2006 Robert Oatley Vineyards Montrose Omaggio Barbera

Barbera Grapes
It's taken a while for me to write a post on Barbera but the wine I've chosen is one produced in the Mudgee Wine Region of New South Wales. To be more precise, the Central Ranges Wine Zone. Situated on the north-western slopes of the Great Dividing Range the Region's climate is quite different owing to its elevation, to that of the Hunter Valley on the coastal side of the mountain range. 

From the term Moothi, meaning 'nest in the hills' in the local indigenous Wiradjuri language, Mudgee is not as well known as its easterly neighbour, but has an important viticultural history that dates back to the late 1850's and now ranks as the state's third-largest wine region. It is considered that Mudgee was the original home of Australia's original Chardonnay vines, the wines from which were labelled White Pinneau.   

The Oatley family purchased the historic property Craigmoor, formerly Poet's Corner in 2006 and renamed it Robert Oatley Vineyards in 2009. The old Montrose property acts as the family's winemaking headquarters today and is the name of one of the company's relaunched brand labels.  

However, it was back in the 1970's that an Italian winemaker by the name of Carlo Corino was credited with importing Australia's first vine cuttings of Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Barbera planting them at the Montrose Stony Creek's vineyard. The Omaggio, Italian for homage, is a recognition of his legacy to winemaking with these varietals. 

The red Barbera grape is indigenous to Piedmonte in north-west Italy where it is the most widely planted variety and for all the trivia buffs out there, the fourth most planted in the whole of Italy. One of the reasons for this fact may have been that owing to simple viticultural requirements, there were vast plantings of Barbera after the phylloxera blight of the late 1800's. Now, it is the primary grape of Barbera d'Asti DOCG, Barbera del Monferrato DOC and Barbera d'Alba DOC, all of which have different idiosyncrasies of their own and which arguably are the best examples produced from the variety.

Deep red garnet in hue, the Omaggio has complex spicy plum, cherry and blackberry fruit characteristics that are fresh and fragrant on the aromatics. Nice hints of chocolate and liquorice notes as well. Medium-bodied with twelve months of barrel age, this wine is dry on the palate and well supported by the variety's natural fresh acidity and gentle tannins, which compliment in turn its sour cherry, blueberry and earthy flavours. A soft, jammy plumpiness reminds me of a Merlot-type definition. A savoury, chocolatey finish. Cries out to be matched with a wood-fired pizza napolitana. However, it does need a good decant for you to enjoy the secondary fruit characters as for me it tasted better on the second evening. 

Inevitably, comparisons are going to be made with Barbera's testy Piedmontese cousin Nebbiolo as to which will do or has done better in certain Australian wine growing conditions. For this humble blogger, it appears that Barbera has the upper hand at present.

Source: Retail Purchase. Alcohol: 14.0%. Closure: Screwcap. Rating: 90 Points. 

Website: http://www.robertoatley.com.au/home/Default.aspx  

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