Cellar Table’s Official Vintage Report & Tastings
Producers throughout Barolo have been very careful with their 2014s. In fact, sometimes it’s been difficult to even get a taste of the wines.
After attending numerous trade shows and portfolio tastings throughout the first five months of the year, it became obvious to me that the 2014 vintage of Barolo was going to be difficult to get a read on. Lucky for me, I had a two-week trip to Piedmont planned in June and a list of producers to visit. The funny part is, had I not gone on that trip, literally 75% of the tasting notes in this report would have never been written.
This brings up an interesting question. Why wouldn’t a producer want to show a vintage of their wines?
By now I’m sure you’ve heard the press about 2014, a vintage that was marked by rain and hail. A vintage that their neighbors in Barbaresco have been happy to talk about, since they fared much better, receiving ⅓ less rain and no hail whatsoever, a vintage where many producers decided not to bottle their single-vineyard wines, instead opting to either blend them into a single Barolo or declassify the wines entirely to Nebbiolo Langhe.
This mix of bad press, producers’ insecurity over their most prestigious vineyards, and a comparison being constantly made each time a Barbaresco producer wanted to tout their 2014s had given the public a poor impression of the vintage quite early. Some critics tried to warn consumers to give the wines a chance. Antonio Galloni wrote on Vinous in his article “2014 Barolo: Surprise, Surprise…” that “…the finest 2014s are some of the most thrilling young Barolos I have ever tasted.” But still, when the responsibility is on the consumer to trust one man’s word over so many overwhelming sources–and spend their money without tasting for themselves–what are they going to do?
To add insult to injury, many producers in Barolo decided to raise their prices with the release of the 2014s, a move that may be warranted when considering the bigger picture, yet very poorly timed.
In the end, everyone loses.
The producers decide not to show the wines.
The consumers and trade are unable to taste the wines.
The wines arrive on our shores with lower-than-average scores and higher prices.
The wines simply don’t sell…
Here’s the reality of the 2014 Barolo vintage
The 2014 vintage was about triage. In some cases, there was nothing a producer could do in the face of three successive hail storms and masses of rain, especially if their vineyards aren’t naturally inclined for good drainage or hold water due to high levels of clay in the soil. However, producers with a parcels in, say, Rocche (Castiglione Falletto), a steep hillside vineyard with soils rich in a blue tufa/sand and limestone, could use a keen eye and pruning, along with careful selection, to make an amazing wine, which the 2014 Vietti Barolo Rocche is in every way.
Unfortunately, not every producer was so lucky. Some lost up to 40% of their crop, and with the amount of water that saturated their vineyards, they were faced with a serious issue of possible dilution and disease. This is something that marks a number of the 2014s that I tasted, as they lack a certain substance on the palate, whether that’s the substance that helps them mature into the wines we love after twenty years in the cellar or just a weightiness that we expect from Barolo–either way, a number of the wines come across as thin with fruit that isn’t capable of balancing the natural tannins of Nebbiolo.
However, the saving grace of 2014 can be found through the wineries who were able to cope with the vintage conditions, albeit producing a much smaller quantity of wine. These are the bottles that Antonio Galloni has referred to as “…the most thrilling young Barolos I have ever tasted.”
So with all of this said, why should we buy 2014 Barolo?
Let me start out by saying that I have already been putting my money where my mouth is, with two mixed cases of 2014s in my cellar. Does that sound crazy after what you just read?
Well, honestly, it’s not. What 2014 presents to collectors is one of the most unique Barolo vintages that I have ever encountered. The wines that suffered are pretty easy to spot from the first taste. The wines that came out better than expected make for some very interesting early drinking, with remarkably pretty, floral, (dare I say) feminine personalities and a purity on the palate that is simply stunning.
Then there are the wines that excelled, and this is where things get very interesting, because the wines that excelled are presenting an alluring mix of tension, vibrancy, stunning minerality and some of the finest-grained tannins I have ever witnessed in a young Barolo. They come across as electric, rooted firmly in the earth, and giving the impression that the old-school Barolos of decades past (I’m thinking ‘60s and ‘70s) may have resembled these wines in their youth, which I think is a pretty exciting aspect of the vintage.
As you read my notes below, please keep in mind that I try very hard to keep my scores relative to the vintage, and I don’t play any favorites. Nearly every producer where I tasted across their portfolio has at least one wine that simply suffered from the vintage conditions, as well as one that excelled. The single-vineyard wines that did well owe their success to a combination of terroir, how badly they suffered from the hail, and the skills of the producer in the vineyard.
I think a lot of winemakers in Barolo would like to forget that 2014 ever happened, but I also think that just as many will look back on it as one of the most interesting and unique vintages of their career.
On to the Tasting Notes
In 2014, the Brovia family made a unique decision regarding the bottling of their 2014 Barolo. In a typical year, Brovia would bottle their three cru wines and then one Barolo normale, which would be the remaining juice from their single vineyards. However, in 2014, the decision was made that there would be no single vineyards, that they would instead create only one 2014 Barolo, and that it would be much more than just a blending of all of their juice. Instead, it would be a precise blending of their three single vineyards to create the best possible wine from a difficult vintage. Some thirty different blends were created, which the Brovia family tasted through and evaluated until deciding on the ideal combination. The result is the Brovia Unio (a latin word meaning, Union). The Unio is the only Barolo that Brovia will release in 2014, with a production that is 50% lower than their total harvest. This has created something of a “Super” Barolo, a true throwback example of how producers used to make wine in the region.
Brovia Barolo Unio 2014 – The nose was complex and layered, showing dusty ripe strawberries–stems and all, giving way to notes of dried roses and fresh pine (or possibly menthol) with a citrusy twang, moist soil and undergrowth. On the palate, I found a lifted and feminine expression, as lean tart red fruits were ushered in by zesty acidity, giving way to mineral and earth tones, with fine tannins and mounting inner florals. The finish was medium-long with staying minerality, bright cherry, a tart citrus twang and earthy soil tones. (90 points)
I can’t think of of another winery in Barolo that has me more excited about the future than Paolo Scavino. I’ve been a fan of this historic property for a very long time, and even when the wines had a much more modern-styled leaning, I found a lot to like about them. However, watching the Scavino family as they’ve evolved their processes and adopted a more traditional approach over the past decade has heightened my interests in the brand, and that evolution continues to this day. Touring the winery with Elisa Scavino revealed large, open-top wood tini vats for fermentation, botti, and barrels of all shapes and sizes. What’s more, there are a number of single-vineyard Barolo aging in this cellar that I didn’t even realize the Scavino family had access to.
In reality, the Scavinos have holdings in crus throughout the entire region. The portfolio already seems large, and they continue to use fruit that any other producer would bottle separately to make their blended Barolo Normale and Carobric, yet new vineyard sources are in the works, even as I write this. When you consider their move toward traditional vinification, the sources of their fruit, and the amount of vineyards they have to work with, it seems to me that Paolo Scavino has the most diverse, consistent and highest-quality portfolio of Barolo in the region. They also happen to be some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. The future here is very bright.
Paolo Scavino Barolo 2014 – The nose showed tart red fruits and minerals with hints of leather and dried floral tones. It was soft on the palate, with energizing acidity elevating its fresh strawberry and inner floral tones. The finish was medium-long with hints of fine tannin, inner florals and spice. (91 points)
Paolo Scavino Barolo Monvigliero 2014 – The nose was fresh with lifting florals and herbs giving way to dusty roses and crushed stone. On the palate, I found a soft and feminine expression, made vibrant through brisk acidity with strawberry fruit and saline-minerals. The finish was long, with zesty acidity and tart red fruits. I’m loving this wine already, but I don’t see it maturing in a positive way beyond fifteen years in the cellar. (92 points)
Paolo Scavino Barolo Bric del Fiasc 2014 – The nose showed tart, crushed wild berry fruit, sweet florals and dusty exotic spice. On the palate, I found a soft expression of Bric del Fiasc, with savory minerality giving way to tart berry and inner herbal tones, lacking the sheer depth of better vintages. It finished long, with saturating red fruits, spice, brisk acids and grippy tannin. (92 points)
Paolo Scavino Barolo Bricco Ambrogio 2014 – The nose showed sweet herbal tones up front, with alluring rosy florals, dried red fruits and spice. It was silky and broad on the palate, displaying a mix of ripe dark red berry tones, sweet spices, herbs and gentle tannins. The finish was long, with palate-staining dark fruits and lingering inner florals. (93 points)
Paolo Scavino Carobric 2014 – The nose showed dark red fruits with dusty spice and crushed stone minerality. It was silky on the palate, showing fresh strawberry and mineral tones, as brisk acids enlivened the experience and added freshness. It finished medium-long with tart red fruits and spice, as saturating tannin slowly faded. (93 points)
Paolo Scavino Barolo Cannubi 2014 – The nose was floral, with fresh herbs and moist soil tones, crushed seashell and dusty roses. On the palate, I found silky textures with dark red berry fruits, spices, herbs and hints of cedar in a deceptively fresh expression, as tannin slowly firmed up on the palate. It finished long and structured with saturating dark red fruits and sexy inner florals. (94 points)
One of the most eye-opening tastings of my entire trip was with Luigi and his son, Lorenzo Scavino. The work that’s being done in the small yet fully capable winery has me very interested in the future of Azelia. The wines have been improving drastically for over a decade, which says a lot considering that I’ve been a fan since the 1996 vintage.
The only mark of their modern past can be seen in the small percentage of new wood that is still used on the Bricco Fiasco and San Rocco, but it’s done with such style and a soft touch that the results are quite pleasing. Then there’s the entry-level Barolo, which is a huge overachiever in every vintage, and one that is truly traditional, the Margheria–a dark stallion of a wine. There’s a level of class mixed with rugged earth and dark haunting florals that Azelia somehow captures in nearly every bottle of Barolo, it’s a stunning combination.
Azelia also made some of the top 2014s that I tasted on my trip, in many cases able to mature in the cellar for decades, yet also quite beautiful today. Lastly, look out for their 2015s, where I found more vibrancy and balance than most producers were able to capture from that sun-kissed vintage. With Lorenzo taking on more responsibility around the winery and vineyards, and his father at his side, I think it’s only so long before Azelia is firmly on every Barolo collector’s radar.
Azelia Barolo 2014 – The nose was dark and floral with a hint of animal musk, smoke, dried orange peel, and crushed raspberry. On the palate, I found a savory expression with saline-minerals and dried black cherries, as brisk acidity and youthful tannins mixed to create a perfectly balanced expression. The finish was long and savory with lingering inner florals and hints of young tannin. This is a very nicely-executed base Barolo and a big success in such a difficult vintage. (92 points)
Azelia Barolo Bricco Fiasco 2014 – The nose was dark, showing crushed black cherry, woodland florals, earth tones, balsamic spices and smoke. On the palate, I found silky-soft textures offset by mineral-infused black and red fruits, zesty exotic spices, minerals and mounting tannins. It finished long and savory, displaying lingering spice with just enough mouthwatering acidity to keep this structured Bricco Fiasco from drying out. (94 points)
Azelia Barolo Margheria 2014 – The nose was dark and intense with dried florals, crushed stone, black raspberry and zesty spices. On the palate, I found a soft expression, showing a mix of cherry and strawberry backed by savory minerals, brisk acidity and spice. The finish was long with cheek-puckering acids and hints of fine tannin lingering long. (93 points)
Azelia Barolo San Rocco 2014 – Here I found layers of sweet florals with crushed cherry, stone dust and dried fall leaves. On the palate, silky textures were quickly firmed up by zesty acids, tart red and black fruits, and fine tannins which saturated the senses. The finish was long and spicy, with fine tannin coating the palate, while zesty acids made the mouth water. The ‘14 San Rocco is the most likely to mature positively for decades in the cellar. Another huge success for the vintage. (94 points)
The soft nature of La Morra fruit and tannins seems to have mixed with the vintage conditions to create a selection of wines that come across as pleasurable, yet immediate. Both of Silvia’s La Morra Barolo were so good already that they were, frankly, hard to put down. However, the Canubbi was a whole other animal, with depths of fruit, amazing textures and a complex and layered finish.
Elio Altare Barolo 2014 – Here I found dried flowers with lifting minerals, sweet spices and masses of crushed cherries. On the palate, it displayed a soft and incredibly silky expression, showing fleshy cherry, sweet herbs and spices. The finish was long with a coating of gentle, fine tannins. (89 points)
Elio Altare Barolo Arborina 2014 – The nose showed sweet florals and crushed cherry with balsamic spices. On the palate, wonderfully soft textures gave way to cherries, pretty inner florals and savory minerality. It finished long with lingering sweet cherries and zesty acids which begged me take another sip. The ‘14 Arborina is so enjoyable already that it’s hard to imagine it getting any better. (91 points)
Elio Altare Barolo Cannubi 2014 – The nose was lifted and precise with dried flowers up front, followed by black cherry, sweet herbs and minerals. On the palate, I found wonderfully silky textures, showing black cherry with zesty spices, vibrant acidity, and masses of inner florals. The finish was long with lingering black cherry and sweet balsamic spices. The Cannubi was elegant, mineral-infused, and spicy–so easy to like. (94 points)
Somehow still flying under the radar and with a story that would drive most fans of Bruno Giacosa’s storied bottlings of Vigna Rionda crazy, Giovanni Rosso is quietly making a portfolio of stunning traditionally-styled Barolos from a number of Serralunga’s top crus. Located in the hamlet of Baudana, the Rosso family has been tending these vineyards for over 100-years. Now in the capable hands of Davide, Giovanni’s son, a new focus has been placed on communicating the terroir of each individual site. However, what some don’t yet realize is that the plot in the renowned Vigna Rionda vineyard is the same parcel that was used to make Bruno Giacosa’s legendary bottlings of Vigna Rionda, which were no longer produced after the early nineties. Knowing full well what this vineyard is capable of, Davide decided to replant a large portion through selection massale from the original vines, leaving a small portion of 70+ year old vines from the original planting in place. From this, he’s creating an extremely limited production Barolo and a Langhe Nebbiolo. The future at Giovanni Rosso is untold, yet very exciting to think on.
The 2014’s at this address were a huge success, for the most part, with their Serralunga Barolo proving how blending of vineyards can really pay off in difficult years. Then there’s the Cerretta, an exotic rendition of this terroir that I found wildly appealing.
Giovanni Rosso Barolo del Comune di Serralunga 2014 – The nose was alluring and dark in a way that only Serralunga seems to achieve, with crushed stone minerality lifting from the glass, a pretty mix of strawberry and cherry, brown spices, and dried floral tones. On the palate, I found masses of depth in it’s soft textures, giving way to tart cherry, savory spice and fine grippy tannin. The finish was long and structured, yet not overly so, as notes of dried cherry, spice and minerals saturated the sense. I am really impressed and what remarkable balance. (93 points)
Giovanni Rosso Barolo Cerretta 2014 – The nose was dark, alluring and exotic with spicy florals lifting from the glass, complicated by marine-inspired minerality, ripe strawberry, and hints of undergrowth. On the palate, I found soft, silky textures, yet lifted and refined, with pure tart cherry, inner rose, zesty spice and saline-minerals, as brisk acids and tannin clenched the senses toward the close. The finish was long and structured with dried cherries saturating the palate along with hints of spice and resnating mineral tones. (93 points)
Giovanni Rosso Barolo Serra 2014 – The nose was remarkably pretty with dried florals up front, as hints of spice and minerals lifted from the glass. On the palate, I found lifted-feminine textures, displaying pure red berry fruits, and subtle spice as fine tannin slowly mounted. The finish was dry and structured as cherry tones fought to stay present against drying tannin and ending on resonating floral tones. (90 points)
The two wines I tasted from Fratelli Alessandria are a perfect example of how location mattered in 2014. The Monvigliero from the town of Verduno was a model of purity with layered aromatics and grace on the palate, while the Gramolere, from Monforte, seems to have lost the rigorous tannin and broad textures that I usually associate with the vineyard.
Fratelli Alessandria Barolo Gramolere 2014 – The nose was dark, showing mineral-infused raspberry, hints of licorice, menthol, black tea, moist earth, leather, and smoke. On the palate, I found soft textures, with lean, slightly advanced red fruits, hints of herbs and spice. The finish was medium-long with lingering dark red fruits and slightly drying tannin. As much as I loved the bouquet on the Gramolere, I found the mid-palate lacking substance. (88 points)
Fratelli Alessandria Barolo Monvigliero 2014 – The nose was pretty, exotic and floral, with lifting minerality up front, followed by notes of cherry, strawberry, and rose. On the palate, I found silky textures offset by a mix of tart cherry, minerals and spice, as savory botanicals and inner florals developed. The finish was medium-long with saturating tannin, yet still energetic due to lingering acids mixed with lively red fruits and spice. (93 points)
Vietti Barolo Rocche di Castiglione 2014 – Having tasted the 2014 Rocche on two separate occasions and having had nearly identical experiences, I’m confident to say that it is currently my wine of the vintage. The nose was layered with mineral-infused cherry, dried roses, dusty soil tones, a mix of sweet and savory herbs, and crushed seashells. On the palate, I found a wine of intense focus with lean textures at first, which seemed to expand as they flowed effortlessly across the senses. Its dark red fruits were poised as tension built through a mix of brisk acids, minerals and youthfully austere tannins, with masses of inner floral tones that resonated throughout. The finish was long, displaying red berry fruits, spice, inner violet and rose notes, with fine mineral-laced tannin. The 2014 Rocche makes me think of the 1974 vintage of the same wine, a vintage I love, and I have to wonder if that ‘74 resembled the ‘18 in its youth. (96+ points)
Parusso Barolo 2014 – Wow! I was not expecting to be this impressed by a 2014 Barolo, but what Parusso has managed here is really something special. It may not be for the classicist or hardline traditionalist, but there’s no denying the absolute beauty and exoticisim of the 2014 Barolo. This blend of vineyards saw 100% whole-cluster fermentation before being aged in new French wood, yet it achieved a sexy and irresistible bouquet of crushed cherry and blackberry, with exotic florals, sweet spice and minerals wafting up from the glass. There was a liveliness and energy on the palate that’s seldom seen in a Barolo this young, complicated by the freshest tart cherry you can imagine, and zesty spices. The finish was long and saturating to the senses, as sweet tannin wrapped around every corner of the mouth, as inner florals, minerals and crushed red berries lingered long. (94 points)
Elvio Cogno Barolo Riserva Vigna Elena 2014 – (From tank) The nose was dark, moody and earthy, showing cured meats, floral undergrowth, savory spices, minerals and crushed raspberry. On the palate, I found soft textures with vibrant dark red fruits, driving acids, mineral tones, and inner rose. The finish was long, as tannins saturated the senses, resonating on dark, tart red fruits and minerals. (92-94 points)
Gianpiero Marrone Barolo Bussia 2014 – The nose showed orange-tinged strawberry fruit, with dusty exotic spices, hints of leather and smoke. On the palate, I found soft textures, delivering a savory expression of sour cherry, sweet herbs, cedar, and saline-minerals with a core of vibrant acidity. It finished long and structured with saturating tannins, dried cherries and lingering minerality with a hint of iodine. (92 points)
Pio Cesare Barolo 2014 – The nose was intense with spiced crushed cherry, cedar, dried roses, leather and hints of moist dark soil. On the palate, I found soft textures contrasted by tart cherry, minerals and spice with zippy acidity. The finish was long and angular with saturating sour cherry, smoky minerals and a coating of fine tannin. Pio Cesare has truly managed to create a very balanced Barolo in the difficult 2014 vintage. (92 points)
Francesco Rinaldi e Figli Barolo Le Brunate 2014 – The nose was remarkably pretty, showing ripe strawberry with sweet florals, hints of wild herbs, zesty spicy, animal musk and dusty minerals. On the palate, I found silky textures on a light-bodied frame with notes of cherry and strawberry, lifted through zesty acidity, as minerals, spice and hints of fine tannin settled on the senses. The finish was medium-long with notes of dried strawberry and inner florals lingering, as youthful tannin saturated and dried out the palate. There’s something missing on the mid-palate, a certain level of depth, yet the Brunate remains very pretty and surprisingly approachable already. (91 points)
Comm. G.B. Burlotto Barolo 2014 – The 2014 G.B. Burlotto Barolo was beautiful and amazing at this price point. Here I found a lifted and floral bouquet, with a mix of sweet herbs, exotic spices, crushed roses, minerals and hints of cedar dust. On the palate, a display of soft textures on a feminine frame gave way to notes of strawberry with mouthwatering, saline-minerality, as inner floral tones amassed toward the finale. The finish was medium-long, resonating on dried red berries and botanical freshness with just the slightest tug of young tannin. The fruit was amazingly pure and vibrant, with little to get in the way of it drinking well already, which may be the only thing I can fault this Barolo for–its lack of grip and structure. However, for an option to enjoy right now, the 2014 is drop-dead gorgeous. (91 points)
Roberto Voerzio Barolo Cerequio 2014 – The nose was earthy and dark with undergrowth, moist soil and mineral tones up front, as hints of crushed strawberry and brown spices emerged. On the palate, I found soft, medium-weight textures with zesty acids giving way to bright cherry, strawberry and minerals with inner rose and herbal tones. It finished with medium-length, as zesty acids slowly faded, leaving hints of tart cherry, minerals and spice. It was earthy and lean but very, very pretty. (91 points)
Credits & Resources
Article, Tasting Notes and Photos by Eric Guido
View the selection of 2014 Barolo at: Morrell Wine
Click here to visit the official website of: Azelia
Click here to visit the official website of: Paolo Scavino
Click here to visit the official website of: Elio Altare
Click here to visit the official website of: Vietti
Click here to visit the official website of: Giovanni Rosso
Thank you to Skurnik Wines for arranging producer visits.