When one thinks of Barbera many great winemakers should come to mind, but who better than the modern innovator of Barbera, Giacomo Bologna. Now much of a legend in the Barbera wine community, Giacomo Bologna of Braida helped raise Barbera from an everyday local wine to a complex, stylish wine which can be just as special as a Barolo or Brunello.
Giacomo Bologna grew up in Piedmont during the 1950s. His father, Giuseppe, owned an estate in the small town of Rocchetta Tanaro. On the estate, Giuseppe had a small vineyard where he grew some Barbera and made wine for himself, family and friends. The estate, as it turns out, was blessed with excellent terroir. The soil was composed of sand and clay. The dense soil composition helped create wines that were more aromatic and savory compared to looser soil types. Giuseppe named the family estate Braida after a nickname he had picked up playing the local sport “pallone elastico.”
Giacomo’s father felt winemaking was a joy and his passion. This passion was not lost on Giacomo, he not only felt the passion his father passed down, he wished to make it his life’s work. When he was old enough, Giacomo traveled to France to study with some of the best French vignerons. While in France he learned about barrique aging, French varietals like Merlot and Cabernet, and more modern winemaking trends. Upon returning to the family estate in 1961, he began utilizing his new-found knowledge and began experimenting on his father’s estate. His experimentation included short pruning and thinning clusters to assure greater concentration of the fruit. He also harvested several days later than what was typical for the time. This was to yield a riper, less acidic fruit. Once fermented, Giacomo aged the wine in small oak barriques which would help bring about sweeter tannins which combined with the lower acidity for a very well balanced Barbera.
Giacomo continued perfecting his cuvees over the years. He was convinced that nothing short of a perfect wine should be his inaugural release. It wasn’t until 1982 that he felt the vintage and the winemaking came together for his “perfect wine.” Giacomo’s single vineyard 1982 Bricco dell’Uccellone changed many peoples view of the possibilities Barbera held. The new balanced Barbera concept was extr emely well received by the public. It was complex yet less tannic than the everyday Barbera people were used to drinking at the time. It would eventually set the standard for single vineyard Barbera.
Just under a decade later, Giacomo passed away. Giacomo left a legacy of innovation and forever changed the way Barbera is perceived. Following his death, Giacomo’s wife and children took over running the estate. His son, Giuseppe, took responsibility of the vineyards and production. He purchased additional vineyards and implemented more efficient practice to increase production. Giacomo’s daughter, Raffaella, became responsible for the commercial side of the business. They have gone through great lengths to embrace Giacomo’s quest for perfection, innovation, and to keep Giacomo’s dream alive. Rafaella says of the winery today that it is very hard to keep up with her father’s excellence and innovation, but together with Giuseppe they will continue to evolve. She jokingly says, “We are proactive conservatives.”
Today, Braida’s winery is as bustling as ever. They have increased capacity for winemaking and installed a new state-of-the-art wine cellar. In addition, Norbert Reinisch, Rafaella’s husband, joined the efforts of the family as export director which has helped the global expansion of the Braida brand. They also now produce more than just Barbera. The Il Baciale “the matchmaker” is a very successful and tasty blend of Barbera, Pinot Nero, Cabernet, and Merlot. Il Fiore “the flower” is a delicate blend of Chardonnay and Nascetta (a local Piemontese varietal). They also have several beautiful dessert wines in their Moscato d’Asti and Brachetto d’Acqui. Whatever your taste, Braida has something to satisfy your wine bug.
In Piedmont, Barbera is as prevalent as ever. It makes up half of all vineyards in the region and produces 85% of the varietal worldwide. Modern day Barbera winemakers are crafting riper more powerful styles to attempt to match that of Giacomo. Some are even aged as long as 7 years before release. Even today, Braida’s Bricco dell’Ucellone is considered to be one of the best single vineyard Barbera on the market. Giacomo’s spirit lives on at the Braida winery. The family philosophy of life, earth, wine and friendship is as true today as it ever was.
Braida “Bricco dell’Uccellone” Barbera d’Asti DOCG
This single vineyard Barbera takes it’s name the old woman that lived in the house adjacent to the vineyard. She always dressed in black and therefore lovingly given the nickname “l’uselun” or “Big Bird.” The wine is an intense purple hue. Rich aromas of red berries, mint and vanilla take over as you inhale. On the palate, the wine is generous, full bodied and volumptuous. Multidimensional as you note the quality of oak and grapes. Well balanced and finishes long. Pairs well with roasts, seasoned meat, or aged cheeses.
Braida “Montebruna” Barbera d’Asti DOCG
“A terrain that speaks,” is the philosophy embraced with this wine. The aroma is characterized by fragrances of ripe cherries and small red fruits. It brings an intense mouth-feel to the table. The wine is full-bodied and harmonious with a long lasting finish. Excellently balanced and pleasant to drink. Matches perfectly with red pasta, grilled meats, or cheese and salami.
Braida “Il Baciale” Monferrato Rosso DOC
Il Baciale means “matchmaker” as this wine marries Barbera with other red varietals. A blend of 60% Barbera, 20% Pinot Nero, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Merlot. Brilliantly ruby red in color. Spicy and delicate blackberry aromas are evident. A warm mouth feel takes over as you sip the wine. Notes of plum, black pepper and cinnamon lead you to a persistent finish. An elegant yet complex wine.
Braida Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG
A very elegant dessert wine. It is full of fragrances of red berries, rose petals, and wild strawberries. The wine is an intense pink color with a fine mousse. Sweet, soft and delicate in your mouth as it showcases a burst of pure fruit and freshness. One of the rare wines to pair perfectly with dark chocolate, but can also be drank with a variety of nuts, fruits, or pastries.