The nebbiolo grape is the force behind Piedmont’s most revered reds, Barolo and Barbaresco, but Barbera, the region’s most widely grown grape, increasingly is the source of exceptional wines. The 2000 vintage of Piedmont reds is a rarity, offering both quantity and quality across the varietals. The region is home to thousands of wineries, many of which, including the examples below, welcome visitors for tastings.
CASCINA CASTELET, COSTIGLIOLE D’ASTI
Traditionally coarser than Nebbiolo, Barbera grapes now are the basis for wines that range from fizzy and rustic to densely concentrated and silky smooth. Castelèt’s Maria Borio, perhaps the best-known woman in Italian wine, utilizes organic growing techniques and manual cultivation and harvesting to create stunning, sophisticated Barberas. The dense Passum, a late-harvest Barbera d’Asti, boasts appealing dried-cherry and black currant tones yet possesses enough backbone to age for decades.
PRODUTTORI DE BARBARESCO, BARBARESCO
Long suppressed by the Fascists, this organization regrouped in 1958 to set a worldwide standard for premium winemaking by a cooperative. In good years (such as 2000), single-vineyard bottlings account for 40 percent of the Produttori’s production. The Montestefano, Asili, and Faset wines, in particular, show the Nebbiolo grape at its finest, with velvety textures and haunting flavors of dried and dark fruits with a hint of smoke. +39.0188.8.131.52, www.produttoridelbarbaresco.com
CANTINE CERETTO, BRICCO ROCCHE
The Ceretto family is largely responsible for Barolo’s increasing popularity and respect as a noble wine in the United States. Their company’s monumental glass cube in Castiglione Falletto is the perfect spot for a tasting. The cube overlooks the vineyards where Ceretto grows its flagship Barolo, Bricco Rocche, a voluptuous example of Nebbiolo aged in new oak. Alessandro Ceretto recently took over as chief winemaker, and he emphasizes a full-flavored but approachable Barolo that no longer needs a decade in the bottle to be tamed.