Barolo is called “the king of Italian wine” and Barbaresco wine “the queen.” But this queen has power, longevity AND elegance.
Barbaresco is made from Nebbiolo grapes in a DOCG located less than 10 miles east of Barolo in Piemonte. Barbaresco DOCG vineyards are lower in altitude than those in Barolo and closer to the warming influences of the Tanaro River. As a result, the Nebbiolo ripens sooner and Barbaresco wines are typically a little softer, fruitier and ready to drink earlier.
A smaller region than Barolo, planted Nebbiolo acres in Barbaresco are only about 2,000. In some parts of region defined by the Barbaresco DOCG, there are more acres of Barbera, Dolcetto and/or Moscato. Of course those grapes are regulated by DOCs for their particular varieties.
Barbaresco is required by law to age for a minimum of two years, at least one of which must be in oak. That’s one year less overall than the requirements for Barolo. And, while there are some of the same Tortonian soils of calcareous marl prized in Barolo, there is less and Barbaresco wines still don’t achieve the same tannic intensity of the most robust Barolo.
Traditionally, as with Barolo and despite the moderate legal requirements, Barbaresco wine saw long-term aging in wood at the winery before bottling. But, again like Barolo, that began to change, starting in the 1970’s. Producers have moved to releasing fresher wines with more lively fruit and voluminous palates. Use of new wood has also increased, creating wines with more forward spice and oak flavors.
In the past, Barbaresco may have played second fiddle to Barolo. Not anymore. With improvements in viticulture and winemaking, plus stellar releases from high-profile producers such as Bruno Giacosa and Angelo Gaja, Barbaresco wine is world-class in its own right.