How can you possibly follow up a year like 2010 in Barolo? The proclaimed, best modern vintage has had collectors stockpiling wines in fear that they might miss the boat on the last of the ‘10s to hit the market. To a large degree, they are correct. The 2010 vintage wines will soon disappear, and what will be left are bottles in the secondary market, which will only continue to rise in value.
However, it would be a tremendous shame to miss out on 2011 because of all the hype over 2010. We’ve seen this happen before; ’99 and ’01 comes to mind. Granted, those were classic vintages that were overshadowed by a ripe vintage (2000), which became the darling of a number of critics. To this day, people try to sell me 2000 Barolo on decade-old hype that has since been proven unwarranted, yet the savvy Barolo collector continues to watch for opportunities to grab ‘99s as they hit the market. However, I’m getting off track, but the real reason for this post is how much I’ve been enjoying the 2011 vintage.
2011 was doomed to fail with collectors from the first time that Antonio Galloni announced that it was open, expressive and (the black mark in the minds of Barolo lovers) “to drink well pretty much upon release.”
Hey, I get it, I’m just as sensitive to these reports as the rest of you, and when I think of Barolo, I think of aging them for decades with the hope of finding the next 1978, 1989 or 1996 sometime down the road. However, I can’t stress enough, how much Barolo has changed since those great vintages. In fact, I would be very surprised if any of the vintages of the last decade age anything like the vintages of 20 or 30 years ago. That said, they will mature and likely into something marvelous—but we just don’t know what that marvelous experience will be yet.
The 2011 vintage was the result of a warm spring, which resulted in early flowering, followed by near-perfect yet warm weather and a relatively dry season throughout. However, the game-changer was a lasting rise in temperatures in mid-August. We’re not talking about the heat of 2003 but enough to increase sugars in the grapes and push dehydration to the limits.
In the cellar, many producers bottled earlier than expected, as they realized that the wines could be adversely affected by extended time in wood. The results are very much in line with the word from critics. Yes, these are Baroli that are already enjoyable today, yet in many cases, they also have a firm underlying structure, contrasted by their natural acidity and creating a rather attractive mix.
The question is, is there really anything wrong with a young Barolo that can be enjoyed upon release? These are not the full throttle and fruit extracted ‘07s, nor are they the sappy and over-the-top ‘09s—and don’t even think of comparing these to 2003. For me, 2011 is something of a happy middle ground between ’08 and ’07. They have the balance and acidity of ’08 with the fruit intensity of ’07. Trust me; it’s a great mix and a really enjoyable experience.
In the end, the best way to choose is by tasting. However, if that’s not an option, see below for my tasting notes of some of the best 2011s I’ve tasted recently. I believe you’ll be happily surprised.
On to the tasting notes:
2011 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cerretta – The nose showed masses of dark red fruit, dusty spice, mushroom, savory herbs, soil and undergrowth. On the palate, it was youthfully taut yet showed a core of intense tart, dark fruit with hints of cedar and mineral tones coating the senses. Tannin clenched the palate throughout the finish, yet it was unbelievably long on dried fruits and savory spice. This wine is so young and full of potential, even with the forwardness of the 2011 vintage; it stands as a powerful and structured Cerretta. Give it a decade or two in the cellar. (95 points)
2011 Comm. G.B. Burlotto Barolo Monvigliero – The bouquet was simply stunning, with pretty and soothing notes of ripe cherry, cinnamon, sweet roses, mint-menthol and a hint of black olive in the background. On the palate, it was pure, lifted and truly gulpable (hard to believe this is young Barolo), showing focused red fruits, spice and vibrant acidity, like a veil of silk on the senses. A light coating of fine tannin coated the palate with a slight buzz of acidity throughout the finish along with dried cherry and hints of sweet herbs. This is simply gorgeous and so easy to like today, but I believe the best is yet to come as it gains weight in the cellar. The hard part here will be keeping your hands off, yet I can’t wait to see what this will be like in five years. (94 points) @morrell
2011 Giacomo Fenocchio Barolo Villero – The nose was deeply perfumed with spicy, dark fruit, rose, soil tones, and hints of pine. On the palate, it displayed angular textures with dark, sappy red fruits (which seemed sometimes bitter and sometimes sweet), exotic spice and minerals. The finish was long, as tart black cherry and fine tannin wrapped the senses tight, and hints of orange peel and spice lingered long. Fenocchio knocked it out of the park with the 2011 Villero. (94 points) @morrell
2011 E. Pira & Figli (Chiara Boschis) Barolo Via Nuova – The Via Nuova stands out for its wildly appealing nose of deep, warming red fruits, intense florals, animal musk, licorice and dark, almost sensual spice notes. On the palate, this showed classic yet open, and it was already alluring with ripe red fruits and inner floral tones carried by silky textures. Its tannic spine came forward on the finish, as the fruit turned tart and saturating to the senses. This is a beautiful wine, which will mature in the cellar but is so hard to not drink now. (94 points)
2011 Azienda Agricola Elvio Cogno Barolo Ravera – This is already quite enjoyable, with a bouquet showing intense dark fruits, licorice, cedar and sweet spice. On the palate, it displayed silky textures with vibrancy and remarkable freshness for the vintage. Tart blackberry, mushroom and tobacco lasted long into the finish, along with a tug of moderate tannin. (93 points) @morrell
2011 Giacomo Fenocchio Barolo Castellero – The nose was lifted and sweet with ripe cherry, pretty floral tones, rich brown spices, hints of menthol and tobacco. On the palate, it was feminine and refined with focused ripe fruits and inner floral tones. Fine tannin appeared near the close, leaving an alluring display of tobacco, rose petal and sweet herbs on the finish. This is stunning! (93 points) @morrell
2011 E. Pira & Figli (Chiara Boschis) Barolo Mosconi – A big, driven and dark wine with immediate appeal on the nose, as black cherry, fresh-turned soil, minerals and exotic spice mixed together to create a truly seductive bouquet. On the plate, it came on strong with a mix of velvety textures contrasted by gripping tannin, as its red fruits and plum notes fought hard to stay present, and ultimately won. The finish was deep and concentrated with saturating dark fruit and youthful energy. (93 points)
2011 E. Pira & Figli (Chiara Boschis) Barolo Cannubi – The 2011 Cannubi showed a radiant bouquet of dark-red fruit, minerals, and rosy florals with a hint of spice. On the palate, it was angular in its youth with tart red fruit and a stern acid-driven structure. Tannin clenched down hard on the finish, yet focused, tart red fruit remained. This is a baby to be sure and not typical of the open and racy style of most ‘11s. (92 points)
2011 Vietti Barolo Castiglione – The nose was classic, with woodland, earth and herbs up front, followed by crushed cherry and wild berry. On the palate, it was youthfully tart, yet there was a vein of acidity, which kept it lively and fresh. Cherry, inner floral tones, leather and savory spice all saturated the senses with tannic clout that lasted throughout the long finish and provided a very classic expression. I love it, and as usual, it’s one of the best values of the vintage. (92 points) @morrell
2011 Fratelli Alessandria Barolo Monvigliero – The nose showed sweet spice and floral tones along with notes of saline-minerality, green olive and tart red berry, which came to the fore late. On the palate, it was densely coiled in a mix of tart red berry, spice and minerals, accented by inner floral tones and notes of herbal tea. It’s tannins were sweet and very fine, drying out the senses over time, yet never overwhelming the fruit. The finish showed dried cherry and sweet inner floral tones. Unlike most 2011 Barolos, this seems to need 5-10-years to really come together, but should be a great wine to put away by the case and check in on from time to time. (92 points) @morrell
2011 Elio Grasso Barolo Gavarini Chiniera – The 2011 Gavarini Chiniera showed a lively and pretty bouquet of woodland pine and cedar with bright cherry, raspberry and licorice. On the palate, I found tart cherry and cranberry, which darkened and sweetened as it traveled across the senses, adding balsamic tones and mint going into the finish. This was showing the 2011 exuberance, with it’s focused fruit and silky finessed textures, yet still as a young Nebbiolo, with hints of fine tannin lingering on the close. (92 points) @morrell
2011 Giacomo Fenocchio Barolo Cannubi – The nose showed intense red berry, spice, and red floral tones, all while remaining lifted and fresh. On the palate, it was center-focused with tense red berry, rose and hints of cedar. A wave of tannin reminded me that this was young Barolo and balanced the wine perfectly. It’s beautiful, but there’s something missing on the mid-palate here that prevents it from feeling complete. (91 points)
2011 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Tre Tine – The nose was highly expressive in its black cherry, mint, exotic spice and herbal tones. On the palate, it was pliant and round with vibrant cherry, spice and sweet herbs, all given thrust by a wave of brisk acidity, which was then followed by a coating of youthful tannin. It finished grippy and firm with lingering red fruits. I enjoyed this, yet I feel it ultimately lacked depth. (91 points) @morrell
2011 M. Marengo Barolo – The nose showed rich notes of ripe red fruits, sweet florals, pine nettle and a hint of cocoa. On the palate, it had silky-smooth textures with notable vibrancy, displaying dried black cherry, inner floral tones and minerals. The finish was long with palate-saturating fruit. (90 points)
Article and Tasting notes by: Eric Guido