Barolo produces many of Italy’s most revered wines, but Barbaresco is where the vintners tend to express the true essence of the Nebbiolo variety—floral in aroma (think: roses and violets), fruitful (think: cherry and licorice), and expressive of the earth (think: truffles, fennel and tar). Barbaresco renditions of Nebbiolo bring all of those elements together in powerful yet beautifully balanced wines.
Barbaresco is produced in Italy’s Piedmont region, in an area of the Langhe due east of Alba and within the communes of Barbaresco, Treiso and Neive (and also an area of San Rocco Senodelvio that formerly was part of the commune of Barbaresco, and now belongs to the commune of Alba).
Barbaresco was granted Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) status in 1966, and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) status in 1980.
The soils in the three communes—primarily calcareous marl—are almost identical, which contributes to the consistency of the wines. The Barbaresco zone produces about 45% of the DOC wine, Neive about 31% and Treiso about 20%.
Also contributing to the uniform quality of Barbaresco wines are the strict DOCG rules governing them. Prior to release, they must be aged for at least two years, and at least half of that time must be spent in oak barrels. For a Barbaresco to attain “Riserva” status, it must be aged for at least four years.
But the aging in winery cellars is just the beginning. The best of the best Barbarescos are quite tannic in their youth, and really don’t hit their “prime” until at least five years—and as many as 10—beyond their vintage.
For those with cellar space… and patience… drinking a well-aged Barbaresco can be one of life’s ultimate pleasures.