Reigning over 100 hectares of vines, almost 1/6th of the Barbaresco appellation’s total vineyard area, is Produttori del Barbaresco, a cooperative made up of over 60 local wine-growers. Officially founded in 1958, this collaboration can trace back its roots to 1894, when Domizio Cavazza of the Royal Oenological School of Alba created the first cooperative of small landowners in the region. Today the Produttori del Barbaresco produces roughly 35,000 cases a year of single-varietal Nebbiolo wines. Their range includes a signature Barbaresco, with grapes blended from the cooperative’s nine vineyards, and nine single-vineyard cuvees produced only in the best vintages to highlight the distinct terroirs of this scenic appellation.
What exactly is a cooperative?
In the world of wine, “cooperative” usually refers to a collaboration between vineyard owners, who deliver their grapes to a shared space to be vinified, marketed and sold to the public. The winemaking cooperative is generally owned by these wine-growers themselves, who share in the profit made off the wines. They tend to be more commonly found in New World wine regions, including France (where they are called caves coopératives), Germany (Winzergenossenschaft), Spain, Portugal and Italy (cantina sociale). Being part of a cooperative holds several advantages for vineyard owners with small holdings, chief among which is the pooling of resources to cut the significant costs involved in the winemaking process. Often the members of winemaking cooperatives do not produce a large enough quantity of grapes to support a label or to cover the costs of expensive equipment and technical know-how. But when several small producers come together to share their grapes and pay for only a portion of the winemaking process, the result is an arrangement that benefits all involved. Along with winemaking, the cooperative allows wine-growers to share the cost of marketing, bringing more attention to the region and its wines than any individual vineyard owner could manage on his own. It was this willingness to work together to produce a whole greater than the sum of parts that led the wine-growers of Barbaresco to band together and establish the Produttori del Barbaresco cooperative in 1958.
The Story of Produttori del Barbaresco
The DOCG Barbaresco appellation is located in the Piedmont wine growing region of northwest Italy, halfway between the city of Milan and the French border. This small district includes four villages – Barbaresco, Neive, Treiso and San Rocco – and around 700 hectares planted with Nebbiolo grapes. The appellation also produces Dolcetto, Moscato and Barbera, though Nebbiolo reigns supreme. This is also the case in nearby Barolo, separated from Barbaresco by the town of Alba, though there are several differences in terroir and resulting wines in the two regions. Richer soils in Barbaresco lead to wines that are less tannic than those of Barolo. While appellation rules of Barolo require 3 years of ageing before release, Barbaresco requires only 2. Before the 20th century, Nebbiolo grapes from Barbaresco were largely sold to produce the better known Barolo. But in 1894, a headmaster of a local oenological school named Domizio Cavazza decided to bring together nine vineyard owners in the region to form the Cantine Sociali, which produced wine in a castle he owned in Barbaresco. Due to the strict economic rules put in place by the fascist regime, the cooperative closed its doors in 1930. It wasn’t until 1958 that a priest rediscovered Cavazza’s idea and gathered nineteen local producers to form the Produttori del Barbaresco. The first few vintages of the cooperatives wines were produced in the basement of a nearby church. Eventually a winery was built and dedicated to the production of single-varietal Nebbiolo wines of Barbaresco. Today the winery is managed by Aldo Vacca, the son of the cooperative’s first director and grandson of two of the cooperative’s original founders.
A Cooperative with a Focus on Quality in Barbaresco
At Produttori del Barbaresco, the focus is 100% on Nebbiolo. The cooperative includes 64 farmer members who provide grapes grown on nine individual vineyards, and are paid based on the quality (sugar content, tannins, colour) of their crop. These farmers are encouraged to manage their vines in a way that favours quality over quantity, to deliver a low yield of grapes with highly concentrated flavours. And this is exactly what sets Produttori del Barbaresco apart from standard wine cooperatives, which often receive a low reputation for blending grapes from all over a region. While the grapes at Produttori del Barbaresco are certainly taken from a wide range of vineyards in the appellation, the cooperative places a very high standard on the fruit they use in their wines, rejecting sub-par fruit without hesitation. At the winery, traditional Piedmontese methods are used to elaborate the wines. These are vinified in stainless steel tanks for a period between 18 and 28 days, and then aged between 2-4 years in large oak botti before bottling. The cooperative’s signature Barbaresco cuvee is made of a blend of grapes from all nine vineyards – Paje, Asili, Rabaja, Montefico, Montestefano, Muncagota, Rio Sordo and Pora (in order, from smallest to largest). This wine is left to ferment for 24 days on the skins and pumped over 2-3 times per day in the process. It spends 2 years in large oak casks before bottling.
Following in the footsteps of producers in Barolo, the cooperative created its first single-vineyard riserva wine in 1967. This range was later expanded to nine distinct crus, each of which features Nebbiolo grown in only one of the nine vineyards, and only produced in the best vintages. These wines really put a spotlight on the terroir of each vineyard. After all, it is the differences in exposure, soil type, altitude and climate that results in such distinct expressions of the Nebbiolo varietal. These wines are macerated on the skins for 28 to 40 days before undergoing malolactic fermentation, maturing for three years in large oak casks and ageing in the bottle for 6-12 months before their commercial release. These wines boast fabulous ageing potential, improving with age for 10 or more years.
Some of Our Favourites From Produttori del Barbaresco
Produttori del Barbaresco : Barbaresco 2011
The Produttori del Barbaresco : Barbaresco 2011 is a single-varietal red wine made from Nebbiolo grapes harvested from a 100-hectare vineyard in the Barbaresco appellation. The vines are planted on clay-limestone soils, which are also rich in calcium and characterised by sandy veins. This wine is vinified in stainless steel tanks and is left to macerate on the skins for 28 days. It is then aged for 24 months in large oak barrels before being bottled.
At the tasting, the Barbaresco 2011 by Produttori del Barbaresco reveals itself to be full-bodied, developing an intense nose full of ripe red fruit aromas, especially the classic black cherry and pepper of Nebbiolo. On the palate, this wine offers powerful tannins, before a very long and satisfying finish. To be consumed before 2031-2036.Discover this Wine
Produttori del Barbaresco : Barbaresco 2013
The Barbaresco de Produttori del Barbaresco 2013 is a single-varietal Nebbiolo red wine produced in the appellation of Barbaresco. The vineyard, covering a total area of 100 hectares, is planted in soils composed of limestone and clay, rich in calcium and characterised by sandy veins. The wine is vinified in stainless steel tanks, spending 28 days on the skins with pump-overs 2-3 times per day and malolactic fermentation included. A total of 220,000 bottles is produced each year.
This is a medium-bodied wine with delicious notes of red berries (cherry) and peppery spices, and a finish of very nicely balanced tannins. The wine can be kept for up to 20 years after the vintage, and is a perfect accompaniment to lamb and mild cheeses.Discover this Wine