Barbaresco, the wine which makes you ‘more and more fascinated by its nuances’ as you persevere

Get the hang of the smoke-and-roses delights of Barbaresco and you’ll never look back, believes Harry Eyres.

Early autumn seems the right time to be savouring the smoke-and-roses delights of the great wines made near Alba in Piedmont from the late-ripening Nebbiolo grape, named after the fog that swathes the Langhe hills at this time of year.

The two famous names are Barolo and Barbaresco, now as sought after as top Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhône. It’s tempting to distinguish between them with shorthand — let’s say Barbaresco is the Côte Rôtie equivalent to Barolo’s Hermitage — but, in truth, the differences are more between individual plots with their particularities of terroir.

Nebbiolo — not obviously fruity, tannic and stern when young — is hardly the easiest grape variety to appreciate, but once you’ve got the hang of it (or at least this has been my experience), you’ll become more and more fascinated by its nuances of aroma, flavour and texture.

What to buy

This week, I’m focusing on Barbaresco — with its expressions of Nebbiolo that can be just a little gentler than those of mighty Barolo — and the wines of two excellent estates, Sottimano and Cigliuti. Sottimano’s Langhe Nebbiolo 2018 (£22.95; www.leaandsandeman.co.uk) is, in effect, a baby Barbaresco, with enticing violet aromas and a hint of dark chocolate.

Among Sottimano’s ‘crus’, 2012 Barbaresco Cottá (£48.75; www.leaandsandeman.co.uk) has great delicacy and finesse on the nose, but backs that up with exceptional length and a beautiful finish.

By contrast, 2012 Barbaresco Pajoré (right, £48.75; www.leaandsandeman.co.uk) is full, rich, spicy and warm.

Barbaresco Serraboella is the flagship wine of the Fratelli Cigliuti estate and the 2015 (£52.95; www.leaandsandeman.co.uk) has bright colour, more obvious fruit (cherry and plum) than you sometimes get from Nebbiolo and richness, but also a real spring in its step.