Archive for the ‘Barbera d’Asti DOC’ category

Azienda Agricola Cascina Galarin

November 29, 2008


Piedmonte in autumn is simply magic while the region comes alive in all its splendour. Of course there are white truffles, fuelling the annual Fiera del Tartufo Bianco d’Alba from October to November in the gastronomical capital of the Langhe. Fresh Porcini, hazelnuts and chestnuts are more common – and less expensive – while cheeses as Castelmango, Robiola, Toma and Testun are regional treasures that challenge the French hegemony on mouldy, stinky but delicious dairy. Above all, vinous hearts will beat faster as in this time of the year Piedmonte breaths wine. In about every vineyard and village tractors move piles of little red crates filled with grapes, first varieties as Moscato, Chardonnay and Arneis, then mainly Dolcetto, Barbera and Nebbiolo. Because of the relatively big time lag between the ripening of each variety the vineyards show a riot of colours. This majestic spectacle is especially noticeable in areas where the full spectrum peacefully co-exists as shown in the above picture taken near the village of Castagnole delle Lanze which is located only a few kilometres from Neive, the eastern outpost of the Barbaresco DOCG. Here the harvest of Nebbiolo was entering its final stage with leave-colours varying from green-yellow to  brown. This in contrast to the higher and hence cooler Barolo area where most of the picking had yet to start, resulting in the majority of its vineyards still covered in vibrant green.

It’s understandable most tourists look for Barolo while touring the region. Of course I had my fair share, however, with my base at Cascina Galarin in Castagnole delle Lanze I found myself in prime Barbera country which led to what proved to be one of the biggest vinous revelations I’ve ever experienced. Often producing just smooth and plummy wines, this grape can show far more complexity and depth if given the right exposure in the vineyard and serious attention in the cellar, especially in the DOC of Asti where the competition with Nebbiolo for the best possible terroir is absent. Most of the production in this area consists of generic Barbera d’Asti although things are really getting interesting with Barbera d’Asti Superiore, made from the best possible fruit that has aged for the minimum required 24 months of which at least 6 in oak. To prove the quality and age worthiness of these wines owner Giuseppe “Beppe” Carosso hosted a memorable tasting with some truly amazing wines made from grapes grown in Bricco Rorisso, a single vineyard with clay and calcareous soils and a perfect South-West exposition. As far as the blend concerns, the Bricco Rorisso consists of approximately 90% Barbera with the balance Cabernet Sauvignon, Freisa and Grignolino. All grapes are handpicked, crushed and fermented for 4 days at around 28-30°C while the juice is kept on the skins for 2 weeks. After a light filtration the wine spends one year in small Allier barriques and an additional one in bottle before release. 

Cascina Galarin Barbera d’Asti DOC Superiore “Bricco Rorisso” 1998

The 1998 Bricco Rorisso has a deep brick red colour in the glass that only slightly reveals its age. The nose still offers plenty of perfumed primary fruit reminiscent of plum and cherry with notes of undergrowth and spice while the palate is shaped by fresh acidity and velvety, grainy tannins. This is an extremely well balanced wine on its peak that could easily be cellared for at least another 5 years.

Cascina Galarin Barbera d’Asti DOC Superiore “Bricco Rorisso” 1997

Deep red with a brown tinge, this wine is the living proof of the ageing capacity of Barbera from extraordinary vintages. With an open nose of lively fresh fruit and a full, round and powerful palate this wine unfolds as if it was made yesterday. According to Beppe the wine has evolved very slowly and will keep doing so as the structure of fruit, firm tannins and fabulous acidity is solid and in perfect balance.

Cascina Galarin Barbera d’Asti DOC Superiore “Bricco Rorisso” 1996

Although this wine has a youthful deep red colour, secondary and tertiary aromas initially dominate the nose. With time in the glass the wine opens up and allows fresher berry fruit to shine through. The palate is full and flavoursome with pronounced acidity and less roundness than the ’98 and ’97 Bricco Rosisso. It’s certainly not as approachable as these wines, however, its character and complexity make this wine absolutely more intriguing.

Cascina Galarin Barbera d’Asti DOC Superiore “Bricco Rorisso” 1990

I must confess that when I first saw the line-up I had my doubts about this wine. I mean a Barbera of this age, it must be a joke. How wrong I proved to be! Brick red in colour the rich nose oozed aromas of plum, cherry and little red berries following through to a smooth and round palate where relatively low acid further enhanced the sweetness of the fruit. This wine reminds me of fresh picked grapes squeezed in a glass. Hors Category, a wine that will be in my memory forever!