|~ Cantina Paitin ~|
If you ask an Italian wine lover to name some of Italy’s most significant red wines you will undoubtedly hear the words Barolo and Brunello; and with good reason. However, there is an elegant lady who lives in Piemonte and toils in vineyards right next to Barolo, the oft described “King of Wines and Wine of Kings”. She often doesn’t get the respect she deserves and surely not the recognition. That will change today, for as much as I love Barolo, I adore his Queen, Barbaresco.
I’ve been asked many times to describe the differences between the two wines. Without getting geeky about soil types and altitudes, I relate to people a very easy analogy. Drinking Barolo is like getting slapped in the face with a velvet glove, twice. Barbaresco only slaps you once.
Barbaresco is produced in Langhe hills of Piemonte immediately east of the town of Alba, specifically in the Communes of Barbaresco, Neive, and Treiso. Much of the production is located closely to the town of Barbaresco. As I alluded to above, Barbaresco is somewhat feminine in style compared to Barolo and typically a bit more elegant, especially in its youth. But why?
Despite being made from the same grape and produced in neighboring areas less than 10 miles apart, the wines of Barbaresco and Barolo do have some distinct differences. Located south of the river Tanaro, the Barbaresco zone receives a slight maritime influence which allows the Nebbiolo grapes to ripen a little earlier than they do in the Barolo zone. Notably, this allows the grapes to reach fermentation with a shorter maceration time which tames some of Nebbiolo’s aggressive tannins which will not be quite as harsh as Barolo. Additionally, under DOCG law Barbaresco is allowed to age for a year less than Barolo which can also impact the approachability and elegance of the wines.
The area under vine in Barbaresco is much smaller than the Barolo zone. Therefore, the annual production of Barbaresco is around 35% of the production of Barolo. This has good and bad facets. While the wines are not as widely available on the market, the smaller production area does generally produce wines with more consistent profiles than across the more expansive Barolo zone.
|~ Vineyards on the Paitin Estate ~|
The Paitin Estate was founded in 1796 when Benedetto Elia purchased the farm with outlying vineyards and cellars from Luigi Pellisero. Originally just a working farm that produced crops for sale, including grapes, Barbaresco production did not begin until 1893. After changing ownership across the decades, today the estate is run by Secondo Pasquero and his two sons who have re-vitalized the vineyards and built new wine cellars.
|~ The newly constructed wine cellar on the Paitin Estate ~|
Today we’re spotlighting an example of the estate’s primary red wine; the 1996 Paitin Barbaresco “Sori Paitin”. In Piedmontese dialect, Sori means “slope” – so using the word on the wine’s label denotes that the grapes were harvested from a vineyard with ideal exposure.
We decanted the wine for 60 minutes to remove a large, coffee grind like sediment and allow the aromas to develop. In the decanter, the wine looks a youthful, deep ruby color. In the glass, it’s a more expected lighter ruby that trends slightly toward burnt sienna at the rim of the bowl.
The aromas are classic with cedar, chestnut, fennel, cured meat and cherry presenting nicely together. Fermented in stainless steel, the wine is then transferred to Slavonian botte to age for 24 months – 50% of which are new and 50% that have seen at least 1 passage of the previous vintage. Up to 12 months bottle aging will be employed prior to release.
On the palate, the wine displays that soft aristocratic elegance that I adore in Barbaresco. Medium bodied, with fully resolved tannins, the flavors of dried herbs, dried cherry, cedar and spice are nicely integrated, though somewhat reticent. There’s good refreshing balance from the acids which keeps the midpalate lively, but the finish seems to trail off somewhat. Overall, a tasty wine, but one that might be on the down side of its life. Drink now if you’re still holding these. 90 points, about $38 upon release. Current vintages still sell for about $40.
|~ The Queen of Piemonte ~|
May 22, 2015