There's nothing like a global pandemic to help remind you that one's time on earth is limited. So, knowing that we only live once, why not prioritize wines that we absolutely adore? This month, that adoration refers to the wines of Barbaresco. We last compared these in March 2016, so we were eager to bring six bottles back to the table.
Not surprisingly, they were all outstanding wines, showing that this appellation can be counted on for world-class excellence at any level. From our least expensive to our most pricey, all exhibited a sense of place, allied with fantastic, complex aromas, impressive intensity, and plenty of tannins. Josephine summed up this idea, saying that "these all have a transparent experience" to them.
Our top finisher was a relative value for Barbaresco at "only" $38, and the third-place bottle was an astonishing $20 -- almost unheard of for this prestigious part of Italy. But really, ranking these at all seemed almost pointless, since none dipped below anything that we would give less than an "A" grade for.
While the same producer (a very good cooperative) was featured twice with different vintages, and all bottles shared similarities in flavor/aroma/tannin profile, they also had enough unique qualities that poked out enough to provide different expressions of Nebbiolo. It just also happens that all six expressions made for an extremely enjoyable tasting.
First Place: Reversanti Barbaresco 2015. Tasters detected scents of freshly brewed coffee, dust, chocolate, wet leaves, and a little cream. Had a pleasant stemminess to it, not unlike pine needles underfoot, but was also inviting and elegant. With good acidity, this was integrated and harmonious, with flavors of roses, cherries, blueberries, dairy, and prosciutto. Had a brightness to it. Very well-balanced. Andy felt that "all the flavors have had time to get to know each other", while Ali decided that "it makes me relaxed and then it makes me want to dance." Ali, David, Josephine, and Suzanne's favorite of the night, for a total of 28 points. Andy's bottle. About $38.
Second Place: Luigi Giordano Barbaresco Cavanna 2017. Like dead, rotting leaves on the nose (in a good way), plus wet cement, licorice, eucalyptus, dark spices (mostly caraway), ashtray, and flowers. Ali noted "sour Sambuca", Andy found "nice manly soap", and Josephine detected the "funk of death." David felt that the alcohol stood out a little. Cherries dominated on the palate, with plenty of bright acidity and plenty of tannin, plus a hint of citrus on the finish. Some felt that it tasted a bit older. Had a dark mushroom funk to it, but also expressed brighter fruit, not unlike bubble gum. Andy and Kristin's favorite, with a total of 17 points. Josephine's bottle. About $40.
Third Place: Cantina del Nebbiolo Barbaresco 2016. Floral nose, like stems and carnations, plus dried orange peel, pencil eraser, and dark spices. Kristin was reminded of a "mill smell", while Andy felt it was reminiscent of "new basketball." Flavors of dark spices, dark cherry, red meat, brine, grapefruit, and black coffee. Both elegant and rich, this felt well-crafted. Plenty of acidity. Received 16 points. Ali's bottle. About $20.
Poderi Colla Barbaresco Tenuta Roncaglia Roncaglie 2015. Offered scents of smoldering fire, burnt sugar, Good & Plenty, overturned earth, moss, wet mushroom, and compost. David detected a "hint of death", Josephine found "slight diaper", and Andy was reminded of "campfire you just put out." The sense of higher alcohol led Andy to decide that this was "a huffing wine." Tasters found flavors of beets, gourds, and cherries. Very autumnal. Starts off with fruit, then moves to a little sour note. More body than most others. Intense, with unforgiving tannins, but intriguing at the same time. 10 points. Kristin's bottle. About $72.
Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco 2017. Complex aromas of dark cherries, roses, violets, caramel, oak, high-quality licorice, bitter chocolate, wood smoke, old brown leather, and roasted herbs. Very pretty. Tasted youthful, with plenty of acidity and tannin, suggesting licorice, dark spices, black olives, black pepper, roasted green pepper, tea, and cola on the finish. Elegant. Ali noted that "this got rid of my tension." 10 points. Suzanne's bottle. About $49.
Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco 2015. A little shy initially, suggesting scents of coffee, dried orange peel, marjoram, brown sugar, and roses. With air, a little caramel emerges, plus new shoe leather, wet rocks, cocoa beans, dried flowers, cedar, and a graphite/pencil sharpener quality. Tasted like cherries and perfume, plus cranberries, bitter chocolate, bacon, iodine, and raw meat. Lots of tannin and acidity. 3 points. David's bottle. About $40.