Monforte. It’s a word that certainly commands attention and one that, among Italian wine lovers, starts the blood pumping vigorously. For many, the first thought may be of structured, powerful Nebbiolo that is used to make some of the most prestigious Barolo wines in Piedmont. However, in the hands of a capable producer, Barbera produced in the Alba DOC represents some of the most interesting and affordable wines of its type.
Rocche dei Manzoni was established in 1974 when Valentino Migliorini, owner of a Michelin starred restaurant, decided to buy a farmhouse in Monforte d’Alba. Shortly thereafter, Nebbiolo and Barbera were planted along with Pinot Nero and Chardonnay to support Manzoni’s extensive production of sparkling wine. Manzoni was the first to experiment with French barrique in aging their red wines and proudly takes credit for that innovation; controversial to some it may be. Today the winery produces almost a dozen different wines from its 50 hectares of vineyards and the estate is farming organically.
At Manzoni, nothing is left to chance. The vineyards, offices and cellars are pristine as the above image attests. Decidely more modern in style, a characteristic that will surely earn them scorn from those that cannot appreciate more than one style of wine, I find Manzoni’s wines to be very well made and representative of the region from where they come.
The subject of today’s article is a prime example of that quality. The 2011 Rocche dei Manzoni Barbera d’Alba “La Cresta” is one of the most exciting Barberas I’ve had in a long time. In the glass, the wine is a deep ruby red color with a slight fade to sunburst at the rim of the bowl. It’s a deep attractive color. Slow swirling easily releases the aromas of the wine which include ripe cherry, cured salume, fennel and sandy earth. Of the various appellations that produce Barbera, I always find the examples from Alba to be the least acidic and therefore, to my palate, the most enjoyable. This is no exception.
In the mouth, the wine is round and flavorful. Juicy, ripe notes of crushed red cherry, sweet fennel, toasted spices and espresso bean are delicious, complex and long. This medium bodied Barbera is fresh and balanced and the acidity presents the appearance of juiciness on the palate that is refreshing. The 2011 was vinified in stainless steel and then transferred to barrique for a period of aging before finally being aged in unglazed cement takes before bottling. The result is added complexity without obvious impact from the wood. A super Barbera that I am happy to have more of. 90 points. Excellent value around $20. Find this wine.