Annette Hilberg arrived in the Roero area from Germany 26 years ago and now seems very settled. She and her husband were about to set off for a tasting of old vintages of Barbera at the end of a long day. She was clearly excited about this, which is great to see in those in the trade. The pleasantly chaotic cantina has spectacular views over the land to which this small winery is very committed. Although not technically ‘biodynamic’, they style themselves ‘bio-ergo-dynamica’, putting the ‘work’ into biodynamic you might say. And this work has been put to good effect – these wines are highly individual, notable for their fully ripe fruit and great clarity. Their Nebbiolo d’Alba has regularly received the highest recognition in national awards.
But because we showed interest in local styles, we started in Vareij 2008, made from Brachetto grapes (80%) and Barbera. It could be called Birbet (see Malvira’), but people would expect it to be sweet. It is markedly aromatic, full of ripe fruit (and so tastes sweet), with medium acid and tannin. The small proportion of Barbera grapes is to give the wine better balance through that grape’s acidity. The wine is apparently much appreciated in Northern Europe.
The more typical reds come in two styles. Barbera d’Alba 2008 was perhaps not quite up to expectation so it was declassified but it still yields wonderfully rounded fruit, very drinkable indeed. Meanwhile Barbera d’Alba superiore 2007 has a very complex nose, slightly caramel, then rich ripe fruit with tamed acidity which takes a while to assert itself in the mouth. We tasted this after the Nebbiolo discussed below because of its greater forcefulness.
Nebbiolo Langhe 2007 is made in a traditional style with ageing in large casks. It has a very sweet, perfumed nose, alpine strawberries, very very delicious. Annette adds that it will be excellent in three to four years. By contrast Nebbiolo d’Alba 2007 gets the full 24 months in barrique treatment. Aromas of vanilla and spices are accompanied by bright red fruit, the trademark Hilberg roundedness in the mouth and more tannin.
This German-Italian co-operation is clearly very fruitful, with more than a little help from the phases of the moon and loving attention to the land and cellar.