Visiting Piemonte last week provided a valuable lesson in understanding the styles and quality levels of Barolo and Barbaresco, the supreme expressions of the late ripening, often finicky Nebbiolo grape.

As you enter the gilded village of Barbaresco, signs of wealth abound, including the entrance to the venerable Angelo Gaja's estate. Gaja can best be credited for his passion in putting Barbaresco on the map as a top quality DOCG for Nebbiolo.

Of particular interest and amazement was the afternoon spent with Aldo Vacca at the Barbaresco cooperative, Produttori del Barbaresco, which Vacca has managed for the past decade. The notion of a cooperative and Barbaresco ( the "queen" of Nebbiolo), did not seem to mesh to me. What a surprise I was in for!

Bottle image via ablegrape/FlickrCC