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2008 Barbaresco, Manuel Marinacci, San Rocco Seno d'Elvio
Tucked away in the little known Barbaresco village of San Rocco Seno d'Elvio, just outside Alba, is the single plot of 4 hectares (of Nebbiolo, Barbera & Dolcetto) that belongs to Manuel Marinacci.
Manuel's a young wine producer whose biggest claim to fame to date is as a class-mate of Giuseppe Mascarello at Alba's viticultural school Umberto 1, which he left in the mid 1990s. Upon graduation Manuel worked abroad & locally for both large and small cantine/wineries before taking on the lease of the San Rocco Seno d'Elvio vineyard in 2002. Vintage 2004 was his first release. Manuel makes three wines: Dolcetto d'Alba, Barbera d'Alba and Barbaresco.
Refreshingly Manuel immediately adopted the traditional approach to winemaking; Giuseppe's influence perhaps rubbing off on him! His Nebbiolo for Barbaresco is vinified in cement without temperature control using selected yeast. As he explains: 'as a two-man operation I need the comfort of knowing that the ferments will happen when I'm away from the cantina'.
The Barbaresco is then aged in large slavonian botte for two years. Importantly he only vinifies that that is going into bottle with his name on it (rather than making wine out of all the crop and selling off any surplus as bulk wine); the rest is sold as fruit. So currently production of Barbaresco is at a third of capacity, circa 500 cases per annum. The style of Manuel's wines are grounded in tradition yet clean, bright and eminently drinkable.
Nebbiolo is the grape behind the Barolo and Barbaresco wines and is hardly ever seen outside the confines of Piedmont. It takes its name from "nebbia" which is Italian for fog, a frequent phenomenon in the region.
A notoriously pernickety grape, it requires sheltered south-facing sites and performs best on the well-drained calcareous marls to the north and south of Alba in the DOCG zones of Barbaresco and Barolo.
Langhe Nebbiolo is effectively the ‘second wine’ of Piedmont’s great Barolo & Barbarescos. This DOC is the only way Langhe producers can declassify their Barolo or Barbaresco fruit or wines to make an early-drinking style. Unlike Nebbiolo d’Alba, Langhe Nebbiolo can be cut with 15% other red indigenous varieties, such as Barbera or Dolcetto.
Nebbiolo flowers early and ripens late, so a long hang time, producing high levels of sugar, acidity and tannins; the challenge being to harvest the fruit with these three elements ripe and in balance. The best Barolos and Barbarescos are perfumed with aromas of tar, rose, mint, chocolate, liquorice and truffles. They age brilliantly and the very best need ten years to show at their best.
The Piedmontese DOCG zone of Barbaresco is responsible for producing some of Italy’s finest wines. It occupies the same region and uses the same grape (Nebbiolo) as its bigger brother Barolo, but is a third of the size (only 640 hectares versus Barolo’s 1,700 hectares). It is also 50 years younger than Barolo, having produced wine labelled Barbaresco since 1890.
Barbaresco earned its DOCG after Barolo in 1980, largely thanks to the efforts of Angelo Gaja. The soils are lighter here than in Barolo – both in colour and weight – and more calcareous. The slopes are also less favourably situated and (relatively speaking) yield earlier-maturing yet extremely elegant wines that require less oak ageing (normally one year in oak plus six months in bottle). The appellation’s key districts are Barbaresco, Treiso, Neive and Alba.
Recommended producers: Cigliuti, Gaja, Marchesi di Gresy