My apologies for touting yet another Italian Barbera, but when I find something truly remarkable, I feel compelled to share.
Castello di Neive is among my favorite Piedmont producers. Their wines are of the highest quality and have a very traditional flavor profile. That said, the wines are somewhat pragmatic, meaning that for all their traditional character they embody modernity.
For some background, I adapted the following from their web site…
Castello di Neive, and its 150 acre estate are owned by the Stupino family – Anna, Giulio, Italo and Piera. They were all born in Neive, and so were their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. The history of the company began when their father, Giacomo, started to capitalize on both his experience as a surveyor and on his knowledge of the area, to purchase, whenever possible, vineyards and land in extremely favorable locations. In the small cellars of their home, they began the first production of wine for domestic consumption, which they sold in bulk. The first vineyards Giacomo acquired, which have become synonymous with great wines, were Messoirano, Montebertotto, Basarin, Valtorta, I Cortini. In 1964 they purchased the castle with its spacious cellars, and a few more vineyards in Santo Stefano and Marcorino, as well as additional land from the castle’s previous owner, Count Guido Riccardi Candiani.
The acquisition of all these vineyards, along with the purchase of the historic castle was a turning point, which drove the family to renovate the castle’s cellars, and to make significant investments to restore the vineyards, long neglected by previous owners. With the upgrade in the cellar came the introduction of more modern wine making methods. When Giacomo died, in 1970, Giulio and Italo took over operations and oversaw the transition from tenant farming to direct management of the land. With the help of a talented and skilled winemaker, Talin Brunettini, Castello di Neive began to bottle its own wines instead of selling them off in bulk for sale by others.
Castello di Neive has continued to lead in Piedmont, establishing clonal programs for the native Arneis grape. The wines from Castello di Neive are among some of the finest in Piedmont, unparalleled except for a select few producers.
My favorite wines of Castello di Neive have always been their Barbaresco, but their prices have always reflected the importance of their single vineyard holdings. Meaning, I can’t buy them very often…
So imagine my excitement when their single vineyard Barbera, the Santo Stefano popped up on the radar screen at a very reasonable price. The Santo Stefano vineyard, as noted above was purchased in 1964 and the story on the web site tells of a piece of property that was fallow and in a questionable state. Apparently, the patriarch, Giacomo brushed aside the warnings, purchased the land and proceeded to restore the site and plant vines. Within short order, the vineyard was producing amazing Barbera.
The 2012 wine is a relatively modest 10,000 bottle production, from 20 – 30 year old vines, grown on calcareous marl soil. The vineyard is hand harvested using traditional wooden boxes. The grapes are put through a traditional fermentation process, with pump over, for about 10 days and then allowed to macerate for another 10 days. Once complete, the wine is moved to large, 1,000 gallon French oak barrels to age for 8 months. The wine is then bottled, unfiltered and held for another 3 months before release.
When I first tasted the wine, I was pleasantly surprised at the depth of fruit and the lushness of the palate. Black cherry and blackberry saturate the flavor, with well integrated tannin to give the wine structure and balance. Layers of complexity on the finish, with hints of anise and dried herbs maintain a connection to the traditional flavor characteristics of the Barbera grape. The wine has good aging potential and at $19.99 per bottle before a discount, represents a tremendous value.
Not the cheapest Barbera on the shelf, but certainly one with a fine pedigree and great provenance.