Vintage Differences in Barbaresco (and why the heck you should care)

Maybe it’s just us, but sometimes reading about the differences in temperature, rainfall, degree days, and all that jazz in different famous wine growing regions kind of makes my eyes glaze over. I don’t watch the Weather Channel for fun, either – I just want to know what the wine is like in the glass!

Well, in more northerly regions like Italy’s Piemonte, it pays to dig a little deeper. Because the historic towns of Barolo and Barbaresco are so close to each other and they grow the same grapes, you would think that what’s a good vintage for Barolo would be a good one for Barbaresco, and vice versa.

This turns out to not be true at all. Nebbiolo grown in Barbaresco generally doesn’t get quite as ripe as that grown in Barolo – this difference can account for a .5-1% difference in the final alcohol level in the wines. That’s enough that most of us can tell the difference in body and lushness.


Nebbiolo in Barbaresco
In Warm Vintages, a Barbaresco Advantage

You might think that this is a bad thing, and it sometimes is. If the weather is cool or there is too much rain at the wrong time, you can end up with thin wines that don’t taste ripe.

But in a growing region like the Piedmont that has experienced several very warm vintages in the last couple of decades, Barbaresco has a distinct advantage, and this became more evident than ever in the 2011 vintage, which was warmer than normal and blasted the vineyards with a heat wave in August. While in Barolo this kind of heat wave can take grapes from ripe to overripe, boozy and blowsy, in Barbaresco that little bump of heat is a good thing, and makes for wines that are fuller and more approachable when they’re young.

So while you won’t see a lot of crowing about 2011 as a vintage when it comes to the more famous Nebbiolo producers in Barolo, in Barbaresco it’s a vintage you shouldn’t miss. And at Produttori del Barbaresco, with their exacting standards and refusal to bottle single-vineyard wines unless the conditions are perfect, you won’t be able to buy single vineyard wines from them again until 2018!

Check out this line-up of Barbaresco, including three single-vineyard wines, with ratings ranging from 92 to 95 points from Produttori de Barbaresco, priced from $31.98 on a case. Now is the time to snap up a little piece of a beautiful vintage from one of Barbaresco’s best producers you may never have heard of.