Thursday, September 30, 2010

Barolo and Barbaresco Reference Tools

Not to beat a cavallo morto but I'm guessing at least a few folks out there are as enamored with — and interested in learning as much as possible about — the wines of Piedmont, and in particular the Langhe, as am I. Following in the wake of my last two posts, which each touched on the wines and nomenclature of a particular vineyard in the township of Serralunga d'Alba, I thought I'd share with you a couple of the resources I find most valuable when researching the wines, wineries and vineyards of the Langhe.

Those who have been reading here for quite a while (and who are in possession of elephantine memories) may recall a short review that I published back in early 2009, when I was hosting "A Passion for Piedmont," a monthly installment of the now apparently defunct meme called Wine Blogging Wednesday. Here's what I penned at the time:

"When it comes to learning about Piedmont wines, Slow Food Editore’s A Wine Atlas of the Langhe: The Great Barolo and Barbaresco Vineyards is a fantastic resource. It’s not exhaustive, by any means, as it jumps straight to the top of the heap, focusing entirely on the Nebbiolo-based wines of Barolo and Barbaresco. More importantly, it focuses on the great vineyards of the two zones and includes in-depth information about the best and most storied producers in each locale, along with excellent photography and useful maps and statistical data."
With one minor exception (which I'll address later), I stand by those words. A Wine Atlas of the Langhe remains one of my go-to reference tools for the Barolo and Barbaresco zones. The book opens with chapters that cover the history of the Nebbiolo vine as well as of the viticultural practices traditional to and required in both Barolo and Barbaresco. From there, the atlas is divided into geographical sections, one for each of the townships or municipalities that make up the overall B&B zones.

Within each section, you'll find an overview of the history of the commune, viticultural statistics, a map of the primary vineyards and, most importantly, a reasonably detailed description, including recommended producers, of each of the named vineyards within the village. At the end of each chapter are short biographical entries regarding "The Greats of Barolo/Barbaresco," iconic producers such as Giulio Mascarello (Bartolo's father), Renato Ratti, Giacomo Conterno... the list goes on. High quality photographs, topical sidebars and points of interest for visitors to the region are peppered throughout.

Originally published in Italian in 2000 as Atlante delle vigne di Langa, then translated and issued English in 2002, there have of course been some minor changes to the statistical information such as acreage devoted to particular vines, but that's a minor quibble. The book remains relevant and a very well written guide. The only revision I'd make to my original assessment is relative to the maps, which, though still useful, are in retrospect somewhat crude and difficult to read. Which leads me to my other recommendation....

* * *
For great maps, one need look no further than the incredible works of Alessandro Masnaghetti. Alessandro's I Cru di Enogea maps are relatively new to me. I first encountered them within a day or two of first meeting the man responsible for them, during my spring trip to Alba for Nebbiolo Prima. He's been working on them, though, since 2006 and they are clearly a labor of love. Not books but rather fold-out maps, each measures roughly 23" x 33" at full spread and folds to the size of a standard European sheet of paper.

On the A-side of each is a highly detailed, easy to read map, color-coded to identify each major vineyard and with a numeric key that indicates the location of the wineries within the covered commune. I've borrowed an image of one of the maps (below) to give you an idea of what to expect, but as with all good maps the true pleasure is in holding them in your hands, turning them to get your bearings.... All you map lovers out there will know what I'm talking about.

Image courtesy of Enogea.

On the B-side of each map is an equally intricate text-based description of the overall commune in question, followed by in-depth details of each vineyard site, including information such as altitude, exposure, primary varieties cultivated and key bottlings produced, as well as small, black and white maps that delineate the ownership of plots within each cru. There are even Google Earth coordinates included for each vineyard, should you wish to get a satellite's eye view of any particular site.

At present, Signor Masnaghetti has eight maps in production for the Langa: five for Barolo (Serralunga d'Alba, Monforte d'Alba, Castiglione Falletto, Barolo/Novello, and the newest, La Morra/Roddi/Cherasco) and three for Barbaresco (Barbaresco, Neive, and Treiso/Alba). He's also produced maps of the same ilk covering Chianti Classico, Bolgheri and the Alto Adige. Something tells me there will be more to come. Though originally published in Italian, all are available in English, translated by Daniel Thomases.

Masnaghetti's maps are not currently available through Amazon, so I can't provide you with a nifty little link for your insta-shopping pleasure; however, many of them are available here in the US via The Rare Wine Company or from K&L Wine Merchants (search: Masnaghetti). Given the quality of the work that went into them, they're a steal at about $9/per. For any fan or budding scholar of the wines of the Langa, consider them required reference material.


Do Bianchi said...

hey, btw, when I was doing research on Prapò the other day, my main go-to source was Martinelli's _Il Barolo come lo sento io_. One of these days, when I can retire, I'll translate it in its entirety! great post and thanks for the heads up on RWC...

David McDuff said...

Ah, I should have known. I've browsed through the Martinelli book but my grasp of Italian is rudimentary at best. So, retire now and get crackin' on that translation, would you? Happy to share the RWC/K&L links, btw; hope you find the maps as helpful and enjoyable as I do.

tom hyland said...


In every business, there are the unsung heroes who do yeoman's work that is of invaluable help to all of us.

Alessandro does that work for Italian wines. Nice of you to single him out!

David McDuff said...

So true, and well said. I don't have much experience with the journal/magazine form of Enogea but Alessandro's maps are a fantastic resource.

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