2015 Ca’ Del Baio, Barbaresco DOCG “Autinbej” Piedmonte, Italy.
Giulio Grasso’s Ca’ del Baio, which was founded back in the early 1920’s, but didn’t start making wine under their own label until 2004, having previously sold grapes to the coop, Produttori del Barbaresco, is an eco friendly small family winery in Treiso, in the Langhe hills near the border of Neive and close to Barbaresco itself, making a range of fine Barbaresco as well as Langhe Nebbiolo, Chardonnay, Riesling, Moscato d’Asti, Barbera and Dolcetto. For me, just getting started with the wines of Ca’ del Baio, I chose the Autinbej, the newest member of Cà del Baio’s family of Barbarescos, which is a tribute to Giulio Grasso’s late father, Ernesto, who often used the Piemontese word “Autinbej” to describe the best vineyard exposures that make up this cuvee. All the Barbaresco vines are between 25 and 40 years old and grown on the region’s classic gray marl, limestone, and sandy soils and with vines from both west and east facing slopes giving warmth and balance in this ripe vintage.
The 2015 Autinbej was traditionally crafted and fermented with maceration on the skins from 9 to 15 days in stainless steel tanks at controlled temperatures to preserve aromatics and fresh detail. The Grasso’s try to use only native yeasts and low sulfur in their wines, along with the sustainable vineyard practices are looking to make as a natural expression as possible. In the case of this Autinbej, it’s a blend of different crus, while there are single crus too like Pora, Vallegrande and Asili, plus a Reserve. The resulting Barbaresco matured for 24 months in large Slavonian oak barrels (boti) followed by bottle aging for at least four months before its release, and while like most Nebbiolo based wines in the region it can and will age extremely well and effortlessly for a long time, but this one, especially in this vintage with it’s heady flavors and smooth tannins can be drunk young.
This is a winery on the rise, in 2016 Giulio received a great honor, he was named “Viticulturist of the Year” by the very prestigious Gambero Rosso Italian Wine Guide, and while under the radar in the USA, there is a lot of buzz around Ca’ del Baio, but happily the wines are truly a bargain, at least for now! The 2014 vintage was a cool difficult year, though Barbaresco did remarkably well, but 2015 is a big and opulent vintage of hedonism and power with Grasso’s Autinbej reaching 15% natural alcohol, though still finely balanced and graceful, as a Barbaresco should be.
There is a lot to love here with this Nebbiolo showing a raw sex appeal in the glass with a cascade of flavors and sensations including rose petals, minty herbs, strawberry preserves, damson plum and kirsch along with black licorice, mineral, cedar, coco and hint of orange rind. The palate is chewy and youthful, but air allows this ruby/garnet and dark brick hued Barbaresco unwind and flow seamlessly in the mouth, this is impressive stuff, especially with matching cuisine and robust food choices. If this one is anything to go by then I’m going to be thrilled by the single cru bottlings and the Asili Reserva, as well as the basic Langhe Nebbiolo, if you haven’t heard of Ca’ del Baio, you should search some out soon.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive