Barbera has many faces… it was once the cheap swill of Piedmonte, playing second fiddle to the noble and age worthy Nebbiolo. Though over the past 20 years, it has seen a massive upgrade in quality and image, thanks to producers that saw its potential. When it is treated seriously, it can be sublime… and this version from Giovanni Rosso, grown in and around the Barolo commune of Serralunga, is an example of that.
By nature, Barbera is a high yielding and easy to grow variety that delivers juicy, bright, high acid, low tannin, lighter style red wines. Though when farmed well, with yields managed to low levels, and some elevage in oak in the cellar, it builds weight, structure and deep, dark fruit flavours.
Giovanni Rosso is a small, family owned winery in the Barolo village of Serralunga. They own and farm (organically) several small vineyards, some of which are considered great vineyards of Barolo. They have done this since the late 1800’s, though Giovanni Rosso upgraded the vineyards and started making the wines under his namesake label in 1980. His son, Davide Rosso, now manages the winery and winemaking, after training at some of Burgundy’s (France) best estates, Domaine Grivot and Domaine Denis Mortet. Davide has taken the winery to new heights in a short time, with an organic approach in the vineyard and a traditional approach in the cellar. (Traditional in Piedmonte refers to long macerations and ageing in large, old oak botti, while modern producers favour heavier wines with smaller oak barrique and more oak influenced flavours).
Most Barbera (d’Alba and d’Asti) you find on the shelf are from vineyards outside Barolo. The fact that this Barbera is grown on and next to some of Barolo’s best sites, shows how seriously Davide Rosso considers the grape and wine. Some of the vines are over 60 years old, naturally regulating yields and delivering deep flavours.
The wine is delicious and refreshing, as refreshing as a red wine can be. Aromas are plum, leather, spice and crushed rock. Flavours are black cherry, plum, spice, more leather. There is an earthy minerality, polished and soft tannin and bursting acidity. The wine is long and impressive on the palate. It will be best drunk over the next four years. It craves red sauce Italian dishes, charcuturie or a simple eggplant parm.
As you know, at Press, we are always about offering pedigree producers and best examples of varieties at the best price points, and this smashes it for well under $40. This is especially relevant to Barbera, and we recommend choosing wisely. Our other favourite producers to keep an eye on, which start from $50 and move up to $100, include Lucien Sandrone, Bruno Rocca, Il Cigliuti, Giacomo Conterno and G.D Vajra. Our advice is to tread carefully when you see Barbera under $30. It is the third most planted variety in Italy, and the best, like Giovanni Rosso, is head and shoulders above the pack.
As always, any questions please shout out.
Tom and Dan