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Manuel Marinacci: making wine the traditional way in Barbaresco

After Cornarea, we continued our journey with David Berry Green through the vineyards of Piedmont to visit Manuel Marinacci, a Barbaresco producer.

Manuel Marinacci is a relatively new but enthusiastic wine producer. He studied at Alba’s viticulture school and released his first vintage in 2004. He started from nothing in 2002 and doesn’t have family tradition behind him. But this doesn’t stop Manuel from producing 30,000 bottles a year of high-quality wine that is rooted in the traditions of the region.

A gorgeous rose bush greets you when you enter Manuel Marinacci Azienda.
A gorgeous rose bush greets you when you enter Manuel Marinacci Azienda.

Barbaresco wine region

The Barbaresco wine region is somewhat in the shadow of Barolo, it’s more famous neighbour. As David Berry Green says, this sometimes produces an inferiority complex and a tendency to beef up the wines in the region.

As a result many of its producers over the past twenty years have sought extra concentration to give their wines a touch of the ‘tar’; to convince the journalists principally that they’re as BIG as the Barolo boys, sporting BIG alcohols, worthy of BIG points, and so BIG prices! Yet so many, hunkered down in their bunkers, are totally missing the point about what is so precious about Barbaresco: its pure accessibility.

Further inland than Barolo, Barbaresco has a warmer climate, causing the Nebbiolo grapes to ripen faster here than in Barolo. The soil is also different, leading to wines a bit lighter in style. The wine law reflects this with different maturation requirement before release. Barbaresco wines need to be aged for at least two years, compared to Barolo which needs three (and often, in practice, much more).

The Barbaresco DOCG wines are top quality, but slightly less expensive than Barolo. They are also earlier drinking. So, if you want to spend less, but still get superb quality, look out for Barbaresco as an alternative to Barolo. It is the same grape.

Manuel Marinacci viticulture

Manuel Marinacci is a great exponent of the possibilities of the region. His four hectares of vineyard are located in the commune of Alba. He cultivates Nebiollo, Dolcetto and Barbera. He planted most of his current vines in 2010, except for a plot of 1960s Dolcetto vines. His hands are rough and show the hard work in the vineyard. But his spirit shines and reveals a passion for his grapes and his wine.

View from Manuel Marinacci vineyard, at the border of Barbaresco and Dolcetto DOCG. His vineyard is steep. Across the street, a plot of land which shows the types of soil in Piedmont, a geology lesson in one picture.
View from Manuel Marinacci vineyard, at the border of Barbaresco and Dolcetto DOCG. His vineyard is steep. Across the street, a plot of land which shows the types of soil in Piedmont, a geology lesson in one picture.

Dolcetto flowers last, but ripens first. Wines made out of Dolcetto are made to drink young and pair well with food. Barbera wine, under the appellation Barbera d’Alba can also be enjoyed young. But some of them, if made well and if they have enough fruit concentration, can develop complexity with age.

I like Barbera a lot. It’s perfect mid-week wine and a cheerful glass while making supper or chilling out is just delightful. Manuel’s 2012 Barbera was delicious and among the best I have had. Alas, we have already finished all the four bottles we bought from him.

Wine making at Manuel Marinacci

Manuel Marinacci believes in minimal intervention in. The three grapes have different maceration and maturation profiles. The Dolcetto grapes gets macerated on skins for one week, are fermented and then matured in cement for ten months before bottling. The Barbera grapes are macerated for ten days to extract more colour and tannin, fermented and then matured for about one year in cement or stainless steel vats.

His Nebbiolo grapes spends around a month on skins (20-40 days) before fermentation. He extracts gently, so that the wine does not get bitter, astringent flavours. His Barbaresco is than maturated for three years in large Slavonian neutral oak casks, a year more than the minimum legal requirement.

Slavonian botti where Manuel Marinacci ages his Barbaresco
Slavonian botti where Manuel Marinacci ages his Barbaresco

He is an advocate of natural sedimentation and clarification. This might leave some sediment in the bottle, but this is not a bad thing. In a quality wine with a couple of years of ageing, a bit of sediment is a sign of good and considerate wine making. The alternative is over-zealous filtration or fining which can leech out colour, texture and intensity.

Manuel also aims to use as little sulfur as possible, as sulfur treatment needs to happen every time you move the wine from one container to another.  For example, he said that his 2011 Barbaresco has only 60mg/l total sulfur dioxide (SO2), compared with the maximum EU limit for red wines of 150mg/l. As consumers are getting more aware of additives this kind of low-sulfur approach is going to become more common but Manuel is something of a pioneer.

Tasting at Manuel Marinacci

Tasting at Manuel Marrinacci

We tasted all the wines produced by Manuel and got the chance to taste for the first time the 2012 Barbaresco straight from the cask. His Barbarescos (2010, 2011, 2012) were very good and gave us the chance to do what wine enthusiasts call a vertical tasting, which means tasting the same grape and the same style of vine but from different vintages.

Manuel Marinacci Barbaresco, 2010

Tasting note: Garnet colour, with medium (+) aroma and flavor intensity of dried roses, bitter orange, black pepper. It almost smelled like a ‘negroni’. On the palate, dry, with high acidity, medium body and high ripe tannin and a medium (+) finish. It has great potential to age for five to ten years. Very good

Manuel Marinacci Barbaresco, 2011

Tasting note: Ruby colour, with medium (+) intensity of blackcurrant, subtle cherry, balsamic, figs and savoury notes. On the palate, dry, with high acidity, medium body, high tannin, medium flavour intensity and a long black cherry like finish.  This wine is quite young and will develop more. Very good, as the palate was not as developed as the nose, but will get better in time.

Manuel Marinacci Barbaresco, 2012 – straight from botte

Tasting note: Ruby color, with medium (+) intensity of black cherry, kirsh. On the palate, dry, with high acidity, medium body, medium (+) tannin, medium flavour intensity and a long finish.  This wine is still a baby and will get better with age.  Very good, as I believe it shows potential to turn into a nice wine.

Unfortunately, I could not find the vintages we tasted on the UK market. Berry Bros has his 2009 vintage in bond. But keep an eye on this producer.

Visiting Manuel Marinacci

You can contact Manuel on the details given on his website. His website is only in Italian, but he speaks fluent English. Just drop him a note and take it from there.

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