Exploring Barbaresco’s historic vineyards: the “Tour of Cru” experience

Author: Marco Negro

When it comes to Italian wine, few regions hold the allure of Piemonte. Here, amidst rolling hills and picturesque landscapes, Barbaresco, a distinguished wine that has carved its legacy into the very soil, beckons wine enthusiasts to explore its rich terroir. In the heart of Barbaresco Docg, the “Tour of Cru” project offers an extraordinary journey for those curious to unearth the secrets of this world-renowned wine.

Term stolen by the French, who first coined and used it, today a “cru” refers to a specific vineyard or grape-growing site that is recognized for its exceptional terroir and unique characteristics. A “cru” typically signifies a high-quality and well-regarded vineyard, and wines produced from grapes grown in such vineyards often carry the name of the cru, emphasizing their exceptional origin. In Italy this term was replaced by the term MeGa (Menzioni Geografiche Aggiunte), by Law 164 of 1992. Cru wines are highly esteemed for their expression of the specific attributes of the vineyard, including soil composition, microclimate, which contribute to the wine’s distinct flavor, aroma, and overall character, including longevity.

Montaldo shows the tour on a map of Barbaresco and sorroundings
© Enoteca Regionale del Barbaresco

In collaboration with the Laboratorio del Vino and during selected days of the “Weekend di Piacere Barbaresco,” the Regional Barbaresco Wine Shop invites wine lovers and adventurers to discover the very essence of Barbaresco. This immersive experience takes participants on a walking tour through the storied vineyards, the very roots of Barbaresco Docg, where a long history of agricultural traditions has flourished.

Barbaresco, composed solely of Nebbiolo grapes, emerges from this meticulous process with a rich tapestry of organoleptic features that define its character. The aging process, requiring a minimum of 26 months, bestows upon it a complexity that unfolds in every sip. The deep ruby red hue, often with garnet reflections, hints at the wine’s maturity. On the nose, Barbaresco unveils an intricate bouquet of red fruit, dried flowers, and subtle earthy notes, characteristic of the Nebbiolo varietal. Upon the palate, Barbaresco further enchants with a harmonious interplay of flavors. Elegant and full-bodied, the wine showcases the finesse of red cherry, raspberry, and sometimes even notes of truffle and spice. Its refined tannins provide a structured backbone, ensuring a wine that not only delights upon release but also promises potential for graceful aging. Barbaresco’s finish is enduring, leaving a lingering impression of its terroir—a synthesis of the unique geological features and microclimate that define the Barbaresco Docg region (the entire territory of the municipalities of Barbaresco, Neive, Treiso, and a portion of the San Rocco Seno d’Elvio district within the municipality of Alba).

In the world of wine connoisseurs, Barbaresco is celebrated not just for its Docg status but for its ability to captivate the senses, offering a true expression of the Piedmontese landscape in every glass.

The “Tour of Cru” isn’t your typical wine-tasting venture. Instead, it’s an opportunity to tread the paths less traveled, delve into the historical vineyards, and embrace the agricultural heritage that has shaped these hillsides for generations. These guided walks cover approximately 4-6 kilometers over a leisurely 2-3 hours, making them accessible to enthusiasts of all ages. Each group is limited to a maximum of 20 participants, a mix of passionate wine lovers, and sometimes even journalists or local wine producers. Each tour explores different territories, vineyards and areas: they unveil what we all know as “cru” or, as defined now by Italian legislation, the MeGA (Menzioni Geografiche of Barbaresco).

The town of Barbaresco and its landscape

What truly sets this experience apart is that every tour embarks on a unique path, immersing you amidst the historic vineyards – if you’re a wine lover, you will certainly have heard of Rabajà or Asili – and agricultural productions of the Barbaresco Docg region. Guiding your exploration of the Menzioni Geografiche of Barbaresco (MeGA) are none other than wine connoisseur and journalist Giancarlo Montaldo, accompanied by the experienced and passionate journalist Teresa Baccini.

Giancarlo Montaldo is one of the foremost authorities on Barbaresco and its Nebbiolo wines. This small town nestled in the Piedmont hills is his birthplace, and he knows every nook and cranny of its enchanting landscape. The Nebbiolo grape, which thrives in this region, is the elixir that fuels his expertise. With a profound knowledge of the history and production of the Langhe region’s exceptional wines, Giancarlo has transformed his passion into a lifelong pursuit. He wears many hats as a consultant, author, mayor, and director of the Regional Barbaresco Wine Shop.

Tour dei cru exploring the MeGa of Barbaresco
© Enoteca Regionale del Barbaresco

An accomplished guide and seasoned taster, he has experienced these lands and wines from numerous perspectives, affording him a unique vantage point. Today, he stands as one of the most prominent figures in the industry, even serving as the director of the renowned Barolo&Co magazine.

For over four decades, this quarterly journal has been dedicated to the pursuit of excellence, spotlighting treasures like Barolo that grace the Piedmontese and neighboring territories. The Tour dei Cru is thus a part of a project that begins with a walk on the sacred grounds of Barolo and culminates in a vivid narrative, year after year, increasingly impassioned and captivating.

Unearthing Barbaresco’s Past: the Origins

The concept of the “Tour of Cru” was born in 2007 when Giancarlo Montaldo, a true Barbaresco aficionado and president of the Regional Barbaresco Wine Shop, envisioned a unique way to promote awareness of the MeGA (Menzioni Geografiche Aggiunte) of Barbaresco. What began as sporadic excursions, occurring around 6-7 times a year, has since flourished into a thriving initiative. Today, it offers 35-40 tours annually, predominantly during the enchanting spring and autumn seasons, running from April to June and then from September to November.

MeGA – by Giancarlo Montaldo
The MeGA system, the Italian equivalent of the older French term cru, was introduced into Italian law by Law 164 of 1992 and applies to both DOC and DOCG wines. MeGAs are smaller territorial segments within the wine’s origin area, recognized by geographical, historical, or traditional references. They can be used on wine labels if vinification, maturation, bottling, and aging occur separately and are traceable. The delimitation of the MeGAs responds to two fundamental criteria: the vocational one relating to the quality of the wine in question and the geographical one, in the sense that delimitations must be made using geographical parameters such as roads of various types and grades, headlands, watercourses, municipal boundaries, change of exposure, etc.

These tours, characterized by circular routes, commence in various charming Barbaresco municipalities, beckoning participants to traverse the historic vineyards (the cru), including renowned names like Rabajà, Asili, Ovello, Montestefano, Montefico, and many others. These esteemed sites number at least 20-25, each with its own unique story to tell. While each route primarily unfolds within a single municipality, it seamlessly provides glimpses of the surrounding areas, revealing the broader tapestry of the Barbaresco region. These municipalities encompass Barbaresco, Treiso, Neive, and a portion of Alba.

Montaldo shows a map to explain the MeGa of Barbaresco
© Enoteca Regionale del Barbaresco

An outstanding aspect of these tours is their contribution to the larger mission of promoting short food supply chains. Beyond the enchanting world of wine and vineyards, Giancarlo and Teresa enthusiastically introduce participants to the treasures of the land, from historic nuts and maize to the art of beekeeping.

If you’re intrigued by the idea of discovering the very soul of Barbaresco Docg, these tours are an exceptional opportunity. For more information and to reserve your spot, visit the website of the Regional Barbaresco Wine Shop. Don’t miss your chance to explore the terroir, savor the history, and relish the flavors of Barbaresco’s celebrated wine country.

16th November 2023,

Marco Negro

Picture of Marco Negro
Marco Negro
Expert of communication of Italian wine. He has a knack for connecting people.
Picture of Marco Negro
Marco Negro
Expert of communication of Italian wine. He has a knack for connecting people.

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