17 March 2022
Barbaresco’s textbook 2019 vintage
Bruno Giacosa, Gaja and La Spinetta are three wonderful Barbaresco producers to seek out from the excellent new vintage.
Sitting just east of the town of Alba, Barbaresco often gets overshadowed by its Piedmont neighbour Barolo. Both are based on the Nebbiolo grape, but Barbaresco is often thought of as the source of smoother, more approachable wines due to the region’s nutrient-rich soils. The high-tannin Barolos comes from drier terroir. The style differences mean Barbaresco DOCG’s ageing requirements require one less year of pre-release ageing than Barolos.
But despite this more youthful side, the finest Barbarescos still come with incredibly long lifespans and offer a completely unique and wonderful fine wine experience. And with the region’s small size making them a scare commodity, we believe names like Gaja, La Spinetta, Bruno Giacosa possess all the characteristics of great investment wines.
Barbaresco ageing requirements
We wrote already about how Brunello and Barolo wines should benefit from the growing market for Italian fine wine globally. Italian wine devotees already love Barbaresco but we think they are often underappreciated, and in many cases undervalued, by a global audience. This can mean they often come with lower prices tags, making them, in our view, one of the lower-risk options in Italian wine with the potential for strong growth once the region gains the widespread recognition it deserves.
“2019 was a great vintage in Barbaresco, with consistent weather and very few worrying climate events. Good yields, great quality meant the domaines could indeed work with perfect fruit across the whole appellation. Wines in the glass are deep, energetic with pure ripe fruit but without any excess of some of the recent warm vintages. 2019 resembles the 2016, with more power but at the same time more approachability. A fantastic vintage.”
Andrea Marino, Cult Wines Senior Fine Wine Buyer
Signs of an excellent, classic-style vintage in 2019 adds to Barbaresco’s appeal. Global warming has led to hot, dry spells across Piedmont (and elsewhere) in recent years, challenging growers and leading to mixed results in some vintages such as 2017. But Barbaresco’s 2019 growing season followed a “decidedly conventional course” according to the regional cooperative, Produttori del Barbaresco, despite heatwaves in June and July.
Ideal conditions emerged in the lead up to harvest, as warm days and cool nights allowed growers to delay picking until October when the grapes had reached full phenolic ripeness, promising full flavour profiles and smooth tannins.
“The 2019s are deep, layered Barbarescos that show the heights of what is possible here,” according to Antonio Galloni (Vinous).
*From Vinous’s initial list of scored wines; more expected to follow. Source: Vinous Media
Alongside the 2019 Barbaresco Annatas, some estates will release 2018 Riserva wines after their requisite four years of ageing. We already wrote about how the specific crus in Barolo really displayed their nuance, and the vintage as a whole is deemed even better in Barbaresco.
“Piedmont fans will be happy to learn that 2018 is far better and more consistent in Barbaresco than it is in Barolo,” said Galloni.
Piedmont’s Riserva wines, whether Barolo or Barbaresco, are typified by low production. The 2018 growing season also suffered from hail in places, further reducing quantities. The regional cooperative producer Produttori del Barbaresco also opted to not make any Riservas in 2018 due to disease. All this should concentrate demand toward the best of the 2018 Riservas.
Here, we profile three of our favourite Barbaresco producers. Although their 2019 wines have yet to be scored by leading critics, they regularly rank among the top wines of each vintage, and our own Senior Fine Wine Buyer Andrea Marino came away impressed after a recent trip to the region.
1 Bruno Giacosa
“I can think of no Italian producer whose wines have given me as much pleasure as the Barbarescos and Barolos from Bruno Giacosa. He is one of a handful of producers whose wines I will purchase without tasting them first.” - Robert Parker
One of Piedmont’s finest winemakers, Bruno Giacosa was instrumental in putting Barbaresco on the fine wine map in the middle of the last century. Bruno’s 1964 Barbaresco Santo Stefano was the first ‘cru’ bottling in Barbaresco, making it one of the most cherished bottles in all of Italian wine. As such, it has seen huge price growth in recent years (see below), a sign of the potential for top Barbaresco wines when the world catches on to their brilliance.
The estate is now in the capable hands of Bruno’s daughter Bruna, who carries on the family tradition of refusing to compromise on quality by opting to not bottle a vintage if it doesn’t live up to Bruna’s exacting standards.
- Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Albesani Santo Stefano
- Source of the first ever Barbaresco cru bottling, Santo Stefano in the Neive region remains one of the most sought-after Piedmont vineyards. Steep southwest exposures help ensure ripening in all vintages while the cooling effects of the Tanaro River moderate the heat during the warm years.
- 209.9% - average all-vintage 5-year price growth (Wine Searcher)
- Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Gallina di Neive
- Another southwest facing parcel on a top-class vineyard around the village of Neive, which produces the most structured Barbaresco wines.
- 40.4% - average all-vintage 5-year price growth (Wine Searcher)
- Falleto di Bruno Giacosa Barbareso Asili
- Next to the village of Barbaresco, the Asili cru makes wines of incredible elegance and precision.
- 30.4% - average all-vintage 5-year price growth (Wine Searcher)
- Falleto di Bruno Giacosa Barbareso Asili Riserva
- 43.5% - average all-vintage 5-year price growth (Wine Searcher)
- Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco
- 25.6% - average all-vintage 5-year price growth (Wine Searcher)
Gaja is not just an iconic name in Barbaresco but one of the most revered producers in all of Italian fine wine. The winery’s operations go way back to 1859 when Giovanni Gaja served homemade wines at his tavern in the village of Barbaresco. But it was his great-grandson Angelo who cemented Gaja as a global force in the middle of the 20th century by deftly introducing modernisations while also sticking close to the family’s traditional winemaking methods.
- Gaja Barbaresco Sori San Lorenzo
- Gaja first bottled this cru in 1967, making it one of Barbaresco’s first single-vineyard bottlings. It remains the most powerful of Gaja’s three cru wines.
- 19.2% - average all-vintage 5-year price growth (Wine Searcher)
- Gaja Barbaresco Costa Russi
- Often the most ‘well-rounded’ of Gaja’s lineup of crus, the Costa Russi wines are noted for round tannins and ripe fruit flavours.
- 27.0% - average all-vintage 5-year price growth (Wine Searcher)
- Gaja Barbaresco Sorì Tildìn
- Located on the hillside just above Costa Russi, Sorì Tildìn wines showcase just how elegant and lifted the Nebbiolo grape can be.
- 27.4% - average all-vintage 5-year price growth (Wine Searcher)
- Gaja Barbaresco
- The current generation of the Gaja family select the wines from up to 14 of their vineyards for this benchmark Barbaresco
- 25.8% - average all-vintage 5-year price growth (Wine Searcher)
3 La Spinetta
“La Spinetta’s 2019 wines have great depth of fruit and a sense of purity, combined with elegance and power. I think they are a touch deeper than the 2018s and seem to show a slightly more intense structure; having tasted all the crus, the quality is sky high!” – Andrea Marino
Giuseppe and Lidia Rivetti established the winery back in the 1960s, but it was the next generation who started making top quality single cru Piedmont wines. They began with sparkling Moscato D’Asti in 1977 and then adding still red Barbera d’Asti wines in the 1980s. The family made its first Barbaresco cru, Gallina, in 1995 and added three more crus over the course of the next decade. Even as La Spinetta found success in Barolo and Tuscany, their Barbaresco crus remain among their most exciting wines.
They also make Riserva wines from the Gallina, Starderi and Valeirano crus but only in magnums and in very small quantities. Prices for these gems have soared in recent years with Wine Searcher data showing the Valeirano Riserva prices more than double where they were five years ago.
- La Spinetta Barbaresco Vursu Vigneto Gallina
- The estate’s first Barbaresco cru is a classic of the region in the sense that it offers a sensual, roundness making it approachable relatively early, but a structure of soft tannins ensure a long-aged wine. The 2019 fits this description perfectly.
- 29.2% - average all-vintage 5-year price growth (Wine Searcher)
- La Spinetta Barbaresco Starderi
- Although just next to the Gallina vineyard, the Starderi microclimate results in a unique energetic and elegant expression of Neive Nebbiolo. La Spinetta’s Starderi scored 94 or 95 points from the Wine Advocate from 2015-2018 – we expect another high score from the excellent 2019 vintage.
- 34.9% - average all-vintage 5-year price growth (Wine Searcher)
- Barbaresco Starderi Riserva – approximately 300 magnums made per vintage
- La Spinetta Barbaresco Valeirano
- Soils with high marine life content produce a unique Barbaresco full of minerality. The 2019 bursts with white truffle and balsamic aromas – a highlight!
- 27.9% - average all-vintage 5-year price growth (Wine Searcher)
- Barbaresco Valeirano Riserva – approximately 300 magnums made per vintage
- La Spinetta Barbaresco Bordini
- The estate’s latest Barbaresco addition (first made in 2006) brings a fresh aromatic wine to its line-up.
- 5.0% - average all-vintage 5-year price growth (Wine Searcher)
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