Our tasting impressions
Likely, the finest young Barbaresco I’ve tasted. The nose is remarkably expressive and provocative. Amazingly, despite the considerable tannins, the overall palate impression is silky smoothness. Even at this early stage, the impeccable balance is evident and the spicy and zesty fruit flavors add intrigue. The finish is so long, I can still taste it. As good as Nebbiolo gets!
About this wine
100% Nebbiolo from purchased grapes in the commune of Neive. The vineyard of Gallina is considered one of the finest for Barbaresco and the micro-plot producing these grapes, Cascina Nuova, is better yet. It has an ideal southern exposure and elevation of 170-250 meters, The vines were planted between 1953 and 1971. Yields are as low as 40 hl/ha.
Ugo ferments his Barbaresco in stainless steel for 15-18 days. Previously, he used oak barrels but finds its easier to monitor the progress in steel tank. The wine ages in Slovenian oak for 20 months - 11 months longer than DOCG requires - and then 6 months in bottle before released. So, total aging of 26 months is 2 more than required. We are fortunate that this is his biggest production wine at 11,000 bottles per year.
About the grape
Nebbiolo, the name believed to be derived from nebbia, Italian for fog, is a grape with one of the most protracted maturation cycles. It buds in early spring and ripens late fall (when the winter nebbia from the Alps reaches the vineyards).
Nebbiolo vines tend to grow upwardly with abandon, so management is essential to limit grape production and channel energy to them. They also are very particular about where they will thrive, which is why Nebbiolo is seldom found outside of Piedmont. Even there, it only is successful when planted on south facing slopes (much sun is needed for ripening) and at proper elevation (too low there is too much frost exposure, too high the grapes won’t ripen).
Wines from Nebbiolo usually are pale-colored, high in acidity and very tannic. Common flavor descriptors are rose and tar. They tend to be highly aromatic.
About the vintage
Heavy rain in the winter and spring delayed fruit development and ultimately resulted in late October harvests - at least 2 weeks later than typical. The vintage was more than redeemed by a summer of very hot days but cool nights. This is an excellent, classic vintage with sweet, rich-fruited wines.
On your table
Best to pair with something fairly simple to give this beauty the spotlight it deserves, like a beef stew in chicken stock or something a bit gamier like goat stew. Of course, mushrooms are always welcome.
In the short-term, it might be best to pop and pour and enjoy the youthful fruit as exposure to air could shut it down. Serve at cellar temperature.
Ugo Lequio started his winery in 1981 despite not owning any vines. He lived in view of Gallina, one of the great vineyards in Neive producing Barbaresco. He had to persuade a vineyard owner to sell grapes to him. The Marcarinis had much of the most cherished plot known as Cascina Nuova. He was able to purchase Barbera from them initially and after many years he succeeded in acquiring their prized Nebbiolo, which had previously gone to Bruno Giacosa, one of the legends of Langhe wines in Piedmont. The vineyard has optimal exposure, altitude and soil composition.
Ugo does almost everything himself including oversight of vineyard management. His grape selection is painstaking and his winemaking very traditional. He ages his wines longer than the regulations stipulate and does nothing to alter the natural alcohol levels. Amazingly, the wines have great balance and display no heat even if the ABV is higher.
This is a true artisan, crafting incredible wines. We tasted an Arneis that had barely begun fermentation (it looked like a cloudy unfiltered beer) yet it had unbelievable delineation and balance. Ugo is his own man, a rightfully proud man who is so deeply devoted to making extraordinary wine.