Two expert selections from Garrett Kowalsky
Bruno Giacosa is where my love of wine started—and not just Italian wine, but the whole wide wine spectrum, wine from all corners of the earth. I grew up around wine; my parents owned a wine shop and my brother was a Burgundy fiend, but my love for it was not immediate. It took years of sweet drinks, bad beer, good beer and more before my palate finally came around. It was New Year’s Eve 2010 at La Pizza Fresca on 20th Street when a 1989 Barolo from Bruno Giacosa switched the wine light on. It’s been a love affair ever since and I see no signs of my passion slowing.
I’ve chosen two wines from the iconic Giacosa estate to celebrate my wine epiphany—and to deepen your wine love.
Barbera is one of the most widely planted grapes in Italy but it’s mostly known for being the little brother to Piemonte’s Nebbiolo-based Barolo and Barbaresco. Nearly all of the producers who make these great wines also grow and make a Barbera because, realistically, you can’t have a Barolo every night. This Giacosa Barbera is bursting with sweet fruits, a lively acidity, and a surprisingly long finish. Feel free to pair this with pasta, risotto, burgers, pizza—nearly any dish under the sun. You’ll end up smiling each and every time. Drink now to the end of the decade.
While the Barbera is all about sweet fruit and accessibility, the Barolo Riserva or “Red Label,” as it is known at the Giacosa estate, is an absolute powerhouse. In its youth this wine’s Nebbiolo fruit is tight and foreboding, but as time passes and the tannins integrate, this bottle becomes a wine of extraordinary elegance and remarkable complexity. This bottle will never hit you over the head with bombastic flavors; it would much rather seduce you over a long, long time. Drink 2018-2035.
The core four: Barbera d’Alba DOC, Barbera d’Asti DOCG, Barbera del Monferrato DOC
Historically known as “the people’s grape,” and currently recognized as the “fun” alternative to Piemonte’s more austere Nebbiolo-based Barolo and Barbaresco, the wines of Piemonte’s Barbera DOCs offer an easy-going, cheerfully acidic and very tasty way to experience the renowned region. The most widely grown varietal in Piemonte, there are two Barbera DOCs, Barbera d’AlbaBarbera del Monferrato, and one Barbera DOCG, Barbera d’Asti.
All three of these designations intersect with Piemonte’s Barolo regions because traditionally Barbera was planted along with Nebbiolo to provide an earlier ripening, and less finicky, crop of fruit—which means that Barbera is often crafted by Barolo producers. All three Barbera areas not only overlap Barolo regions, but they also touch borders with one another, suggesting just how intermarried they are. History indicates that Barbera arrived first in Monferrato in the late eighteenth century, but the grape’s longevity in all three regions is undeniable.
Wines from all three areas tend to be ruby-red and rustic in nature, showcasing a fresh red-fruit palate, and accented by a pointy acidity. Recent changes in viticultural techniques, however, have allowed producers to grow more fruit-forward grapes with a slightly lowered acidity. Regulations require Barbera d’Alba to be entirely composed of Barbera, while both Barbera d’Asti and Barbera del Monferrato may add up to 15% of Freisa, Grignolino and/or Dolcetto. All three wines gain the status of superiore when aged for twelve months or longer.
Barbara d’Asti has gained much in its Barbera reputation for its Nizza sub-region, which not only has sunnier exposure than other regions but also a stricter set of regulations. Many producers, especially in Asti, have been experimenting with aging in barrique in order to tame the acidity, to add tannins, and to create a plusher, rounder and silkier Barbera. Though Barberas do differ from region to region and producer to producer, one thing is true: regardless which Barbera you choose, you’ll get an ideal food wine, one that cuts through the tang of tomato-based pasta sauces and complements all barbecue with equal aplomb.
For a full range of IWM’s fine Barbera wines, please go here.
Two expert selections from Michael Adler
Forget for just a moment that it feels like spring; picture snow-covered sidewalks and feel the frigid wind snapping at your cheeks, draw your scarf tighter around your neck to conserve every bit of warmth and heat. What you need in the dead of winter to brighten your spirits and thaw your soul is a bottle of rich, warming, tannic and powerful red wine. I can think of no better wine for frozen winter evenings than Barolo. The Nebbiolo grape offers wine-lovers the perfect winter red to warm you from the inside: dense, opulent, palate-coating wines with ample acid, muscle and alcohol. What more could we ask for on a freezing winter evening?
To celebrate the pure, hedonistic pleasure of sipping a great Barolo alongside a hearty, warming stew or pot roast, I picked a pair of knockout-gorgeous bottles from the iconic Aldo Conterno estate, its ripe, structured 2011 Barolo Bussia and its dark, brooding 2011 Barolo Colonnello.
The estate’s classic bottling, the ’11 Barolo Bussia is a towering testament to the enduring greatness of the Aldo Conterno estate. Muscular, textured and gripping, this Barolo Bussia thunders out of the glass with intense aromas of ripe red and black fruits, rose petals, underbrush and earth, with a hefty dose of that unmistakable Barolo terroir. On the finish, its chewy tannins give way to a refreshing, mouth-watering acidity that keeps this massive wine texturally balanced. Nebbiolo lovers who appreciate a modern, powerful and fruit-driven Barolo will want to revisit this Barolo Bussia again and again.
Aldo Conterno 2011 Barolo Colonnello $149.99
Ever since Aldo Conterno split from the illustrious Giacomo Conterno estate, the master Barolo producer has shows a penchant for doing things his own way. For instance, he followed the lead of Angelo Gaja and Valentino Migliorini of Rocche dei Manzoni and began bottling a superb lineup of single-vineyard expressions of Barolo, which have since become collector staples worldwide. Deriving from a warmer vintage, this ’11 Barolo Colonnello is somewhat more approachable than other vintages. It delivers a cornucopia of red and black fruits along with savory herbal and meaty notes and a polished core of minerality. While it shows well in its youth with some decanting, it will only get better over the next decade and will continue to drink well through 2025 and beyond.
A delicious, charming, under $30 red from Aldo Conterno
I was looking for something balanced and drinkable, but because I was planning to enjoy it as I watched the Academy Awards, it also needed to be distinguished and elegant—but not as pricey as celebrity after-parties. After careful deliberation and with no help from the Academy, I went with the Aldo Conterno 2012 Langhe Rosso. Although this estate is known for its tradition of exquisite Barolos, Aldo Conterno’s Langhe Rosso proves to be a heavenly combination of approachability, balance, and, most importantly for me, affordability.
In the 1969, Aldo Conterno split from his brother Giacomo and decided to leave the family farm and pursue his own winemaking career. Despite having learned viniculture together, Giacomo’s methods proved to be too traditional for Aldo, who, although far from modern himself, preferred to utilize innovation. The “King of Barolo,” Aldo Conterno passed away in 2012, but the five-generation tradition of making high-quality wine continues with his three sons.
The balanced and supple Langhe Rosso 2012 is a blend of 80% old-vine Freisa, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot. What’s interesting about this is that, despite being from Piemonte, this wine actually contains no Nebbiolo, thus keeping with Aldo Conterno’s legacy of mixing innovation with tradition. Despite the interesting grape blend, this $30 bottle retains all of the charm and quality the estate’s reputation deserves. Juicy berries, spices, and flowery notes wrap together in an excellent dry palate. The Langhe Rosso 2012 does its sister wines proud, yet this affordable gem caters to anyone looking for a great vintage red on a limited budget.
An under $30 aromatic, dry, crisp white from a Piemonte master
Bruno Giacosa is a magician. A man who is not an oenologist (which surprises most people), Giacosa became one of Piedmont’s most renowned and respected winemakers, and he learned by working with his father and grandfather. Early on, Giacosa became fascinated by what could be created from grapes, and taught by his forebears, he thinks thinks that wines were better in the past (and so does my grandfather), when there was less sophistication both vineyard treatment and wine production, and when people did things with more care in the past and less handling. I admire Giacosa’s philosophy and I love all his wines, starting by the exceptional and world famous Baroli he crafts. However, the wine I want to talk about is his fantastic Bruno Giacosa 2014 Roero Arneis.
Arneis is indigenous to Piemonte, and while this white grape long played a part in the region’s wine culture, it had slowly dwindled to the brink extinction by the 1960s. Wine made from Arneis, also called Nebbiolo Bianco, makes a delicious, complex Piemontese white wine and it offers a great alternative to Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. The best region for Arneis is Roero, a sandy-soiled area in the Langhe hills. Roero Arneis got its DOC status in 1989 (little known fact: there’s also a red Roero Arneis, but you hardly ever see it).
Bruno Giacosa 2014 Roero Arneis is quite aromatic: white peaches, stone fruit, and citrus all appear on the nose. On the palate, an unexpected and quite distinct note of saffron comes out, and precise, well-balanced acidity that’s tempered with a creamy mouth-feel and piquant minerality complete the experience. Deriving from vineyards in Vezza d’Alba, Monteu Roero, Santo Stefano Roero, Canale, and Montà d’Alba, this Roero is crafted entirely in stainless steel, which is why it’s so fresh. Dry and crisp, this Giacosa Arneis can accompany a wide range of foods, from vitello to cheese, calamari or shellfish, salads to roast chicken. This great white moves elegantly from “aperitivi” to entrees, and priced at less than $30, this serious value white definitely deserves a place on your table!keep looking »