The Master of Traditional Barolo: Giuseppe Rinaldi History & Retrospective Tasting
Giuseppe Rinaldi is, without a doubt, one of the most exciting producers in Barolo today. Giuseppe, known locally as Beppe, took control of the family winery in 1992 after the death of his father, Battista. Beppe was a veterinarian by trade, yet taught the principals and methodologies of creating traditionally-styled Barolo from his father. With five generations of grape-growing and winemaking experience in the family, Giuseppe Rinaldi wines were already considered among one the greatest expressions of Barolo, long before Beppe took over the estate.
His father, Battista Rinaldi, a serious man and trained enologist, took over the winery back in 1947. With family holdings in Brunate, Le Coste and Ravera, he brought the Rinaldi name to eminence. During this time, he also purchased their parcel in Cannubi San Lorenzo, and from these four vineyards, created two different Barolo. A straight Barolo, which was blended for balance from a mix of the family vineyards, and a single-vineyard Brunate, or Brunate Riserva. It was the Brunate Riserva, which was said to be made only in the greatest vintages and aged for ten years prior to release (think Giacomo Conterno Monfortino), that is a legend to this day.
In 1992, when Beppe took the reins at Giuseppe Rinaldi, the only real change that was made was to remove the Brunate from the winery’s portfolio and only make two blended Barolo. And so, Brunate – Le Coste and Cannubi San Lorenzo – Ravera was born. It was Beppe’s belief, in the true traditional style, that the greatest heights to which Barolo could reach could only come through blending. Although this was not a popular belief during the ‘90s, as the modern movement swept through Piedmont, Beppe held fast and refused to change.
At the time, the world wanted large-scaled, dark Barolo that was inflected with new oak and could be enjoyed younger, which was everything that a Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo was not. In turn, Beppe Rinaldi was grouped together with Bartolo Mascarello and Teobaldo Cappellano, as the last of old-time traditionalists.
It’s because of this that, as the popularity of Barolo swept across the globe and prices climbed, Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo remained heavily unaffected. Yet, behind the media hype and a new generation of Barolo drinkers who had never experienced the greatest traditionally-style wines, were the long-time collectors who knew better. Giuseppe Rinaldi became one of the greatest under-the-radar producers of the late nineties and early two-thousands. I still recall a time, not so long ago, when a Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo would only cost me $55.
So what happened? To a large degree, tastes changed. However, what was an even larger influence on the public was Italian wine writer Antonio Galloni of Vinous Media, who was an avid fan of traditional Barolo and would regularly seek out and taste the great wines of the past century. As Antonio’s following grew, and from the platform of The Wine Advocate, the public began to experiment, and they liked what they found.
Things have changed quite a bit in the last eight years. Today, the names Bartolo Mascarello, Teobaldo Cappellano, Giacomo Conterno and Giuseppe “Beppe” Rinaldi are on the minds of Barolo collectors around the world. Each are traded at a premium and often allocated to partial case quantities at the retail level. However, through all of this, very little has changed at Giuseppe Rinaldi.
Chemicals are never used in the vineyards, with only occasional manure to fertilize and a limited amount of copper and sulfur. In the winery, Beppe uses spontaneous fermentation with wild yeast, which takes place in neutral wooden vats, and then ages in large Slavonian cask. Beppe learned from his father, who learned from his father before him, and he sees nothing wrong with keeping things just the way they were.
The only change we see today is one that has been enforced by the Barolo consortium, and that is the new MGA labeling laws, which has forced producers to only list one vineyard on a bottle of Barolo, or be left to list no vineyard designation at all. But there is a silver lining, in that a producer can list a vineyard name on a label, yet still add up to 15% of another vineyard to the wine (don’t try to make sense of this; it is Italy). And so, Brunate – Le Coste has now been name Brunate only, with the addition of 15% Le Coste added. Although this is a change from (around) 40% added in the past, it still allows Beppe to blend. What’s more, Cannubi San Lorenzo, has become Tre Tine, with the addition of the Le Coste juice that was once used for Brunate. With the 2010 vintage and with the new rules in place, I can say with absolute confidence that Giuseppe Rinaldi continues to make two of the greatest Barolo in Italy today.
You can imagine that when the time came to participate in a Giuseppe Rinaldi vertical tasting, everyone involved was ecstatic. The vintages assembled represented not only Beppe’s amazing wines from the nineties and beyond, but also a duo of magical Barolo that were created by his Father.
Before digging into the notes and the scores, I think it’s important to list a few of my general impressions, because I believe that they give good insights to the differences between Giuseppe Rinaldi and your average Barolo.
Firstly, we often hear the term “buy the producer, not the vintage,” and this has never been more evident as it was at this tasting. The 2003 Brunate – Le Coste (a hot year that has proven to be very disappointing across the region) was absolutely gorgeous. It was vibrant with grip, drive and freshness to the fruit that is unheard of for the vintage.
The 2007 Brunate – Le Coste (another ripe year that has been aging unevenly for many Barolo) was epic. In fact, had it not been immediately followed by the classically-structured 2008, I may have thought it to be the best of the Brunate – Le Coste post the 1999 vintage. I believe this is a great example of Beppe’s belief in blending different vineyards for balance.
Second, I find it amazing how the fruit and floral profile of Giuseppe Rinaldi is so different from other Barolo. The fruit here is dark, accentuated by minerals, and there is often a violet floral note, especially in the Brunate – Le Coste. It’s quite beautiful.
Third, my personal belief is that the Brunate – Le Coste is “The” wine of Giuseppe Rinaldi. Where each example of Cannubi San Lorenzo – Ravara was gorgeous, and I would never pass up an opportunity to taste, there’s simply something about the classic structure and zesty acidity of Brunate – Le Coste that drives me wild.
1956 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo – The bouquet opened up in the glass to reveal dried flowers with exotic spice, cumin, brown sugar and savory meats. It was beautifully refined and soft on the palate, showing inner floral tones, dried red fruits and a hint of sweetness. This is a perfectly mature Barolo that’s reached a plateau, which currently provides a lot of enjoyment. (94 points)
1985 Giuseppe Rinaldi Brunate Riserva – The ’85 Brunate Riserva showed a beautiful mature nose of undergrowth, dried cherry and strawberry with dusty soil. On the palate, the fruit was ripe with hints of tart citrus that both caressed and tugged at the senses. A slight note of decay and iron-laden minerals lingered, showing that this may have already seen its best days, yet it is still a wonderful glass of mature Barolo. (91 points)
1993 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Cannubi San Lorenzo – Ravera – The nose showed dark red fruits, undergrowth and hints of dried spice. On the palate, I found a wiry frame of acidity and unresolved tannin with dried cherry and hints of tart citrus. Its structure lingered on the senses throughout the finish. This unfortunately came across as one of the least enjoyable wines of the evening, yet it was still a decent showing considering the vintage. (87 points)
1997 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste – The bouquet was dark, showing ripe black cherry, licorice, potpourri and hints of undergrowth. It was finessed on the palate with dark fruits and turned more tannic toward the close. This was heavily overshadowed in the company of other vintages, yet showed as an excellent effort, in a vintage that never lived up to the hype. (92 points)
1998 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste – The nose opened slowly in the glass but gained intensity over time, showing dark fruits with dusty spice, menthol and violet floral tones. On the palate, it was still youthful, yet with enough flesh to drink very well. Black cherry and exotic spice dominated and lasted well into the finish. This is a beautiful example of the ’98 vintage, with its open-knit personality contrasted by gripping Nebbiolo tannin and balanced acidity. (93 points)
1999 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste – This showed a classic and highly expressive bouquet of dried flowers, dark fruit, licorice, spice and dusty soil. On the palate, it was dark, ripe and intense, yet perfectly balanced with black cherry and strawberry fruits contrasted by exotic spice, mint and dried floral notes. The finish went on and on with dried fruit accentuated by firm tannin. An absolutely stunning wine that has reminded me once again of just how great the ’99 vintage was in Barolo. It has many decades of life ahead of it in the cellar, yet it can be enjoyed now with a long decant. (96+ points)
2000 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste – The 2000 Brunate – Le Coste was surprisingly closed at first yet blossomed as the evening progressed, revealing ripe dark fruits, mint, floral tones, leather and the slightest hint of heat. On the palate, it was pliant and soft-textured with ripe dark fruits, licorice, brown sugar and hints of medicinal herbs. The finish showed tart blackberry, spice and mounting tannin, yet faded much faster than expected. Still, it’s an excellent bottle of Barolo that would probably drink much better if removed from our vertical tasting. (92 points)
2001 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste – The bouquet was pretty but compact, showing black cherry, dusty soil, licorice, sweet spice and undergrowth. On the palate, it was tightly wound up in its structure, with notes of dried cherry, strawberry fruit, tobacco and savory herbs. It finished tight and restrained with dried fruits lingering long. This really showed the classic structure and tannin of the vintage with brilliant, focused fruit, yet remains many years away from its peak. (95 points) @Morrell
2003 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste – The nose was intense with ripe dark fruits, spice, savory herbs and dark soil tones. On the palate, it displayed silky textures with vibrant acidity, showing black cherry, licorice, savory herbs and minerals. The finish was long with dark fruits, a hint of pine and a mouthwatering quality that was completely unexpected. This is easily the best Barolo I have tasted from the ’03 vintage. Rinaldi managed to capture the ripeness of the year yet also maintain vibrancy and focused fruit. (93 points)
2004 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste – This showed an absolutely beautiful bouquet of strawberry, minerals, dusty spice and hints of savoy herbs. On the palate, it displayed silky textures contrasted by youthful tannin with both red and black fruits and a hint of herbs. Dried red fruits saturated the palate through the finish as this flaunted its tannic clout. The ’04 Brunate – Le Coste was still youthfully restrained yet you can sense that it’s aching to open up and reveal its charms. It may one day outclass the classic ’01. (94 Points)
2004 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Cannubi San Lorenzo – Ravera – The nose showed undergrowth, dried cherry and minerals, but came across as much more advanced than expected. On the palate, it showed gruff tannin with tart red fruit and a vein of strict acidity. Cloying red fruits lingered on the finish. I don’t believe this was a sound bottle, having likely been exposed to heat at some point during its life. (N/A)
2007 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Cannubi San Lorenzo – Ravera – The nose was dark with depths of ripe black fruit, pine, and spice in an intense display. On the palate, I found silky textures with brisk contrasting acidity and deep, dark fruits, which clung to the senses through the finish. Hints of spice, dried citrus and savory herbs lingered long. (93 points)
2007 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste – The nose was intense, swinging between sweet and savory with dark fruits, herbal mint, rich tobacco and violet floral tones. On the palate, it displayed vibrant textures, ripe dark fruits and black licorice kept in check by classic Nebbiolo tannin with a long finish that remained intense yet perfectly balanced. This is an absolutely gorgeous wine that walks the tight rope between ripeness and austerity, resulting in a truly classic expression of Nebbiolo fruit. (95 points) @Morrell
2008 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste – The bouquet was wonderfully expressive, dark yet refined, with a nose of black and red fruits, herbal lavender, mint, violet floral tones and a hint of exotic spice. On the palate, it was classic to the core and expanded to coat the senses with intense red fruits, spice and savory herbs. The finish was youthfully firm yet enjoyable all the same for its impeccable balance. Wow, this is simply a fabulous wine and utterly classic. As good as it is now, I know it should really be left in the cellar for a number of years. (96 points)
Morrell Wine Groups Selection of Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo
Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido
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