Fine Italian Wines to Start the New Year

Wine for january - Under $25

Prunotto, Barbera d’Asti “Fiulot” 2007 (about $15)

While the Prunotto winery has been around for over a century it has gone through a series of owners. Originally founded in 1904 as a cooperative winery in Alba, it was acquired in 1923 by one of the members, Alfredo Prunotto, who promptly changed its name to Prunotto and transformed it into one of the then most successful wineries in the Langhe area.

Upon his retirement in 1956, Alfredo Prunotto sold the winery to his friend Beppe Colla who, along with his brother Tino, successfully ran the winery and expanded its operations. In 1989 they began a collaboration with the Antinori family who assisted them in their marketing initiatives.  With the Colla Brothers retirement in 1994 the Antinori Group formally acquired the Prunotto Company and assumed control of the entire winery’s operations.

With its considerable financial resources and management team, the Antinori Group was able to substantially expand the estate’s resources through some very attractive vineyard acquisitions. These acquisitions included the Bussia vineyard in Monforte d’Alba, one of the best known Barolo crus; the Bric Turot vineyard in Barbaresco; and the Costamiole Vineyard in Agliano for the production of Barbera d’Asti.

The revitalized Prunotto estate was substantially expanded and upgraded with more modern wine-making equipment and procedures and subsequently produced some reliable and award-winning Barolo and Barbaresco wines. It has also produced some exceptionally well-made Barbera, Dolcetto and Moscato d’Asti wines as well as a Monferrato Rosso blend (see Mompertone).

2007 Prunotto, Barbera d'Asti "Fiulot"The Prunotto Barbera d’Asti “Fiulot” consists of 100 percent Barbera grapes from their Agliano vineyard which is located about 12 miles from Asti. The 2007 vintage in the Piedmont was excellent with warm summer days and cool nights. The Barbera grapes were harvested in late September and early October. After fermentation, the wine was transferred to stainless steel tanks and then bottled in the early spring. “Fiulot” in the local dialect refers to a young man and Prunotto has appropriated this name to identify one of the youngest wines in its lineup.

The ’07 Fiulot is a vivid ruby red in color. It is an engaging wine with vibrant and fragrant  cherry and plum aromas. It has ripe red fruit flavors, a forthright texture, a crisp acidity and spicy vibrancy and soft, understated tannins. It is a benchmark Barbera d’Asti wine and at $15 is an exceptional value.

Barbera is an incredibly food-friendly wine that goes amazingly well with a wide variety of dishes. It goes especially well with pasta and rice dishes, white meats and light cheeses. The '07 Fiulot throws a lot of sediment so be sure to decant before serving.

Where can I buy this wine? – Available at Rodman’s (D.C. location), Schneiders of Capitol Hill, Pearson’s (’07 vintage), Calvert Woodley, The Wine Specialist (’06 vintage) and other area stores.

To read more about Barbera wines, see The Better Barbera. See also Luciano Sandrone,

Wine for january – $25 and over

Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco DOCG 2005 (about $38)

The Piedmont region in northern Italy is home to two of Italy’s most famous red wines – Barolo and Barbaresco. The two wines are produced in neighboring zones less than ten miles apart with the city of Alba essentially serving as a dividing line between the two zones. The two wines share similarities other than just soil and climate. Both are crafted entirely from the same grape – Nebbiolo – and are immensely expressive, long-lived wines that can drink well 20 to 30 years after their vintage date.

In fact, it wasn’t until the late 1800’s that wines from the Barbaresco area even had a distinct identity. Until then, Nebbiolo grapes from the Barbaresco area were primarily sold for production of Barolo or simply labeled “Nebbiolo di Barbaresco”. But that changed in 1894 when Domizio Cavazza, a prominent Barbaresco area winegrower, brought some of his neighboring vineyard owners together and established a local winegrowers’ cooperative, the “Cantine Sociali”. Under Cavazza’s leadership the cooperative began bottling wines under the Barbaresco label and in so doing established a singular identity for Barbaresco wines.

Unfortunately, the Cantine Sociali was forced to shutter operations in the 1920’s because of economic rules promulgated by the fascist government. It wasn’t until 1958 that Barbaresco’s cooperative concept was reestablished when 19 small growers in the town of Barbaresco joined together and established the cooperative Produttori del Barbaresco.

Since then the Produttori del Barbaresco has not only survived, it2005 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco DOCG has prospered. Today, the cooperative has 56 members and is one of the greatest producers in the Barbaresco area with total acreage under vine of member growers accounting for almost one-quarter of all Nebbiolo vineyards in the Barbaresco zone and an even greater percentage of the zone’s most celebrated vineyards. The Produttori del Barbaresco is one of Barbaresco’s flagship producers and its wines are of the highest quality and best value of any cooperative in Italy.

The Produttori’s Barbaresco DOCG is a blend of Nebbiolo grapes harvested from the cooperative’s multiple Nebbiolo vineyards in the Barbaresco zone. Made entirely of Nebbiolo, the 2005 Barbaresco was fermented for 20 days in stainless steel tanks and then spent 20 months in oak casks prior to bottling.

While often overshadowed by the ripe, rich 2004 vintage in the Piedmont region, the 2005 vintage is turning out some exceptional Barbaresco wines that are full-bodied and intense with warm fruit character, similar to those of the highly-regarded 1998 vintage.

The ’05 Barbaresco from the Produttori del Barbaresco is vibrant and balanced with floral and spice aromas and warm red fruit character supported by firm, ripe tannins. It has a very long, clean finish. While ready to drink now, it will only continue to improve over the next several years. At $38 it is a superb value.

Serve with pasta and poultry dishes as well as red meat, game and aged cheeses. Better yet, serve this ’05 Barbaresco with “local” Piemontese fare such as mushrooms, risotto and truffles. The wine’s floral and earthy aromas will enhance the character of all these foods.

Where can I buy this wine? – Available at Rodman’s (D.C. location), Wells Discount Liquors (Baltimore) and Calvert Woodley.

For reviews of other Barbaresco wines, see Moccagatta and Paitin.

Note – prices indicated are averages of generally available retail prices and will vary from store to store. While in stock at time of writing, stores may sell out of the selections so availability is not guaranteed.  It is best to call to check on price and availability before making the trip.

©Richard Marcis
January 14, 2010

 

To read other wine reviews, see Monthly Wine Reviews

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