Monday, April 07, 2008

Tasted at Vinitaly: Sobrero e Figli Barbera D'Alba Superiore 2004

Barbera is a bright wine with lively fruit and crisp acidity, but isn't particularly tannic nor structured. Or at least it wasn't until the late Giacomo Bologna, one of the pioneers of the Italian wine renaissance, decided to put his Barbera into small oak barrels. What emerged -- smooth, rich, with elegant tannins from the barrels and its aggressiveness considerably smoothed -- caused a tremendous sensation and soon everyone was oaking their Barbera. Even many people who use large wood for everything else.

Alas, oak is a tool, and it's up to the winemaker to decided how to use it; many are heavy handed, and what went into the wood as a bright zesty fruit driven wine emerges at a distinct plod, with the fruit smoothed over and softened considerably, and though there is more structure, there's precious little (if any) acidity to provide direction, and as a result these heavily oaked wines feel remarkably settled.

Mr. Sobrero's 2004 La Pichetera Barbera D'Alba Superiore is oaked, but has emerged very much alive: Deep cherry ruby with ruby rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with a nice balance between red berry fruit and oak supported by deft raspberry acidity. On the palate it's ample and smooth, with fairly rich cherry fruit directed by lively cherry acidity that's more intense than I expected from the nose, and supported by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a clean tart finish. It will drink quite nicely with succulent roasts or stews, and is quite refreshing.
2 stars

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