The Genius of Neive: Bruno Giacosa and Barbaresco

I was lucky enough to share in a heavenly bottle of 2004 Barbaresco DOCG Asili Riserva from none other than legendary producer Bruno Giacosa – a man often described as the ‘Genius of Neive’ not only because of the brilliance of the wines, but because he was one of the first in Piemonte to begin denoting Barolo and Barbareso cru on his single vineyard bottlings in 1967.

The Barbaresco Asili from Giacosa has an incredibly fine, tight and powerful tannin structure which is supported by a glorious perfume of raspberry, cherry, fresh old-fashioned rose petals and violet. There’s a plethora of savoury notes – leather, tar and subtle vanilla bean and cinnamon spice that seamlessly perform in the glass. The complexity and length are outstanding. This is one of Bruno Giacosa’s top wines from estate owned vineyards – indicated by the label Azienda Agricola Falletto (di Bruno Giacosa) – while wines made from grower’s vineyards or leased vineyards are labelled under Casa Vinicola Bruno

Giacosa was able to purchase a slice of Barbaresco’s prized west-facing Asili vineyard in 1996, but had been purchasing the fruit from its vines perched 400m above sea-level for decades. The Giacosa holdings now comprise 20 hectares of vineyards in Serralunga d’Alba, La Morra and Barbaresco. Most famously, Giacosa owns part of the Falletto vineyard in Serralunga d’Alba, purchased in 1982, which is the vineyard on which the estate bases its name.

The winemaking approach has been described as “updated traditional” and I would largely agree with this. The macerations are generally no longer than 30 days (compared to some stout traditionalists who are known to macerate for up to 50 days) while finer large French oak botti are used in place of Slovenian counterparts. Winemaker Dante Scaglioni has been working with Bruno Giacosa since 1991, and after a brief and mysterious flitter away from 2008 to 2011 he is now back at the helm, helping to harness the magic of the fruit as consulting winemaker.

Viticulture in these parts brings irrefutable vintage variation, sadly often hail is the culprit. The standards are impeccably high and often part or the entire vintage is declared unfit to be bottled under the Giacosa name. The wine is instead declassified or is sold as bulk. Conversely the magic word ‘Riserva’ is printed in gold and the label is transformed into a hue of maroon to signify an exceptional vintage that is worthy of going down in the history books.

The 2004 Falletto di Bruno Giacosa Asili Barbaresco Riserva is indeed worthy of being chronicled – it is an impossibly expressive Barbaresco that should be recorded as one of the finest, and it’s drinking exceptionally well now. It is tight yet generous with it’s purity of vibrant fruit, seductive savoury notes and firm tannin structure The alcohol is balanced and the texture is fine and velvety. As you would expect it carries a price tag that is not to be scoffed at – it’s around the $NZD350-400 mark – but when comparing this to French Bordeaux or Burgundy for example, it is a relative bargain for the glorious vinous experience you will receive.

2004 Falletto di Bruno Giacosa Asili Barbaresco Riserva, Barbaresco, Piemonte.
97 points