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Barbera d’Asti and Nizza: finest Barbera?

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Barbera d'Asti Nizza masterclass

Barbera Revolution – the producers of Barbera d’Asti believe they are on the cusp of greatness

The President of the Barbera d’Asti and Monferrato Consorzio Tutela, Filippo Mobrici, welcomed us to the old, covered cattle-market in the central square of Nizza Monferrato, the Foro Boario – an excellent, spacious venue for a tasting masterclass of over 100 people.

Foro Boario Nizza Monferrato

The imposing but light and spacious Foro Boario

He explained why their marketing drive is entitled Barbera Revolution: they believe that the quality of Barbera is at the point where it can demonstrate itself as being a great grape, with strong international potential. That’s been reflected in increasing numbers of international award-winning wines, including Wine Enthusiast magazine’s top wine of the year.

Kerin O’Keefe of winemag.com then took us through a proper, seated, horizontal tasting masterclass of Barbera from the same vintage, 2016. She explained that, in her view, of all Italian grapes, Barbera has made the biggest improvements in the last 10-15 years.

Barbera d'Asti masterclass tasting glasses

Glassware teed-up for the tasting masterclass

The tasting comprised 4 flights of 5 wines, beginning with unoaked, straightforward styles of Barbera d’Asti and into progressively oakier and higher-alcohol styles of Barbera d’Asti Superiore. The masterclass was followed by lunch at which the producers showed mainly 2011 vintage, bottle-aged examples of the masterclass wines, and new releases of 2017 youthful styles.

Curiously, especially given our location, we didn’t have a flight of Nizza wines in the masterclass, whose perceived quality led to their elevation in 2014 to a standalone DOCG, rather than just being a recognised sub-zone of Barbera d’Asti. All the tasting notes below on Nizza wines came from walkaround tasting of individual producers’ full ranges that included Nizza. The average quality was notably higher, so Nizza is worth seeking out.

As noted elsewhere, it was a pity to do this masterclass and its subsequent lunch wines hampered with a cold, which likely depressed my scores a little. Fortunately, like the Nizza wines, many Barberas were tasted on prior days.

That included one wine, Il Falchetto’s Bricco Paradiso 2016, which I tasted previously without cold-influence, and scored reasonably closely afterwards with that cold effect: 15.5 / 20 then 15 / 20 or 89 / 100 then 87 / 100. This wine and its big brother Bricco Rocche Nizza Riserva 2016 (16, 91) both clocked-in at a whopping 16% ABV. This raises one of the issues with Barbera – alcoholic ripeness can get high, with many superiore examples topping 15% ABV.

As I discussed after the masterclass with Il Falchetto’s owner-winemaker, Giorgio Fornia, it’s hard for him to keep ABVs down with steep, South-facing vineyards near Nizza and achieve good phenolic ripeness. Nevertheless, for the Bricco Paradiso, I think the 16% didn’t do the wine – which is also in a modern, 80% new French oak style – favours because the freshness was lost a little and the alcohol burn penetrated.

However, the 2011 of the same wine – still 15.5% ABV – showed that a little more restraint can give a balanced, enjoyable and fine wine, that I scored substantially higher than the 2016. I would also like to see these wines in a few years, to see how the wines absorb the new oak influence.

In a similar comparison, we tasted two wines in succession at the masterclass: Tenuta Bricco San Giorgio, Rossomoura Barbera d’Asti 2016 (15, 86) and Tenuta Olim Bauda’s La Rochetta Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2016 (16, 90). Both were 15.5% ABV, but the density and freshness of the Olim Bauda wine demonstrated how a wine at that ripeness can work when done well.

Thinking about these examples, it’s important to say that acidity is an important dimension of Barbera’s style, and that I tend to favour the 13.5-14.5% ABV range for the grape. However, it would be grossly over-simplistic to make statements like “Barbera over 15% ABV doesn’t work”, or that “heavy oak use and the modern style is wrong”, because there are producers who show it is possible to either or both and make objectively good wines.

Background

Barbera is a native of Monferrato and is Piemonte’s most planted grape. With dark bunches, it has naturally high in acidity and low in tannins. It is naturally vigorous and high-producing. 4,129Ha are produced in the Asti DOCG, with 2 sub-zones – Tinella and Colli Astigiani – in addition to the former subzone, Nizza, which is now its own DOCG. The climate is continental.

Barbera d’Asti was a DOC in 1970 and added the G in 2008, with 90% minimum Barbera. Minimum ABVs are 12% and 12.5% for the Superiore. Superiore also requires 6 months in oak. Recent research suggests that the grape only really expresses its aromatics at around 13.5% ABV. 2017 produced 21.1M bottles, around 50% of which was exported, with the US, Germany, UK and Canada the top 4 markets.

History

In the past, Barbera d’Asti was grown in huge volumes for early drinking, taking advantage of its low tannins and high acidity. However, around 25 years ago, a core of producers began to lower yields – the first step to quality.

Interestingly, no specific mention was made of the role of Giacomo Bologna of “Braida” fame, in causing that process to start. As explained in my separate profile, he had 2 visionary beliefs that I believe shaped the category.

First, he thought that Barbera could make quality wine worth bottling, which he commenced in 1961 when no-one else was. Second, that Barbera had affinity for oak so should be matured in barriques to add complexity and structure, when others were using old chestnut botti. Both of these unilateral moves helped create the movement that ultimately defined and elevated Barbera d’Asti.

Nevertheless, looking at the industry as a whole, ensuring MLF completed was then added in the 1980s and 1990s to manage acidity. Oak maturation then followed to drive complexity and ageability – just as Bologna was doing with his leading Bricco dell’Uccellone and Bricco della Bigotta wines.

Initially that led to widespread use a lot of new French oak, but in that last few years, producers are moving to larger oak and mixes of older and newer, to make the oak impact less overt.

That means a range of styles exist today that can be viewed along scales of lower to higher ripeness and often corresponding oak-influence, with fresher, less ripe, stainless steel-matured examples typically for immediate consumption, and riper, bigger, oakier styles for ageing.

In the vineyard

Climate is continental. Soils are either white – calcareous clay-marls, producing full-bodied, deep-coloured wines – south of Asti, or younger, Asti sands in the middle of the Asti-Monferrato soils. Wines from sand tend to have less acidity and are for earlier drinking. Barbera is typically planted in South-facing slopes, in the best sites on each hill.

The masterclass wines were all 2016s, chosen as a reasonably classic vintage following cool 2014 and hot 2015. With a cool early period, but followed by very warm and dry August and September vintage conditions were ideal for Barbera. With good acidities and sugar levels, they regard this as a 5* vintage for the Asti region. Diurnal temperature variations were particularly significant to preserve acidity, especially in September, where up to 15°C shifts were observed.

I wondered about the influence of clonal selection in the recent advancement of Barbera’s quality, given that this approach is often found in regions undergoing significant quality shifts, such as the Douro’s variety assessment programme in the 1980s.

VP, Stefano Chiarlo explained that this has been both an important and relatively recent factor. After the 1980s, the 8084 clone arrived from Torino University to change the bunch structure – giving smaller bunches with thicker skins and heavier polyphenol content. 8084 bunch weights are as low as 200-250g, delivering somewhat lower acidity and much denser, clearer fruit expression.

Following that, at the end of the 1990s and early 2000s, 3-4 more clones came to the fore, so there are now 5-6 clones widely planted, giving more than 30% richness in body vs. clones of the 1960s and 1970s. He added that rootstock research has also been very important, with 428 and SO4 making significant impacts on reducing vigour and yield.

These new clones are also more resistant to botrytis due to thicker skins, so helping to contribute to a 70% reduction in fungal treatments since the 1970s – though green harvest to aerate bunches is a more important factor for reducing fungal attack.

A very interesting new development underway, is creation of a sensory map by region, using micro-vinifications, to give a more accurate profiling of vineyard areas by style. Potentially, that could lead to further sub-zone identification, as defined by commonality of style. After 1-2 years’ work with encouraging initial findings, full, ratified results are expected in 3 or 4 more years.

Wines

Barbera d'Asti tasting wines

All the masterclass tasting Barbera d’Asti wines

The below notes are split into 3 parts: the generally stainless steel-matured, early-drinking Barbera d’Asti, the 0.5% higher minimum ABV – and typically oak-aged – Barbera d’Asti Superiore and finally the newly-promoted standalone DOCG, Nizza.

The first thing to highlight is that the average quality of Nizza wines was noticeably higher than even the superiore category, and I can see why it has become its own denomination. In particular, both Michele Chiarlo’s LaCourt Nizza Riserva 2015 and Cipressi Nizza 2016 stood out. It was the 2015 vintage of Cipressi that stole Wine Enthusiast‘s top spot in 2018. Tenuta Olim Bauda Nizza 2015 was also right up there.

I stumbled upon a quartet of wines from Bava at dinner, following the walkaround tasting where they had been ensconced in the ‘phantom’ second room. I’m glad I encountered these, including their PianAlto Nizza Pian Alto di Crena 2014, but starting with a stupendous 2010 Bava Stradivario Barbera d’Asti Superiore from La Pieve di Cocconata, which was one of the red wines of the entire visit. Their 4 wines all showed very well.

Amongst the superiore wines, Olim Bauda again showed consistent quality, especially with La Rochette Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2011. Likewise, Pico Maccario’s Epico Barbera d’Asti Superiore was good in both vintages, but the 2016 this time edging the 2011.

The straight Barbera d’Asti wines are generally designed for early, easy drinking. Pico Maccario was again up there with Lavignone Barbera d’Asti 2017 the pick of the bunch – and a Tre Bicchiere winner apparently too.

Barbera d’Asti wines

Barbera d'Asti wine bottles

The straight Barbera d’Asti wines shown at the masterclass

Consorzio Own-label, Barbera d’Asti 2016 (15 / 20, 87 / 100)
Single producer’s wine selected each year by the members, to be own-labelled as the Consorzio’s representative wine. 14% ABV.
A: Pale-medium ruby
N: Dusty, nutty older oak. Scented, floral red and black cherry. Hint of herb
P: Creamy touch to brisk savoury, dusty red cherry. Fine, light-moderate tannins and decent length. Refreshing and balanced

Scarpa, Casascarpa Barbera d’Asti 2015 (15.5+ / 20, 89+ / 100)
13.5% ABV.
A: mid-deep ruby
N: more overt vanilla-clove oak, dusty with lifted herb tones. Rich, ripe red cherry
P: Crisp acidity, pure red cherry, some austere vanilla-cream lift. Fine, light tannins. More about the acidity and oak at present, but good length and some depth. May develop

Il Falchetto, Pian Scorrone Barbera d’Asti 2017 (15 / 20; 86 / 100)
Stainless steel for early drinking. 14.5% ABV.
A: Deep purple
N: Fresh leather, fresh earth and spice tones to ripe black cherry
P: Dry, ripe black cherry. Spice and some coal smoke. Light-moderate, slightly grainy tannins. Touch of finish bitterness

Bera, Barbera d’Asti 2016 (15 / 20; 87 / 100)
Stainless steel. 14% ABV.
A: Mid-purple
N: Broad, earthy-spicy, with some chocolate character. Dried herb lift to red cherry, fresh fruit
P: Juicy, precise red cherry. Spice, chocolate and old leather tones. Grainy, moderate tannins. Creamy, medium length finish. Warming touch

Bava, Libera Barbera d’Asti Pian Alto 2017 (16 / 20; 90 / 100)
13.5% ABV.
A: Glossy, mid ruby-purple
N: Precise black cherry. Some touches of orange peel lift. Subtle spice and nutty oak
P: Medium-full body. Bright acidity. Ripe red and black cherry. Some spice. Supple, fine, light-medium tannins. Medium long

Ivaldi Dario, Ciahina Barbera del Monferrato Frizzante 2016 (14.5 / 20; 85 / 100)
13% ABV.
A: Pale-medium ruby without overt bead
N: Smoky-meaty. Spiced. Nutty. Black ripe fruit beneath
P: Delicately frizzante, black cherry and smoke. Unusual. Some dried herb to finish

Ivaldi Dario, Niccona Barbera d’Asti 2017 (15 / 20; 87 / 100)
1 year in tanks. 14% ABV.
A: Deep purple
N: Bitter almond and dried herb-laced black cherry and mulberry fruit
P: Juicy black cherry and bitter dried herbs. Chocolate. Spice. Bright acidity. Slightly chalky, moderate tannins. Fair length

Tenuta Olim Bauda, La Villa Barbera d’Asti 2017 (15.5 / 20; 89 / 100)
No oak. Single vineyard. 6.8 g/L TA, 14.5% ABV.
A: Mid ruby-purple
N: Dried herbs, crushed rock and slightly baked black cherry. Good precision overall
P: Ripe, not overripe red and black cherry. Subtle spice and some dried thyme. Bright to brisk acidity. Moderate, slightly grainy tannins. Fair length with some warmth

Tenuta Olim Bauda, La Villa Barbera d’Asti 2017 (16* / 20; 90* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. 14.5% ABV.
A: Mid purple
N: Floral violets and black cherry. Some liqueur fruit. Earthy-dusty tones
P: Brisk acidity and juicy black cherry. Light-moderate, slightly chalky tannins. Spicy finish with a touch of warmth

Ricossa, Barbera d’Asti 2016 (15* / 20; 87* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. 100% Barbera. Calcareous soils between Nizza and Agliano Terme. Stainless steel. 30,000 bottles. 13.5% ABV.
A: Mid ruby-purple
N: Dusty, somewhat savoury red cherry. Not huge aromatic intensity, but some spice and scented lift.
P: Light tannins and fresh, lively acidity. Mid-weight spicy red cherry. Straightforward

Garrone Evasio, Barbara d’Asti 2016 (15* / 20; 86* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. 100% Barbera. Clay soils at 280m in Montemagno. 10-12 days maceration. 12 months in bottle. 3,500 bottles. 14% ABV.
A: Mid purple
N: More intense, slightly compote black cherry.
P: Brisk to crisp acidity. Light-moderate, slightly chewy tannins. Black cherry and spice. More notable alcohol through the finish. Heavier, but not necessarily better

Vinchio e Vaglio Serra, Vigne Vecchie 9950 Barbera d’Asti 2016 (15.5* / 20; 88* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. 100% Barbera. White, sandy soils at 250-300m. 10 days maceration. 9 months in bottle. 25,000 bottles. 14.5% ABV.
A: Mid ruby, with purple glints
N: Red and black cherry.
P: Supple, medium-full body, with medium tannins through the finish. Warming, but with good flavour density. Fair length

Caudrina, La Solista Barbera d’Asti 2016 (15.5* / 20; 89* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. Romano Dogliotti. 100% Barbera. Sandy soils in Nizza. 36-48 hours cold soak. 10-12 day fermentation and maceration. 4 months in bottle. 6,000 bottles. 14.5% ABV.
A: Pale-medium ruby
N: Some baking spice to floral red cherry. Touch of dried herb
P: Brisk acidity. Delicate, fine tannins. Red cherry and a longer, supple finish. Delicate

Caudrina, La Solista Barbera d’Asti 2011 (15.5* / 20; 89* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. By Romano Dogliotti. Sandy soils. 14.5% ABV.
A: Deep black-garnet
N: Meaty, old leather and balsamic development. Some stony mineral
P: Full body. Spicy and earth. Rich and full bodied. Polished tannins but quite firm. Quite sophisticated, if not that long

Terre Astesane, Anno Domini Barbera d’Asti 2016 (15* / 20; / 87* 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. 100% Barbera. Calcareous soils at 230m in Mombercelli. 12 days maceration in stainless steel. 12 months maturation in stainless steel. 10 months in bottle. 4,000 bottles. 15% ABV.
A: Pale-mid purple
N: Earthy-spicy. Red and black cherry. Savoury
P: Spicy, full bodied but with rich black cherry. Warming alcohol, but holds it OK. Bright-to-brisk acidity. Only moderate length, however

Michele Chiarlo, La Orme 16 Mesi Barbera d’Asti 2016 (15.5* / 20; 89* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. 100% Barbera. Astian sands soils in Castelnuovo Calcea, Montaldo Scarampi and Agliano Terme fruit. Stainless steel fermentation at 27-32°C, with 10 days gentle maceration. 16 months maturation pre-release. 350,000 bottles. 5.95 g/L TA, pH 3.54, 13.45% ABV.
A: Pale-medium ruby
N: Integrated, nutty oak. Red cherry.
P: Medium-full bodied, with more roundness to support the brisk acidity. Supple, light tannins. Integral nutty oak with ripe cherry character. Medium-long

Michele Chiarlo, Perla Barbera d’Asti 2017 (15* / 20; 87* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. 13% ABV.
A: Mid purple
N: Slightly jammy black cherry with some floral tones
P: Juicy, brisk acidity. Ripe and rounded black cherry and blackberry. Gentle spice but mostly fruit-forward. Medium to medium-long, with a touch of warmth

Coppo, Campo da Rouss Barbera d’Asti 2016 (15.5* / 20; 88* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. Limestone and calcareous clay at 250m, in Castelnuovo Calcea. Temperature controlled fermentation with pumpovers. 12 months in French barriques. Magnum. 70,000 bottles. 14.5% ABV.
A: Pale-medium purple
N: Floral black cherry. Subtle toasty-nutty background oak
P: Intense black cherry. Rich. Bright-to-brisk acidity with a roundness. Light, chalky tannins. Medium-long. Touch of warmth. Attractive

Marchesi Alfieri, La Tota Barbera d’Asti 2017 (15.5* / 20; 88* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. 14.5% ABV.
A: Deep black-purple
N: Inky, saturated, ripe blackberry. Some violets. Chocolate spice
P: Juicy, ripe, blackberry, with a sweet fruit profile. Slightly grainy, light-moderate tannins. Rich and easy. Good length if not the most complex

Marenco, Bassino Barbera d’Asti 2017 (15.5* / 20; 88* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. 14% ABV.
A: Deep black-purple
N: Black cherry, smoky, some dark chocolate and spice
P: Polished black cherry. Subtle spice. Fairly firm, chewy tannins. Bright acidity. Warming finish

Pico Maccario, Lavignone Barbera d’Asti 2017 (16* / 20; 90* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. Tre Bicchieri. 13.5% ABV.
A: Mid-deep purple
N: Violet scent to pure black cherry. Some flint touches
P: Bright to brisk acidity. Savoury black cherry. Ripe fruit. Supple, fine, light-medium tannins. Supple, bright and ripe, but not overripe. Easy and integral. Medium-long

Barbera d’Asti Superiore wines

Barbera d'Asti Superiore wine bottles

Some of the best of the masterclass Barbera d’Asti Superiore wines

Consorzio Own-label, Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2015 (15.5 / 20; 88 / 100)
Single producer’s wine selected each year by the members, to be own-labelled as the Consorzio’s representative wine. 14% ABV.
A: Pale-medium ruby-purple
N: Some breadth of fresh leather and bitter almond hints, with nutty older oak tones and only hints of vanilla
P: Ripe and rich black cherry with a touch of bitter red cherry too. Moderate acidity and full body give a powerful style. Light to moderate, fine tannins. Savoury, dusty and nutty character through the finish. Touch of warmth. Not the most complex, but well made

Il Falchetto, Bricco Paradiso Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2016 (15.5 / 20; 89 / 100)
Nizza region. 2.2 x 0.65m planting at 6,000 vines. Pruned to 11 buds then de-bud alternate buds to give space and aeration to each bunch, and keep yield per vine low. 32-33HL / Ha. 15 months in 80% new and 20% 2nd use French oak, air-seasoned for 5 years. Oak for tannins as well as flavour, as Barbera has relatively low tannins. 16% ABV.
A: Deep black-purple
N: Overt clove-cinnamon oak. Ripe and dense, liqueur black cherry with some smokiness
P: Inky, powerful, spiced. Hot mid-palate. Fairly firm, chalky wood tannins. Warming finish

Il Falchetto, Bricco Paradiso Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2016 (15* / 20; 87* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. Calcareous limestone and clay at 320m in Agliano Terme. Stainless steel fermentation for 1 month. 14 months in 80% new French barriques. 6 months in bottle. 13,000 bottles. 16% ABV.
A: Opaque, deep ruby-purple
N: Dried and liqueur griottes and black cherry. Chocolate and clove oak.
P: Firm, grainy tannins. Hot finish. Bright acidity and liqueur blackberry. Chocolate oak. Alcohol-dominant finish

Il Falchetto, Bricco Paradiso Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2011 (16* / 20; 90* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. 15.5% ABV.
A: Opaque, deep ruby
N: Liqueur red cherry with some vanilla lift. Some violets. Integral clove
P: Ripe and somewhat sweet mixed cherry. Supple, medium tannins. Good freshness. Some alcohol warmth, but much better balanced than the 2016

Bava, Stradivario Barbera d’Asti Superiore La Pieve de Cocconato 2010 (17 / 20; 94 / 100)
13.5% ABV.
A: Mid-garnet
N: Complex, nutty, spicy character with tertiary earth and chocolate notes. Nicely integrated oak with meatiness. Dried cherry
P: Savoury, smoky-spicy dried red fruit with flinty, stony minerality. Resolved light-medium tannins. Somewhat warming finish, but a fine wine

Gallo, La Cesa Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2015 (15.5 / 20; 89 / 100)
Vines over 25 years. Selection of grapes for small tank. 1 week maceration. After MLF, half in stainless steel, half in medium-toast French oak for 1 year, before blending and 1 more year in bottle. 14.5% ABV.
A: Mid-deep purple
N: Integral, nutty-toasty oak with some meaty overtones. Some floral hints to black cherry
P: Woody, nutty-spiced entry, then some richness of red and black cherry. Bright not brisk acidity, with fine, light-medium tannins. Oak toasted medium-long finish

Berta Paolo 1842, 175 Vendemmie Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2016 (?? / 20; ?? / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. Calcareous limestone and sandstone. 100% Barbera. White, calcareous limestone and sandstone soils with some clay at 270m in Nizza. Stainless steel fermentation with 20 days’ maceration. 12 months in 50% barriques and 50% 2.5kL botti. 3,000 bottles. 14.5% ABV.
A: Pale-medium ruby
N: Touch of earthy spice. Red cherry and some dried cherry character. Complex
P: Red cherry, rich fruit. Light medium, chalky tannins.

Bersano, Cremosina Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2016 (16* / 20; 90* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. Calcareous limestone and clay at 180m in Nizza. 8 day fermentation at 26°C with pumpovers. 12 months in large botti. 2 months in bottle. 20,000 bottles. 14.5% ABV.
A: Pale-medium ruby
N: Ripe, spicy, red cherry and some dried cherry character. Black cherry scent too. Touch of earth. Complex
P: Ripe, sweet-sour red cherry. Medium, fine tannins. Warming, but complex.

Araldica, Castelvero Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2016 (15.5* / 20; 88* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. Calcareous limestone and clay at 350-400m in Acqui Terme. 12-day fermentation and maceration at 26-27°C, then MLF. 12-13 months in 75% botti and 25% barriques. 6 months in bottle. 45,000 bottles. 14.5% ABV.
A: Mid-deep purple
N: Bramble fruit. Some spicy, earthy notes and nutty oak tones. Serious
P: Rich and full-bodied. Bright blackberry fruit. Spice. Moderate, fine-grained tannins, with a touch of chalk. Fair length

Marchesi Alfieri, Alfiera Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2016 (16+* / 20; 90+* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. Calcareous limestone and clay at 250m in San Martino Alfieri. 3 week maceration with pumpovers and rack & returns. MLF in 33% new French oak then 15 months’ ageing. 6 months in bottle. 19,200 bottles. 14.5% ABV.
A: Deep purple
N: More overt smoky oak. Crushed rock and spice. Brooding style
P: Black fruit. Smoky and spicy. Savoury. Fairly firm, chalky tannins. Warm, but with good density. Bright to brisk acidity. Decent length

Marenco, Ciresa Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2016 (14.5* / 20; 85* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. First bottle corked. 2nd sample tasted. 100% Barbera. 320m in Strevi. Temperature controlled fermentation then racking to 50% French barriques and 50% larger oak. 6 months in bottle. 3,000 bottles. 14.5% ABV.
A: Mid-deep purple
N: Some floral lift over slightly liqueur black fruit. Earthy-spicy
P: Juicy black fruit. Rustic, fairly firm tannins. Some earthy-spice. Medium-long

Marenco, Ciresa Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2010 (16* / 20; 91* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. 13% ABV.
A: Deep garnet
N: Toffee oak and nutty spice. Dried red and black fruit. Some dried tobacco development
P: Juicy dried red fruit and touches of balsamic. Supple, mature, light tannins. Brisk acidity. Medium-long length, maximum, but elegant and complex

Pico Maccario, Epico Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2016 (16* / 20; 91* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. Mostly clay soils at 180m in Mombaruzzo. 10-15 days maceration. 12-14 months in barriques. 8 months in bottle. 5,000 bottles. 15% ABV.
A: Mid purple
N: Clove-cinnamon sweet oak. Some blackberry. Spiced. Dried herb
P: Black cherry, rich sweet fruit. Bright acidity. Moderate, chalky tannins. Blackberry. A little warming, but well-enough integrated

Pico Maccario, Epico Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2011 (16* / 20; 90* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. Barriques.
A: Deep black-garnet
N: Chocolate clove oak. Dried black cherry. Dense and deep with some fresh and old leather
P: Sweet, dried black cherry. Spicy earth and chocolate. Medium, chalky tannins. Warming finish. Bright not brisk acidity. Fair length

Tenuta Bricco San Giorgio, RossoMora Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2016 (15* / 20; 86* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. Calcareous, marine sedimentary marl at 270m in Vinchio. Stainless steel fermentation with 10 days gentle maceration at 16-18°C. 12 months in barriques. 6 months in bottle. 2,000 bottles. 15.5% ABV.
A: Medium purple
N: Nutty clove oak. Jammy black cherry. Spiced
P: Jammy red and black fruit. Slightly rustic moderate to firm tannins. Warming to hot alcohol finish

Tenuta Olim Bauda, La Rochette Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2016 (16* / 20; 90* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. 100% Barbera. Sedimentary, Pliocene sandstone in Incisa Scapaccino. Stainless steel fermentation. 18 months in large oak. 6 months in bottle. 25,000 bottles. 15.5% ABV.
A: Mid-deep ruby-purple
N: Integral, spiced oak and clove. Earth. Dense black and red cherry fruit
P: Liqueur red and black cherry fruit. Chalky, moderate tannins. Brisk acidity. Decent length. Holds its alcohol much better than the previous

Tenuta Olim Bauda, La Rochette Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2011 (16* / 20; 91* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. 14.5% ABV.
A: Mid-deep ruby-garnet
N: Mellow, dried tobacco and old leather touches. Integral clove tones. Subtle spice. Well-integrated and maturing nicely
P: Sweet, fresh and dried red cherry. Varietal spice. Clove and some dried tobacco. Supple, medium tannins that are well resolved. A little warming through the finish. Brisk acidity

Franco Roero, Sichei Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2016 (15.5* / 20; 88* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. Calcareous marl with clay at 260m in Montegrossi d’Asti. Temperature-controlled fermentation at 26°C with 25 days’ maceration with pumpovers. 18 months in barriques. 4 months in bottle. 10,000 bottles. 16% ABV.
A: Mid-deep black-purple
N: Intense cedar-clove oak. Slightly baked black cherry beneath
P: Liqueur black cherry fruit. Fairly-firm, chalky tannins. Brisk-ish acidity. Clove spice. Warming but not too hot finish

Gianni Doglia, Genio Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2016 (15.5* / 20; 89* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. Calcareous limestone and clay at 350m in Castagnole Lanze. 15 days’ post-fermentation maceration. 20 months maturation in 70% barriques and 30% 500L tonneaux. 5,000 bottles. 15% ABV.
A: Mid-deep purple, with some opaqueness
N: Integral clove to chocolate and ripe black cherry. Some vanilla lift
P: Juicy acidity. Ripe but not too jammy cherry. Fairly-firm, fine tannins. Medium-long

Cascina Castlet, Passum Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2016 (15.5* / 20; 89* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. Calcareous limestone and clay soils at 280m in Costigliole d’Asti. 15-20 days’ maceration. 9-10 months in 50% French barriques and 50% larger barrels. 6 months in bottle. 30,000 bottles. 15.5% ABV.
A: Mid purple
N: Liqueur fruit with some floral lift. Papery, woody oak. Mixed berry and dried berry fruit
P: Rich black fruit. Broad and not so focused. Firm, but fine tannins. Warming finish, but handles the alcohol OK

Cascina Castlet, Passum Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2011 (??* / 20; ??* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. 15% ABV.
A: Deep garnet
N: Meaty, cinnamon and clove. Dried black cherry. Some dried herb
P: Rich and full bodied. Fairly firm, chalky tannins that are starting to resolve. Some warmth through the finish. Meaty-chocolate, with dense cherry fruit

Vinchio e Vaglio Serra, Insynthesis Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2011 (15.5* / 20; 89* / 100)
*Tasted with a bit of a cold. 15.5% ABV.
A: Deep black-garnet
N: Red and black cherry. Clove-chocolate oak with some fresh leather development
P: Spicy, warming, dried red and black cherry. Smoky mineral and spicy clove oak. Moderate, grainy tannins. Warming, medium-long finish

 

Nizza wines

Il Falchetto, Bricco Roche Nizza Riserva 2015 (16 / 20; 91 / 100)
16% ABV. 24HL / Ha. €40 / bottle RRP.
A: Mid-deep ruby-purple
N: Dark chocolate and clove oak. Rose touch and dense black cherry. Liqueur touch
P: Liqueur black cherry. Spice. Espresso and dark chocolate. Hot finish. Fine grained, fairly-firm tannins. Vanilla finish

Michele Chiarlo, Cipressi Nizza 2016 (16.5 / 20; 93 / 100)
1 year in large botti.
A: Mid ruby
N: Broad, fresh leather and some bitter almond. Very Italian and traditional. Fresh and dried red cherry. Some dustiness
P: Earth, crushed rock, spice and nuttiness. Old oak breadth. Some old chocolate. Lots more on the palate than nose. Medium, fine tannins and fresh acidity. Long with a fresh leather finish

Michele Chiarlo, LaCourt Nizza Riserva 2015 (17+ / 20; 94+ / 100)
50% new barriques and 50% large oak. 14% ABV.
A: Mid purple-ruby
N: Nutty oak, well integrated to spice, fresh and baked earth, some grilled meat hints and black cherry. Some baked tones to fruit, but works in the style
P: Dense black cherry. Smoke, crushed rock and oak spice. Fine, moderate tannins that will still need some time to resolve. Warming but not hot finish. Needs time. Fairly fresh

Bava, PianAlto Nizza Pian Alto di Crena 2014 (16.5 / 20; 92 / 100)
14% ABV.
A: Mid-ruby garnet
N: Grilled meat and nutty oak. Some dried sage. Spice. Hint of chocolate
P: Medium body. Some spice and vanilla tones to dried, sour red cherry. Some nuttiness. Fine, light tannins and brisk-to-crisp acidity. Long-ish, slightly warming finish

Coppo, Pomorosso Nizza 2016 (15.5 / 20; 89 / 100)
A: Deep ruby
N: Fudgy caramelisation. Toasty-grilled cheese – like a mac-cheese just out of the oven. Ripe, dense, broad black fruit
P: Sweet black fruit. Rich and full-bodied. Alcohol spice and chocolate. For the US market? Fairly fine, moderate tannins. Medium-long

Ivaldi Dario, 1613 Nizza 2015 (15.5 / 20; 89 / 100)
1 year in botti. 14% ABV.
A: Deep ruby-purple
N: Subtle nutty oak, toasted bacon fat, meat and spiced, dried black cherry
P: Brisk acidity. Moderate, grainy tannins. Smoky, spiced grilled meat. Quite long

Tre Secoli, Nizza 2014 (16 / 20; 90 / 100)
12-18 months in small and large oak. 14.5% ABV.
A: Pale-medium ruby with some purple glints
N: Gently aromatic, integrated vanilla-clove oak. Ripe, scented red and black cherry. Subtle spice. Really harmonious nose
P: Ripe black cherry. Chocolate and clove mid-palate. Some stony character. Ripe and rounded with bright acidity. Full-bodied with an espresso medium-long to long finish. Some chalkiness to the light-medium tannins

Tenuta Olim Bauda, Nizza 2015 (16.5+ / 20; 93+ / 100)
Separate DOCG since 2014. Only South-facing vineyards permitted. 2.5kL French botti. 14.5% ABV.
A: Mid-deep ruby
N: Chocolate-clove oak currently dominating, but with rich, plush red and black fruit beneath. Lifted tones
P: Juicy, vibrant acidity. Chalky, fairly firm tannins. Spicy but integral. Smoky mineral. Savoury cherry and spice. Long. Touch of warmth, but pretty fine stuff

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