Welcome to Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy

Barbaresco, like Barolo DOCG, is a highly prestigious Nebbiolo appellation. If Barolo is the king of wines, then Barbaresco is unquestionably the queen.

Local producers have been producing Nebbiolo wines in the Barbaresco area since at least the 18th century, but the wines are not tied with the village’s name. Prior to the 1890s, Barbaresco grapes were frequently employed in the making of Barolo.

Domizio Cavazza, director of Alba’s Royal School of Enology, purchased Barbaresco Castle (with the surrounding vineyards) in 1894 and established Barbaresco’s first cooperative. From this point on, the wines were officially referred to as Barbaresco, and they gradually developed their own individuality. However, Barbaresco remained in the shadow of its more well-known neighbor (Barolo) for several decades.

The Gaja revolution in Barbaresco

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, growers such as Gaja and Giacosa began to show Barbaresco’s true potential, and the wines steadily gained popularity.

Angelo Gaja, in particular, is credited with elevating Barbaresco from a wine of local fame to a world-class wine with cult status. But Angelo Gaja’s role extends far beyond the promotion of Barbaresco. While tirelessly promoting his wines all over the world, he was essential in improving the image of Italian wines in general.

The location of Barbaresco

The Tanaro River

The Barbaresco DOCG is located on the right bank of the Tanaro River, to the east and northeast of Alba (Piedmont, Italy). It is made entirely of Nebbiolo grown on the hillsides around the communes of Barbaresco, Neive, and Treiso, as well as a small piece around the hamlet of San Rocco Seno d’Elvio.

The commune of Barbaresco accounts for the majority of total production. This is where you’ll find many of the top sites and the most respected wine producers.

Neive has less Nebbiolo plantings and instead focuses on Dolcetto, Barbera, and Moscato Bianco.

Treiso, which is located south of Barbaresco and has higher-altitude hills, grows less Nebbiolo and more Dolcetto due to the milder mesoclimate.

Barbaresco vines are located on slopes approximately 50 meters lower than those of Barolo. To optimize ripeness, Nebbiolo is planted in the midst of south-facing slopes at elevations ranging from 150 to 350 meters.

Barbaresco soils

The majority of Barbaresco’s soils are from the Tortorian geological formation, which is characterized by primarily calcareous marls comparable to those found in the western portion of Barolo, but with alternating sand layers.

Barbaresco climate

Barbaresco winegrowing region is closer to the Tanaro river valley than Barolo. The proximity makes the area significantly warmer. As a result, Nebbiolo ripens earlier in Barbaresco than in Barolo. Grapes tend to ripen more consistently than in Barolo.

Barbaresco best sites

Barbaresco’s soils, altitudes, and exposures are similar to those of Barolo, but more uniform. As a result, there are no significant distinctions between the wines produced in the various sections of this appellation.

Barbaresco wine aging requirement before commercialization

Barbaresco must be matured for at least 26 months, with nine months spent in oak.

Barbaresco Riserva wines must be matured 50 months, with at least nine months in wood.

It is worth noting that, like Barolo wines, Barbaresco wines benefit immensely from bottle aging.

Traditional style of Barbaresco

Barbaresco has traditionally been a lighter, less alcoholic, and less structured wine than Barolo. The Disciplinare’s requirements followed this tradition, requiring shorter maturing times and a somewhat lower minimum potential alcohol than Barolo (12.5% ABV vs. 13% ABV.).

Barbaresco, like Barolo, was traditionally prepared with long macerations and extended age in large neutral casks.

Today’s Barbaresco style

Many Barbaresco wines now have the same alcohol content and structure as Barolo wines.

Barbaresco went through the same stylistic progression and dispute as Barolo, albeit with less intensity and media attention.

In the 1970s, Gaja and other manufacturers used small French new oak barrels for shorter maceration and maturation durations.

Traditionalists fought against Barbaresco’s new style, although it played a significant role in Barbaresco’s rise to prominence.

Again, in Barbaresco, both traditional and modern wine styles are produced today, with many producers producing wines that fall somewhere in between.

About Barbaresco Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntive

Single-plot wines are a relatively new phenomena in Barbaresco. They originally appeared in the 1960s and were more common from the 1980s onward. In an attempt to restrict the use of specific places or vineyard names on labels, the Consorzio created ‘Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntive’ (also known as MGA) in 2007, before the Barolo MGAs.

These classifications allow for more exact identification of a wine’s provenance. 66 geographic designations have been formally acknowledged. Some of the most well-known MGAs include Asili, Basarin, Gallina, Martinenga, Montefico, Montestefano, Ovello, Pajorè, Pora, and Rabajà.

Barbaresco vs. Barolo, what is the difference

Given that both Barolo and Barbaresco are made entirely of Nebbiolo and share substantial similarities in soil, height, and climate, the wines can be described as comparable, but they are not identical. There are slight variances.

Barbaresco is typically regarded as lighter, less strong, less structured, and more approachable than Barolo. It is sometimes described as more graceful and refined, more “feminine” and ripening slightly faster, but retaining the floral-earthy-tar character, strong acidity, and firm tannins that define Nebbiolo.

Although Barbaresco does not always have the force of Barolo, it frequently has superior elegance and consistency of quality and style.

Barbaresco is described as lighter and less structured than Barolo, which is a generalization. Some Barbarescos may rival Barolos in terms of intensity and structure. The reverse is also true. For example, some Barolo wines from La Morra, located in the western part of the region, may be lighter and more accessible than some Barbarescos.

3 interesting facts to know about Barolo and Barbaresco

There are 3 interesting facts to keep in mind while comparing Barbaresco to Barolo:

  • Barolo has approximately three times the area under vine as Barbaresco, and it produces about three times as much
  • Barolo and Barbaresco were both made DOCs in 1966 and elevated to DOCGs in 1980. There were among the first in Italy
  • Several wine producers own vineyards in both appellations and make both wines.

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