2016 Barbaresco, Francesco Versio, Piedmont, Italy
About this WINE
Ambitious, tireless, and naturally gifted, Francesco graduated in 2009 from Turin University, specialising in viticulture and viniculture. He worked briefly at Terre del Barolo in the heart of Barolo Cannubi, before joining Bruno Giacosa as cellar hand. Testament to Francesco’s sensitivity and strength as a winemaker, he was promoted to winemaker in June 2011; rarely is such a prominent position held by such a young talent. Francesco left in 2017 and is now head winemaker at Figli Luigi Oddero.
Alongside his day job, since 2013 Francesco makes tiny quantities of his own wines from his family’s small vineyard holding in his hometown Neive. Here, they have two small plots of old vines: San Cristoforo and Currà, facing southwest overlooking the village of Barbaresco.
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
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.
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Francesco made a total of just 3,500 bottles of his 2016 Barbaresco, using one 20-hectolitre botte and one French tonneau in his parents’ garage in Nieve. The 2016 vintage was stunning for Nebbiolo across the Langhe. The quality, ripeness and depth of fruit Francesco harvested was treated to an extended maceration of 35 days. Still produced primarily from his San Cristoforo vineyard, 2016 is the first vintage Francesco has also blended in fruit from another Nieve vineyard, Cotta. This sandy site contributes a plush, bramble fleshiness and spice, which beautifully balances the sinewy, coiled structure coming from the calcareous mineral-rich San Cristoforo vineyard. Drink 2024-2040.
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