The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

The Beauties of Baricci, a Historic Brunello Estate

Posted on | September 14, 2015 | Written by Janice Cable | No Comments

A bottle of Baricci Brunello from the 1970s

A bottle of Baricci Brunello from the 1970s

Drive up any long, winding road out of Montalcino, and you’ll pass any number of Brunello makers. So many wineries, so little time. It’s hard to know which wines to drink and which to pass by. I’m fortunate to have met more than my fair share of the region’s best winemakers. Still, I have my favorites.

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The chicken coop at Baricci

The Baricci family is terribly humble, their winery incredibly small. Chickens cluck in a nearby coop, and the family’s hunting dogs kennel just beyond them. I grew up in rural Vermont, and the neat house sitting on ramshackle property reminds me of the farms where my parents would get their organic eggs and unpasteurized milk.

It’s easy never to have heard of Baricci. The family estate, founded in 1967 by Nello Baricci and now in the hands of son-in-law Pietro Buffi and his sons, make only about 12,000 bottles a year, and their entire 2010 Brunello production was fermenting in three shining stainless steel tanks the day I visited. Pietro Buffi, the father, is a gaunt man with a generous spirit. His family transitioned from sharecroppers to winemakers as post-WWII low-interest loans gave them the ability to move from “fame di fama”—or in English from hunger to fame, and Pietro’s attitude of gratitude is as real as the mud on his boots.

Pietro Buffa in the cantina

Pietro Buffi in the cantina

When I visited the Baricci estate in March 2011, it was drizzling with a foul intensity. Rain dripped from the eaves and the trees, and the ground was sucking mud. It was cold, unpleasant, and depressing weather. It was hard to understand why anyone would want to be a farmer, which is essentially half of Pietro’s job description. But Pietro was warm and inviting, and rather than merely taste his wine in a sterile tasting room or snuggled around the botti, he invited Eleanor, my guide and translator, and me to the family’s dining room table, where we drank his rustic, umano Brunello with fennel sausage that his wife had made. Pietro apologized for not having roasted a cinghiale for us. He’d not had enough time to prepare, he said, and he felt bad.

One of the two Baricci boys

One of the two Baricci boys

Today, our eLetter announced the release of the estate’s 2010 Brunello di Montalcino, which is breathtaking (even though it really needs several years in my wine fridge!). Drinking a wine to which I have a deep personal connection always sweetens the experience, and whenever I see a Baricci wine on a wine list, I pretty much always leap to order it, to enjoy it again, and to share its maker’s story with someone new. I still dream of that fennel sausage, though. Sadly, that taste remains an unrequited memory.

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