So I’ve tasted 77 Barbarescos from the 2009 vintage here at the Nebbiolo Prima 2012 tasting, all blind, in two flights yesterday and today, and there’s a reasonably complete picture emerging.
In essence, 2009 is not a great vintage, rather a difficult one with plenty of ordinary or even dire wines and few standouts. I’ve earmarked 17 wines that I recommend for buying, which is not a large number. The reasons?
- drying tannins: in tune with many hot vintages, 2009 appears a little overtannic, a problem that is aggravated by overextraction and wood tannins – many producers still prefer to push rather than pull back;
- highish alcohol: not so much a problem in itself but in context, because of the low fruit, many wines are lifted and aggressive;
- low fruit: indeed the surprising characteristic of 2009 in Barbaresco is the low fruit intensity; wines vary from completely fruitless to soupy and confiturey, but almost nowhere have I found the vibrant intensity of vivid fresh red fruits that characterises Barbaresco at its best;
- hollow in the middle: related to the above issue, maybe half of the samples I tried were showing a big hole in the middle, after a reasonably intense, broad attack and before the tannins kick in on the finish, there is just not enough flesh or textural fruit to get excited about these wines.
I shared these thoughts with a few producers at dinner yesterday and one recurrent answer was that 2009 Barbarescos are too young. Some are (others are on the verge of oxidation and seem already overevolved), but that can be said of any Barbaresco vintage: ideally we should now be drinking the 2004s and 2001s and still hold on the 2005s and 2006s (the latter going through a dumb phase IME). But at the same time in history I enjoyed 2008 and 2007 Barbaresco quite a lot more than these charmless, fruitless 2009s. With hot weather, intense sunlight and hydric stress in many vineyards, it is clear that Nebbiolo suffered and was unable to develop the aromatic complexity and fruity texture it achieves in really good vintages.
I’m now off to taste 2007 Barbaresco Riservas and then to visit some producers; the above slideshow is showing you those
17 13 wines that I liked most.
My trip to Piedmont including flights, accommodation and wine tasting programme is sponsored by the Albeisa association of wine producers.