2006 La Giribaldina Barbera D'Asti Vigneti del val Sarmassa

La Giribaldina Barbera D'Asti Vigneti del val Sarmassa We were a long way from Asti when we learned about Giribaldina and Emmanuele Colombo's "Sarmassa". Dinner in Pauillac was perfect. Local baby lamb chops and 1989 Haut Brion. Not much else to say. The hot-vintage wine was ethereal. But this sand-soil beauty didn't show the heat. It was incredibly rich, but so light on its feet.

As is often the case when drinking something this good too fast, the conversation took a left turn, and we found ourselves talking about other sand soil wines; the Mourvedre of Bandol, the Nebbiolos of Roero and Lessona. That's when Pierre started in on one Barbera he discovered in Asti a few months before. "Sarmassa is pure sand. It's exquisite."

After five days in and around Barolo, we made our way to Giribaldina. At 11 am, we had our noses in a big Riedel glass full of 2006 Barbera "Sarmassa." The wine took us right back to Pauillac -- black in color with gorgeous, lush purple fruit flavors, a perfectly chiseled finish. So rich, but so light on its feet. This was another breed of Barbera. Why so different from the wines of Alba? Why so accessible, so immediately delicious? "Come on," the 28-year-old winegrower said, "I'll show you why."

We left the Colombo family's farmhouse and small, absolutely immaculate state-of-the-art winery, and set off on the winding roads to Asti Monferrato. We stopped on a knoll, climbed out of the work truck, walked up the hillside towards a perfectly exposed south-facing hillside. "In Alba, little Barbera gets this type of exposure. The best spots are reserved for Nebbiolo." Then, Emmanuele got down on one knee, scooped up a mound of soil, allowing the light sandy earth to filter through his fingers. "But this is the real secret of Sarmassa -- the sand."

La Giribaldina vineyards
La Giribaldina vineyards
While the wines of Alba get most of the critical attention from wine journalists, even the top producers in Barolo, like Georgio Rivetti, have turned their attention towards Asti when looking for a more elegant, fruit forward style of Barbera. But, understanding Piedmont is like getting a handle on Burgundy. Even within Asti, all Barbera is far from equal. Many Barbera d'Asti are made from vines planted in clay soil, making for rich, but fairly simple wines. Only here in Monferrato, with vines planted on fine sand soil, can you find wines like the 2006 Giribaldina Barbera d'Asti "Sarmassa" -- a wine that has not only fabulous richness, but amazing delicacy for a wine of this concentration.

Tasting Notes from the WineAccess Travel Log
"Deep purple/black color. Huge, explosive aromas of cassis and purple fruit. Rich, but fine on the entry, with mouth-filling purple fruit flavors. Wonderfully precise on the finish, with perfect acidity balancing all the opulence. Drink now for the primary fruit brilliance or age for up to five years."