Loving Piedmont did not come easy to me. I always appreciated Barolo and Barbaresco, but it took a few years until I was able to really get the wines and connect emotionally, sensually, and intellectually. What I finally learned to love about Nebbiolo is the specific texture and flavors of its fruit and tannins, that unique combination of earthy cherries, tea, tar and spices no other grape can match. I suspect a lot of that comes from the tannins, which explains why I do enjoy the tannic punch of a young Nebbiolo.
Looking back, I definitely remember the 'straight' Barbaresco from Produttori (circa the 2006/7 vintages) being one of the significant steeping stone in my Piedmont romance. It was the first wine that made me long for the flavors of Nebbiolo and I became a fairly regular (if not very extensive) collector of the Produttori's cru bottlings shortly afterwards.
Produttori Dei Barbareco is a cooperative with a venerable history. Despite being a cooperative, it has always been highly regarded, not just for the quality of the wines but for allowing the aficionados something no other house in Piedmont can: a side by side comparison of nine different crus, all vinified the same way. With so many growers in the cooperative, the Produttori can source enough quality grapes from each of the sites owned by the separate growers for a Riserva bottling from each vineyard, and still have enough quality grapes left over for a very fine Barbaresco bottling.
Which explains why I was looking forward so much to the Cru tasting hosted at importer Wine Route - even though I knew it would be tough going. I usually don’t care if young Barolos and Barbarescos are tough to drink as long as they’re expressive, but these really were a challenge. Not that each wine on its own was that difficult to read, but making out comparative differences was a struggle, when the wines are still so young and opaque.
You can’t really go wrong with any of these, but my favorites are, in more or less ascending order: Muncagota, Montestefano, Pora, Rabaja and Asili. The Produttori's site reviews the different crus, but don't expect it to describe any cru as less than classic, complex and expressive. Well, that they certainly are, but the descriptions don't really provide an easy way of understanding the qualitative and stylistic differences between the vineyards. Perhaps no one can encapsulate them and it's probably something that requires a few years tasting through them, anyway, so I'm not exactly criticizing their web site here.
The Barbaresco is from the 2015 vintage and costs 249 NIS. The Crus are all 2014 and all cost 349 NIS.
The nose is very raw and young, with hints of leather, menthol and tar. Palate is readier, very balanced. Despite the tautness and restraint, the potential for complexity is there, even for this quality level. 2015 is reported to be a great vintage and the entry-level Barbaresco is always a good buy at this house.
This is the highest, coolest cru Produttori has. Compared to the Barbaresco, this immediately impresses as a riper, bolder wine with a pronouced earthy character. The palate is a closed fist of power, while the nose is already expressive.
Rio Sordo has the lowest elevation of the crus, so the contrast between the Muncagota is quite marked The nose is more expressive and delicate, a little tarrier with redder fruit and the palate is softer. While I'd never turn it down, if you have access to all nine crus and are not buying all nine, this probably will get the least attention. It will need less years in the cellar, but I doubt that the difference between laying a wine down for three years or five will be a very big influence on purchasing strategy.
The aromas are deeper here, compared to the Rio Sordo, yet somehow the fragrance is what I usually I associate with a lighter hue of fruit. Abundant fruit on the palate makes the wine approachable despite the tannins.
A direct and fruity nose, almost chocolatey but not quite. Both nose and palate are damn expressive with a most savory finish. The Produttori's site says Montefico is austere in youth but it plays a very friendly game right now.
Reserved yet expressive, which is a good combination, and my first impression was of a sauvage character reminiscent of Gevrey. In time, I find it less captivating than its peers.
From here on, we're entering a stretch of what came off at the tasting as the grand crus of the house. Nothing less than outstanding.
A nose to fall in love with, really the most expressive and complex nose so far, already tarry and floral. Concentrated and long and never loses refinement.
Both the Pora and Montestefano are concentrated and complex and show the liberal expressiveness framed by fine reserve that is the hallmark of a great wine, but there are stylistic differences that make life interesting. The Pora shows a greater abundance of minerals. Since it's always popular to compare Piedmont to Burgundy, I'd suggest the Pora plays Pommard to Montestefano's Volnay.
This is one of the most famed and highly regarded of Barbaresco's crus so it's quite apt that the Produttori's offering stands firmly on the same high ground as its three peers. Stylistically, it combines the floral and mineral aspects of the preceding pair.
Descriptors are beside the point here. It's simply a seriously grand and intense wine, almost virtuously so. Alas, I was a little slow to get to the cashier at the end of the tasting and all the bottles had been grabbed. Which makes tasting it one of the greatest and saddest experiences of the year.