There is no question that the best of the best of Nebbiolo is grown in the Langhe, nestled in Piedmont, Italy. As we look a little close though, the difference of just a couple miles, is the difference between a $10 bottle of wine and a $500 bottle of wine. When it comes to all the small appellations within the region, the two that are talked about the most are Barbaresco and Barolo. Here we will look at the in and outs of Barbaresco and why, for some people, it is home to the best Nebbiolo in the world.
Let us begin with the climate. While they are less than 15 miles apart, the climate in both Barbaresco and Barolo are very different. While some days may seem the same in both appellations, Barbaresco overall is a cooler area. It is situated just south of the Tanaro River, where it gets a more maritime climate. This means that the grapes will ripen earlier and maceration is much shorter. The juice is most known for its softer structure and elegant style because it directly correlates with the cooler climate.
There are some notable vineyards you should look for when shopping for great Barbaresco. While many wines are blended from different vineyards, if you see any of these vineyards listed on the label, you can be confident that you are getting a great bottle of wine. Like Burgundy, from one vineyard to the next could only be 2 or 3 miles, but the difference in quality could be the difference of hundreds of dollars. If you see Asili, Martinenga, Montefico, Montestefano, Albesani, Santo Stefano, Bricco di Neive or Gallina on any bottle of Barbaresco, you know that it is nothing but the best of the best of the appellation.
There are some rules that must be followed to be able to call your wine Barbaresco. Not only must it be Nebbiolo, but the wine must spend at least 2 years in oak, 4 years for Riserva level wines. The alcohol level must be at least 12.5%. Most wines come in around 13.5%-14% alcohol. Notes of cherry, blackberries, truffle, and anise are all classic aromas of Barbaresco. The slight nuances of different flavors along with the unique terroir expressions from specific vineyards is why there are such massive swings in price point.
Just like Burgundy in France, some of the most collectible red wines in the world come from Barbaresco. Most wines are built to age 5–10 years, but some much longer. Nebbiolo is one of the most age worthy wines in the world and is why you can drink some well over 30 years. Some notable producers of Barbaresco are Gaja, Bruno Giacosa, Produttori del Barbaresco, and Orlando Abrigo, but there are a ton of great producers out there making some really amazing wines!
Now that you have a little background, you can be confident walking into the Italian section of your local wine store to find a great bottle of Barbaresco.