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Sometimes, the wine stars align and you don’t need to be a titan of industry to drink like one. Today is one of those days: Not only is the Albino Rocca estate a Barbaresco blue-chip on the order of Gaja, Produttori del Barbaresco, or DeForville, their impeccably crafted wines—sourced from some of the most prized vineyards in the appellation—can still be acquired for quite-reasonable prices. I don’t know of another wine region in the world where wines of this caliber—a majestic, beguiling red that will age for 10-20 years—can be had for $45. But even within Barbaresco and Barolo, Piedmont’s star attractions, such pricing is becoming increasingly rare.
But enough about the (ridiculously good) price: Let’s talk about this perfumed, structured, mind-expanding expression of the Nebbiolo grape. Now under the direction of a fourth generation of Roccas, this small family estate boasts one of the regions more enviable collections of well-placed vineyards, including holdings in oft-cited sites like “Ronchi” and “Ovello,” and in this, their “entry-level” or “base” Barbaresco, they bring all their resources to bear. This is as impressive a flagship as exists in Barbaresco, and hails from a beautifully balanced vintage that had all the critics drooling. So yes, the stars have aligned; take as much as you can fit!
Namesake Albino Rocca took over the family estate from his father in the 1960s, and these days three of his grandchildren—daughters of Albino’s son, Angelo—run this now-landmark property, whose winery sits atop the “Ronchi” cru. Angelo Rocca was extremely successful in raising the profile of the property, linking up with influential importer Mark DeGrazia and introducing a new generation of wine drinkers to a “new generation” of Barbaresco wines—namely, a much cleaner breed of wine than was made the generation prior. In the early 2000s, Angelo—whom many would label a “modernist” based on the style of his wines in the ’90s and early aughts—started aging his Barbarescos in larger (20-hectoliter) oak barrels sourced from German and Austrian coopers. Today’s 2019 was the first new-release Barbaresco I’d tasted from Rocca in quite some time, and not only was I blown away, I couldn’t help but lament how many stellar vintages (like 2016) got past me in the last few years.
So, what about ’19, anyway? To say it is a highly hyped-up Barbaresco vintage is soft-pedaling it. Author and Italian wine critic Ian D’Agata wondered whether it would be permissible to spell “outstanding” with “three ‘g’s,” adding that “…the 2019 vintage is, to this point in time at least, one of the top three Barbaresco vintages of the twenty-first century.”
As is typical of any flagship “Barbaresco” bottling without a vineyard designation, this wine is sourced from an assortment of vineyards: In this case, the sources are said to include the “Ronchi,” “Ovello,” and “Montersino” MGAs. Rooted in the classic Barbaresco mix of clay/limestone and sandstone, these sites provided impeccable raw material in 2019; fermentation was carried out in stainless steel and aging lasts 24 months in those 20-hectoliter German and Austrian oak casks.
This 2019 is an intriguingly complete wine already—structured and serious but also drinkable as a young wine, thanks to its impeccable balance. I’d highly recommend consuming at least one bottle now to establish a baseline, at which point I think you’ll agree that there’s at least a decade of upside here. In the glass, it’s a deep garnet red with hints of pink at the rim, with perfumed aromas of dried cherry, red current, blood orange peel, dried roses, leather, crushed rock, black tea, and pipe tobacco. This wine effortlessly tames all the extremes Nebbiolo can throw at you; the acidity, alcohol, and tannin are all well-managed and well-integrated. Get yourself enough of a stash that you can dip in now and 5-10 years from now. There’s no better pound-for-pound wine investment out there!
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