Our tasting impressions
Most Barbera are fun and easy to drink but Ugo’s is not most Barbera. Delicious, yes but it offers a deeper, more serious rendition. It’s acidic, somewhat tannic and showing some oak right now. The overall impression is very savory. Give it some air or cellaring and it will integrate nicely. Good Barbera can develop for 10+ years, despite its modest tannins, because wines also can age on balanced fruit and acid.
About this wine
100% Barbera purchased grapes from the outstanding Neive vineyard called Gallina. Only one other estate produces Barbera from here.
The crushed grapes are vinified in steel tanks for 8-12 days. The DOCG designation Superiore means the Barbera must age at least a year including at least 4 months in oak barrel, but Ugo ages his 18 months in 2,500 liter Slovenian-oak barrels and then in bottle for 4-6 months more. Production is 4,000 bottles.
About the grape
Barbera is a dark-skinned grape from vigorously growing, easy to manage vines, so at least in Piedmont, most of the plantings are on the slopes, exposures and altitudes which are not best for Nebbiolo.
Barbera wines are high in acidity, low in tannins and light-bodied - although they can give the impression that they are big and hearty because of their purplish-black hue and relative roundness.
Barbera has been experiencing a Renaissance over the last couple of decades due to greater attention from talented winemakers who have discovered how to better craft the wines.
About the vintage
2015 is a fine vintage for Barbera, possibly one of the best in recent times. The wines are definitely ripe but there is ample balancing acidity, so freshness is a common trait.
On your table
Serve at cellar temperature with rigatoni bolognese and a side of a pungent green, like broccoli rabe, with a squeeze of lemon. Not bad with a grilled steak either.
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.