It seems like forever since we've had a Barbaresco in the store and we wouldn't have the Franco Serra model if we hadn't poked and prodded our distributor for "other types." The Barbaresco, it turns out, is a new addition to the local portfolio.
Barbaresco is one of the truly great Italian reds...period. It gets short shrift because, according to wine industry royalty, it doesn't compare to Barolo. I get it. Barolo is massive. Barbaresco is lighter. That's actually the selling point for some of us.
That's not to say Barbaresco is light red wine. We have the Barbera and Dolcetto from Franco Serra in the store and they are most definitely light. Body-wise, Barbaresco may be more like a hefty Sangiovese. The Dolcetto, by the way, has become quite popular here so, by all means, give it a try.
So here's what we learned about Barbaresco from the Hugh Johnson/Jancis Robinson The Concise World Atlas of Wine:
Barbaresco is a single varietal Piemontese wine made from the same Nebbiolo grape as Barolo, the greatest red wine of Italy. Prior to the 1850's it's style was light and sweet. Then French-style winemaking overcorrected that effort and turned it very dry and heavily oaked. Around 1970 modern winemaking began its intervention in this history resulting in the following changes:
1. Grape picking was greatly improved by measuring phenolic ripeness.
2. Stainless steel fermentation in temperature controlled tanks brought out the inherent fruit in wine grapes.
3. Shorter oak aging in smaller barrels became a normative qualifier for estate wines.
4. Grape maceration was accomplished in days and weeks rather then over months, again, to make a lighter, fresher tasting wine.
Barbaresco became more complex with layers of leafy lighter red berry flavors over smokey jammy concentrated leather and spice. The tannins in the wine no longer overwhelm it but rather frame and refresh the wine's inherent complexity.
Want to taste it? Stop in this Saturday afternoon. No promises, but...we just may have it open!