What is Barbaresco and why it's great

Posted by Joelle Thomson on

Wines with names such as Barbaresco can often sound baffling and foreign, which is pretty close to the truth. This Italian wine is made entirely and only from the Nebbiolo grape, widely regarded the greatest red grape in Italy - a country with no shortage of contenders to the throne of such a lofty title. 

It’s not exactly a household red wine in the same way that, say, Pinot Noir is, but the wines can be every bit as great as the best Pinots.

The word Barbaresco is the name of a village and the wines in the wine appellation of the same name. A wine appellation is a legally defined geographic area and is the only place that wines of a certain style, type or grape variety can be made; in this case, Barbaresco is Nebbiolo and even though other grape varieties grow in the same area, they cannot wear the 'Barbaresco' label. The only other wine that is made 100% from Nebbiolo grapes is called Barolo and for a long time, Barbaresco has lived in its shadow. 

Both wines come from Piemonte, a region in north west Italy. Both wines are 100% Nebbiolo and qualify for DOCG status, the highest tier in the authenticity rankings of wine regions and sub regions in Italy.

The difference comes in style. Barolo is usually considered to have more structure, firmer tannins and greater ageing potential as a result but this is not always the case. 

When did Barbaresco become highly regarded?

Prior to 1894, all of Nebbiolo grapes grown in the Barbaresco area were labelled  Nebbiolo di Barbaresco or, perhaps more tellingly, sold to winemakers in Barolo to supplement their wine production. Then a man called Domizio Cavazza came along and gathered together nine Barbaresco vineyard owners, inviting them to make their wine at the castle he owned, which he called the Cantine Sociali. Cavazza was headmaster of the Royal Enological School of Alba and a Barbaresco resident as well as a passionate devotee of the Nebbiolo grape.

His Cantina Sociali was essentially a wine cooperative, only an extremely high quality one that was entirely devoted to Nebbiolo.

What happened to the Cantine Sociali?

Sadly, the Cantine Sociali closed its doors in the 1930s due to fascism but it was revived again in 1958 by the priest of the village of Barbaresco, who saw that the most viable way for small vineyard owners to survive was to join forces. His encouragement saw the formation of the cooperative winery known today as the Produttori del Barbaresco, which is run by Aldo Vacco – a descendent of Cavazza.

Fast forward 64 years and today Produttori is one of the greatest wine producers in a great wine producing area.

What wines are made by Produttori?

There are nine single vineyard wines produced by Produttori del Barbaresco and one blend of them all, sold under a different label and for slightly less money. More of the single vineyard wines (known as cru) are made in very warm, very dry years, and less in not so good years.

The nine single vineyard Produttori del Barbarescos









Rio Sordo

* By the way, every one of these nine wines is made exactly the same way in terms of fermentation and oak maturation, leaving the pronounced flavour differences to be entirely due to soil types and the aspect towards the sun as well as other climatic factors on each vineyard. 

Buy 2017 Produttori del Barbaresco Cru wines $99.99 here

What are the latest wines from Produttori?

The nine single vineyard 2017 Produttori del Barbaresco wines have just landed in New Zealand.

We have a small allocation here at Regional Wines and have limited the purchase of each single vineyard wine to two bottles per customer. This is to allow all customers to have the opportunity to buy some of these great wines.

Not that all of our customers will purchase them, given the recommended retail price is $99.99 per bottle, but what wines they are. Statuesque red beauties with structure to burn and the ability to age for at least 10 years, and then some. 

What’s the next vintage?

The 2017s are extremely collectible because there were no 2018 cru wines made, which means the blend will be of higher quality than usual – and there will be more of it. The 2018 Produttori del Barbaresco blend is not yet available in New Zealand. ETA is late 2022.


Buy 2017 Produttori del Barbaresco cru wines here


Fast facts on Barbaresco

Barbaresco as an appellation was created in 1894

Barbaresco was given DOCG status in 1980

This is a small wine production area with approximately 700 hectares of vineyards registered to make Barbaresco – which must be 100% Nebbiolo and made within the same sub region in which the grapes are grown.

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