On April 27th, after my study group tasted two white wines (an Arneis and a Gavi di Gavi) and a Dolcetto d’Alba we then sampled two bottles of Barbera d’Alba from two different vintages (2009 and 2010) and two different producers - Podere Ruggeri Corsini Winery and Vietti Winery. Barbera is not a “grid wine” for the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Advanced exam for which we are studying, but it is an important wine to know.
Barbera is Italy’s third most planted red grape after Sangiovese and Montepulciano. It is a vigorous varietal that adapts well to different climates and soils. Although it can be found growing all over Italy, it has been most prominent in the southeastern part of Italy’s Piedmont region where it is believed to have originated in the Monferrato hills around Asti. There it grows primarily in three provinces at the heart of which are the cities of Alba, Asti and Alessandria.
There are three primary Barbera DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) regions: Barbera d’Alba, Barbera d’Asti and Barbera del Monferrato. Although the three zones are contiguous and in some cases overlapping, there are some subtle differences between the Barbera wines produced in these zones.
The Barbera d’Alba production zone includes the rolling hills around the town of Alba and it overlaps the Barolo and Barbaresco zones. In fact, most of the vintners of Barbera from this zone also produce Barolo or Barbaresco wines. For a wine to be legally labeled as Barbera d’Alba, it must be made from at least 85% Barbera grapes and up to 15% Nebbiolo may be added, but Dolcetto is not allowed.
The added designation of superiore may be added to labels if the wine is aged for 12 months prior to commercial release, of which at least 4 months must be spend in oak barrels.
In terms of structure Barbera is the “middle child” between Dolcetto and Nebbiolo. It is an early-maturing but late ripening varietal with dark ruby colored juice, it tends to have high acidity with lower levels of tannin than Nebbiolo and often times either the same or more tannin than Dolcetto.
Podere Ruggeri Corsini Winery
The Ruggeri Corsini estate was founded in 1995 by Loredana Addari and Nicola Argamante, both of whom have a degree in Agriculture and specialized in Viticulture and Oenology. The estate gets the name “Ruggeri” from Nicola’s mother’s surname who helped finance the founding of the winery and “Corsini” is from the small hamlet of Monforte d’Alba. In 1996 they produced 6,000 bottles and in the following year they began exporting to the USA and around the world. Their first wines were Dolcetto d’Alba, Barbera d’Alba and Barolo but now they also produce Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir), Albarossa (a cross between Chatus [Nebbiolo di Dronero] and Barbera), a Langhe rosé and a Langhe white wine (a blend of 50% Arneis, 20% Chardonnay and 30% and Sauvignon Blanc) and their production has increased to 65,000 to 75,000 bottles per year.
2009 Podere Ruggeri Corsini Armujani Barbera d’Alba
This is an opaque dark purple at the core to pink at the rim with minor variation, medium+ viscosity. On the nose it has moderate intense aromas of stewed and raisin-like dried plums, dried figs, soy sauce, damp soil, desiccated roses, hints of spice. On the palate it is dry with gritty medium+ tannins, medium+ alcohol, full bodied, with a moderate length finish. This wine is somewhat rustic with old-world charm and complexity.
2010 Vietti Barbera D’Alba
I provided background information for Vietti winery when I reviewed the 2012 Vietti Roero Arneis, so I won’t do so again here.
This is an opaque dark purple at the core to pink at the rim with minor variation, medium+ viscosity. On the nose it has moderate intense aromas of stewed plums and black cherries, cooked strawberries, hint of smoke and meat, soy sauce, black pepper and spice, sage, a touch of anise and hints of vanilla. On the palate it is dry but fruity with acidic tomato-like flavors and vanilla, it has moderate tannins, medium+ acidity, medium+ body and alcohol with a fruit driven a medium+ length finish. A very tasty wine that definitely has the delicious factor going on. Lovers of ripe new world wines, especially Zinfandel and Malbec will enjoy this wine.
 Jancis Robinson, The Oxford Companion to Wine (Oxford University Press; 3rd edition, 2006), 62.