If Barolo is the King of Wines then we are off to see the Queen, I explained to Vinnie. He looked confused so I explained that the Langhe area in south Piedmont produces several famous wines and one of them is Barbaresco. Like its neighbour, it is made from the Nebbiolo grape. As we travelled through the hills we were fascinated by a landscape dominated by vines laid out in immaculately manicured geometric patterns. Obviously we were not the first to observe this phenomenon because the area has been given UNESCO World Heritage status for this very reason.
The big name in the history of Barbaresco wine is Domizio Cavazza. He was born near Modena in 1856 and studied in Milan and southern France before being appointed to manage a school of viticulture in nearby Alba in 1881. He must have developed a love for the area because in1894 he bought the castle of Barbaresco and also founded a wine-producing cooperative to help the local grape growers. He was the person to put the wines of the area on the map with the publication of his booklet Barbaresco e i suoi vini and from then on the popularity of the wine was assured. This is not to say that the area did not have its ups and downs but in 1966 it achieved DOC status and in 1980 was one of the first three wines to attain the prestigious DOCG designation.
To find out more about Barbaresco we visited the Bruno Rocca winery where we were welcomed by Luisa who, together with her brother Francesco, work with their father to carry forward the family’s winemaking tradition. The earliest records of the family attest to the presence in Barbaresco of their ancestor Francesco who was born in 1834. He is recorded as owning property and vineyards. However, this is not simply a static continuation of what has gone before but is rather a continuing process of evolution. In 1958 Francesco Rocca bought the Rabajà vineyard. This area is renowned for the quality of its grapes and was subsequently designated a cru. In 1978 Bruno Rocca started producing wines under his own name and in 2001 purchased the Currà vineyard, The estate now consists of 15 hectares with an annual production of around 65,000 bottles.
In 1981 Bruno adopted the quill as the company logo. According to Luisa it signifies lightness and the importance of the written word – the connection with wine was not made entirely clear to me but I was here for other reasons and was in a rush to get to the main reason for the visit, namely tasting the current wine offering.
We started with the Barbaresco from 2017 which was matured for 18 months in barrique of French oak. The colour is dark garnet with raspberries and balsamic vinegar on the nose. On the palate the tannins are soft but definitely present with good acidity and flavour of bitter cherry. Try it with a ragu or Italian sausages.
We then moved on to the cru wines that the family produces. The first two come from the Currà vineyard. The 2016 was matured for 12 months in barrique and a further 12 months in big botti both made from French oak. The colour is ruby with hints of garnet. The bouquet is old roses and clementines and in the mouth there are soft tannins with cherries and a hint of salinity.
The second of the cru wines was the Currà Riserva from 2014. This was matured in French oak botti for around thirty months and has a deep ruby colour. On the nose there is blackberry with pepper, leather and aniseed. On the palate there are tannins, but not too dominant, with Granny Smith cooking apples. From the Rabajà vineyard I sampled the third cru, the 2014 Riserva. Again matured in French oak botti for around 30 months, this wine shares the same deep ruby colour. However, the differences in the terroir are reflected in the bouquet of oak, hazelnuts, and dark, ripe blackberry. It has a very long finish with rich notes of dried roses, fresh mint, pepper, cinnamon, strawberries, and blackberries. The tannins are soft. Enjoy it with rich meaty dishes or mature cheese.
Finally, Luisa presented a very special Barbaresco that they only produce in the best years. It is named Maria Adelaide after Bruno’s mother and I sampled the 2013. It spends 12 months in barrique followed by 18 months in botti. Dark ruby in colour, it is meaty and earthy on the nose with liquorice and bitter chocolate notes. It has soft tannins with a good acidity and flavours of cherry and a light chocolate finish.
When leaving the winery, directly in front of you lies the Rabajà vineyard. This is truly a business close to its roots and very much a family affair. Because of this, if you wish to visit Luisa asked that you keep groups small, a maximum of six, and book three weeks in advance. She would also appreciate it if you avoid the harvest at the end of September and through October.