We attended a Barbaresco tasting this week, with Aldo Vacca, who is "Mr. Barbaresco." I spoke with him at length, and a smarter, kinder man (so patient with my questions) one could not hope to meet. If many Italians are like him, then Italy is indeed a wonderful country.
Barbarescos are made from Nebbiolo, as are Barolos, but those are aged longer and are more masculine. Barbarescos, however, are full-bodied and long-lived. They can be spendy ($40-$60 retail).
What did I think of them? I need to be careful here, because the winery owner, the food, our hosts, the other guests were all wonderful. The wines have good structure, with bracing acidity. They have plenty of tannin for aging. And yes, the wines went well with food and we were very glad to have tried them, but . . .
We are SO fortunate here, to have access to the many great wines of the Walla Walla, Tri-cities, and Yakima AVAs; I love the rich fruit and opulent bouquets that can be had in good cabs, syrahs, malbecs, cab francs from those areas . . . These Barbarescos (1996, 2001, and 2005) just didn't bring as much in bouquet and on the palate. They were a little austere compared to our bottles across the border. I wonder if aged Barbarescos from better years would show off a bit more. I wonder how Barolos compare to Barbarescos, and how Brunellos (Sangioveses) are different.
I should go to Italy, and find out!
Note: I learned that the soil in the tiny Barbaresco district is a meter of clay soil over very hard, compacted marl (limestone). When I asked if the roots were able to penetrate the marl, I was told no. I don't like the idea of grape roots' being limited to just three feet of topsoil. In Bordeaux, grape roots have been found to extend far deeper than fifty feet underground! Imagine the minerals that they have access to, way down there.