Posts tagged ‘barolo’
I’ve just returned from Piemonte, tasting new releases of Barbaresco (2007) and Barolo (2006). I briefly wrote about these wines on my other blog (read here and here). Now I would like to go into a bit more depth on Piemontese reds in general.
The Langhe area of southern Piemonte where the Barolo and Barbaresco zones are located, has been on a bit of a roll as of late. After the rainy 2002 vintage and the torridly hot 2003 growing season, which resulted in wines that were powerful, yet poorly balanced, the weather has cooperated. 2004 was a glorious year, producing wines of superb aromatics along with impressive weight. While 2005 was a lighter vintage, the wines are beautifully balanced with precise acidity and are drinking well. 2006 was a big year – this is a vintage where the wines need plenty of time – and 2007 was a relatively warm year that resulted in ripe, forward wines that are very enjoyable in their youth. The 2007 reds – at least what I have tasted so far (dozens of Barbaresco along with a handful of Barolo from cask) are notable wines, though probably not meant for the long haul, especially when compared to 2006.
Then there are the vintages of 2008 and 2009. You will be reading a great deal about the quality of 2009 in Piemonte (as well as the rest of Italy). It was a warm year, producing rich wines with impressive concentration; based on what I’ve tried so far with the whites as well as some reds from tank and cask, it definitely has the potential to be an outstanding vintage. That means that 2008 will likely be lost in the shuffle, as this was a cooler year that yielded less weighty wines.
However, 2008 is an excellent vintage – don’t let the hype fool you. While the wines may be less robust than those from 2009, they do offer beautiful varietal character and, most importantly, excellent acidity, which means the wines will age gracefully.
In fact, when it comes to Barolo and Barbaresco – both made exclusively from Nebbiolo – 2008 may be the better year. Danilo Drocco, winemaker at Fontanafredda in Serralunga d’Alba in the heart of the Barolo zone, told me that he believes 2008 will be the better of the two years for Nebbiolo-based wines. “I prefer 2008 for Nebbiolo,” Drocco related. “2008 was a long, cool growing season while 2009 was a shorter, hotter year. 2009 will be better for Barbera and Dolcetto, but it was not great for Nebbiolo.” Dante Scaglione, former winemaker at Bruno Giacosa and now consulting enologist for several projects including Cascina Roccalini in Barbaresco, told me that he agrees with Drocco about Nebbiolo for 2008.
Vintage assessments are always fascinating, but it’s also important to think about the style of the red wines made in Piemonte. From what I tasted during my recent trip, it was clearly noticeable that oak is becoming more of supporting player in the wine, as it should have been all along. Barolo went through its stage of high percentage, new barrique aging during the 1990s and early 2000s, but now the tide is turning back to larger barrels and thus, less wood influence. Another promising trend is that here are more and more cellars fermenting and/or aging their wines for a short time in cement tanks. Franco Massolino in Serralunga prefers fermenting his Barolo in cement, as “this helps preserve the aromas.” How nice that producers such as Massolino, Giovanni Rosso, Elio Grasso, Marcarini, Bartolo Mascarello and others are producing wine with the goal of emphasizing the flavors of the Nebbiolo variety as well as focusing on terroir to produce a wine with a sense of place.
There are so many wonderful reds that will be released over the next 3-4 years from Piemonte and while things look good in the short term of this span, it’s especially nice that tradition will play a more important role in this area for years to come.
“In my opinion, the 2005 Barolos are the best balanced of the last decade.” - Sergio Germano, winemaker, Ettore Germano estate, Serralunga d’Alba
Each year, I am invited to taste the new vintage of Barolo at a series of special press tastings in the city of Alba, only a few miles from the vineyards of these famous wines. Last May, I tasted over 100 examples of Barolo from the 2005 vintage and while I liked the wines overall, I was not that excited. I gave the vintage a rating of three stars – very good – and thought that while some of the wines were nicely concentrated, others lacked fruit. In other words, a mixed bag.
A few months later, I saw the promising notices in a few of Italy’s top wine guides such as Gambero Rosso and Duemilavini (the guide of the Association of Italian Sommeliers) regarding these wines. Each guide had given their highest rating to more than two dozen 2005 Barolos. My immediate reaction was that the staff of these guides had been too generous.
But after retasting some of the wines last Friday at the Tre Bicchieri tasting in Chicago, I have to admit that these publications were quite accurate. Any Barolo will improve after additional time in the bottle and now almost ten months after I first tasted the wines, they are rounding out nicely. The wines are now showing more expressive aromatics as well as more pronounced fruit on the palate and are indeed beauitfully balanced wines.
I think what happened was that 2005 followed a great vintage in 2004. That vintage combined remarkable aromatics and fruit that were evident immediately upon release. Combine excellent concentration along with ideal acidity and you had a recipe for greatness.
Wines like this don’t come along too often (otherwise the word “great” to describe a vintage would be relatively meaningless) and sure enough 2005 was a year that gave us wines that were not as immediately impressive as those from 2004. Call these wines shy, if you will, but they did not show as well upon release as did the 2004s.
Now I am reevaluating my thoughts on the 2005 Barolos. Here are a few thoughts on a few of my favorites:
Dried cherry and caraway aromas, medium-full with stylish tannins. A classy wine with pleasing herbal notes from this ultraconsistent, traditional producer. Best in 12-15 years.
Ettore Germano Prapo’
Gorgeous orange peel and marmalade aromas; elegantly syled tannins and beautiful acidity. Round, complex and complete, this is a silky, graceful wine. Best in 10-15 years. I also like the Germano Ceretta, which is a more powerful wine; however the Prapo’ gets my vote as the top Barolo from this producer.
Vajra Bricco delle Viole
This Barolo is from a small vineyard just above and outside the town of Barolo and means “hill of violets.” That is an apt descriptor for this fragrant wine which is as supple and as elegantly styled as you could want from a wine made from the Nebbiolo grape. Perfect acidity, bright fruit and ultra fine tannins. The finish goes on forever. Best in 12-15 years.
Luca Currado at Vietti has been producing remarkable wines from this great Serralunga site for the past decade and has made this one of the winery’s best bottlings, an impressive feat considering that Currado also produces a Barolo from Brunate and Rocche. Deeply concentrated with firm, balanced tannins, this has the stuffing to age well for at least 12-15 years, perhaps longer.
Bruno Giacosa Le Rocche di Serralunga
No surprise here, as this is a huge wine with great fruit depth and typical Serralunga structure, meaning this will need many years in the bottle before its greatest complexities emerge. Big spice in the nose and on the palate with youthful, firm, but nicely integrated tannins, this will offer pleasure for at least two decades more.
Here is another of my Top 100 producers in Italy.
One of the seminal producers of Barolo is the Cavallotto family of Castiglione Falletto. Established in 1948 by Olivio Cavallotto, the operations are run today by his offspring, siblings Alfio, Giuseppe and Laura, who continue to make wines that are shining examples of terroir.
The key to their wines – as with any producer – emerges from the vineyards and the Cavallotto family’s prized site is Bricco Boschis, which sits on a hillside in Castglione Falletto, overlooking much of the Barolo zone. Several red wines are produced from this vineyard, including Grignolino, Freisa and Barbera, but the various offerings of Barolo offer the best evidence of the superior quailty of this vineyard.
Each year a regular bottling of Bricco Boschis Barolo is bottled, while in the finest vintages, a Riserva bottling, labeled Vigna San Giuseppe, is produced. Both of these Barolos, as well as the Riserva bottling from the adjacent Vignolo vineyard are excellent examples of wines that perfectly display their terroir.
A principal reason for this is the decision to only use grandi botti for aging the wines, which allows the fruit to shine through with minimal wood influence. Combine this traditional way of winemaking along with low yields on immaculately farmed sites and you have a recipe for greatness. Even a humble Piemontese red such as Grignolino is an unqualified success, as the Cavallotto bottling offers more depth of fruit and greater complexity than almost any other example of this variety.
But the Barolos from Bricco Boschis are what truly define Cavallotto as one of the greatest producers in Italy. Offering gorgeous cherry and raspberry fruit along with hints of nutmeg and cedar, the wines are quite full in the mouth; elegantly crafted tannins and pinpoint acidity give the wines a remarkable silkiness. The regular bottling of Bricco Boschis Barolo is always striking, while the Vigna San Giuseppe is even better; more deeply concentrated and structured for 20-25 years of cellaring – and in some vintages, such as the glorious 2001 – perhaps as long as 30 or 40 years. This is one of the great bottlings of Barolo and you owe it to yourself to try at least one vintage of this wine to understand what classic Barolo is all about!
One final note about these wines is that they are ideal for food. The family does not make wines to garner high ratings or please the market; rather they make wines that are perfect representations of their site. I have tasted Cavallotto Barolo with any number of dishes, be it roast duck, braised rabbit or even river trout and have been mesmerized by how well the wine works with each food. Given that the Piemontese are idealists when it comes to pairing their wines with the local cuisine, this is about as high a praise I can offer!
The best wines of Cavallotto include:
- Grignolino (Piemonte DOC)
- Dolcetto d’Alba “Vigna Scot”
- Barbera d’Alba “Bricco Boschis – Vigna Cucolo”
- Langhe Nebbiolo “Bricco Boschis”
- Barolo “Bricco Boschis”
- Barolo “Bricco Boschis – Vigna San Giuseppe” Riserva
- Barolo “Vignolo” Riserva
Renato Ratti Winery, Annunziata (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Text and photos ©Tom Hyland
This past week I conducted a class at Perman Wine Selections in Chicago that included some of Italy’s finest and most famous wine types. I dubbed the class “Italy’s Killer B’s”; the wines tasted were examples of Brunello, Bolgheri, Barbera, Barbaresco and Barolo.