Tasting Barbaresco 2012 – the latest Barbaresco vintage

Barbaresco 2012
On the first night of the Barbaresco a Tavola (2012 vintage) we tasted 17 wines blind.

Benvenuto a Barbaresco 2012 – the latest Barbaresco vintage! 

It’s that time of year in Piedmont. Bottling is in full swing and new vintages are emerging from the cellars. That also means it is time for a local tradition I’ve grown to love, Barbaresco a Tavola. The event is organized by the Enoteca Regionale del Barbaresco to introduce the latest Barbaresco vintage.

Barbaresco a Tavola offers an opportunity to get to know the latest release in a different way – blind and paired with local specialities. We attended the first night of the event, so I wanted to offer an early primer on the vintage, complete with a look at the growing season. If you are in the area and want to attend the two remaining nights (May 15 and 22), details are below.

Barbaresco DOCG Requirements 

Barbaresco DOCG Requirements
Table credit: Consorzio di Tutela Barolo Barbaresco Alba Langhe e Roero.

The Barbaresco 2012 Growing Season

Edoardo Patrone of Barolo producer Cascina Fontana says winemaking starts in the vineyards with respect for nature. He explains that while the aging in the cellar is important, it should not be forgotten that the real work starts in the vineyards, even before bud break.

That in mind, let’s talk about the 2012 Barbaresco growing season. I knew that yields were down and my mind automatically went to rain or hail damage as the culprit. When I asked Federica Grasso of Barbaresco producer Ca’ del Baio about it she explained that growing season itself was very unusual, but that the rain was not the reason for lower quantities.

“All of 2012 was strange. I remember that the winter of 2011 started mild, then at the end of December and January the temperature changed. It was especially noticeable at night. My car read -24°C [-11°F]. It was much colder than normal and we got a lot of snow. In general spring was quite cool and rainy, then summer was very hot with rain. I believe that the vines produced less because of those strong cold temperatures. Nebbiolo does not do well in extremely cold climate.” Federica Grasso, Ca’ del Baio

Last Barbaresco vintage - 2012 Growing Season
My second trip to Piedmont was in September 2012; the red grapes were ripening and the whites were being harvested. Location: Pasquale Pelissero, Neive.

Throughout the growing season we regularly ask producers how things are looking in the vineyards. After we get the answer a caveat is thrown in nearly every time, we don’t know what is going to happen with the harvest until those last few precious weeks. >

The Produttori del Barbaresco offers a great summary in their vintage report. This historical co-operative works with 50 different producers making up 110 hectares of vines around Barbaresco. They produce only Langhe Nebbiolo and Barbaresco. The following is an excerpt of their Barbaresco 2012 vintage report:

The first half of September had chilly overnight temperatures, which supported grape health and blocked potential botrytis spread. The third week of September saw light, scattered rain and some foggy mornings. The last week of the month was dry and with good temperature variation between night and day, extremely beneficial for the final maturation.

Harvest began for the Produttori on October 1st and lasted 10 days under dry conditions. In terms of crop quantity, yields were down 20 percent with particularly good phenolic quality (ripeness of tannins and aromas) and balanced sugar levels – though lower than the “super ripe” 2011 vintage. Grapes are very likely to produce well structured wines, age worthy and extremely well balanced.

Barbaresco 2012 Harvest
Barbaresco 2012 Harvest at Pasquale Pelissero in Neive.
Barbaresco, Pasquale Pelissero 2012 Harvest
Pasquale Pelissero 2012 Harvest in the Barbaresco commune of Neive.

What to Expect of the Barbaresco 2012 Vintage

Producers and experts alike are excited about the latest Barbaresco vintage. Marchesi di Gresy Cellarmaster Jeffrey Chilcott said he expects it will appeal to a new group of winelovers.

“I’ve called the Barbaresco 2012 vintage, ‘molto gentile.’ It’s very approachable, some nice nuances, freshness, fine and elegant. This may be a good stepping stone vintage to introduce the wine to some virgin nebbiolophiles.” Jeffrey Chilcott of Barbaresco producer Marchesi di Gresy. (Molto gentile means very gentle.)

Barbaresco 2012 Tasting Notes On the nose: The wines showed perfumed aromatics with both fresh flowers, dried herbs, strawberries, and raspberry fruits. On the palate: Barbaresco 2011 offers richer, riper characteristics. With these wines the fruits seemed bigger and almost more rounded. For Barbaresco 2012 the fruit characteristics aren’t as big, but seemed fresher. It was like tasting fresh fruits of the season, not the ones you leave on the tree till the end that become squashy and soft. The wines were medium weight on the palate. Of the 17 we tasted many showed a dry spike on the finish from the tannin. So, at this early stage they are showing a long and tannic finish.

“The approachability and harmony of the Barbaresco 2012 vintage makes them much more accessible wines for the newly minted Nebbiolo drinker.” Evan Byrne of Barolo producer Giovanni Rosso in Serralunga d’Alba

As the wines age those tannins will calm down, but will ensure a long life. The fruits, while not overly rich, are attractive enough that the wines will be good in the years to come. However, the balance makes them more approachable early. So, while they will start to show the traditional beauty as they hit the 10+ year mark, they will be easier to consume early.

Latest Barbaresco vintage tasting at Barbaresco a Tavola Wine Tasting
Wines are served blind at Barbaresco a Tavola. Approximately 20 bottles of the latest Barbaresco vintage are tasted each night during the program. It runs three weeks, every Friday in May.
Latest Barbaresco Vintage, Barbaresco 2012
On the first night of the Barbaresco a Tavola (2012 vintage) we tasted wines from 17 different producers.

The Barbaresco a Tavolo Experience

Over three nights every May local restaurants in the Barbaresco zone offer special menus to pair with 60 different wines of the latest Barbaresco vintage. Each night about 20 producers are presented blind. Patrons get two tasting glasses and a tasting sheet. Wines are revealed at the end of the evening.

Barbaresco a Tavola 2015 Dates: May 8, 15, 22 Click for a list of restaurant locations and menu prices. Reservations recommended.

Tell us your Barbaresco heroes – what vintages and producers rock your world!? Dimmi tutti! Dimmi tutti! 

Cin cin!

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