Yesterday was the familiar, but today is somewhat less so. We’re back in Italy, in Piedmont, but instead heading southwest from Alba, we’re going in the opposite direction where we can find this Cantina del Pino Barbaresco DOCG 2006.
I wrote a little about Piedmont when I covered the Dolcetto d’Alba not so long ago, but only really to say that’s where Alba is located. It’s a hugely important wine region in the northwest of Italy, best known for three grapes: Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto. Nebbiolo is the cornerstone grape of a dozen DOC/DOCGs, and is perhaps most famous when produced on Barolo or Barbaresco. Barbera is somewhat more rustic, and while widely produced, is very much the second grape of the region. Dolcetto is third in the rankings, and usually made into a drink now style of wine. Piedmont is also home to two styles of sparkling wine, Asti and Mostaco d’Asti, as well as some white varieties which represent a small but growing percentage of production.
Barbaresco itself is a DOCG (since 1980), situated to the east of Alba in the Langhe area. A hilly region, the soils are calcareous marl. The climate is similar to the rest of Piedmont, with hot summers, cold winters and fog, though it is moderated by the river Tanaro.
As the wines of Barbaresco are nearly always viewed as a counterpart to neighbouring Barolo, it’s worth noting how the wines differ. Both are made from Nebbiolo, but the conditions in Barbaresco ripen the grapes sooner and give lighter wines. As a result, Barbaresco is a lighter style, and the ageing requirements are a year in oak and two years total, a year less than Barolo. The lighter body does not take away from the tannins and acidity for which Nebbiolo is known, though Barbaresco matures rapidly and is not meant for the extented ageing commonly associated with Barolo.
I’ve written briefly about Nebbiolo in the context of Jasper Hill, but here again are the basics: early budding, late ripening, susceptible to poor fruit set with thin but tough skins, it produces lightly coloured wines of high acidity and high tannin levels. In Piedmont, in addition to Barbaresco and Barolo, it produces several other DOC/G wines, as well as many other less regulated local wines as varietals and blends. Outside of Piedmont, it is also grown in Valtellina where it is known as Chiavennasca, but otherwise it is little grown in the rest of Italy. In the New World it has many fans but it is a challenging grape to grow. There are plantings in the Pacific Northwest of the USA, Argentina, and in cooler areas of Australia, but only a few stand out examples.
Cantina del Pino is one of the oldest producers in Barbaresco. The vineyards were established nearly a hundred years ago by the former director of the Royal Enological School in Alba, Domizio Cavazza, who first called wine produced in that area from Nebbiolo grapes Barbaresco. The company is named after a pine tree he planted to mark the birth of his first son, and while his family did not take up the business after he died, the Vacca family who took over after him have maintained it ever since, now on their fourth generation. They produce three Barbarescos, a Langhe Nebbiolo, a Barbera d’Alba, and a Dolcetto d’Alba, as well as a Langhe Freisa.
While they don’t make any claims as to organic certification, they use no chemical fertilizers, and the average age of their vines is 40 years old. They use 20-30 day macerations and fermentation in stainless steel, both under controlled temperatures. They age their wines for two years in oak and at least another year in bottle. They neither fine nor filter their wines.
In the glass, this wine is clear and bright, with a medium minus garnet colour, and very slow, thick legs. On the nose it is clean with medium intensity and a developing character. There are notes of sour cherry, sweet spice, and potpourri. The palate is dry, with medium plus mouth coating tannins, medium plus acidity, medium minus body, medium flavour intensity, medium plus alcohol. There is a bit of tar, some perfume, and lovely pomegranate notes. It has a medium plus length.
I rate this a very good wine – I really enjoyed it. It had a complex mix of flavours and good intensity on the palate. In addition, it has a really nice colour, as in pretty shade, though not especially deep.