Several times a day, a customer will come in and ask, “Where do I find Barolo?” And with good reason–Barolo produces some of the world’s greatest wines. These customers have certainly come to the right place, because we do have a large selection of exceptional Baroli.
Rarely, though, does anyone ask to be directed toward our fabulous Barbaresco section. Why is this? For starters, Barbaresco is smaller than Barolo, and far less of it is imported to the U.S. Plus, it hasn’t received as much attention from the public or from wine journalists. This is unfortunate, because Barbaresco can be every bit as marvelous as Barolo, with the added advantages of earlier drinkability and much lower price points.
Barolo and Barbaresco come from the hills of southern Piedmont in a region called the Langhe. Both must be produced using 100 percent nebbiolo. Much like pinot noir, nebbiolo produces elegantly textured, lighter-colored wines that nevertheless have tremendous depth and intensity. Its aromatics are as beautiful and complex as they come, and with incredible contrast. (Famously, descriptions such as “tar and violets” or “rose petals and truffles“ are used in attempts to depict these wines.) They also deliver gorgeous cherry fruit, with notes of licorice and leather.
Just like pinot and sangiovese, nebbiolo can thrive in a number of different zones, each with its own distinct vibe. But, as with those other two grapes, its most noteworthy achievements usually come from just a couple of modestly sized areas. In this case, that means Barbaresco and Barolo. If you have not experienced much in the way of Barbaresco, by all means treat yourself to a few examples.
Without over-generalizing, Barbaresco tends to have a little more finesse and a little less power and tannin than Barolo. It is more closely aligned to the softer wines of La Morra in Barolo than those of, say, Serralunga. At Paul Marcus Wines, we offer wines from some of the top Barbaresco producers. There are the great traditionalists like Produttori del Barbaresco, which is finally getting the acclaim it’s long deserved, and La Ca’ Nova, whose wines represent insane values, with offerings from the grand-cru-level vineyards Montestefano and Montefico for prices below those of even entry-level Barolo. There are the beautifully elegant, polished wines of Sottimano and Musso, as well as gems like Poderi Colla, Serafino Rivella, and Cascina delle Rose. For well under $50 a bottle, you can experience some magnificent wines from this amazing enclave.
Lest I shortchange the “king” Barolo, I should mention that we currently have very small amounts of some of the most impressive and hardest-to-find Baroli, from esteemed producers such as Bartolo Mascarello, Giacomo Conterno, and Giuseppe Mascarello. Please visit us at the shop if you are interested in any of these prized bottlings.
– Joel Mullennix