Barolo. However the wine growing area is closer to the Tanaro river Valley than Barolo. Therefore the area is slightly warmer than Barolo. As result the Nebbiolo ripen earlier in Barbaresco than in Barolo and often more consistently. The area is overall more homogeneous than Barolo, therefore the wines would not have much difference from village to village like in the case of Barolo.

Barbaresco must be aged for a minimum of 26 months of which nine months must be spent in oak. The reserve must be aged for 50 months, with a minimum of 8 months in oak.

In the past Barbaresco wines used to be lighter and less structured than Barolo. However today many Barbarescos are as high in alcohol and structured as Barolo.

Since the 80s, the single vineyard bottling is gaining momentum, the discipliners has introduced 66 Mention Geografiche Aggiuntive (MGA), these designations offer a more precise identification of the wine origin. Among the most well known are Rabaja, Ovello, Pora, Basarin, Asili, Montefico, Montestefano, Gallina, Pajore', Martinenga.

Although the Barolo and Barbaresco wines could be considered as similar, they are actually not quite the same.

Barbaresco is considered a bit lighter, less powerful, less structured and more approachable and definitely more elegant than Barolo. Almost more "feminine" all the while demonstrating the floral -earthy-tar character , high acidity and firm tannins that are benchmark Nebbiolo. Another difference concerns supply. Each year, about a third as much Barbaresco is produced as Barolo.

The above statement is however a generalization, in fact we can find Barbarescos as powerful as Barolo and vice versa, Barolos ( especially from around La Morra) lighter and more elegant like Barbarescos.

Angelo Gaja

One of the most important figure in the Italian wine History. Producer of the most Iconic wines in Barbaresco region.

Angelo Gaja is Italy`s most renowned and dynamic wine personality and his impact on wine production in the last 30 years cannot be overestimated.

Angelo Gaja took over the family business in 1970 and, as he says: "The challenge was to maintain the basic power and depth of Nebbiolo while polishing the wines to give them richer colour, fuller fruit, better balance and a more refined style."

In pursuit of this aim Gaja replanted many of the vineyards, installed temperature-controlled, stainless steel tanks, introduced the concept of ageing wines in small oak barrels and began releasing single vineyard Barbarescos. Most controversial of all, Gaja planted some Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay on prime Barbaresco land.

Today Gaja has 101 hectares of vineyards divided into 32 separate plots and produces around 30,000 cases of wine a year. Gaja produces world-class wines that sell for world-class prices; his latest venture is in Tuscany where he has acquired an estate in Montalcino

2013 Sorì Tildìn, Angelo Gaja

Lustrous mid ruby. Quite intense nose of red fruit and oak and perfectly integrated. Still quite closed and backward on the palate with bags of powdery tannins. Powerful structure on the finish. Very long and balanced, yet undeniably oaky for the moment.

Sori' San Lorenzo 2014

This wine made history when it became one of the earliest single-vineyard bottlings of Nebbiolo in Piedmont with the 1967 vintage. Sourced from the GAJA winery’s top growing site, San Lorenzo, located just south of the village of Barbaresco in the famed cru Secondine, the wine is made with 100% Nebbiolo grapes.

Deep red color, the 2014 Sori San Lorenzo shows aromas of licorice, black tea, savory and balsamic herbs notes, graphite and violet come out slowly in the glass giving birth to a complex and layered bouquet. The most recognizable and ageable of the three single vineyards. Intense fruit expression of red orange, ripe blueberry, red and black plum, complex botanical flavors of Mediterranean spices like oregano, basil and thyme. The mineral finish is powerful and persistent. Compact structure and great ageing potential.

Ceretto Wines

This beautiful vineyard, located below the village of Treiso, towards the Pertinace hamlet, has been considered one of the best of the commune for more than a century. It is thought to be the natural continuation of the Nerve, which has the same orientation and position of the land. The vineyard is enclosed in a natural amphitheater and this formation creates a special microclimate very favourable to the vines, which is not affected by considerable height (400 meters in the upper-most part). Ceretto works 4.8 hectares of this cru biodynamically, which year after year gives us more and more expressive wines, extremely pleasing on the palate and remarkably dynamic.

Enticing floral scents of rose and iris mingle with red fruit and aromatic herb on this stunning wine. The elegant, structured palate doles out crushed strawberry, sour cherry, clove and white pepper alongside bright acidity, while noble, refined tannins provide the backbone. Give this a few more years to fully develop. Drink 2020–2028

Castello di Neive

Castello di Neive and its 150 acre estate are owned by the Stupino brothers and sisters – Anna, Giulio, Italo e Piera. They were all born in Neive, and so were their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.The history of the company began when their father, Giacomo, started to capitalize on both his experience as a surveyor and on his knowledge of the area, and to purchase, whenever possible, vineyards and land in extremely favourable locations. In the small cellars of their home, they began the first production of wine for domestic consumption and to sell in bulk.Messoirano, Montebertotto, Basarin, Valtorta, I Cortini;: the number of vineyards acquired by Giacomo grew and with it also the production and the ambitions of the family. In 1964 they purchased the castle with its spacious cellars, with more farmsteads in Santo Stefano and Marcorino, plus more land from the castle’s previous owner, Count Guido Riccardi Candiani.

This is was a turning point which urged the family to renovate the castle’s cellars, to reorganize the vineyards neglected by the previous owners and to produce wine according to modern methods. When Giacomo died, in 1970, Giulio end Italo oversaw the transition from tenant farming to direct management of the land, with the precious help of Talin Brunettini, skilful cellar man with a knowledge in agronomic techniques. It is at this time that Castello di Neive began to bottle its wines and to introduce them to the rest of Italy and abroad.

In 1978 another rewarding step: thanks to the collaboration between Italo and some experts from the University of Turin – professors Italo Eynard and Annibale Gandini – Castello di Neive started a clonal selection programme of Arneis, a grape long forgotten and abandoned because of its scarce productivity and lack of knowledge in white wine vinification. Arneis wine owes its rediscovery to this joint effort by the company and the University. In the past few years, Italo has devoted himself fully to the direct management of the company, under the name “Castello di Neive Azienda Agricola”: a devotion which seems to follow a ‘premonition’ contained in an old photograph: one depicting Mentor, Italo’s grandfather, presenting a grapevine to his young nephew.


Classification: Barbaresco D.O.C.G. RISERVA Year: 2009 Production area: Langhe, Piemonte

Colour:intense and brilliant garnet with light orange reflections Nose: complex, intense and quite pronounced; ripe berries aromas tend to fade into a bouquet of tobacco, withered flowers, spices and cocoa, with a balsamic mentolate notes typical of the Santo Stefano vineyard. Taste: Round, sweet tannins, with the right acidity to improve and maintain balance for a long time

Produttori del Barbaresco

Before 1894, Nebbiolo grapes where sold to make Barolo wine or simply labeled «Nebbiolo di Barbaresco». But in 1894, Domizio Cavazza, headmaster of the Royal Enological School of Alba and a Barbaresco resident, created the first cooperative, the «Cantine Sociali», by gathering together nine Barbaresco vineyard owners to make wine in the local castle that he owned. He understood well the differences between the same grape, the Nebbiolo, grown in the different areas of Barolo and Barbaresco and, for the first time, recognized it on the wine label.

The «Cantine Sociali» was closed in the 1930’s because of fascist economic rules. In 1958, the priest of the village of Barbaresco, recognizing that the only way the small properties could survive was by joining their efforts, gathered together nineteen small growers and founded the Produttori del Barbaresco. The first three vintages were made in the church basement, then in the winery built across the square where the Produttori is still located.

United once again, the small growers continued the work started by Domizio Cavazza, producing only Barbaresco wine and enhancing both the reputation of the wine and the village. The proud past of Barbaresco and the dedication of its creators have made the Produttori one of the greatest producers in a great wine-producing area; it…«continues to set some of the highest standards of winemaking for any cooperative in the world».


Grape variety: 100% Nebbiolo

Vineyard: Rabajà

Soil: limestone and clay, rich in calcium with sandy veins

Vintage: medium body vintage with intense spicy fruit, tight, powerful tannins and long finish

Vinification: fermentation at 30°c (85°f), 28 days of skin contact time, malolactic completed

Ageing: 36 months in large oak barrels and 12 months in bottles

Bottling date: april 2017

Total production: 17.304 bottles and 1.480 magnums

Food matches: Fresh pasta, meat dishes, particularly lamb and feathered game, mild cheeses

Adriano Marco & Vittorio 2013 Sanadaive; $30, 94 points. Enticing scents of fragrant blue flower, ripe red berry, baking spice, menthol and new leather lead the way. Fresh and elegant, the palate delivers juicy red cherry, raspberry, cinnamon, white pepper and licorice. Firm, polished tannins lend structure and a smooth mouthfeel. Drink 2018–2023. Monsieur Touton Selection.

Albino Rocca 2013 Ovello; $60, 94 points. Violet, menthol, red berry and dark spice aromas lift from the glass along with a hint of toast. The delicious, chewy palate doles out juicy black cherry, vanilla and star anise alongside firm, polished tannins, which impart a soothing, velvety texture, but also give the wine structure. Hold for even more complexity. Drink 2018–2023. de Grazia Imports.

Produttori del Barbaresco 2011 Asili Riserva; $58, 94 points. Lovely scents of rose, iris, wild berry, vineyard dust, baking spice and a hint of new leather come together on this fragrant red. The structured, elegant palate delivers juicy black cherry, licorice, clove and mineral alongside supple tannins that give it a polished, silky texture. Drink 2018–2026.

Poderi Colla 2013 Roncaglie; $80, 93 points. Here’s a classic Nebbiolo that opens with aromas of ripe black-skinned fruit, baking spice, truffle and underbrush. The juicy, expressive palate doles out ripe Morello cherry, crushed raspberry, clove, white pepper and roasted herb. Firm but refined tannins provide the backbone. Drink through 2023.

Musso 2013 Pora; $38, 93 points. Initially closed, this eventually offers alluring aromas of toasted hazelnut, exotic spice, steeped plum and nutmeg. The chewy palate offers juicy Marasca cherry, baking spice, vanilla and a hint of coffee. Velvety tannins lend polished support and a smooth mouthfeel. Drink through 2023.

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