If you’re a long-time follower of the Xtrawine blog, you’ll have likely seen that we’ve spoken about the Barbaresco wine at length on various occasions. Often unfairly seen as an also-ran in comparison to its more famous cousin, Barolo, it’s a truly stunning Italian red wine that we wholeheartedly recommend you try.
We’ve looked at the history of the wine in detail before, as well as examining a few great examples from some of the best producers in Italy. Today, we’re going to take a slightly different approach as we take a look at a few interesting facts about the wine that you may or may not know.
Fact #1 – It’s Made Using the Nebbiolo Grape
Okay, so this is one that most of you probably already knew. The Nebbiolo grape is the main component of Barbaresco. It’s also the reason why there are so many comparisons between Barolo and Barbaresco. Both wines come from the Piedmont region and both make heavy use of this grape variety.
It’s believed to have been in use since the 1stcentury AD and many scholars also believe that it’s not a grape that’s native to the Piedmont region. In fact, it’s believed that the grape may have originated in the Lombardy region before finding its way into Piedmont.
Fact #2 – It’s Often Referred to as Barolo’s Younger Brother
Another comparison to Barolo comes again. As we all know, Barolo is often referred to as the “King of Wines” thanks to its rich heritage and the propensity of ancient nobility to indulge in the wine.
Barbaresco is often referred to as the younger brother of the Barolo. Some may view this as a slightly insulting tagline. But in our eyes, that makes it second in line to the throne. At least, as long as Barolo doesn’t have any children.
That’s how a wine monarchy should work, right?
The label probably comes from the fact that you can only trace Barbaresco’s origin date to the late 19thcentury. Wines with similar characteristics probably existed before. But it was during this period that Barbaresco actually received its name.
We guess, like so many other younger brothers, the wine will be destined to playing catch up to its older brother, at least for a while yet. After all, it has a few centuries of time to make up.
Fact #3 – Some Argue That a Particular Vintage is Italy’s Best Ever Wine
Assume that we’ve asked you to name Italy’s best ever wine.
You probably wouldn’t come up with a specific vintage right off the top of your head. But you’d probably guess that it’s either a Barolo, Chianti, or Prosecco. After all, they’re the most well-known Italian wines, so it stands to reason that a vintage of one of those wines would also be the best.
But you’d be wrong. Or at least you would be if you listen to some of the experts at Decanter.
After an exhaustive search, some experts point to the 1971 Santo Stefano Barbaresco Riserva Speciale as the best Italian wine in existence. As you’ve already noticed, it’s a Barbaresco.
Made by Bruno Giacosa, many point to the wine as the perfect example of the refinement, balance, and power that Italy is best known for.
Of course, this is an issue that’s very much open to debate. However, it’s interesting to note that a wine that has such an unfair reputation as the poor man’s Barolo may actually have provided one of, if not the, best examples of wine to come out of Italy.
Fact #4 – The Soil is the Main Source of Difference Between Barolo and Barbaresco
You may find yourself wondering how two wines that use the same grape could offer a different experience.
The production methods likely play some small part. But it’s actually the soil that’s the biggest separating factor. That makes Barbaresco one of the best examples of the effect that terroir can have on a wine.
The soil used to grow the Nebbiolo grapes used in Barbaresco is typically far more nutrient-rich than that used to grow Barolo. This results in a wine that has a far less tannic quality than Barolo. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is entirely down to your personal tastes.
Of course, the wines have their similarities too. Both have floral bouquets and leave a similar aftertaste. But it’s when you actually have the wine swirling around your mouth that you’ll notice the effect the terroir has on the wines.
Fact #5 – The Town of Barbaresco Isn’t the Only Place the Wine Is Made
At the time of writing, about 45% of Barbaresco wines actually come from the town that gave the wine its name.
The rest come from other smaller towns that are nearby. Many examples come from Neive, which is known for producing a Barbaresco that has more tannic qualities that the ones that come from the actual town. This region accounts for about 30% of Barbaresco production.
Most of the rest comes from a town called Treiso. Barbaresco wines from this town tend to be a little more delicate than the other examples.
As a result, the town of origin is an important factor to consider when buying a Barbaresco. Each town’s version of the wine exhibits slightly different qualities. This may also explain why you may have noticed marked differences between two vintages of the wine. It all comes down to the town of origin.
The Final Word
At Xtrawine, we’re always happy to shed a little more light on the history and story behind the Barbaresco wine. While many will always see it as the younger brother of Barolo, and attach negative connotations to it because of that, we believe that it’s one of the best types of wine to come from Italy.
Better yet, it also tends to carry a slightly lower price tag than its more illustrious brother. That, coupled with its obvious quality, should make the wine an easy choice for any who want to expand beyond the better known Italian wines.
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