2011 Roberto Ferraris Barbera d'Asti Nobbio
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The Vineyards of Roberto Ferraris Old Vine Barbera Déjà Vu -- And a Rough Game of H-O-R-S-E

It's said that the olfactory is the keenest of senses. Maybe that's why we'll never forget the gnocchi, the olio, the Reggiano -- or the juiciest, blackest, old vine Barbera we've ever tasted.

We left La Morra at 10am, took the turnoff towards Asti about a half-hour later, then slalomed our way through the rolling vineyard hillsides en route to Agliano Terme. By the time we pulled into the dusty driveway, it was almost noon. As soon as we got out of the car, we smelled the gnocchi. The pasta was already on the table.

As always in Piemonte, the simplest cuisine is the best. The gnocchi was, of course, handmade. The olives were homegrown, the olio recently cold-pressed. The herbs came from the garden behind the whitewashed courtyard. The massive hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano was old and crusty, now freshly grated, dappled in olio.

The wine, served in oversized Riedel, was black. Not ruby. Not purple. BLACK -- far deeper than anything we'd seen after a week of cellar hopping in Barolo. The aromas were of black cherry preserves, dark plum, a faint touch of cedar. The attack was massive and almost unfairly hedonistic -- lavish, juicy black fruit to the core, all buttressed by mouthwatering, ancient vine acidity. Roberto Ferraris' Barbera d'Asti "Nobbio" would slice through the gnocchi, olive oil and Parmesan like a stiletto.

After lunch, we were feeling little pain. Roberto led us around the hillside bowl to the steep, south-facing incline on which he grows what many believe to be the most luscious Barbera in Piemonte. The sun had been particularly strong in 2001, Ferraris explained, baking the 65-year-old plants. The ancient vines shrugged off the dryness of summer, the deep root structure quenching thirst meters deep in the clay-sand substrata. But, the nights, thankfully, had been cool, thus preserving acidity.

Over a challenging game of H-O-R-S-E, played in the courtyard on a basket a half-foot too high (unfair home court advantage!!), we asked Roberto if the 2001 "Nobbio" was typical. Was every vintage of this massive old vine Barbera like the bottle that had been paired with his mother's gnocchi?

Roberto laughed after dropping in an 18-footer. "2001 was a miracle vintage. We may never see another season like it." For nine years, that would indeed be the case. But the summer of 2011 would lead to an olfactory déjà vu.

The spring of 2011 was unusually warm. The old vines of "Nobbio" were nearly two weeks ahead of schedule, Roberto told us. The summer then turned unusually dry, just as it had in 2001. The sun roasted the old vines during the day, but the diurnal temperature shift was unusually dramatic, with nighttime temperatures falling into the low 60s. The harvest would come early, under perfect conditions. "Sugars were extremely high, like 2001. But just as we saw a decade ago, the acids were firm. Again, we made an incredibly juicy, black wine that was perfectly balanced by cold night acidity."

The extravagant 2011 Roberto Ferraris Barbera "Nobbio" is black in color. Not ruby. Not purple. Black. The déjà vu aromas are of black cherry preserves, dark plum, a tad of cedar. The attack is black fruit juicy, lush, opulent and lavish, all buttressed by riveting chilly night acidity. The 2001 "Nobbio," so utterly primary and hedonistic in its youth, is still going strong. Roberto insists that the 2011 will outdistance the 2001. Ok, we believe Ferraris. But so what? WHO'S WAITING??

Tasting Notes

2011 Roberto Ferraris Barbera d'Asti Nobbio
"Black in color. Luscious primary fruit aromas of black cherry preserves, dark plum, sweet herbs, tinged with cedar. Rich and voluminous on the attack, packed with black fruits and dark cherry, primary and hedonistic, all buttressed by mouthwatering chilly night acidity. Drink now (hard not to) or age for a decade in a cool cellar."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

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    • This is a Pre-Arrival Offer: Weather permitting, wine will begin shipping upon arrival, in February, 2013.

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