Renzo Seghesio Barbera d’Alba Superior 2015
Winegrower: Renzo Seghesio
Region: Monforte d’Alba, Piedmont, Italy
Shipping: This wine will ship in May 2018
Barbera is the archetypical Piedmontese wine. The people of Piedmont and next door in Lombardy grow up in Barbera’s company, and drinking it characterizes a Milanese as much as the Duomo. Grown mainly in Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Sardinia, no one will dispute that Piedmont, especially Alba, is its spiritual home and from where the best wines are grown. Usually found as a joyous, everyday trattoria-style wine, in the right hands it can be made into something rich, complex and age-worthy; some believe it’s in the same class as Barolo or Brunello because of its incredible ability to display site-specificity (aka terroir). An authentic, great, Barbera, is distinguished by high acidity, intense purple hues, and recognizable aromas of red fruits, underbrush, delicate spices and long, dry finish. Such is today’s wine. From Barolo legend Renzo Seghesio we offer his 2015 Barbera d’Alba Superior. It is incredibly delicious, fresh and vinous with a mouth-watering acidity, and it’s ideal with the hearty fare and winter nights that lay ahead. Made from hand-picked, organic grapes that were vinified with wild yeasts, it was aged for ten months in old oak barrels followed by an additional 6 months in bottle before being released. This is a delicious and serious wine that can be enjoyed now but can also handle some serious cellaring, but as usual I’m happily draining the bottles I suggest others to lay down.
For more than a century the Seghesio family has been crafting its traditionally made wines in famed Monforte d'Alba; but the estate's tiny production has kept it a relative secret. Renzo bottled his first wines in 1968; his Barolo bears the name ‘Pajana,’ which might be called a ‘cru-within-a-cru’ in that it’s traditionally been considered a sub-section of Ginestra, one of the most famous of vineyards in Barolo. Renzo is also a stubborn purist who farms organically, works his small vineyard holdings manually and ferments using wild yeasts. And having served as the mayor of Monforte d’Alba for 25 years, this man truly lives and breathes his home terroir.
The wines of Renzo Seghesio have been considered classic, iconic expressions of traditional Barbera and Nebbiolo (Barolo) for decades, but sadly (or happily, depending on your viewpoint) there is little information about them that is readily available and finding their wines can be difficult. When you thumb through Sheldon Wasserman’s landmark tome, The Noble Red Wines of Italy (published way back in 1991), you can read his notes on the wines stretching back decades to his first tasting trips to the Langhe, and he’s not the only notable to be impressed by these wines (Burton Anderson’s Guide to the Wines of Italy is another, and there are more.) It’s an indication of the esteem that these wines enjoy among Barbera and Nebbiolo connoisseurs and insiders. But despite its embrace by the Italian wine cognoscenti the estate is one of those rare Langhe wineries that has managed to stay under the radar, which is lucky for us because it helps to keep prices reasonable.
To learn more about these fine, old-school, large-cask-aged wines, an excellent and relatively recent resource is Manhattan restaurateur Joe Campanale’s 2015 podcast interview with Raffaele Seghesio on the Heritage Radio Network. In this highly informative talk (which lasts about 30 minutes), Raffaele, Renzo’s son, gives an excellent description and overview of the estate and its winemaking philosophy.
So back to today’s wine; Renzo Seghesio’s Barbera d’Alba Superior 2015 comes from his Panjana della Ginestra vineyard in Monforte d’Alba. It covers less than 2 hectares, is composed of limestone over clay and faces southeast at an elevation of 500 meters. The grapes were handpicked at the end of September and fermented with wild, indigenous yeasts in steel barrels for 10 days. This was followed by a second malolactic fermentation and aging in old 30 hectoliter Slavonian oak barrels for another 10 months. It was then bottled and aged an additional 6 months before release. This wine is dry, refreshing and mouth-watering. In the glass it is an intense ruby red and displays aromas of violets, liquorice and spice. On the palate it is mouth-wateringly delicious, balanced, full bodied, structured, complex and sophisticated. Fresh blackberry, cherry and hints of plum are followed by a long, persistent finish with spicy after-tones. Serve this wine at 16-17° in Bordeaux stems with medium to mature cheese, grilled or braised beef or game, or try these delicious Moroccan lamb shanks.