Italy's Burgundy

July 1, 2009

The winemaking area of Piedmont can be compared to some of the philosophies of the producers of Burgundy wine in France. Burgundy producers use only one grape to make their famous red wines: Pinot Noir. Barbaresco also uses only one grape: Nebbiolo. The Burgundians are very proud of their vinous history; they wouldn’t think of utilizing the methods of blending grapes like their counterparts in the Bordeaux region. Likewise, the Barbaresco producers are not about to blend their wines like their Tuscan neighbors do. Many of the Super Tuscan wines use Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and other international varieties. These differences in history and winemaking philosophy form the basis for a spirited rivalry between the Bordeaux and Burgundy producers in France, as well as the Barbaresco and Tuscan producers in Italy.

The French have classified their best Burgundies by the names of the vineyards in which the grapes grow. They call these their crus. Some of the famous names include Chambertin, Bonnes Mare, Clos de Vougeot, and Romanee-Conti. Barbaresco has been evolving over the last 30 years in the same manner. They have identified 24 of their vineyards as their best. Their names include such vineyards as Sori Tildin, Asili, Rabaja, and Bric Turot. It is not uncommon for one vineyard to be owned by multiple producers.

Therefore, consumers looking to experience the best of Barbaresco are faced with many variables including vintage (year), producer, and vineyard. My advice to you would be to choose a producer that you like, and then experiment with its various designations.

Produttori Del Barbaresco is a cooperative of 56 farmers that produces outstanding Barbaresco at affordable prices. They make three different levels of Barbaresco: (1) a Nebbiolo Langhe that is made every year from younger vines and less intense juice (2) a D.O.C. Barbaresco that is made every year (3) nine individual vineyard wines (Asili, Montefico, Montestefano, Muncagota, Ovello, Paje, Pora, Rabaja, and Riosordo) made in only the best vintages.

Another producer to look for is Prunotto. This winery, purchased by the Antinori group in 1989, makes a D.O.C. Barbaresco as well as an excellent “cru” from the famous Bric Turot vineyard.

I also tasted their regional Nebbiolo D’Alba from the Occhetti area with my wife’s favorite stuffed pork chop recipe. I was amazed by the intensity and amber color of this wine.

It tasted like Barbaresco’s that I’ve had for twice the price. It kept on getting better throughout the meal. I would recommend opening this wine for an hour or two before dinnertime.

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