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.
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.