Franco Ziliani on Alba Wines 2009: Langa producers have relaxed use of new oak

VinoWire creator and editor Franco Ziliani recently blind-tasted more than 300 new releases by Langa and Roero producers at Alba Wine Exhibition.

At least one trend emerged at the recent Alba Wine Exhibition tasting. From the tireless traditionalists like the undersigned to the democratic omnivores who love both the new wave and the ancient, to the supporters of innovation, everyone agreed that there were fewer extreme, paradoxical, excessive wines marked by the intolerable and unfathomable prevalence of new wood, despite a few unflaggingly oaked wines and a few others (perhaps those included in the crowded band of producers absent from the tasting).

A more mature and informed use of barriques was clearly evident. The barrels used were perhaps not always new (the economic crisis has also slowed the purchase of new barrels), and often third- and fourth-passage casks. The selection of wood seemed to have been toasted in a more relaxed fashion and even producers whom you would have thought lifetime modernists have embraced the healthy and increasingly popular habit of using larger casks, including tonneau and especially botti that can hold between 15 and 30 hectoliters (made from Slavonian and French oak). This is due to the fact that there is a growing number of consumers who prefer wines that smell like Nebbiolo and not like the forests of the Massif Central. A growing number of wines showed more balance, drinkability, and a marked Nebbiolesque character that you wouldn’t have found in the past, even if you looked with a microscope.

Even though the differences between true traditionalists and the equally steadfast believers in innovation remain, the divide has begun to shrink and the differences have begun to mellow slightly. This state of things reveals that producers have begun to pay heed to the elements that should have always played a starring role in their wines: the land, the terroir, the vineyard with all of its “attributes,” not to mention careful vineyard management, elements that make all the différence.

—Franco Ziliani

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4 thoughts on “Franco Ziliani on Alba Wines 2009: Langa producers have relaxed use of new oak

  1. Bravo, Franco! you are right on target about the gradually diminishing presence of new oak flavors in this year’s presentation of Alba wines. During the many visits to producers that I crammed into my always-too-short stay in Piemonte, I was struck over and over by how many former new-barrique advocates were now using second, third, and even fourth passage barrels, and/or switching to large botti and even the grand oldfashioned Salvonian-oak casks that were once the norm in the region. Perhaps we have economics to thank for this? New barriques are an expensive affectation, and times are hard. Or maybe the winemakers are finally listening to their customers, who have outgrown Pepsi-generation oaky wines? Let us hope it’s both.

  2. Pingback: Vino Wire » Tom Maresca: “new barriques are an expensive affectation”

  3. Pingback: Vähemmän tammea Piemonten suunnalla « Viinipiru – viiniblogi, joka vie koko käden

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