Silvio Giamello Vincenzia Barbaresco 2017
Like most families in the Langhe, the Giamellos started out with a polyculture estate that included small parcels of vines, grain, forest, and pastures where their animals grazed. The bulk of the grape harvest was sold off, but the family made enough wine for their own consumption. This system continued for three generations until the 1950s, when farm life became less profitable and many families left the area to find factory work in the cities. Brothers Luigi and Ercole Giamello stayed but launched a trucking company to supplement their income—the first motorized transportation service in the area—and in their absence their mother took care of the daily vineyard work, wisely replanting much of their land to vines. When the economy improved in the ‘70s Luigi was able to return to the domaine full-time, focusing more on wine production and eventually passing the reins to his son and daughter-in-law, Silvio Giamello and Marina Camia. This fourth generation continues to make wine the only way they can imagine: all vineyard work is natural and chemical-free, and the vinification techniques are purely traditional.
La Licenziana remains the archetypal artisanal estate, with very small quantities produced entirely by the family. When clients come to visit, Silvio humbly presents the wines, and his two young sons invariably burst into the winery with their mother following close behind, then gently leading them back into the house after greeting the guests. The Giamellos often finish tastings by blowing us away with an older vintage from their tiny personal stock. There’s no mistaking it: this is the real thing—old-fashioned Barbaresco with the terroir shining through.
A wine that most perfectly conveys the spirit and essence of its place, Barbaresco is true reflection of terroir. Its star grape, like that in the neighboring Barolo region, is Nebbiolo. Four townships within the Barbaresco zone can produce Barbaresco: the actual village of Barbaresco, as well as Neive, Treiso and San Rocco Seno d'Elvio.
Broadly speaking there are more similarities in the soils of Barbaresco and Barolo than there are differences. Barbaresco’s soils are approximately of the same two major soil types as Barolo: blue-grey marl of the Tortonion epoch, producing more fragile and aromatic characteristics, and Helvetian white yellow marl, which produces wines with more structure and tannins.
Nebbiolo ripens earlier in Barbaresco than in Barolo, primarily due to the vineyards’ proximity to the Tanaro River and lower elevations. While the wines here are still powerful, Barbaresco expresses a more feminine side of Nebbiolo, often with softer tannins, delicate fruit and an elegant perfume. Typical in a well-made Barbaresco are expressions of rose petal, cherry, strawberry, violets, smoke and spice. These wines need a few years before they reach their peak, the best of which need over a decade or longer. Bottle aging adds more savory characteristics, such as earth, iron and dried fruit.
Responsible for some of the most elegant and age-worthy wines in the world, Nebbiolo, named for the ubiquitous autumnal fog (called nebbia in Italian), is the star variety of northern Italy’s Piedmont region. Grown throughout the area, as well as in the neighboring Valle d’Aosta and Valtellina, it reaches its highest potential in the Piedmontese villages of Barolo, Barbaresco and Roero. Outside of Italy, growers are still very much in the experimentation stage but some success has been achieved in parts of California. Somm Secret—If you’re new to Nebbiolo, start with a charming, wallet-friendly, early-drinking Langhe Nebbiolo or Nebbiolo d'Alba.