Vinopolpick Weekend – Barbaresco Trio

January 11, 2014
A Trio of Barbaresco Producers 

Cantina del Pino
The Italian wine region of Barbaresco in Piedmont is home to the Cantina del Pino estate.  The original winery and vineyard, the famous Ovello vineyard, was founded over a century ago by Domizio Cavazza, the director of the Royal Enological School in Alba from 1888 – 1913. He planted the Mediterranean pine for which the estate currently is named.  After his death, the vineyard was purchased by the Vacca family, who have owned and farmed it for generations since.Today, the estate is managed by the fourth generation winemaker Renato Vacca, although his parents, aunts, uncles and friends all help with production.  Until 1997, their grapes were entirely sold to the Produttori del Barbaresco cooperative; Renatto’s better known cousin, Aldo Vacca, manages the Produttori del Barbaresco.  Renatto Vacca now produces his own wine.  He sees his methods of minimalist intervention as the key to producing wines that reflect the terroir.

This land has been in my family for generations and these vineyards are some of the best in Barbaresco. From the time I was a young boy I worked year round in these vineyards and I understand that without superior grapes you can’t make superior wine. I know how lucky I am.” Renato Vacca – winemaker/owner Cantina del Pino

The grapes and wines are temperature controlled from maceration through the end of bottle aging and are unfined and unfiltered.  The several Barbaresco DOCG wines undergo fermentation in stainless steel during which the grapes are macerated for 20-30 days.  These wines see two years of wood aging and one or two years of bottle aging, with the reserva wines see the longer time in bottle.

All of the family vineyards are within the Barbaresco appellation.  They range in age between 35 to 70 years old and average 40 years old.  The oldest vines were planted by Renato Vacca’s great-grandfather.  Their Ovello Vineyard site, their most famous site, is almost 1,000 feet in altitude with limestone and sandy soil.  The winemaker describes the resulting wine as elegant with balanced acidity.  The Albesani Vineyard, to the North-East in Neive, produces richer wine due to its warmer sun exposure and denser clay soil.  Expect more intense fruit and floral flavors that are best with a longer cellaring.  The family’s Barbaresco DOCG wine is sourced from Starderi and Gallina in addition to Ovello and Albesani.  It is elegant and ageable with a hint of fine tobacco.  The Langhe Nebbiolo is also entirely sourced from Barbaresco vineyards, and is aged in large barrels for six months.  It is a well-structured, complex style meant to be drunk young while still full of fruit and spice.  Their Dolcetto has a refreshing acidity with ripe fruit and black pepper notes, making it an excellent wine with food.

Humble, down-to-earth, yet intensely driven, Renato Vacca is making some of the most exciting wines in the region. Vacca’s holdings are concentrated in and around the Ovello vineyard, a site long noted for its combination of cooler microclimate and poor soils, which give structured, age-worthy Barbarescos. Not only were the wines from Cantina del Pino among the standouts of my tastings, they also happen to be among the best values in Barbaresco. In short, I can’t say enough good things about the wines of Renato Vacca. Readers owe it to themselves to check out this up-and-coming producer.” Antonio Galloni – Robert Parker’s – The Wine Advocate.

In an interesting twist, Renatto released his 2009 Ovello and Albesani bottlings last year; and held the more classic 2008s for release now, with an extra year of maturation in his cellar.

Cantina del Pino Wines Here Now:

Cantina del Pino Barbaresco 2008 ($39.95) $33.00 special, 3+ cases available
Wine Advocate 92 points
: “The 2008 Barbaresco comes across as quite elegant and Burgundian in this vintage. Sweet dark cherries, spices, mint and crushed flowers are some of the notes that take shape in the glass in this, bright, focused Barbaresco. The 2008 possesses terrific energy and polish from start to finish. This is a beautifully balanced wine from Cantina del Pino. The 2008 was made 50% from an east facing parcel of Ovello in the Morassino district. The other 50% of the fruit was sourced from the west-facing part of Ovello, plus Vacca’s smaller holdings in Starderi, Gallina and Albesani. How’s that for a superb quartet of vineyards? Anticipated maturity: 2016-2028.”

Cantina del Pino Barbaresco 2009 ($39.95) $33.00 special, 9 bottles available
Antonio Galloni 91 points:
 “The 2009 Barbaresco wraps around the palate with soft, caressing fruit. This juicy, up-front Barbaresco is an excellent choice for drinking over the next few years. Renato Vacca has succeeded in giving his Barbaresco considerable finesse without losing the essential Nebbiolo tannins and overall structure. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2024. Proprietor Renato Vacca continues to show he has the magic touch. I would be thrilled to drink any of these magnificent wines. Vacca has decided to release his 2009 single-vineyard Barbareschi before the 2008s, as he feels those wines need another year in bottle. I hope readers take the time to check out these fabulous wines. Along with Sottimano, Gaja, Pelissero and a handful of others, Cantina del Pino is one of the very few estates in Barbaresco where every single wine is fabulous.”

Cantina del Pino Barbaresco Albesani 2008 ($59.95) $49.00 special, 36 bottles available
Antonio Galloni & Wine Spectator 94+ points:
 “Cantina del Pino’s 2008 Barbaresco Albesani shows the heights of pure elegance Nebbiolo is capable of. An exotic array of plums, black cherries, menthol and violets come to life as the Albesani shows off its pedigree. Silky, refined and polished, the Albesani is simply magnificent from the very first taste. The deep, resonant finish stayed with me for hours. Anticipated maturity: 2016-2028.”

Cantina del Pino Barbaresco Albesani 2009 ($59.95) $49.00 special, 20 bottles available
Wine Spectator 93 points: 
“The picture of harmony, this red exudes cherry and floral aromas, with plenty of berry, tobacco and balsamic flavors. Balanced and firm, with a lingering aftertaste of spice and mineral. Accessible now, yet will improve. Best from 2014 through 2025.”

Cantina del Pino Barbaresco Ovello 2008 ($59.95) $49.00 special, 36 bottles available
Antonio Galloni 94 points:
 “Layers of sweet, Pinot-like fruit emerge effortlessly from the 2008 Barbaresco Ovello. Incredibly refined from the very first taste, the Ovello impresses for its overall balance and sense of harmony. Expressive floral notes reappear on the finish in a Barbaresco that is unusually refined for this site, where the wines are typically a bit more taut.”

Cantina del Pino Langhe Nebbiolo 2011 ($24.95) $19.00 special, 36 bottles available
Wine Advocate 90 points:
 “All of the best qualities of the vintage come to life in the 2011 Langhe Nebbiolo. Round, sweet and inviting, the 2011 wraps around the palate with layers of rich, expressive fruit. This gorgeous, caressing Nebbiolo is a great introduction to the house style and the 2011 vintage. Even better, it is a fabulous value. The Nebbiolo is made from young vines in Starderi, Gallina and Ovello. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2015.”

Cantina del Pino Dolcetto 2012 ($19.95) $16 special, 12 bottles available
Antonio Galloni 88 points:
 “The 2012 Dolcetto d’Alba is soft, pretty and nicely balanced. Red berries, sweet spices and licorice meld together in a juicy, fruit-driven Dolcetto to drink over the next 2-3 years.”


Castello di Neive
The Castello di Neive is a 150 acre estate owned by the Stupino family.  All 62 acres of their vineyard land are within the township of Neive. Originally, the family produced wine in their basement to sell in bulk. In 1964, they purchased the Neive castle where the winery is located along with other vineyards around Santo Stefano and Marcorino.  The family has since renovated the castle’s cellars, vineyards and wine production.  The family first began bottling wines for the international and domestic markets under the Castello di Neive label after their father, who originally purchased much of the vineyards, passed away in 1970.  Today, they produce 12,000 cases a year.Their Santo Stefano estate vineyard, a subzone within Albesani was developed by the family after they purchased the fallow land in the 1960s.  Recently, they have partially replanted with select clones with the assistance of the University of Turin.  The vineyard has calcareous marl soils and an ideal southern exposure and aspect.  The vines from which the grapes are handpicked vary in age from 30 to 40 years old.  Fermentation takes place in 10-12 days after which the wine is held under temperature control in wooden barrels for malolactic fermentation.

While the Barbaresco wines of the Castello di Neive remain relatively obscure in the USA, this beautiful and historic estate has played an important part in the development of the noble Nebbiolo grape since 1857 and could well boast the famous Santo Stefano vineyard as part of its tenure.Bruno Giacosa, with his legendary Barbarescos of the 1970s and 1980s through to the present time, first brought the world’s attention to these vines. Even today, when he is more focused on making wines from estate-grown fruit, Giacosa speaks of Santo Stefano with reverence and awe, and lists it as the top vineyard in Barbaresco.

Castello di Neive Wines Here Now:

Castello di Neive Barbaresco Albesani Santo Stefano 2007 ($59.95) $49.00 special, 21 bottles available
Wine Advocate 95 points: 
“The 2007 Barbaresco Albesani Santo Stefano shows the weight and richness that is typical of this south-facing site in Neive. A rich fabric of dark fruit, fresh roses, new leather and menthol completely cover the palate. The Santo Stefano is impeccable in its generous, enveloping fruit. The intensity and sheer depth of the fruit manages to virtually bury the tannins, but they are there. As delicious as this is today, it will be even better in a few years- time. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2027.”

Castello di Neive Barbaresco Albesani Santo Stefano 2009 ($59.95) $49.00 special, 30 bottles available
Wine Advocate 92 points: 
“The 2009 Barbaresco Albesani Santo Stefano unfurls on the palate with layers of highly expressive dark fruit. Hints of menthol, smoke, incense, leather and tobacco appear later, adding considerable depth and complexity. A plush, open finish rounds things out in style. Though fresher than the straight bottling, the Santo Stefano is also remarkably open today. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2024.”


In 1975, Maggiore Sottimano purchased the Cottà vineyard and its associated winery to found the Azienda Agricola Sottimano.  His son, Rino, grew the estate to include Currà, Fausoni, Pajorè and Basarin vineyards that, since 1990, have been farmed using organic methods.  Rino’s son Andrea is the current winemaker.  Andrea, in keeping with his father’s philosophy, takes his inspiration from Burgundy to produce terroir-driven wines with minimal intervention.  The vineyards’ yields are restricted to produce structured, full bodied wines with long aging potential that are unfiltered and unfined.  The wines are fermented in oak with naturally occurring yeasts.  Andrea prefers to minimize the influence of new oak on the wines, aging all of his wines primarily in old oak.  The family sources French oak for the winery from a single Burgundian cooper Francois Frères.Five single-vineyard Barbaresco wines are produced from each of the vineyard holdings as well as a dry Brachetto, a rare style for the grape.  Wines from the Cottà are rich, fruit-driven with subtle notes of mint and silky tannins.  The Currà vineyard produces rich and elegant age-worthy wines.  The Fausoni vineyard produces the softest wines with bright acidity and notes of mint, licorice and flowers.  The Pajorè single vineyard wine has great elegance with restrained fruit and spicy aromas.

Only 200 cases of the Riservas are made during exceptional vintages, of which the 2005 is only the second to be produced.  The Riservas are hand harvested from old vines in the Cottà and Pajorè vineyards.

Sottimano Wines Here Now:

Sottimano Barbaresco Cottà 2009 ($59.95) $49.00 special, 24 bottles available
Wine Advocate 92 points:
 “Playing very much true to type, the 2009 Barbaresco Cotta is the richest and roundest of these 2009s. As always, it has the most overt fruit to match its generally supple personality. Here, too the richness of the fruit goes head to head with the formidable tannins all the way through to the finish. This dark, fleshy Barbaresco should enter its sweet spot in another five years or so. Anticipated maturity: 2017-2027.”

Sottimano Barbaresco Currà 2007 ($74.95) $69.00 special, 9 bottles available
Wine Advocate 94 points: 
“The 2007 Barbaresco Curra is a touch more austere and reserved than the Fausoni, but equally compelling. A wall of tannin hides a core of bright red berries, flowers, sweet herbs and licorice that will need at least several years of cellaring to fully emerge. This, too, possesses exceptional length and fabulous overall balance in a textured, captivating style for the year. With time in the glass, this positively explodes on the palate with layers of ripe fruit and structure, resulting in a fabulous wine that represents the epitome of finesse. Anticipated maturity: 2017-2027.”

Sottimano Barbaresco Fausoni 2007 ($84.95) $59.00 special, 8 bottles available
Wine Advocate 92 points:
 “The Fausoni is usually one of the lighter-weight Barbarescos here, but not in 2007. Dark red fruit, crushed flowers, licorice and sweet baking spices come together beautifully in this ripe, sensual Barbaresco. There is a wonderful richness to the fruit that virtually covers the tannins, all while avoiding any sense of heaviness. Simply put, the Fausoni is an overachiever in this vintage. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2027.”

Sottimano Barbaresco Fausoni 2009 ($59.95) $49.00 special, 24 bottles available
Wine Advocate 92 points:
 “A sweet, floral bouquet infused with a note of mint announces the 2009 Barbaresco Fausoni. This mid-weight, gracious Barbaresco is all about finesse, detail and nuance. I very much like the sense of energy here. Firm yet well-balanced tannins frame the long finish. The balance of fruit, acidity and structure is about as harmonious as it gets in 2009. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2024.”

Sottimano Barbaresco Pajorè 2009 ($64.95) $51.90 special, 36 bottles available
Stephen Tanzer & Wine Advocate 93 points:
 “(from a high-altitude, limestone-rich vineyard in Treiso): Good bright red. Sexy, elegant nose offers strawberry, raspberry, tobacco and spices. Juicy and primary for the vintage, with excellent mineral and spicy cut giving precision to the middle palate. Very Treiso in character, and the highest in acidity of these 2009 Barbarescos (6 grams, vs. 5.5 for the others). Finishes energetic and long, with chewy, firm tannins and terrific lift. This really transcends the vintage. “But not the best style of wine for a blind tasting,” notes Sottimano.”

Sottimano Barbaresco Riserva 2005 ($119.95) $89.00 special, 6 bottles available
Wine Advocate 94 points:
 “The 2005 Barbaresco Riserva is a dense, powerful, fruit-driven Barbaresco that is virtually impenetrable at this stage. This old-vines selection from Cotta and Pajore remains incredibly primary and youthful. Dark fruit, smoke, leather and tar are just some of the notes that linger on the massive yet impressively round, harmonious close. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2030.”

Sottimano Barbaresco Riserva 2008 ($99.95) $79.00 special, 9 bottles available
Antonio Galloni 94 points:
 “The 2008 Barbaresco Riserva is pure silk and elegance from start to finish. Violets, flowers and sweet Pinot-like fruit meld together in this sensual, mid-weight Barbaresco. The 2008 boasts striking inner perfume, great textural richness and fabulous depth, all backed by silky, polished tannins. It is as impressive in bottle as the separate components were when I tasted them from barrel as young wines. Sottimano’s Riserva is an old-vines bottling from Cotta and Pajore. Anticipated maturity: 2016-2028.”

Sottimano Brachetto Maté 2010 ($22.95) $17.70 special, 3 bottles available
Antonio Galloni 88 points:
 “The 2010 Mate wafts from the glass with sweet herbs, dried flowers and crushed rose petals. This is a mid-weight, understated vintage for Sottimano’s dry Brachetto. A clean, refined finish rounds things out nicely, but this remains a delicate, even somewhat frail red best enjoyed over the next 2-3 years.”