My first visit was at the Martinenga estate of the Marchesi di Gresy. These are well known and well regarded wines that come from an excellent slope within Barbaresco. Essentially surrounded by the crus of Asili and Rabaja, this is a fabulous spot, an amphitheater, steep and southwest facing. Spend some time in the vineyards and that steepness, and the accumulated heat of the day can become very apparent. This is reflected in the wines produced here, which tend to be on the richer, more powerful side of the Barbaresco scale.
There are three Barbarescos produced here, the Martinenga along with Gaiun, which sees 100% oak, of which 30% is new, and the Camp Gros which, like the Martinenga, spends a bit of time in barrique before being moved to botte for 22 months, in contrast to 12 months for the Martinenga. While all of the wines here are well made, there is no doubt that many people will prefer one bottling over the other, primarily due to the impact of the differing wood treatments. Not surprisingly my preference was for the Camp Gros.
Next up on the agenda was a visit to the Cantina del Pino, ably run by Renato Vacca and reflecting Renato in their understated style. Quite the opposite of what one finds in the Marchesi di Gresy wines, here one finds very precisely made yet traditional wines with fruit sourced primarily from the family owned vineyards in Ovello, as well as a bottling from the Albesani cru of the Santo Stefano hillside, which lays several hundred meters east of Ovello in the commune of Neive.
The wines receive traditional fermentations stretching out between three weeks and 30 days in length and then are aged in large format wood for two years before bottling. I found these wines to be quite pretty but I have to admit to wanting a bit more from many of them. They are elegant almost to a fault, and stand in stark contrast to the more powerful wines created at the Marchesi di Gresy. Results of winemaking decisions as well as the difference in the crus, which is as important here as it is in Barolo.
If you want to really delve into the crus of the commune of Barbaresco there is no better place to go than to the Produttori del Barbaresco. Undoubtedly one of the finest coops in the world of wine, the Riserva Barbarescos of Produttori are among the handful of wines I regret not buying more of. These are, year in and year out, fabulous wines and among the best values in the world. And as I mentioned, they are a fabulous case study for the crus. Every cru receives essentially the same treatment in the cellar, a month of time on the skins followed by three years in botte before bottling. The classic Barbaresco, known as the Torre bottling due to the tower on the label sees only 24 months in botte but otherwise is produced in a very similar fashion.
While I was unable to taste all nine crus the day of my visit, I did taste a nice assortment of wines, each excellent in it’s own right. Interestingly there will be no Cru Riserva wines bottled here in 2010 as the Torre bottling was deemed to be not quite where the Produttori wanted it to be, so working within the constraints of their protocols, where they either bottle all of the crus or none of them, the cru wines were all blended back into the 2010 Torre. The result is a fabulous Torre bottling and one you should definitely try but based on the 2011 Langhe Nebbiolo tasted here one that might be soon upstaged! If you are interested in learning about Barbaresco the wines of the Produttori are not to be missed.