Barbaresco Bricco, Pio Cesare, 1990

A lot of people, in the wine industry, define Barbaresco as the Queen of wines, while Barolo is the King.

There is even a book with that title by Kerin O’Keefe, that tells the story of this land, describes the grapes, the great families who made this region a worldwide pride of Italian winemaking. The higher elegance, finesse and, often, round bouquets of aromas and notes, identify Barbaresco as more feminine and hence the “Queen” title.

If this metaphor stands, the 1990 Bricco from Pio Cesare is like an old venetian building: decadently beautiful, something you know is doomed but still raises above the water, proud and strong, with clear signs of age but still fiercely commanding respect and awe.

The first important fact of this wine is that it is produced only in good years. Nowadays it is very common to see wineries sacrifice quality and originality to maintain high volumes and steady profits, it is a natural market law that leads to survival in many cases. But some choose the hard way, they try to make something special, something that can be sold for higher prices because it has an inherent higher value, it stands for something bigger than a bottle of wine and, most importantly, it can improve with age.

Pio Cesare is a winery with tradition, founded in 1881 and making wines for 5 generations now, and is the only winery in the center of Alba, the world capital of Truffle, in the heart of the Langhe region. They have succeeded in combining tradition with innovation, maintaining high quality standards and still creating products with strong personality.

The Barbaresco Bricco is a result of overripe nebbiolo grapes, macerated for 12 days in steel, then aged for 30 months in French Oak. The usage of French Oak has generated a lot of debate in the early 80s, when it first started being adopted by some producers of the area: some believe the oak changes the character of the wine, as Nebbiolo already has a high concentration of tannins, it would not need the “help” of the oak; others believe it was a good thing for the wine and the region as it made the product a bit more international and it helped promote its consumption among French Wine lovers. Like all things, probably a wise usage of oak can be good, the important thing is not to use it to disguise defects on the wine or think it can enhance a poor quality harvest. To mitigate this, Pio Cesare “blends” the aging, 70% in new oak barriques, 30% in botti of 20hl.

The nose of this 1990 is as big as it gets, ranging from plums, dark berries, jams, wild forest, toasted notes of coffee, some menthol/eucalyptus/sage and even some meaty notes of game. It’s an ephemeral pleasure though, as the 26 years take a toll so it will fade away rather quickly (1/2h). Our suggestion is to open it, decant it for 15/20 minutes, and serve it. Best if the meal is for 4/6 people, so everyone gets a glass and can experience this beauty before it slips away. Keep an eye on it, check it, and if you can capture the peak, it will be worth your while.

Mouth is full, rich, but elegant and delicate at the same time. Tannins are refined to perfection, perfectly balancing acidity and alcoholic grade. There is also an interesting leathery feel to the tongue which means great pairing with juicy meats and chocolate desserts.

There are really no words to describe this wine, best if you try for yourselves.

Here you can find the wine: