2018 Roagna Barbera d'Alba


Current stock: 3

Fans of good Barbera all agree that the category is wide, diverse and lots of fun to explore.  From the lighter spicier wines of Asti and northern Piemonte and their more supercharged, age-worthy brethren in Nizza to the more substantial, dark, plummy and oak-influenced wines from the Langhe region around Alba, fans of the grape have a lot to love!  Ultimately, though, it’s doomed to second citizen status in the Langhe as Nebbiolo is what pays the bills!  But there is, indeed, a short list of producers who lavish the same sort of attention on their Barbera as they do their more exalted, better paying wines.  You’re probably familiar with them from these pages- Bovio, Cigliuti, Elio Sandri and Cavallotto are four producers, for example, who take Barbera seriously and will wow you with theirs.  Giacomo Conterno’s Barbera from Francia in Serralunga is, of course, a monumental gold standard worthy of a decade or longer in the cellar.  Of course it’s also $95 a bottle now, so not for everyone.  One producer, though, whose wines we’ve always respected and who puts a lot more effort into his Barbera than just about anyone else we know is Luca Roagna.  Getting his fruit from very old Barbera vines in the Pira cru in Castiglione Falletto, Roagna handles his fruit much the same as if it were destined for his much-coveted Barbarescos or Barolos.  He macerates the grapes in tank for an extended period- sometimes as long as two months- and ages it in large format wood for upwards of five years (!), releasing it on the same schedule as his Nebbiolo-based wines.  So while other producers are rolling out their 2022 and even 2023 Barberas and 2020 Nebbiolo-based wines, Roagna’s just-released wines are from 2018!  While ‘elegant’ and ‘complex’ are two words not usually associated with Barbera, Luca’s is a more linear, layered wine with a finer, fresher bouquet and less of the jammier dusky berry and plum notes.  There’s a pronounced florality and even some camphor and pipe tobacco- like Nebbiolo, maybe- only with Barbera’s earthier, shoveled loam and mulberry notes keeping the wine lively and in check.  Great Barbera should always have plenty of richness to go with its firm natural acidity and the balance in Roagna’s 2018 is impeccable. And the alcohol (always an issue with Barbera these days) is nicely moderate. The perfect food wine, in the Langhe, you’d have it with pastas with meat sugos, a grilled (as opposed to a braised) cut of beef or any of the lovely local cheeses of the region.  In my house, I’d probably pop a bottle with spaghetti and meatballs, sausages and peppers or a marinated, spicy flank steak.  Drink it now.  Drink it in five or eight years.  It’s up to you!  I’d have to say that Roagna’s has jumped to the top of the Barbera class this year and, while Roagna’s Barolos and Barbarescos tip the scales at $175 a bottle and more (and being delivered with this wine if you want any), this seems a relative steal for the quality. Very highly recommended.  Only a few cases in stock.