2013 Vintage Master Class at La Festa del Barolo
What a year it has been for Barolo lovers. Thinking back to this time last year and my first report on the 2013 vintage, I was thrilled to get the word out on what I believed to be one of the best young vintages I had ever tasted. A constant flow of producers made their way through our offices with 2013s in hand to show. You could easily see the proud expressions on their faces as they poured and the wide-eyed look they would have as they talked about the wine.
In this business they say that the current vintage is always going to be referred to as the best in some way by the producer who reared the bottles, but with 2013, it was genuine love and excitement for a selection of wines that they had been waiting years to show to the world.
I myself was caught up in the excitement, and at the time I wanted very badly to believe that the thrill I found in tasting the wines wasn’t some subconscious joy that I was absorbing from the winemakers as they poured. It was because of this that I went about every tasting in the most serious way. At that time, there was a rumor that 2013 could be as good as 2010 but with another level of richness and vibrancy–a perfect storm of a vintage.
What I found held up to all of my expectations. With ten years of tasting barolo under my belt, I found the 2013s to be everything that they were being hyped up to be and more. I announced my favorites on this very blog and bought deeply for my own cellar–I hoped that you did the same.
The Problem with Securing the Top 2013 Barolo
Surprisingly, once the professional scores came out, and as high as they were, there was a level of trepidation felt by many collectors. This seemed to be a result of comments that had been made by a professional critic about the vintage being great, but not quite as good as originally expected. Also, there was a forecast that, even with how difficult the 2014 vintage was in the region, there would be a number of overperforming gems and producers who may have made classic old-school styled wines that would thrill collectors. The combination of minor backpedaling by the media, a belief that there would be plenty of wine to go around and speculation on the next vintage, which in many cases was just being bottled, added confusion to the market.
As a result, sales of the 2013s were slow at first, because even as the word on 2013 Barolo had been great, but not as good as expected, it gave people pause. However, consumers that visited the region and had tasted the wines were coming back thrilled by what they had found. The wines began to sell, very quietly, and before the majority of collectors realized that the top wines were increasing in value and scarcity, many of them were already gone. Suddenly the frustration over 2013 Barolo broke out onto the message boards of the most popular websites, as collectors clamored to find wines that were no longer available. Or in the worst cases, wines like Bartolo Mascarello, G.B. Burlotto Monvigliero, Giuseppe Rinaldi Brunate and Vietti Ravera quickly became heavily allocated by the distribution chain, sending pricing in the secondary market through the roof.
That’s All Behind Us Now
The good news was that, beyond the chase bottlings, there was a wave of overperforming wines at a much better price point. I see 2013 as a truly great vintage for a number of reasons, but mainly because you could buy wines that were (depending on who you asked) at the same level as the best of the best, yet at a much lower price point. Great examples included GD Vajra Bricco delle Viole, Sandrone Le Vigne and Brovia Rocche del Castiglione. However, it went far beyond that, as wine after wine that we tasted wowed us from the entry-level vineyard blends to the crus. Simply open a Vietti Barolo Castiglione or G.B. Burlotto Barolo to see what I mean.
The fact is that you could build a deep cellar full of 2013 Barolo, excluding only a few highly limited wines, and feel assured that you had decades of great drinking ahead for you. Over time the wines did sell out, as this is not a region that’s known for high production numbers, but even today we are treated to a handful of late releases–and many of them are fantastic.
La Festa del Barolo
This brings us to the beginning of 2018 and Antonio Galloni’s La Festa del Barolo, which showcased the 2013 vintage and allowed collectors and enthusiasts to taste through fourteen selections, along with the producers who created them. The best part was that many of the wines shown are still available at retail. I found myself very satisfied by the general consensus of the room, feeling that the 2013 vintage really was something special, and that the tasting did nothing but confirm those thoughts in the minds of its participants.
A Few Brief Impressions on 2013 Barolo
After an entire year of tasting 2013 Barolo, and right through the Saturday morning Master Class of La Festa del Barolo, I’ve formed a few personal opinions about the vintage that I thought would be helpful to share. It’s important to keep in mind that I have also been able to taste many of these wines on multiple occasions throughout the year.
1. The wines have continued to get better over the course of the last year. Last February, the primary fruit was front and center with an attractive level of vibrancy across the board. However, today the wines are showing significantly more nuance, as well as the expected tannic clout that comes as Barolo usually closes down in its youth. Dare I say that the vintage is getting even better in the bottle?
2. I found that the Cannubi vineyard did remarkably well in 2013. I can now firmly state this, having tasted a number of wines from different producers. E. Pira, G.B. Burlotto, Paolo Scavino, Francesco Rinaldi and Giacomo Fenocchio all made an outstanding Cannubi.
3. From my tastings, it appears that of the best-known communes of Barolo, La Morra came in behind the rest in 2013. There are exceptions, such as Vietti’s Brunate. However, in most cases the softer nature of most La Morra wines has created a slightly dull and fruit-forward expression that doesn’t show the energy of the best ‘13s.
4. Wines made from a blend of vineyards continue to gain momentum in the region, and they are drop-dead gorgeous in 2013. A perfect example is how incredibly good many producers’ entry-level wines are, but this is even more noticeable at the top, with Bartolo Mascarello, Chiara Boschis Via Nuova and Paolo Scavino’s Carobric.
5. The qualitative dividing line between the top wines and those that come in below them has gotten so thin that it’s becoming hard to tell the difference. Great examples include the comparison of G. Rinaldi Brunate to F. Rinaldi Brunate, as well as the Vietti Ravera pitted against the Elvio Cogno Ravera Bricco Pernice. Trying to decide which of these wines may be better is like splitting hairs, and this is great for consumers because the pricing is in their favor.
6. Lastly, the hottest commune in the region continues to be Serralunga, and it seems that there is no end in sight. The combination of fruit and vibrancy in 2013 matches perfectly to the earthy austerity of Serralunga fruit. Meanwhile, the most balanced is Castiglione Falletto, as I expect that we will be enjoying the majority of these wines for many decades to come.
On to the Tasting Notes in the Order They Were Poured
Azienda Bricco Rocche (Ceretto) Barolo Bricco Rocche 2013 – The nose showed bright, spiced cherry with hints of fresh mint, red licorice, clove and dusty minerality. On the palate, I found soft, velvety textures with fleshy ripe cherry contrasted by orange-tinged acidity, with hints of savory herbs and fine tannin. The finish was long and structured with great persistence of red berry fruits and sweet inner florals. I admit that the style of Ceretto has never been my cup of tea, yet balance is the first thing that I look for in a great wine, which is something I didn’t find enough of in the 2013 Bricco Rocche. (93 points)
Fratelli Brovia Barolo Rocche di Castiglione 2013 – Brovia provided a classic, young display of Rocche fruit. It was coy at first, but came to life in a big way with time in the glass. The nose was darker and earthier than the Bricco Rocche next to it, showing crushed stone with bright cherry, wild herbs, dusty soil tones and an emerging note of animal musk. On the palate, I found feminine textures showing pure cherry and strawberry fruits, with zesty acids and inner floral tones followed by saline minerality. The finish was long with hints of licorice and rosy inner floral perfumes. It was remarkably pretty, yet complex and full of energy. (97 points)
Just like last year, Roagna showed a late release from the previous vintage, which I included here for any participant who would use these notes for reference. I actually found the 2012 La Pira VV hard to taste against this selection of 2013s, as it really shows the qualitative differences between the vintages, especially since the La Pira VV is one of the top wines of 2012.
Roagna Barolo La Pira Vecchie Viti 2012 – The nose was dark-earthy yet also so pretty and floral, showing black cherry tones, as sweet balsamic spices emerged, along with notes of moist soil, crushed stone and wild herbs. On the palate, I found soft, feminine textures with saline-minerality up front, as hints of pure cherry and inner rose came forward, yet I found myself craving more toward the middle. The finish was long with hints of fine tannin lingering along with pretty red berry and inner floral tones. It’s a wine of contrasts, as it’s remarkably pure and understated, yet layered, just showing a hint of the complexities that will develop over time. (94 points)
Cordero di Montezemolo Barolo Enrico VI 2013 – As usual, Cordero provides a richness that can throw off many Barolo lovers at first, yet grows on them the more that they taste. The nose was rich with dark red berries, dried roses, cinnamon, allspice, hints of balsamic and savory herbs. On the palate, I found incredible purity to its dark mineral-infused red fruits, with hints of mulling spice and inner florals. The finish was long and structured, as saturating tannin slightly dried the fruits, yet zesty acids made the mouth water. (94 points)
Poderi Colla Barolo Dardi Le Rose Bussia 2013 – The nose showed dusty cherry and mineral tones up front, gaining dried rose, raw honey and hints of animal musk. On the palate, I found soft textures with crushed strawberry fruits, sweet herbs, inner rose and juicy acidity. Fine tannin mounted throughout the finish with floral tones, licorice and long-lasting dried strawberry and raspberry. It’s a very pretty wine that showcases Monforte fruit very well. The Dardi Le Rose was seemingly subdued on the mid-palate at this stage, yet will surely gain richness over time. (94 points)
E. Pira & Figli (Chiara Boschis) Barolo Via Nuova 2013 – The nose was withdrawn at first, over time showing black cherry, cedar, dried roses, hints of undergrowth, earth and animal musk. On the palate, it was lifted and feminine with zesty acidity giving energy to tart red berries, cedar and hints of spice. Its structure came forward throughout the finish, showing the wine’s youth, along with dried berries and hints of spice. As with past tastings, the Via Nuova comes across as one of the workhorse wines of the vintage. I have a feeling that we will be looking back many years from now at these notes, as we revel in its evolution.(95 points)
Luciano Sandrone Barolo le Vigne 2013 – In my opinion, one of the wines of the vintage. The nose was dark and brooding with black cherries mixed with dusty soil and mineral tones, as hints of balsamic spice and floral undergrowth evolved in the glass. On the palate, I found wonderfully silky textures with saline-infused cherry, spice and minerals washing across the senses, leaving a coating of fine tannin in their wake. The finish was long and structured, showing dried strawberry, cherry, salty-minerals and lingering spice. Gorgeously fresh, intense and detailed; it’s a gorgeous wine. (97 points)
Francesco Rinaldi & Figli Barolo Brunate 2013 – Balanced, classic, and full of potential; the nose was dark, gaining freshness over time, with a mix of blackberry, cherry and sweet herbs, as notes of dusty spice, crushed stone, dried roses and hints of animal musk came forward. On the palate, I found silky textures with contrasting tart cherry, spice, dark minerality and fine tannin, however there was an enlivening acidity here that added focus and drive. The finish was incredibly long and structured, as tannin saturated the palate with a mix of dark red fruits, licorice and hints of spice. Wow. (96 points)
Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate 2013 – The ’13 Brunate is already so enjoyable, with an intense earthy, dark and animalistic display, showing crushed black cherry, overripe strawberry, sweet herbs, moist soil and animal musk. On the palate, I found silky textures ushering in pure ripe black cherry with zesty acidity adding energy, as hints of sweet herbs and spice splashed against the senses. The finish was long with a coating of fine tannin and a lasting impression of spiced blackberry. * I may have rated this higher if I felt that it would only get better from here, yet as good as it is, I can’t help but feel that it might age unevenly. (94 points) * tasted from two separate bottles with similar notes.
Azelia Barolo Margheria 2013 – Here I found a bouquet of dusty florals and soil tones up front, followed by hints of mineral-laced cherry and floral undergrowth. On the palate, unexpectedly juicy textures with focused ripe black cherry, cedar tones, saline-minerals, zesty spice, and dark inner florals prevailed. The finish was long, long, long, as the wine flexed its structural muscle with saturating fine tannin mixing minerals and dried black cherry. The Azelia Margheria provided a perfect contrast to the Massolino beside it, as they are both produced through a traditional barrel regiment, yet Azelia captures a softness with alluring floral tones that make it a bit more enjoyable in its youth. (94 points)
Massolino Barolo Margheria 2013 – The nose was restrained, yet with coaxing became exotic, yet always refined, revealing black cherries in dusty earth, spiced-dried orange peel, hints of animal musk and rich sweet spices hiding in the background. On the palate, I found silky, cool-toned textures with a mix of tart red berry, spicy inner florals, and a hint of grapefruit. The finish was long, slightly tart and structured with lingering red berry, saturating minerals, spice and gruff tannin. It’s currently a bit unruly, yet the Margheria is positioned to mature into a very interesting wine. (95 points)
Fratelli Alessandria Barolo Monvigliero 2013 – The nose was remarkably pretty, with layers of mineral-laced strawberry, smoke, violets, roses and dusty soil. On the palate, I found silky, energetic textures with saline-minerality up front followed by ripe strawberry and inner floral tones. The finish was long with structure coming forward, dried berries and floral tones, yet still exuding energy and verve through balanced acidity. It’s a beautiful, crystaline Monvigliero. (95 points)
Comm. G.B. Burlotto Barolo Monvigliero 2013 – The nose showed the classic Burlotto Monvigliero bouquet with black olive tapenade, roses, violets, crushed cherry and minerals. On the palate, I found soft textures with pure strawberry fruits, inner florals and life-giving acidity. The finish was medium-long with lingering cherry, minerals and olive-tinged inner florals. Today it is more enjoyable on the nose than on the palate, yet time in the cellar should add flesh to its textures. (95 points)
Azienda Agricola Elvio Cogno Barolo Bricco Pernice 2013 – One of the top wines of the tasting, the nose was dark and enticing with crushed black fruits infused by zesty citrus and mineral tones, as notes of savory herbs, undergrowth, stone dust and a hint of menthol came forward. On the palate, I found the silkiest of textures, with notes of ripe black fruit, minerals, rosemary, saline-minerals and perfectly-balanced acidity. It finished long and structured, as fine tannin saturated the senses yet maintained freshness though hints of bitter herbs and light citrus tones. (97 points)
Vietti Barolo Ravera 2013 – The nose was layered and surprisingly elegant with spiced rich blackberry, minerals, dried orange, black earth and a hint of exotic spice, yet it was incredibly lifted and pretty. On the palate, I found silky textures with contrasting tart blackberry, black cherry, savory spice, minerals and mounting tannin The finish was long, cheek-puckeringly tense and structured with deeply saturating minerality and tannin, along with hints of dried citrus and dried blackberry. Wow. (98 points)
Credit and Resources
Article, tasting notes and photos by: Eric Guido
A special thanks to Del Posto
View the 2013 Barolo selection at Morrell Wine
For a full list of Eric Guido’s 2013 Barolo tasting notes, Click Here
For an alternate view on this year’s La Festa tasting, I highly recommend: The Fine Wine Geek