Sohpie’s Choice: 2006 Barbaresco by Produttori del Barbaresco

11 Jan

As bonafide Nebbiolophiles, the release of the Produttori del Barbaresco’s wines each year is a big event in our life. The spring tasting of the new vintage is a highlight of our tasting season and it serves as a sort of benchmark for the Nebbiolo bottlings that will follow. The style of the wines has remained unchanged for a generation and while other bottlers have followed fads (new oak and concentration in the 90s), the Produttori’s wines always deliver an overarching indication of vintage in Barbaresco and Langa in general.

Uncorked by Voske

The classic blended Barbaresco generally arrives in the U.S. in the spring along with the samples shipped for the Produttori’s importer’s annual trade tastings. The vineyard-designated wines also arrive then — but only the samples, not the actual bottles for sale. The “cru” wines will arrive in the fall.

But something odd happened last year: the cru wines didn’t show up at the spring tastings. The only wine the Produttori presented was the classic blended Barbaresco from the 2006 vintage.

I wrote to the Produttori’s export manager, Aldo Vacca, a born-and-raised langarolo, and a Nebbiolo insider who worked for many years at the Gaja winery next door before joining the team at the Produttori — from one extreme (modern, luxury) to the other (traditional, affordable).

“We were concerned that the market wouldn’t be able to take our higher priced crus this year,” explained Aldo. By the time that he and I traded messages, the peak of the financial crisis had already passed. But it was at its zenith when it was time for bottling at the winery. He chose to blend his top crus into the classic Barbaresco and the wine’s fate was sealed.

2006 was a good-to-great vintage in Langa and it had certainly attained the level of quality that ensured a flight of cru bottlings from the Produttori.

But the vintage had become his Sophie’s choice: of the two children, he chose the classic blended Barbaresco, the one he felt had the best chance to survive, so to speak, in the market.

Many bloggers have called the wine one of the greatest values from the 2006 vintage in Langa. Aldo blended his top growing sites into the entry-level wine and so consumers are paying less for the best wines he makes. At least, that’s their logic.

Others lamented that he sold the vintage short (literally and figuratively); that he deprived loyal collectors the opportunity to taste and cellar the wine by letting the market — and not the wine — inform his choice.

Produttori’s wines always represent extreme value for the quality of the product. And if you’re a staunch traditionalist like me, you’ll always prefer the classic blended Barbaresco. It’s the truest expression — in my opinion — of the land and the vintage. (For the record, I collect both the classic blended wine, which is sourced primarily in Ovello, and the crus.)

I bought as much of the 2006 that I could afford and I’ve revisited the wine a couple of times over the last year. It’s very tight right now and I probably won’t open another bottle for a few years — at least.

Does this anomalous bottling represent a great value? I don’t think so but only because I believe that the Produttori’s wines always represent the greatest value in Langa today.

Is it a tragedy that Aldo didn’t bottle the crus? We’ll never really know, will we? Like Sophie’s choice, it represents one link in the continuum of this legacy winery. The one child was sacrificed so that the other could blossom.

As a diehard Produttori del Barbaresco fan, I’m very much looking forward to watching the child grow…

—Jeremy Parzen, Austin, December 2011

In 2007, food and wine historian, Italian translator, and rock musician Jeremy Parzen Ph.D. created his blog “Do Bianchi” to offer readers a humanist perspective into the world of Italian wine and food. Since its creation, he has expanded its coverage to include a wide range of food and wine experiences – from a Mexican food tour in the southwestern United States to impromptu dining and wine pairing at the bar at Le Bernardin.

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