| There are many places in the world I have visited only via their wines. While I’ve traipsed through southern Italy and Tuscany, I’ve not yet had the good fortune to visit Piemonte, home of some of my favorite wines. However, the best wines, unlike any other agricultural product, have an uncanny way of transporting one to their place of origin, and thanks to vintners like Piero Busso, I can visit Piemonte any time via the bottle. Somehow, the best wines of Piemonte not only evoke impressions of the area, but make you feel like you’re there, even if you’ve never set foot in the place. And while it’s not limited to Piemonte – you may have had similar experiences with Burgundy or Bordeaux or Germany – recently Piero Busso’s single-vineyard Barbera Majano immediately teleported me to northwest Italy as its warmth countered the cool late autumn air in the region and its suggestion of forest floor, smoke and assorted meats led me to feel at table in this land of rich, truffle-laden cuisine.
Barbera has an identity crisis. It ranges from cheap, insipid plonk to fancy barrique-aged renditions that can fetch over $100 a bottle. Historically, the more “noble” Nebbiolo has overshadowed it, but given the respect it deserves, it can produce truly profound wines. I don’t want to place Busso’s Barbera Majano in some supposed hierarchy between cheap and cheerful and luxuriously flashy, so let it suffice to say it is serious wine that vividly captures the flavors of Piemonte. Farmed organically and harvested at optimal ripeness (without the over-ripeness of many a bruising uber-Barbera), this has a wonderfully concentrated core of pure red fruits. Piero, along with wife Lucia and daughter and son Pierguido and Emanuela, are committed to pure vinous expression of their terroir, and their careful tending of the land and no-nonsense winemaking (fermentation in tank, followed by 10 months in large, old barrels) allows the flavors of Piemonte to shine through. Possessed of both the grace and gravitas one expects from the best wines of the region, this offers a profound drinking experience without the bells and whistles of 200% new oak Barberas, and most attractively, at a price one can handle in this famously expensive wine region.
The 2005 and 2006 vintages were particularly favorable for Barbera and its “little” brother Dolcetto. Having tasted many examples from these vintages, I can confidently say this wine represents one of the best Italian wine values in the marketplace. Having said that, there are only just over 700 cases for the entire world, so we are proud to have scored an allocation to offer you. So, next time you want to travel to Piemonte, and have neither the money nor the time, reach for a bottle of Piero Busso Barbera Majano and arrive there immediately! – Patrick Mitten
| Tasting Note
On the nose, this is at once high-toned and earthy, with strongly licorice-inflected red fruits combined with raw beef, truffles and a hint of smoke. An incisive burst of spice on the midpalate fleshes out to opulent, sappy richness, while bright acidity immediately energizes the finish where hints of tar, cured meat and an echo of licorice linger.