March 23, 2005

Tasting Some 2000s from Produttori del Barbaresco

This past Saturday I went down to Pastaworks on Hawthorne here in Portland for a little tasting of Produttori del Barbaresco wines with Aldo Vacca, Produttori’s Managing Director.

Produttori del Barbaresco is one of the top grape growers’ cooperatives in the world. Typically, co-ops pump out industrial quantities of mediocre wine. They are common in Europe as a steady outlet for grape growers who want to farm rather than produce wine. Over the years, more and more growers have been bypassing the co-op to produce their own wine, often with tales of how their special parcels were wasted in the co-op blending process. Yet many co-ops continue to thrive and the evidence is littered on supermarket shelves the world over.

High quality co-ops like Produttori del Barbaresco aren’t common, but perhaps they should be. In areas like Italy’s Piedmont, home to Barbaresco and its sibling Barolo, vineyards typically aren’t enormous and individual vineyard holdings can be divided over many growers. Think of Burgundy, but with vineyards scattered around hillsides over a larger area. So it makes sense that there would be a gathering place for growers to combine their produce to craft larger amounts of high quality wine. Production for many of Produttori’s finest bottlings is still relatively low, so I think of how tough some of the growers might have it on their own.

So on a whirlwind tour of America, Aldo Vacca is graciously spending his Saturday afternoon pouring single vineyard bottlings from the 2000 vintage. 2000 has a sterling reputation as a warm vintage producing riper wines than the norm. Everywhere I look I see the Wine Spectator’s “100 point” rating for the vintage in this part of northwest Italy. (Don’t ask me how one settles on a point rating for an entire vintage, no less a perfect rating.) These wines back up the reputation, both as a warm vintage that is very good if not great. In fact, tasting these wines left me a bit speechless – no mean feat. The wines are just that good and the prices, thanks to direct importing locally, are pretty darn cheap for the quality much less what you might pay in other towns across the US.

Herewith, the requisite tasting notes:

2000 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco
This is the normale bottling, a blend of some declassified wine from the single vineyard crus with the bulk coming from other holdings throughout the region. I tasted this a few weeks ago but add it here for comparison. Nice though atypically fruity Barbaresco with firm acid and tannin structure, some fragrance but not actually that impressive right now. For the money – low $20s locally – and the likelihood it will age for a few years, it’s still a good deal. Aldo says there are usually around 150,000 bottles made, which translates to approximately 12,500 cases.

2000 Produttori del Barbaresco “Pora”
Sandy soil, typically a more precocious wine. This year is no exception. Forward and lush, fragrant fruity aroma with some nice floral and tar notes, round in the mouth and actually tasting really good now. Not very tannic, this is for earlier consumption but probably will last longer than it appears.

2000 Produttori del Barbaresco “Moccagatta”
This bottling typically shows some mint or other pleasant green note, but that’s harder to find in such a ripe year. Gorgeous wine, the most typical and my favorite of the line up for its potential. Shy aromatically at first, then classic berry, rose, and tar aromas. Firmer structure than the others, both tannin and acid, with nice flavors and just a hint of spearmint. Needs time.

2000 Produttori del Barbaresco “Montefico”
Less than 5,000 bottles of this made, compared to around 15,000 with the other crus here. This wine is the most tannic as Barbaresco typically shows in its youth. Nice cherry and tar flavors, long and savory with great promise.

2000 Produttori del Barbaresco “Montestefano”
The big boy is bigger still in this large-scaled year. Tasted blind, I might have guessed this is a really good Chateauneuf du Pape. The aroma is roasted and warm, with an opulence missing in the other wines. I really liked this wine, but it’s not typical Barbaresco. Full and rich on the palate with some alcoholic heat, long and warm with a mélange of fruit and earth flavors. The wine has structure but it’s hidden underneath the wine’s fat profile. Very nice stuff.

Prices? Pastaworks is charging $35 a bottle for these, with at least one other retailer locally priced down to $32. Not chump change, but if you want top quality wine that can age, these prices are bargains.

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