On the Road with the Grape Guy

Visit to Fattoria dei Barbi

26 Nov 2021

Wine Shelf(September 2021) ... Barbi is a winery with a rich history, but also a strange history. They were established in 1790 and were the first in Montalcino to accept visitors, so hospitality runs deep in the family. The family Colombini (owners of Barbi) owned vineyards in the area dating back to 1352 - but in 1790 they bought the land that the current winery sits on.

The Colombini family made their money the old-fashioned way, through banking and mercantile; back then (as now) land was a status symbol, and so that is what they purchased it for - it was 60 to 80 hectares of vineyards and they expanded their holdings through the generations to the 400 hectares they have today.

So we have mentioned the name of the family that owns the winery, Colombini, yet the winery is named “Fattoria dei Barbi” - the naming of the winery has two origin stories: one, either an ancient family name of people who lived on or near the land where the winery sits - or better yet, and the more appealing of the two stories: while planting the vineyard, fossils of a local monkfish were found, the fish was known to have a mustache (or beard) and was locally known as "barbas" ... So, the winery is either named after someone long dead and forgotten, or a fossilized fish, take your pick.

Barrel CellarBack to the Columbini's for another moment: in 1999 the vineyards were divided between the two children. The son, Stefano, received the brand and 2/3 of the vineyards; his sister Donatella, received 1/3 of the vineyards and started her own label: Donatella Colombini-Cinelli (mother was a Colombini - while dad was a Cinelli).

As with most Italian wine families, they started out as bulk sellers of wine and no one knows for certain when they started bottling the wines instead, but the earliest bottle anyone could find dates back to 1892 ... They began exporting wines to the US in 1969 and their restaurant / taverna (another side of their hospitality legacy) dates back to the '60s.

The Wines...

Old Bottle of 18922018 Brusco dei Barbi
This no oak Sangiovese (90%) & Merlot (10%) wine is sourced from young vines (5 to 15 years old) and is named for a bandit that lived on the property. This is a fresh-ish wine with good acidity and structure and plays well with food. Meant to be drank young.  (*** ½)

2019 Morellino di Scansano
This 60,000 to 80,000 bottle production Sangiovese (85%) and Merlot (15%) spends 4 months in large oak casks ... Plenty of black cherry fruit and has really good acid punch with a smoky character on the finish. On the palate it's round and supple with really pretty fruit characteristics, it's fruit-forward and easy to drink with subtle spice on the finish.  (*** ½+)

2019 Rosso di Montalcino (DOC)
Fruit taken from vineyards aged 8 to 12 years while the wine is age 6 months in larger oak barrels ... Simply put this wine has a really nice acid/spice combination; but digging deeper finds spiced-plum, spiced-cherry, spice-strawberry plus floral and balsamic notes. Good structure, good balance and well-made. Production ranges from 40,000 to 80,000 bottles.  (****)

2016 Brunello di MontalcinoBrunello Wines
As per the rules this is 100% Sangiovese ... It has an herbal quality yet supple note with a really nice smoothness. Plenty of red berry fruit with a blackberry backing - and as with a few of the previous Barbi wines, a lovely spiciness with good acidity to carry the wine through to the finish. Gets better with each sip and the oak integration here really is on-point. They make a 180,000 to 210,000 bottles annually.  (****)

2016 Brunello di Montalcino - Vigna del Fiore
The first vintage of this single vineyard offering was in 1981 - it's a southeast facing vineyard that sits at 250 meters above sea level and the oldest vines within the vineyard are between 20 to 25 years old. The wine spends one year in older barriques of three to five years of age; then another two years in 500-liter Slavonian oak (aka tonneau) ... Only 5,000 bottles are produced - so quite a small lot. Nice concentration and depth, yet subtle in so many ways ... Red fruit: cherry, red currant, strawberries and that oak is hidden so well behind a wall of spice and red fruit; there's even a floral aspect to this wine. It totally delivers on what single vineyard wines should be.  (**** ½)

2015 Brunello de Montalcino Riserva
This wine spends 3 years in oak and is a selection of the best grapes from the oldest vineyards; it is only made in selected years (in recent memory there was no Riserva made in 2009/2002/2014). It's earthy and seemingly lean but with smoky notes, juicy red fruit, dried cherry, fig, balsamic and a big tannin bite. Quite the revelation as there is just great balance in this wine - nothing overwhelms or under delivers ... though it does need time to fully integrate and open.  (****+)

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