Surprises from Barolo

August 20, 2011 at 9:47 am Leave a comment

Castello di Barolo (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

I’ve recently finished the Autumn issue of my Guide to Italian Wines, which features reviews of wines I tasted this past May in Alba at the Nebbiolo Prima event. The wines in question were the new releases from Barbaresco -2008 vintage – and Barolo (2007). I’ve written about these offerings in previous posts (here and here); both categories are quite special, with the 2008 Barbarescos offering ideal structure and deep concentration in a classic Piemontese style, while the 2007 Barolos are quite delicious with lovely freshness and aromatics in a more forward, inernational style (in the best sense of that definition).

What I noticed again with my notes on the 2007 Barolo was the names of certain producers I wasn’t that familiar with. I have attended this event for seven of the past eight years and have become familiar with a greater number of producers of Barolo and Barbaresco. The fact that we taste these wines blind is wonderful, in my opinion, as we can truly judge the wines on their merits and not on their labels.

So while my highest ratings for the 2007 Barolo went to such famous producers as Renato Ratti, Ceretto, Pio Cesare and Massolino, I also awarded 5 stars (outstanding) to Paolo Manzone for his “Meriame” bottling and Fratelli Alessandria for their “Monvigliero” offering. Manzone is one of a dozen or so rock solid producers in the commune of Serralunga, yet he is not as famous as others from that zone, such as Fontanafredda or Massolino. As for Fratelli Alessandria, their cru bottling is from Verduno, one of the smallest of the eleven Barolo communes. Several other producers from Verduno received a 4-star rating (excellent) from me; it’s really nice to see this relatively unknown commune shine with its Barolos from the 2007 vintage.

That brings me to the names of other producers that I awarded 4 stars to for their 2007 Barolos. Yes, a lot of famous names such as Vietti, Elio Grasso and Francesco Rinaldi, but also high marks for several producers whose work is not as highly praised at it should be. A few of these wines include:

  • Agostino Bosco “Neriane” (Verduno)
  • Angelo Germano “Vigna Rue” (Barolo)
  • Cascina Ballarin “Bricco Rocca” (La Morra)
  • Francone
  • Villadoria
So the moral of this story is that there are dozens – even a few hundred – producers that craft notable Barolo most vintages. The most famous producers continue to blaze new paths and soak up the top reviews, but it’s the lesser-known vintners that work just as hard and quite often produce wines that are just as special as the most renowned houses. This is true not only in Barolo or Barbaresco, but also for Brunello di Montalcino, Amarone, Taurasi or just about any great wine zone in Italy or many parts of the world. Remembering a few famous names – the sound bite principle – is easy, but it’s much more valuable and rewarding to learn about a broad spectrum of wines. I know I will be making some appointments to meet some of these producers during my next visit to the Barolo zone; I’ll try some lovely wines and make some new friends. How great is that!
Note: If you’d like to purchase a copy of the Autumn issue of my Guide to Italian Wines with reviews of more than 75 Barolos from the 2007 vintage and more than 50 Barbaresco from the 2008 vintage (the issue is 17 pages long), the price is $10. Go to this link for my email – when you contact me, I’ll give you instructions on how to purchase it.
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