Into the Barbera temple

Cristina Fracchia

After a year break (not really a sabbatical, as I had a child who just turned 12 months a few weeks ago), I have timidly returned to visit the places I prefer … the cellars! The choice fell on a famous Piedmontese company, which I never had a chance to see before.

Malicious people say that the Langhe folks are Alba-centric and that they generally don't move from their land (we are “bugia-nen”, we would say in dialect), but I prefer to say that we have so many wineries that we have only an embarrassment of riches and that is why we often don't go beyond our territory. On this occasion, however, I moved to Monferrato to visit the Braida cellars at Rocchetta Tanaro. To define historical this vinery is perhaps a bit excessive, as it was established not so long ago, in the 1960s, by the figure of founder Giacomo Bologna. Yet, Braida did the history of Barbera d'Asti because it was the first company to believe firmly in the potential of this vine and explore its various vinification in times when the Barbera was sold cheaply and frequently used to cut other products.

Bologna's intuition was to understand that Barbera could become an important wine and thus he sold its La Monella 1962 at a price almost double compared to previous years, precisely because in his opinion it had reached the quality he had long aspired for. His curiosity then prompted him to take the second step, which was to wander around the great French and American wineries and to relate himself to the oenologists of those countries, until he realized that the new way was through a tool that had never been used before in Italy: the barrique. At that point, he recruted the barrel maker of Castell'Alfero and together they explored the possibilities offered by this novel tool, until in 1984 the Bricco dell'Uccellone was born, the first Italian wine aged in barriques.

Several years have gone since those times, Giacomo has passed away more than twenty-five years ago, but the company continues growing firmly in the hands of his son and daughter, Beppe and Raffaella, and now consists of 37 hectares cultivated with barbera, grignolino, merlot, chardonnay, moscato, nascetta and riesling.

Entering their cellar gave me the feeling of going into the barbera temple, and the tasting that followed the visit took place in a building where, to enter, one had to go through a tiny door (oriental and ancient, really beautiful) and this reminded me of what I had studied at school about Gabriele D'Annunzio's library at his Vittoriale home, where the very low architrave at the doorway forces a gesture of humility and reverence for knowledge. In the case of Bologna, of course, this veneration goes to wine and its culture.

The choice of products to taste fell on a white and three reds. A delightful surprise was Il Fiore 2016, a Langhe Bianco doc wine of a singular elegance obtained from chardonnay and nascetta. The Montebruna 2015, Barbera d'Asti docg, was still not very expressive, as it had been bottled recently; incredibly balanced and drinkable I found the Bricco dell'Uccellone 2014, Barbera d'Asti docg, a wine that really does not tire the palate, one can drink several glasses without realizing it. The tasting was completed with the Bricco della Bigotta 2008, Barbera d'Asti docg that, despite its age, presented a great freshness and hints of fruit clearly distinguishable: in short, a longevity still to be enjoyed.

For these pearls and for those that I have not had the chance to taste, for the seriousness and the company's history, but especially for the emotions that brings about, Braida deserves a visit, at least once in a lifetime!


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