Franco Serra Barbaresco 2008

IMG_0955As I related in the Cordone Barolo post, I’ve developed a thing for Piedmont wines right now, and the more I learn the more I enjoy them.  Today’s wine is a Barbaresco.  I have been told the  difference between Barolo and Barbaresco is that Barolo is more masculine, while Barbaresco more feminine.  I get the comparison but it’s not accurate, that’s too much of a difference for what are two very similar wines.  I think of them more like brothers: masculine, muscular, bold, and strong, but one needs to shave twice a day (Barolo), while the other just once in the morning and he’s good (Barbaresco).  To the guys reading this, I know I’m not making too much sense, but the ladies know what I’m talking about, so go ask them.  Another way to describe the differences is Barolo is more brooding in comparison to the more outgoing and cheery  Barbaresco.  By the end of this post you’ll understand.

They make about half as much Barbaresco as they do Barolo in Piedmont.  Barbaresco can be made in only three villages; Barbaresco itself, Neive, and Treiso.  Both wines are made from the Nebbiolo grape, but the aging and requirements for Barbaresco are two years in barrel and bottle, respectively.

Let’s talk about “aging” for a minute.  It’s a fact of life that no one wants to get old.  Neither does wine.   We, like wine, strive to mature, to grow in nuances and grace, and in the eyes of winemakers, they don’t “age” their wine.  Rather they “bring them up” like children.  The word in Italian and English I’ve learned is “Crescere” the French use the term “Elever.”  A wine can grow old without ever maturing, just like some people I know.

So, what about our wine?  Nothing here but great aroma and taste.  The color of the Franco Serra was a classic red, clear and clean, with an orange rim.  As for the aroma, well it was remarkable; I got heavy anise, liquorice, vanilla, some floral notes, and a little cherry.  And it got better over time.  By day three the anise faded into the background with the cherry and floral/violets taking over.  The nose is just great, trust me you’ll love it.  Finally we arrive at the first taste.  Big and dry, but not nearly as dry as the Barolo.  Flavors did not evolve as much as the nose, but there was plenty of cherry and spice, a significant amount of drying tannins, and ample acidity.  The Franco Serra is a flavorful wine that will pair with great food, but please, no pizza or burgers.  Time was taken to make this wine, so give it a meal that takes a little preparation as well.

Franco Serra is made by the Sperone family, who has produced affordable, premium wines for four generations.  In 1920, Antonio Sperone opened a small wine shop in Torino where he sold bulk wine directly to consumers.  Unsatisfied with the quality and price of the local wine, Antonio started his own winery in Puglia, where land was inexpensive and produced good wine.  He built a bottling facility in Torino and was soon able to offer his customers quality wines at prices everyone could afford.  Sadly, it was destroyed when the city was bombed in World War II.  The winery in Puglia survived the war and enabled Antonio’s grandson, Giacomo, to open a new facility near Milan where he produced vermouth, sparkling wines, spirits, and fine wines.  With the help of his sons Paolo and Antonio, the company grew quickly and achieved distribution throughout Italy, and later expanded into foreign markets.  In 1965, the family purchased 75 acres of prime vineyards in Piedmont and built a new winery in Monferrato.  

Even as the prices fetched for wines from this increasingly-fashionable region continue to climb, the Sperone family proudly focuses on value.  The Franco Serra line provides everyone with the opportunity to drink thoughtfully-crafted, distinctive wines from Italy’s most renowned region.  The Barolo and Barbaresco selections are sourced from a few trusted suppliers and undergo part of their ageing directly in the Sperone’s cellar where they are constantly monitored and sampled to ensure uncompromising quality is maintained.  Hopefully my store still has some of these left, as I would like to grab several more to see what a few years in bottle do.  At $27 a  bottle this wine is a great value.  I got my two bottles are Center Street Wine and Spirits.

Before we wrap up for the week, I have a book recommendation for you.  “The Vines of San Lorenzo” by Edward Steinberg.  This is a great wine book told from the unusual perspective of the vines.  The story is about the quest of Angelo Gaja to make the best Barbaresco in the world.  The story is told through the 1989 vintage Barbaresco for Gaja’s flagship wine Sori S, Lorenzo.  At $360.00 a bottle these are some grapes.  It’s a great story about making a great wine.  From growing the grapes, to the harvest, to fermentation, extraction, “ageing”,  the barrels, bottles, and corks, oh yeah, and marketing.  Sounds tedious, but it’s not, it’s a great wine education in 260 pages.  

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