Renato Ratti's vintage chart, photographed at Burlotto.

The Produttori, Year In and Year Out.

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My early years as a wine lover were spent in pursuit of Burgundy. All of the most sage advice I could find boiled down to the same 3 factors in determining the potential quality of a wine: Producer, Producer, Producer. Back in those bad old days there was much more bad wine out there, and it quickly became clear to me that just because So-and-So-et-Fils owned a lot of Grand Cru land didn’t mean that they would make decent wine, no matter how good the vintage might be. Overall things have improved, so at least you’re less likely to buy dramatically faulty wine. But the golden rule still holds: buy the producer, not the vintage. The wisdom of this rule is universal – it doesn’t just apply to Burgundy. This year we’ve twice put the Produttori del Barbaresco to the test and they’ve come through with amazing results; the wines shine even in the years that are rated “truly crappy”, or “absolutely dreadful”.  As our highly scientifically conducted tests have shown (conducted, that is, in the presence of plenty of witnesses, and copious quantities of good food), the Produttori know how to make good wine in every vintage. Interestingly, the wines from off-years were generally better than the samples of Produttori Barbaresco from vintages rated excellent (1971, 1978, 1982) which we tasted at the same time. This is likely because the Produttori help themselves in the more difficult years by not making any of their 8 single-vineyard Riserva wines, and instead blend all of their vineyards together to make a straight Barbaresco. This proves to be a great thing for a merchant who has to find bottle for someone born in 1973, or who was married in 1983, or whose child was born in 1984 and is now finally turning 21…

 

The Italian Trade Commission, c. 1986                                                                                   

 

A note on vintage charts: they are necessarily very generalized, and the more responsible versions say so. What’s a little scary is that vintage pronouncements can carry a lot of authority. You may recall when the Wine Spectator rated the 1997 and 2000 Piedmont vintages so highly as to cause a stampede; while there are some good wines in those years, few really knowledgeable aficionados got more than a chuckle out of that advice. We can agree that the 2002 vintage in Piedmont was a washout, but if you get a chance to taste the G. Rinaldi 2002 Barolo, for instance, you will have a very pleasant surprise. With practice, we are likely to develop our own sense of the quality of a vintage; I have derived much more pleasure from 1968, 1980, and 1986 Piedmont wines than any chart would predict – at least if I stick to good producers. Jamie Wolff

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Produttori del Barbaresco 1970 Barbaresco

Black cherry and kirsch flavors are underlined by subtle hints of bresaola, dark chocolate, and fresh earth. It's not a powerful vintage, but nevertheless impresses with its lightness, litheness, and elegance (2/28/16).  Jonas Mendoza

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Produttori del Barbaresco 1979 Barbaresco

I couldn't help but make the comparison initially to older Chianti, with flavors of dried red cherry and dried herbs. As the evening progressed, the wine became richer and weightier with darker fruit notes of black raspberry and brandied cherry with intensity similar to the blockbuster normale bottlings of 1971 and 1978. (1/17/17). Jonas Mendoza

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Produttori del Barbaresco 1980 Barbaresco

Medium ruby color with hints of brick on rim. Black cherry and black tea flavors with prominent notes of hoisin and balsamic. Quite along its development, but still has firm tannins and resonant acidity (1/17/17). Jonas Mendoza

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