2010 Barolo

So what’s not to like? 2010 Barolo is in the hype machine right now and as much as i would like to say that they hype machine is in overdrive, which it perennially is, this is one time where much might be warranted. that’s not to say that 2010 is a universally fabulous vintage. It simply is not with more than a handful of wines showing under-ripe tannins and flavors, but if you stick with the top producers you will be in for a treat, at least if you have the patience to let these wines mature. Which by my reckoning is going to take a full 20 years for the top wines. 

I was able to visit with Burlotto and Brovia twice this past spring and much of my opinion of the vintage is framed by their wines. In March of this year the wines, 2010 Barolo in general, were hard, a bit lean and showed the character of a barely ripe, but energetic and complex vintage. Red currants and herbs abounded.  The wines were leaner than they had been in 2013, and showed signs of closing up tight as a drum.
Upon tasting these wines first in March and then again in May of this year I found some flesh and fruit had returned to the wines and they resembled the barrel samples tasted in May of 2013 much more than the wines tasted just two months earlier. It just goes to show you that timing is terribly important with these sorts of things, tasting barrel samples and immature examples of particularly age worthy wines.

So what are the wines like? They are mostly brilliant though some wines do lack some flesh and have tannins that are too hard for their own good. It’s a vintage that reminds me very much of a hypothetical blend of the structure and weight of 1996 with the freshness and purity of 2008. An enviable combination to be sure but neither of these vintages was met with early acclaim, and for good reason. Both vintages are the true aficionado’s vintages, and that is where 2010 is likely to run into some difficulty.

 

We are in an age where one cannot simply comment on the high quality of a vintage, but one must exalt it. It’s the best ever! Which may be true in some cellars, but the style, the hard style sure to shut down and require many years of cellaring, that is simply not terribly popular. We all suffered when the Spectator awarded 100pts to the 2000 vintage. It’s a foolhardy task awarding perfection to an entire vintage, but the wines delivered hedonistic pleasure, and continue to do so. They are not the best wines to ever emerge from Piedmont, but on another level, the level of approachability and sheer ease of enjoyment, they very well might be. 

 

Using those criteria the 2000 vintage is a better vintage than 2010, and 2009 might also be, and 2011 certainly is shaping up to be the best hedonistic vintage ever for this region. As you can see, even I am not immune to some exaltation! So while we’re all ranting and raving about 2010s you should beware. Sadly this seems to be my shtick. warning about the vintage, but in all honesty I just don’t see balance in the reporting available for the wines of Piedmont. All I see are folks competing to award the highest scores and to call the vintage as early as possible, not really concerned about their accuracy, for as I’ve said before wine critics are never held accountable for their words. 

 

We’re also in a time when warm is bad, so 2011s are not worth paying attention to, and cold is always better, even if it might have been just a little too cold, as was the case in 2010. So these are not wines for every palate. they are however wines for the palate that prefers medium weight wines, wines sleek and seamless with terrific purity of fruit and great energy supported by high acids and rich tannins. Powerful wines that are not easy wines to understand, and will disappoint many folks out there, though at this price level many folks are just drinking the points and not the wine and will derive their pleasure from draining a 96pt wine no matter what they actually experience in the glass.

 

A note about pricing. In some parts of the Langhe 2010 was a short crop, but this cannot seriously be suggested as the reason for the rise in pricing at some wineries. It is painful to watch, the greatest values on earthy becoming just values, but Barolo is the world’s greatest wine and the fact of the matter is that the top examples have been underpriced for decades. The market has finally caught on to the never better quality to be found here, and as Burgundy continues to explode in pricing, following small harvest after small harvest, and my heart does go out to the producers once again devastated by hail in this past month, those buyers will look elsewhere for fine wine values. There is nowhere else to look my friends. Everything else, save some obscure wines such as those from Mount Etna for example, is fully priced and not as good as the best barolo.

 

As I wrote on january 5th of this year:

 

“This year we’ll see the hot producers gain momentum as they receive ever higher scores and ever more attention from collectors. It should be the turning point for the Burgundification of Piedmont. I think we’ll see price increases of about 50% for the great traditionalists, Monfortino having shown the way. The next tier will see similar increases, maybe 35% or a bit more. The rest of the pack will slowly filter their way to where they should be driven as much by traditional critical acclaim, which will remain more influential at the top of the market, as by vocal consumers.”

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While my 50% increase might be a tad on the high side we do have 35% increases for Monprivato, Conterno’s Cascina Francia, and Vietti’s crus, though these last driven as much by incredibly high scores as some price increases ex-cellar. Giuseppe Rinaldi’s Barolo and those of Cantina Bartolo Mascarello look likely to follow suit, and even my favorite value producers such as Burlotto and Brovia can’t be far behind. 

 

So whereas a few years ago we had all of these wines available to use for roughly $100 or less, today we are looking at $150 and up for these top wines. Fair considering the quality, but what about for buying and popping? Will these wines perform well early in their lives? No, I don’t think they will. Will we all have confidence in buying them and laying them down in our cellars. Those comfortable with the price have already shown that they are equally comfortable with the ‘assurance’ professional criticism affords, and I believe that many folks will be disappointed with these wines when it comes time to drink them. Even more likely is that folks will become disappointed with these wines well before it comes time to drink them as we continue to say that they are closed and still need more time!

 

So what should you do? Think very carefully before buying these wines. Do you have the proper cellar to age these wines the 15 years or more that they will need to reach their apogee? if not, skip them. Vintages like 2011 will prove much more rewarding early on and fully mature vintages can be had for just a bit more than this most expensive ever set of current releases. Of course I write this as both a consumer and a reviewer of wines. I love Barolo, classic Barolo, hard and austere Barolo and I love the 2010 vintage, prices be damned. As I near my 50th birthday I must begin to consider when enough is enough, I have a cellar full of the stuff, and how long do I need to keep buying vintages such as 2010? 

 

2010 is undoubtedly a great vintage, though no greater in many ways than a handful of other vintages. It is though, a throwback vintage with weather that the region had not seen for decades. Pair that with the advances in viticulture and winemaking that have transpired since last we saw such weather and you have some of the greatest expressions of classic Barolo you are ever likely to come across. As a reviewer I can lament the price increases but as a consumer I am stocking my cellar with these gems. Though in truth I did trim my purchases just a bit to allow both space for and the money to buy more 2011s than expected. 

 

So there you have it. I love the vintage but it is not without some trepidation that I recommend it. They are expensive wines and they are austere wines, a combination that rarely succeeds in the marketplace. The top wines will no doubt sell through their first tranche of pricing, and I doubt we’ll see much in the way of discounting for a year or at least until the 2011s start showing up en masse on these shores. I look forward to trying these wines, both again in October before they go to sleep and then in a decade or so when they might just be waking up. Something you should keep in mind when buying 2010 Barolo.

 

One last point worth making regarding the vintage is that this is the sort of vintage, just barely ripe in many ways, where the top crus not only outperform the lesser sites, but also exhibit their terroir in all their glory. Vineyards like Cannubi, Rocche, Villero and Brunate, along with a few spots in Serralunga really show why they are so well considered in a vintage like this. The elegance of Rocche and Cannubi in particular make wines from these two top vineyards particularly compelling in 2010, a vintage built as much on elegance and finesse as it is on power.  

 

And one final word. Just yesterday, July 8th as I finish writing this, Barolo was hit by a rather wide ranging and potentially damaging hail storm. By the time this is published the extent of the damage should be better understood but if history is any guide one thing is certain. the reduced crop from this hailstorm with be used as a reason to further push up pricing. While these 2010s seem expensive today it is likely that in the not too distant future they will be looked upon as good values on release. 

 

And while I am ending on the notion of value, I look forward to trying the base Barolos from many producers come this October. Often overlooked by collectors who are convinced that Crus by their very nature must be better, these wines remains quite compelling values and should be a terrific barometer by which to judge the quality of this fascinating vintage. please don’t overlook these wines when stocking up on 2010 Barolo!  

 

The order of the wines that follow are simply chronological and do not represent any sort of ranking. 

 

My list of top wines is also fairly predictable, but then again I get to visit the producers who I feel are making the best wines so this should not be surprising. Nor should the fact that scores here are, on the whole, rather high. 

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Burlotto

 

As you most likely know I am very fond of the Burlotto style, going so far at to name Burlotto my winery of the year in 2013. The style here capture the concept of enlightened traditionalist perfectly. The wines are fresh and bright with incredibly pure fruit on medium weight frames. These are wines that mature fairly quickly and should be enjoyed roughly between 10 and 25 years following their respective vintages, though the wines certainly can last longer. 

 

 

Wild strawberries with a slightly jammy cast are joined by notes of muskmelon, cinnamon, and rose petals with just a hint of cooling mint and tar on the nose.  Bright in the mouth, this has a  super fine tannin structure contributing gorgeous texture to the super sour cherry and slightly red currant tinged fruit. Snowing nice length, and gaining savory accents on the strawberry seed finish with a hint of red fruit on the return, this does show a bit of walnutty tannin on the finale. Fairly big power and excellent freshness. 91pts

 

 

Smoke, Incense, olive wood, a deep black fruit extract, and black cherry fruit emerge on the nose. This is a big wine for acclivi, with deep fruit, lovely cherry skin notes and incense in the mouth, over a fine minerality, with ripe tannins. The deep fruit is both a little inky a little nutty but this remains finely balanced through the long, elegant finish which shows fruit that is just barely yet perfectly ripe.  92pts

 

 

Cinnamon, strawberry, along with hints of sage and olive come together on the classic Monvigliero nose.  Bright and rich, this powers through the palate, with a great mass on entry that dissolves elegantly on the palate.  The tannins here are like the big bang, constant acceleration away from each other making the palate larger and yet lighter as the move and powering the olive and wild strawberry flavors on the palate deep into the corners of your mouth. There is huge incipient complexity on the backend, which shows a hint of peachy freshness. A beautiful expression of Monvigliero. 94pts

 

 

Tight on the nose with fine, subtle perfumes of rose petals, white soil, leather, and sandalwood. Rich on entry, powerful and deep fine grained tannins On the palate this is so lively with deep darker raspberry and spicy cherry fruit. Today this lacks some complexity but has the grace of Cannubi with the long, thin, firm tannins of the vineyard leading to a long, dusty finish. Really well put together and fairly elegant already. 93pts

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Sordo

 

Sordo is one of the largest producer in Barolo, and while the wines are classic old school Barolo they also show a bit of a modern style in the precocious nature. With fruit from some of the top sites in their portfolio it’s fascinating to taste through these wines. Each cru is distinct and true to their roots, though they are a bit lighter and less complex than some of the top examples from each. These are excellent wines for early consumption and a real find for restaurant lists. 

 

 

Attractive nose shows classic evolution, subtle, good macerated herb, roasted chestnut and dried sour fruit aromas with mushroom and  tobacco top notes. Clay earthiness on entry leads to a nice blend of delicacy and complexity, and while this Feels a touch dry on the palate there is fresh herbal nuance framing small,tart dried berry and red currant flavors that are almost electric with their razor sharp acids. Dusty and ripe, this is an acid lovers dreamer. 87pts

 

 

Tight, rosehip, rose petals, a little underlying spice, some sandy soil tones, incipient leather, and bookbinders glue are given nice lift on the nose by a hint of VA. Nicely textured on entry this is fine, elegant, and rounded on the attack. Almost opulent in the mouth the texture is already fairly evolved with flavors of nice tart cranberry and wild cherry fruit that lacks some nuance on the palate but is thoroughly satisfying, picking up some sweetness on the moderately long finish. Quite a classical interpretation. 88pts

 

 

Smoky, and a little nutty on the nose with very fine small black fruit and floral aromas that are fairly compact and precise Fruity, soft and elegant on entry this is quite representative of verduno with being quite as perfumed as one might expect. There is good fruit on the palate, red fruited, though this is a bit loose in the mouth with tannins that are perhaps a whisper dry, and a bit lean, almost leathery and narrow on the palate and through the modest finish. 87pts

 

 

Deep on the nose with an earthy base and smoky nuance laid over dark fruit with slightly medicinal, fine jerky, spicy, camphor aromas. In the mouth one finds good depth and complexity to the nicely presented wild cherry fruit which is clean and tight with very good tension. While not as firm as one might expect a wine from Serralunga to be this does have great acids, nice tannins that are firm but not massive and certainly not dominant, and a finish that is quite clear and pure. 90pts

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Ferdinando Principiano

 

A small producer in Monforte, Ferdinando has made a 180 degree turn over the past few years. Once distinctly tilted towards the modernist camp, today the Principiano wines wines come from exceptionally well tended organic vineyards and the style of the wines himself has become   much more nuanced and complex. While not yet in the top tier of producers, the wines of principiano are definitely on the rise and worth paying close attention to in the coming years. 

 

 

Peach and apricot marmalade base notes slide under superb floral notes that recall alpine flowers dotted with a cool minty note and slow to emerge leather, licorice and medicinal accents. Tight on entry, this shows ripe tannins on the palate supporting a fine burnished fruit early on the palate, wild cherries supported by fine acids. The tannins build in the mouth, showing nice minty power on the backend with more white cherry fruit, and decent length to the mineral tinged finish. This builds nicely in the mouth and shows good complexity. 89pts 

 

Canonica

 

Gianni Canonica runs one of the smallest operations in Barolo out of his incredibly modest basement winery. Working organically, he produces miniscule quantities of wine, a single Barolo and a single barbera, from his immaculately tended organic vineyards. The wines are superbly expressive and bright on the palate and while a challenge to buy there will be marginally more available in coming years as he brings a tiny new vineyard, locating in Grinzane Cavour, on line. A distinct style of Barolo, everyone should try these wines to see what truly unfettered Barolo is all about. 

 

 

Jammy red berry fruit pops with spicy depth and deep balsamic notes on a nose that already shows great integration. Fine ripe tannins greet the palate in this pretty big wine that retains great tension. There is a lot of body and backplate density here, though this is not terribly weighty. Already showing great wild cherry fruit up front accented with a hint of citron peel and a touch of floral complexity on the back palate this is going to be long, full and powerful when fully mature. Even with all the power evident here this remains transparent and bright in the mouth. Really delightfully clear and fresh. 93pts

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Oddero

 

Long laboring away in the shadow of the great traditionalists, Oddero has consistently produced fabulous barolos over the years but the last decade has seen a slow but constant climb in the quality of the wines, or I should say the nebbiolo based wines. This is one house where the Nebbiolo seems to outpace the so called lesser varieties by a wide margin each year. There is a lot of barrique used here, primarily for malo, and while some oaky nuance may show up in some fo the wines, these remain wonderfully traditional expressions of Barolo. 

 

 

Huge sweet herb stem, carob, dark, slightly earthy and slightly prosciutto scented aromas are joined by a hint of wood smoke on the nose. With big, ripe tannins, this shows density on the palate, and fine balance with the potential for elegance. There is lovely freshness to the fruit, mineraly and dark, with slightly jammy wild strawberry, and a little black currant displaying superb tension on the palate and through the finish which shows some slight toughness to the tannin. A super 2010 Barolo. 92pts

 

 

Huge rose hips on the nose followed by big clay aromas, superb raspberry fruit, a hint of nuttiness, and just a touch of smoke. Another big wine, though smooth and bright, with juicy power to the tart red fruit, rhubarb and raspberry flavors. While fairly tannic this is a touch loosely knit and remains airy on the palate with lots of red fruit flavors and spice before turning earthy on the backend as the tannins close ranks. There’s lots of red fruit and spice on the finish, which is long and precise with lingering red fruit and a menthol note on the finale.  93pts

 

 

Very pretty on the nose with hints of mineral, tight little rose and iris notes, and gorgeous precision with a subtle liquory quality to the fruit. Round, ripe so complete on the palate, the texture here is seamless. The fruit is subtle and tight with dusty red fruits and nuanced hints of herb and mineral adding a touch of bitterness on the palate which adds some detail. Tight and sapid on the finish, this is reticent today but the texture is smashingly good, nuanced and faceted and just regal. 94pts

 

 

Spicy smoldering herbs pop on the pointy, direct and slightly high toned nose which shows shoe black, strawberry seeds, camphor, smokey, balsamico, grilled beef, and allspice aromas. While the acids are well present in the mouth this is a bit supple in the mouth, though it turns very direct and taut on the midpalate. One finds lovely minerality, layered fruit, and breadth in the mouth, which is clean and fresh with floral and red fruit flavors. Finishing with good length and some mineral notes this shows less weight but more power than the 2009 with impressive precision for Brunate, and really fine length, nuance, and complexity. 93pts

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Elvio Cogno

 

While Elvio Cogno has stayed under the radar for the most part these traditional wines deserve broader attention. Coming from an expansive hillside in southern Monforte, there are a variety of expressions of Barolo here the pay testament to the wide ranging soil types and clones available within the region. These complex, transparent wines that show early approachability as well as the ability to age well for decades are among the top wines from Monforte. 

 

 

Three youngest parts of Ravera

 

Intense on the nose with scents of leather, slightly dried fruits,a bit of biscuit, dried peach, some subtle toasty spice and bresaola notes, and a little funghi. Aromatically this is quite complex, fairly fruity, and a little spicy. Opulent on entry, this quickly finds its center with layers of vibrant red fruits, zesty with some faint blood orange/lemon oil character adding brightness. The flavors are quite pure and rather fruity with perfumed red cherries and a little herbal extract, almost something medicinal going on on the palate. The tannins are slightly chewy but this remains well balanced and eminently drinkable with a long, dusty finish bright with rosehips, and sweet/tart cranberry and raspberry fruit. A very fine introductory classic Barolo. 91pts

 

 

Fabulous aromatics are precise and mineral with complicating notes of dried fungi, coffee,sweet red berries with a hint of blueberry, a hint of menthol, all in a fresh, tight, and complex package. Almost supple on entry before turning rich, bright and crystal clear on the palate with a hint of rose petals accenting the core of lightly candied black cherry and wild strawberry fruit. Perhaps not the most complex wine of the vintage,  this is however texturally excellent with ripe tannins and integrated bright acids supporting the fruit and lending great snap on the backend before the tannins cut in. Crisp and fine grained. 92pts

 

 

Cough lozenge, brownie, baked fruit, smith brothers black cherry fruit fruit and even a little blackberry shows up on the nose. This is very fresh in the mouth,  a little round up front then the tannins kicks in, a bit hard and angular but entirely appropriate. This is very fresh for a 2009 with very pretty, chiseled red currant and cranberry fruit supported by mineral laden, dusty tannins. Today this is a bit tough but it promises to reveal gorgeous perfumes with air and the limestone cut of the tannins keeps this nervous and finely balanced in the mouth. There is great length and purity of fruit on the finish. This reminds be of Rocche or Cannubi, chiseled like a marble statue. 94pts

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Bartolo Mascarello

 

The epitome of tradition, the wines of Cantina bartolo Mascarello undergo very little work in the cellar and continue to be produced from a blend of vineyards, Cannubi,  Rue and San Lorenzo in Barolo as well as Rocche in La Morra. This vineyard blend was, until the early sixties, the way that Barolo had historically been produced, building upon the base cru’s wine and adding complexity by including complimentary cru’s. In the past decade this wine has moved from strength to strength and is typically one of the most elegant, complete wines of the region. 

 

 

54 days on the skin

 

Pale and delicate in color, surprisingly so. This is superbly focused on the nose with high toned floral peony and iris notes, gorgeous fruit, precise red currant and small lingonberry aromas framed with something delicately sweet, and bay leaf like. Superbly focused in the mouth, this has fabulous purity and is precise and elegant with this delicate layering of flavors. Fresh red fruit, peach skin, so bright and pure with penetrating aromas on the long finish. The tannins here are so precise, fresh, and ripe, there’s great power here but you can taste right through this to the base of soil tones Deceptively small in the mouth, this is packed with such flavor that it is a bit of a shock. Long on the finish with some hint of red plums, this is fabulous. 95pts

 

Barale

 

Barale has been virtually overlooked in the US and that is due as much to the media’s omission as to the fact that the wines have had exceptionally spotty distribution. They remain one of the last great secrets of Barolo and as a recent tasting back to 1964 that I hosted showed, their wines can stand toe to toe with many of the traditional producers we are more familiar with. the wines have taken on greater aromatic precision and freshness on the palate since 2008 or so, and today are offering compelling examples of their crus in a very fresh, clean and aromatic style of traditionalism.  

 

 

Tight and leathery on the nose with a hint of something nutty, dried strawberry, and nice herbal base notes along with  a little soil, italian plum and rose petals aromas.  Classically austere, fresh, and very elegant in the mouth, this displays awesome potential with gorgeous, length and fine richness to the tightly wound strawberry and dark cherry fruit on the palate which is packed with ripe tannin and fine underlying acids. This has the most striking feel of ripe fruit under pressure in a cage built of lacy yet strong tannins. 93pts

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Vietti

 

Vietti has been one of the pioneers of cru bottlings for Barolo and with superb vineyards in many of the top crus, they have been a benchmark producer for years. One issue one might have with these wines though is that, more so in the past, the crus were subjected to a variety of stylistic treatments that lent some wines more of a modernist cast. Today the wines are  treated quite similarly and while still showing a hint of that past, they are returning to their traditionalist roots, particularly as the wines age. 

 

 

Compact and savory on the nose with waxy, spicy fruit that is ripe and very floral, minty and bright. Full on entry, and very round with supple tannins and bright acids in the mouth, this displays lovely astringent lingonberry fruit with sweeter cherry skin notes on the backend and through the long, bright and slightly chewy finish. The tannins really build on the palate and while fine grained, become quite assertive if fully ripe and quite suave. A lovely base barolo 90pts

 

 

Big fruit greets the nose, dark fruit, cocoa tinged and spicy topped with dark macerated floral notes. While large scaled in the mouth, this is seamless with tons of strawberry seed, plum skin and spicy berry fruit on the palate. The fine grained tannins lend this a gorgeous texture, long, fine and tight, with a finish that is focused and pure. A bit tight today and not showing tremendous complexity, this has all the raw materials it needs to blossom beautifully. 93pts

 

 

Very complex on the nose and somewhat dark and muscular with aromas of pipe tobacco, plum, iron, dark turned earth and cut flowers showing excellent freshness and precision. In the mouth this is very rich with lot of fruit and a seamless texture. Rich with both power and delicacy, there’s gorgeous clarity on the palate to the big, dark strawberry fruit and earthy mineral flavors with hints of macerated flowers and licorice adding detail as this drifts off on the long finish which shows great energy and drive. The tannins here are very precise and offer great cut on the palate. As complete an example of Lazzarito as I’ve ever had. 94pts

 

 

Vegetal and very floral on the super high toned that’s a little candied but filled with fine raspberry and dark strawberry fruit that shows just a hint of oak. Big fruit greets the palate showing nice cut and the great tension of Rocche tannins. The midpalate turns a little creamy before the acids kick in showing tremendous brightness to the fruit With excellent drive and energy on the palate and decent length this does show a touch of hollowness on the midpalate today before powering through on the finish with terrific acid cut and perfumes of licorice, rose petals and strawberry seeds. A bit unformed today, this should prove to be particularly long lived and will most likely be the benchmark for Vietti’s Rocche for decades. 95pts

 

 

Intensely aromatic with  a touch of nuttiness on the nose along with minty, polleny floral notes, nettles, a powerful herbal extract note, scents of men’s cologne  and small berry fruit on the nose. There is nice power up front then this turns a little drying on the midpalate with good cut on the long finish. The tannins are also a little dry on the finish which shows lots of licorice and red fruit character. Those tannin clip the finish, which then shows a touch of heat. The aromatics are very attractive hee but the tannins are a bit worrisome. 92pts

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Brovia

 

Brovia has become one of my favorite producers in barolo. Not only do the wines remain very fairly priced, but they are simply terrific expressions of each cru. With work in the cellar basically identical for each cru, and rather minimal and staunchly traditional a that, this is one cantina to follow if you want to become familiar with the terroir these crus bring to the wines. These 2010s seems to be cut from a slightly more rustic cloth than other recent vintages, but that is the nature of 2010, not the wines of brovia. the 2011s to come from Brovia are also stunning wines. Along with Burlotto, Francesco Rinaldi, and Oddero, Brovia is how you build a world class barolo cellar on a relatively modest budget.

 

 

Mid aged vines and old vines, 70% from Brea in Serralunga

 

Superb aromatics show hints of asphalt and dried beef with nuanced black pepper and sweet rose petal notes accentuating core of sweetness to be found here. Cool, compact and a bit medicinal in the mouth, with a bed of packed tannins supporting subtle shadings of dried fruit, burnished fruit, dried orange peel and earthy flavors. elegant if tannic and nuanced, this is a little old school powerhouse with hints of mint and herbs on the long if tough and savory finish. This will reward cellaring. 91pts

 

 

Seeds, smoke, and huge soil notes come together on the tight, refined nose which gains aromas of tobacco, leather, nettles, herbs, and slow to emerge small berry plum fruits and rocky minerality on the nose. Opening with big spice notes on the palate, this shows such  purity and superb balance in the mouth. It’s all about the balance today and the big aromatic follow through because on the palate this is slow to open, showing dark, wild raspberry fruit and macerated herbs in a strict way that is dominated by limestone. This is almost supple in its closedness, but it has absolutely huge power and tannins on the finish, offering classic, cut and vibrancy to die for on the long, aromatic finish. A tough wine but one that is elegant and refined at its core. 95pts

 

 

Big aromas hint at chocolate and red licorice over wild berry, almost boysenberry fruit, and coal, on the nose with hints of rosehips and flowers emerging with air. A gorgeous wine, almost supple, though packed with earthy, rosepetals, rhubarb,small wild strawberry fruit and red cherry fruit. Broad and full in the mouth though with excellent focus, ripe fine tannins and integrated elegant leaving an elegant impression on the palate. This has terrific purity and a lovely feel with the tannins buffered by the fruit. 93pts

 

 

First vintage 100% organic

 

Rosehips greet the nose followed by spicy, slightly nutty, and intense aromas of incense, beeswax, sweet face powder, waxy red fruit, and almost cedary base notes dark red fruits and a hint of blood orange. Round, powerful, and seamless in the mouth this has a fine structure built on bright acids and super fine grained tannins. The palate is supported by nice savory base notes, a little beeswax, very ripe strawberry and cherry fruit. This is very tannic but the tannins are very supple, Buckyball tannins that get a little kinky on the finish. This is a fabulous Garblet Sue, just stunningly complete with gorgeous layered savory and fruity flavors, a well knit texture, and a long finish. At maturity I’ll prefer the texture of Rocche but the Garblet Sue is just more complete. 95pts

 

 

With the new labelling laws implemented with the 2010 vintage the wine formerly known simply as Ca’Mia will now also include the name of the Brea cru on the label.

 

Dark, earthy and spicy on the reticent and medicinal nose which picks up aromas of dried plums, dark cherry, dandelion greens, leather, asphalt, and rose petals with air. Big and powerful in the mouth, the palate truly mirrors the nose here with flavors of earthy, dark burnished fruit, bit of dried plum, and almost a hint of blue fruit. Very lively on the palate, transparent and alive in the mouth with fine acids, medicinal fruit, and round balls of powerful lending this a seamless feel. This is going to be a stunningly complex and long wine with hints of dried fruit and espresso foam already emerging on the long finish which ends with real lift. On the palate this feels so gothic, all detail and symmetrically while be lacey and tall. 94pts

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Giacomo Conterno

 

What can one say. This is the most consistent and high quality producer of Barolo. Impeccably tended vines, juice that is treated with the utmost care and a philosophy that seems to prefer to do as little as is needed in the immaculate cellars continues to produce wines that are just stunningly beautiful. Last year when I was fortunate to taste the 2010 Barolo Cascina out of barrel it was undoubtedly the top barrel sample I’ve yet had in barolo. This year the wine has already tightened up a bit and some of the spectacular aromatic have receded but this remains the benchmark for me when it comes to classic barolo. One could argue that the Monfortino should play that role in but in reality Monfortino is almost beyond barolo and it’s pricing puts it in another category of wine entirely. 

 

 

Powerful on the nose which shows a little prune, classic cherries in alcohol with a sweetness to the fruit and gorgeous framing notes of sandalwood, damp tobacco, sweet rose petals and fine mineral background notes. Powerful and packed with ripe tannins, this exhibits incredible cut on the palate, packed with laser edged tannins, so elegant and fine with remarkable purity to the red fruit on the palate which has a slightly wild and exotic edge to it. This is so elegant and yet so powerful, and long. The purity and persistence here is jaw dropping, but today this is a bit hard and so focused that you could miss all the detail. Another 1989 in the making? 96pts 

 

 

A bit smoky on the nose and with a hint of vanilla and lots of plums and red fruit over nuanced prosciutto, blueberry, lingonberry, and herbal background notes. After the rather spicy nose this shows lots of powerful, rich earthy, cherry fruit on the palate. the tannins are quite obvious, vying with the sweet fruit for one’s attention on the palate. The edgy powerful tannins win out on the long, little nutty slightly dry finish. A fabulous wine with more obvious stuffing and less nuance and focus than one finds in the Cascina francia. Roberto explained that the vanilla note seems to be a part of the terroir of the Cerretta cru. 93pts

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Francesco Rinaldi

 

Long a traditionalist who did not receive their due, the wines of Francesco Rinaldi have remained a collectors secret, though they certainly are getting more attention these days now that their distribution has improved. These are wines that lack the sheer mass of many of their compatriots, and tend to be a bit lean and dry in the mouth, but that is classic Barolo and with time in the bottle these wines really blossom. I love this expression of Barolo and find them refreshing to drink and wonderfully easy to pair with food. 

 

 

Stemmy, smoky, and dotted with tobacco, baking chocolate, and  little coffee notes over a base of beef blood and astringent red fruit, and dried citrus peels. Almost a bit soft on entry, then turning broad and juicy with lots of ripe tannins supporting nice red raspberry and cherry fruit. This is a bit chunky in the mouth with earthy, complex and nuanced flavors supported by juicy acids and tannins so well packed together they add an almost spherical impression in the mouth. Just a bit of a tough bird still though with plenty of potential. 89pts

 

 

Camphor, sliced plum, and dark cherry fruit greet the nose followed by hints of cocoa, mineral and subtle smoke notes. Really a super fine, fresh and focused Brunate nose. Classic Brunate on the palate as well with layers of dried wild cherry fruit wrapped around the core of fine grained tannins leading to a long finish of burnished fruit and and spiced tobacco notes. There’s a slight hole in the middle today, but that should fill out with a bit of age. 92pts

 

 

This smells women’s perfume, all floral and subtly citrusy with a core of plum in alcohol over white soil tones. Really so floral, pretty and pure on the nose, it’s quite remarkable. Tight, on entry with superb focus, this is fabulous and seamless, if a bit short today. You can feel that this his has big fruit in reserve on the gorgeous, spicy herb tinged red fruited finish. A bit of alcohol becomes apparent on the finish but that too should integrate in time. This is lovely in the classic, lean style of both the Cantina and Cannubi. 93pts

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Giuseppe Rinaldi

 

The wines of Giuseppe Rinaldi have basically achieved cult status, even if the winemaking is now very able being transitioned to his daughter Marta’s hands. I pioneer with organic winemaking in the region, and a steadfast traditionalist, Giuseppe ably guided his wines through the 1980s and 1990s when force were pulling the region apart. His wines however have remained particularly unique, totally traditional even if they have been both more supple and fruitier than wines that we may consider traditional archetypes. Today the wines are brilliant and while the labelling has changed with the 2010 to reflect the implementation of a new set of laws, the wines have remained mostly as they were. The Brunate includes up to the 15% allowed of other vineyards, in this case le Coste. the previous versions of Brunate – Le Coste might have included 25% of that latter. The Tre Tine includes the Cannubi, San Lorenzo and Ravera wines as well as the remaining wine from Le Coste. 

 

 

Fine slightly jammy wild berry fruit greets the nose followed by a sharp floral note and deep leathery tobacco nuances.   Tight, soft and supple on entry, this has a flannelly, feel to it early in the mouth, turning beautifully lacy on the back end. Another example fo the juxtaposition of power and elegance that is the hallmark of the vintage. Elegant and long there’s just gorgeous balance and detail to this subtle and precise wine that finishes with long, chalky tannins, mineral cut and a hint of violet in the finale. 94pts

 

 

Deeply musky and earthy on the nose with hints of herb, rose petals, sliced cherry fruit, and, sweet tobacco on the nose. Round and opulent with mouth filling ripe tannins adding volume to the rich core of dark, high toned prune and tart red fruits. the backend turns tart and a bit savory with notes of cherry stems and dusty tannins. This is packed with stuffing and is going to explode one day but it will remain an elegant wine more notable for complexity than power. There is a bit of VA here that might be bothersome to some palates.  94pts

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Giacomo Fenocchio

 

We all have much to learn. This was overwhelmingly reinforced by my first visit here to the cellars of Giacomo Fenocchio. While much of the tasting focused on wines in the cellar, and barrel tasting can always be a challenge, I was certainly impressed by the wines. there are a number of experimental wines in the work that have undergone extensive macerations of between 40 and 90 days as well as classic Riservas destined to spend 4 years in botte. All in all a producer to keep a close eye on as prices have not kept up with the quality here.

 

 

From Botte

 

Little smoke shows up on the tight nose which also shows hints of camphor. Finesse and elegance on entry with phenomenal depth and length. This has fabulous power and yet remains light footed. the tannins are imposing lending this a nice dusty feel but it is compact and reticent in the mouth. Shows great potential. 92-95

 

 

Huge rose petals, sandlewood, poppy seeds, and soil tones show up on the spicy nose which has delicate notes of wild strawberry. Fairly rich and structured in the mouth with the limestone edginess of Cannubi on the palate, which is quite tannic and a bit tough though rich with cherry fruit. The finish is long, lengthened by the tannins here which are a bit austere but not overly imposing. 92pts

 

 

Beeswax, candle wax, menthol, and a little rubbery reduced note emerges slowly on the nose along with red fruits and hints of sage. This is round in the mouth with smaller scaled, supple tannins supporting flavors of strawberry and tar. Showing food length, again aided by the tannins, this turns a little spicy and warm on the finish.91pts

 

 

Soil driven on the nose with hints of forest floor, tight rose bud and limestone followed by camphor and huge, sweet red fruits and strawberry leaves. The tannins here are quite fine grained tannins and support impressively rich strawberry fruit that shows a bit of jamminess and hints of blue flowers in the mouth. The tannins are big but very ripe and polished, if classically dry. The finish is long and decidedly savory and while this is very young it is also the most complete of these wines. 93pts

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Prunotto

 

Alfredo Prunotto, along with Beppe Colla, was responsible for some incredible good wines in the past. With the sale of Prunotto to Antinori in 1996 there was justifiable concern that the Baolo community had lost a star. While I was unable to try the Crus on my visit to Prunotto I did try their base bottling for 2010 and like the past several vintages I was duly impressed by the quality here. You could do far worse than this wine and truth be told if I were to teach a class about the varietals of Piedmont I would really have to consider including the wines of Prunotto. their are very well made, clean and precise, and show classic varietal character. 

 

 

Monforte, Castiglione, Serralunga, from different vineyards

 

Deep and slightly astringent on the nose, tight with fresh leather, sweet herbal nuance, rhubarb and wild strawberry fruit. Cool and compressed on entry, tight on the palate but well balanced with fine early acids in the mouth highlighting an almost watermelon rind freshness. The tannins are classic but well managed, clean and fresh through the finish which is long with a nice mineral note, menthol, and sliced sour cherry flavors.This is elegant and showing terrific balance but tight, the tannins are fabulous on the finish very 2010, there are lots of them but they are so very ripe and almost sweet. 90pts

 

Pio Cesare

 

Pio Cesare is a large producer who pride themselves on both preserving traditions, as is the case with their base barolo, and venturing out with more modern interpretations of Piedmontese classics, such as with their Ornato. This however is a modest change since the wines in general have remained firmly traditional and represent a style more typical of 1970 than 2010. 

 

 

50% Ornato, 70% aged in botte

 

Tight on the nose with floral aromas, a hint of wood spice, the sweet savoriness of fruitcake and dates and a bit of candied orange and lime rind. Showing a fair amount of power up front and fairly fruity in the classic dried fruit way, this has round ripe tannins and nice acidic cut on the palate. There’s good complexity on the palate finishing a touch dull perhaps and with tannins that are a touch dry, leathery, and very classic style, this does retain fine wild cherry fruit, rosehips, and vitamin flavor. growing in the glass and gaining some menthol freshness, this remains a bit tough though it seems to have the stuffing to evolve well. 88pts

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Brezza

 

I have long been a fan of the wines from Brezza, though the past several vintages have left me a bit underwhelmed, particularly the notably alcoholic wines from the 2007 vintages. After a few ups and downs the wines here seem to be back on track which may be due in some small part to 2010 being the first vintage after they made the switch to farming organically. never blockbusters and always based more on bright, juicy fruit than imposing power and structure, the style seems well suited to 2010. These certainly are wines with lovely aromatics, though I might hope for a bit more depth on the palate. 

 

 

Camphor and herb stem notes greet the nose followed by a base of black currant/blackberry fruit A bit soft and compact in the mouth, this reveals earthy, slightly herby, simple but pure and tense burnished cherry fruit with hints of sandalwood and medicinal licorice nuances. Nicely poised and modestly firm, this is elegant and perfumed in the mouth with fine length and tension, and a tissue fine texture. Small but detailed. 89pts

 

 

Deep bay leaf edged wild cherry fruit on the nose is joined by a bit of rosehip in a slightly jammy and slightly minty style with a top note of astringent lingonberry, antiseptic fruit. Bright with good energy on entry, this is a bit lean, transparent and light on the palate with delicate raspberry fruit. there is great tannic structure here, lacy but firm, and a long tart raspberry finish With excellent integration through the moderately long finish this is rather finely detailed and incredibly fresh with important tannins, yet it remains delicate. 91pts

 

 

Fine almost sweet and slightly jammy boysenberry tinged fruit pops on the nose with wispy smoke and soil notes, a hints of tar and carob adding detail. In the mouth this is seamless, classic Cannubi, with bright acids, fine grained elegant tannins, and inner mouth perfumes of rose petals, wild cherry fruit, and gentle suggest of herbs and burnt orange ring in the mouth. The tannins really build on the finish and are a bit dusty but sweet. There are lovely herb nuances through the chewy, powerful finish along with hints of tart strawberry fruit. 93pts

 

 

Blended Bricco Sarmassa back in this vintage

 

Big aromatic herb grasses on the nose blend with deep burnished fruit, prune in alcohol and deep burnished burnt spice. Deeper and more powerful on the palate with gorgeous dark cherry fruit that is precise and well defined with an added bit of power and ripe tannins. This is a bit dark in the mouth, though the texture is bright and almost drinkable already with a bit of chewy tannin and a fine astringent edge on the long finish. It lacks the chiseled feel and complexity of the Cannubi but packs in more fruit and a richer texture. 93pts

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Massolino

 

Another producer who flirted with a more modern style, if you can call 16 years of experimentation flirting. I applaud Franco massolino for his honest assessment of these experiments and his return to a thoroughly traditional style. I feel the wines have benefitted from his return to large format wood and find the latest release to be particularly interesting. They are wines that fit my palate well, powerful, detailed and yet not heavy. 

 

 

A little hail in May in this part of Serralunga lowering yields

 

High toned and a bit vegetal on the  clean and fresh nose which is quite zesty and almost peppery with huge polleny floral notes and a hint of peach skin. Very well integrated on the palate this is supple and rich and already showing some evolution with rosehips, burnished fruit, and a touch of leather all coming together on the palate. With fairly important tannins this tightens up considerably on the backend then finishes short and stiff with fine grained tannins. 89pts

 

 

Planted in 1985 under the winery just north, a little sandier than the others, which lends it a floral, sweet dried floral and tobacco that sets this cru apart

 

Mineral and sweetly spicy on the nose with an almost cinnamon, great Chinese five spice character and tobacco base notes and a faint marine saline accent.  Bright and clear on entry this is elegant and full in the mouth with a very traditional feel. A fairly powerful wine, tight with reticent notes of rose petals, plum skin, and red currant fruit in the mouth, leading to a long finish replete with a deep raspberry confiture note, slight vegetal notes and a finale of wild strawberry. Lovely classic expression of Barolo. 93pts

 

 

Very compact, calcareous soil, 70 year old vines,

 

Smoky and briary on the nose which is rich with aromas of  black fruit, and jumps around in the glass revealing sweet dried strawberry and rhubarb aromas, hints of incense, pipe tobacco, and stemmy herb notes. Deep,  transparent and elegant on the palate this is holding back a lot in reserve with a palate that is mineraly today with finely delineated fruit. Crystal clear on the palate with ripe, powerful tannins, great purity to the fruit, great length, long extracty finish with minerality that emerges on the palate and drives the finish like a laser. This is austere and rigid today but with great potential. 94pts

 

 

The top of the Cru in Castiglione, which one would expect to give a more supple wine, but it doesn’t!

 

Very floral on the nose and at the same time absolutely packed with raspberry, black raspberry fruit and black tea notes. Not as complex on the nose as the wines from Serralunga and more obviously fruity. Broad and supple in the mouth, there is a lot of raspberry fruit on the palate with a bit of mineral, and notes of strawberry seeds. This is rich and fairly powerful with great structure and huge ripe tannins that build on the palate lead to a dense and powerful finish. This turns into a real powerhouse in the glass. 93pts

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Guido Porro

 

Guido Porro continues to fly a bit under the radar with his fairly rich and fruity style of traditional Barolo that sometimes is a bit too ripe for my palate but the wines are great values when they are on. In the coming years we’ll see a growing portfolio of Barolo from this address with new vineyards in the Gianetto and the famed Colina Rionda crus coming on line in the near future. 

 

 

Dark almost opaque in the glass. On the nose with is rather tight with subtle hints of rosehips, notes of dried beef dark, macerated flowers. Elegant in the mouth, with finely focused power yet lovely transparency. This is rather elegant and refined with hints of herb, black cherry, mineral, dried leather and spice slowly emerge on the palate. Long and very detailed in the mouth, this resembles Burgundy a bit with tannins are very ripe yet firm on the long finish. 93pts

 

 

Rosehips, rooibos tea, and smoky tobacco come together on the  earthy, tarry nose. Showing jammy black currant on entry, this is tight and powerful on the palate with more jammy black currant and lingonberry fruit, and a spiciness that hints at black pepper. Tight, short and a bit blocky in the mouth with huge tannins, mineral and medicinal tannins, this is a big, powerful wine that lacks the extra gear of the Santa Caterina this year. 91pts

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Elio Grasso

 

A producer whose wines have swung from traditional, to modern, and then more recently back towards a quite classic style, something special is afoot at Elio Grasso. The wines are increasingly well focused, precise, and superbly balanced. Their Riserva, Runcot, remains a modern styled wines but the two crus are gorgeously perfumed and at their best, electric as they dance in the mouth and should prove fascinating to follow as they mature. 

 

12,400 bottles of each cru of Barolo in 2010 from max production of 14k

 

 

A bit of wood on the nose followed by aromas of clay, silica, spice, lingonberry, and deep camphor and dried herbal note emerge from the glass. Powerful with dark, rich fruit on entry, this has rather soft tannins and bright acids supporting plummy, heavy, earthy flavors that are a bit chunky in the mouth. Dense with tannins, this is quite powerful but also shows  a bit front loaded with lingonberry fruit in alcohol on the palate, finishing a little short with some obvious alcohol poking out. 91pts

 

 

Delayed harvest a few days to get maximum ripeness , and it was already a late vintage, later than 2008

 

Smoky with a hint of cocoa on the nose followed by very mineral and herbal aromas, a tight floral note and lots of lingering camphor. Fine grained tannins lend this an austere, lean quality on entry, then this turns faceted in the mouth with great power and freshness. Elegant with fairly important red fruits and chinato herbs on the palate, this is rich with tannins and quite ripe but this offers compelling complexity with gorgeous freshness and complexity built on bright, juicy acids and wonderful balanced if a touch austere and on the elegant side of things. 94pts

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Einaudi

 

Einaudi is a grand old name in Barolo, and one that has had its ups and downs. the wines from the 1970s are still singing while I find bottles from the 1990s being problematic. I noticed a step up in quality here with the 2001 vintage and the wines have continued to show improvement over the intervening years. Today they are in a mid-modern style very similar to those of Aldo Conterno and certainly offer an attractive addition to one’s barolo cellar. 

 

Tight and deep on the nose which is both very floral and very raw, bright with camphor and a hint of wood spice along with roses and red beryl fruit. Very cool and finely textured in the mouth, really a gorgeous texture so bright and fresh and light on the palate with slow to emerge red plum, wild cherry and spice flavors. The tannins start building on the midpalate and pile on the moderately long finish. Perhaps a bit uncomplicated but elegant and nervy with precision and length, none. This is more driven by acids than tannins. 92pts

 

 

Classic on the nose with a bit of sweet cassia bark, carob, wild cherry in alcohol, bit of wood spice, and lots of camphor on the deep nose. Pretty powerful on entry, this shows lovely clarity and depth on the palate, rich with sour fruits, ripe tannins but lots of them, and emerging inner mouth aromatic complexity. The palate shows shades of herbals notes,  a hint of minerality, edgy tannins that are dusty in the mouth, and while this lacks the elegance of the Costa Grimaldi it makes up for it with depth of flavor and complexity. Classically austere Cannubi, you can taste the hot, white earthy on the the bitter cherry toned finish, a bit spicy and almost peppery. The Costa Grimaldi is a ball point pen, this is a felt marker. 92pts

 

Hat Tip To: Snooth – Articles

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