Unite in defense of Barolo!

Barolo and Barbaresco, 2010

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It rubs a bit the wrong way to feel we might be joining in some kind of mass hysteria - as promoted online and in print - but after tasting 2010 Barolo in Piedmont over 2 years  (visiting 40-50 producers, many twice, some 3 times) we are feeling very positive about the vintage. The wines (even the ones we don’t like so much) remind of us of 1989s: great balance, richness without excessive extraction, open aromatics, beautifully ripe tannins and acid levels.  At this stage the wines appear to be putting on weight and will need a couple of years; they will clearly age very well, and while there’s plenty of structure, the wines aren’t austere.

The caveat, as always, remains Producer, Producer, Producer, and we don’t have any great new secret to reveal, at least not yet. Some wine has begun to arrive, and over the next months we hope and expect to add 2010s from Burlotto, Cappellano, G. Conterno, B. Mascarello, G. Mascarello, G. Rinaldi, plus the Barolo Castellero from Barale, and the cru wines from Brovia. Despite their fame, we’re kind of accustomed to Barolo and Barbaresco (indisputably the greatest wines of Italy) living in a kind of commercial backwater, and it will be interesting to see if all of the positive press about the vintage translates to more rapid sales! JW

Barale 2010 Barolo

We’ve admired Barale for a long time, but after several years of organic farming, their wines are getting even better. They’re not severe wines despite being resolutely traditional, and they age very well (we just enjoyed a bottle of 1971 Barale Barolo), with an appealing openness and finesse on the palate. A blend of three vineyards (Prede, Monrobiolo, and Coste delle Rose), the 2010 Barolo is beautifully balanced. After just a couple of minutes in the glass the wine gained considerable complexity, and it was very pleasing and satisfying. We expect it to improve for many years, but it is already a very fine bottle. JW

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Brovia 2010 Barolo

The Brovia single-vineyard wines are vivid demonstrations of their terroirs, and it’s always a treat to taste them together to see the differences between the vineyards. ‘Classico’ is a preferred term for Barolos / Barbarescos that are not single-vineyard wines, as no producer is very keen on calling their wine ‘base Barolo’ or ‘basic Barolo’. Brovia’s Barolo (classico) is a blend of 4 vineyards, with the biggest share coming from 25 year-old vines in Brea, which gives the wine a very mineral, chalky backbone. Classico bottlings are always less expensive than the single-vineyards, and there’s a strong tendency to diminish the importance of the classico wines in favor of our obsession with the single vineyards, but the best blended Barolos express the complexity that comes from combining fruit from different terroirs – think B. Mascarello, G. Rinaldi. We miss out on some great wine if we ignore a classico wine that’s as good as Brovia’s, which is altogether a serious wine, and something very fine. I can’t pretend that I think it will be ready to drink soon – in May the wine showed orange and herbal notes, quite savory with ripe, slightly grainy tannin; it’s really an infant, but it will repay some time to age, and other forms of tender care. Jamie Wolff

 

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Brovia 2013 Roero Arneis

It’s summer, so it makes sense to include the best example we know of Piedmont’s indigenous white wine. One of the very few Arneis made with native yeasts, this wine is a benchmark for the grape – you can't really say for sure what you think about Arneis without tasting Brovia’s. What do we find? Mineral and savory aromatics – hay, chalk, black tea, pear, and honey which in some ways reminds us of dry Chenin Blanc. The wine is clean and brisk and refreshing, medium-bodied, and the aromatics follow-through on the palate. This seems like a good complement to the other local wines! JW

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Oddero 2010 Barolo Rocche di Castiglione

It’s nice that we’re not forced to pick favorites, but if I did have to choose a preferred Barolo vineyard it would be Rocche, which often makes me think of great Burgundy along the lines of top Chambolle Musigny or top Vosne Romanee — tremendous finesse cloaking depth and power (for me tasting the best Chambolle or Vosne mostly consists of happy memories — these days Rocche is a lot more affordable!). Oddero Rocche carries the intense chalky minerality and lift that you’d expect, along with what can only be called sheer class — our British friends might say ‘breed’, or ‘pedigree’. That said, this is a structured wine that needs some time to unwind — 10 years, just to guess. Certainly all the components to age are there in beautiful balance. A very classic and truly excellent wine.  JW

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Oddero 2010 Barolo

Some 2010 Barolos have been showing more weight and depth than when first bottled — the Oddero Barolo is an example. It’s very good; perhaps not today the easiest drinking wine you’ll taste, as it really needs some time in bottle to unwind. It’s showing very savory and salty-mineral, with warm ripe tannins. I think it’s got a great future. JW (Isabelle Oddero in Rocche, May 2012)

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