Barba Winery Raises Bar in Abruzzo
In 1991, Giovanni, Vincenzo, and Domenico Barba had a collective epiphany: why not use high-tech to challenge the notion that Abruzzo, which is 65 percent mountainous, could not produce quality wines?
Led by CEO Giovanni Barba, the brothers surmised that the best approach was to marry valuable old-world traditions with state-of-the art equipment. Their newly opened Fratelli Barba winery became a beacon of hope for one of Italy’s most promising new wine regions.
More than 20 years later, Fratelli Barba family winery is savoring the fruits of its decades-long struggle to enhance the image of the wine region. The company no longer sells its grapes to co-ops in bulk. Instead, it produces, bottles, and sells hand-crafted Montepulciano and Trebbiano wines around the world.
“Although I’ve said it before, it’s worth repeating: wines from Abruzzo deliver more bang for the buck than you’d expect,” said Michael Apstein, a wine columnist for Wine Review Online.com. “The region is starting to realize its enormous potential for making high-quality, well-priced wines.”
Fratelli Barba is now a thriving wine and agri-tourism business in Scerne di Pineto, a town in the Colle Morino foothillls between the Adriatic Sea and the Gran Sasso mountains. The winery is on nearly 700 acres of hilly terrain, with 170 acres planted with vines, olive trees, fruit trees and trees for lumber.
Some 500 acres of the estate is used for raising animals and industrial businesses. Originally from Naples, the Barba family has a long history of brickmaking, which continues today as well. But the winemaking tradition has permeated the other businesses as wine lovers discover the artisan brand.
One important reason for the winery’s success is undoubtedly Stefano Chioccioli, the resident oenologist and winemaker. Chioccioli is charged with nurturing vines, selecting only the best, and then the final stylistic wine creations.
“Our buying team reviewed a number of Abruzzo’s best wineries at Vinitaly in 2010 and found Barba’s wines represent the best proposition both stylistically and commercially. This was underlined by a further blind tasting comparison in our Primerose Hill office. The Colle Morino is a great value too with plenty of fruit and local character,” says Bibendum, a wine merchant in the United Kingdom.
The fratelli, which literally means brothers in Italian, have produced several award-winning wines since they emerged as champions of the Abruzzo region. In fact, Fratelli Barba won a prestigious Tre Bicchieri award from Gambero Rosso for its Vasari Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo 2008.
The award-winning wine is made from 100 percent Montepulciano, a deep purple indigenous varietal. This particular red wine was derived from 40-year-old vines and aged 14 months in French oak. With characteristic spice, plum and black cherry notes, and silky tannins, a bottle retails for $24 dollars.
Another prize-winning wine is Barba Vignafranca Montepulciano. Aged in French oak for 14 months, this Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo DOC is 100 percent Montepulciano. Wine Advocate gave the 2006 vintage 91 and 90 points for the 2007 vintage. A bottle retails for approximately $17.99.
Fratelli Barba offers a wide selection of red, rose and white wines. The pesserina grape is used for whites. And depending on the vintage and other variables, the wines can range from under $11 a bottle to $50 for a high profile, collector-worthy bottle.
For example, a bottle of Barba Vasari Montepulciano, classified as Montepulcian d’ Abruzzo DOC, retails for $10.99. The average age of the vines that produced this wine are 10 to 15 years old. In stainless steel, fermentation/maceration is 12 days. The ruby red wine has currants, plums and cherry notes.
The Barba family’s viticulture domain is comprised of some 68 hectares within Colle Morino, Casal Thaulero, and Vignafranca, all are within the areas designated Montepulciano Denominzione di Controllata, Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo and Colline Teramane Denominazione di Origen de Controllata e Garantito.
Since the family name is on every bottle, the Barba brothers continuously adhere to the highest standards as required by the rules that govern the DOCG and DOC. The family uses vines dating back to the 60s, as well as new vines added in 1993. Vines once used to produce high-yields have been replaced with modern vines aimed at producing high quality wines.
Some of Barba’s best family vineyards are situated along the Vomano River in the surrounding hills of the towns of Cellino Attanasio, Atri, Pineto and Roseto in the northern region of central Abruzzo in the lower calf of the familiar Italian boot.
Prior to the push for acceptance by the Barba brothers, the wines of Abruzzo were regarded as cheap, inexpensive table wines. But with the official recognition of the region’s only DOCG and three DOCs, the perception has begun to change.
Although the Barba brothers earned college degrees in engineering and agriculture, their love of their land and heritage prompted them to return to their bucolic, mineral-rich estate to help change the perception concerning the Abruzzo region.
Fratelli Barba is now one of nearly a dozen proud Italian family wineries in the Abruzzo region. All of the wineries are determined to raise the bar on producing finer, high-quality wines in this central Italian region.
“Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo has long been a staple red in Italian trattorias in the UK. But the appellation has in recent years seen several ambitious winemakers push the boundaries of quality ever higher. This has resulted in some fantastic accolades for the region’s top wines in the Gambero Rosso, and one such winning producer is Fratelli Barba,” Bibendum added.
Total Wines & More, the nation’s largest, independent fine wine retailer, sells the Fratelli Barba brand in its stores. Along the eastern seaboard, the wines are available in New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and others. Total Wines also has stores in Illinois, Texas, Florida, California, Georgia, and Arizona.
For more information on the family winery, contact www.fratellibarba.it For wine purchases, contact totalwines.com and bibendum-wine.co.uk
Rosie Carbo is the Lifestyles Editor for Wandering Educators, and is a
former newspaper reporter whose work has appeared in newspapers and
magazines nationwide. Some of those publications include People
magazine, The Dallas Morning News, The Houston Chronicle and San Antonio
Express-News. Some of her features were redistributed by The Associated
Press early in her career as an award-winning Texas journalist.
All photos courtesy of Fratelli Barba winery