At a recent tasting presented by Aldo Vacca, Director of Produttori del Barbaresco based in the village of Barbaresco, Piedmont, Northern Italy, Aldo made some very interesting points regarding climate change/global warming.
As a child in the 1960's and early 1970's Aldo remembers his grandfather going to the winery under cover of dark to chaptalise the wines - this was the illegal practice of adding sugar to boost the final alcoholic strength of a wine. Potential alcohol would have always been 12-12.5% Vol. but since 1997 - "the first of the warm vintages", there is no problem achieving 13-14% Vol in the wines from Barberesco. Even in the poor vintage of 2002 the grapes produced a wine with 13% Vol.
The Produttori grow only Nebbiolo - the name of the grape is derived from the Italian word "nebbia" meaning "fog". In the past this grape was always picked during the November fogs - nowadays the grape is picked much earlier on in September, long before the autumn fogs descend on the vineyards.
"Global warming has been making September a summer month - before, you put an extra blanket on your bed in September - now it is October before you need that extra blanket."
Two important changes have taken place due to climate change -
Up to five years ago the most important factor in grape quality in this region was sugar content. With climate change other factors are now looked at - the grapes are measured for colour, tone and phenolic ripeness.
Production of single vineyard Barbaresco usually took place only in the better vintages - now it is happening almost every year.
I asked Aldo what he likes to eat when he enjoys a bottle of his Barbaresco - "I drink with steak, veal, mushroom risotto, pheasant and rabbit. The wine also matches fresh egg pasta extremely well."
A wonderful tasting - great wines from Nebbiolo Langhe DOC 2006 to a single Cru Barbaresco Riserva "Moccagatta" 1997. My own favourite was Barbaresco Riserva "Rio Sordo" 2001. I will have the chance to try the 1999 of this wine tomorrow - a wine I bought from Aldo while visiting the Produttori del Barbaresco two years ago.