I’ve been tasting a lot of young Barolo lately, which isn’t always an enjoyable thing to do. Yet here we are, just a day away from the 2015 La Festa del Barolo in NYC, where trade and enthusiasts alike will taste through some of the top 2010 Barolo on the market. It is the event of the year for a Barolo lover like me, where we can meet the winemaker and go into as much detail as we like, on a wine which is steeped in details.
Barolo, from the northwestern region of Piedmont in Italy, is not like any other wine. Not only is it a wine which requires unending patience in the cellar, but also in the glass. Yet that same patience is rewarded by Barolo like no other wine on earth. Often compared to red Burgundy, and I see the similarities—yet the biggest difference here is the talent Barolo has for blossoming over great amounts of time. There’s the patience again.
I don’t buy Barolo to enjoy tonight or tomorrow. I buy it to put in the cellar for decades. That’s not to say that you can’t enjoy a young Barolo today. In fact, in today’s market, all you need is to understand the vintages and the styles of producers, to find one which will give you immense satisfaction.
Over the last decade we’ve seen an equal number of ripe and open vintages, versus those which are classic and austere.
- 2010 is a vintage for the cellar. You can find some satisfaction in the entry-level bottles today, but you’ll be missing the true excellence of the year. This is a vintage I plan to bury deep in my cellar. (Hold)
- 2009 represents a set of wines that can be enjoyed today—yet will never mature into the Barolo I adore. (Drink)
- 2008 gives us one of the most drinkable, classically-styled vintages we’ve ever seen. They can be downright gorgeous today, yet I’m still holding mine in the cellar. (Sample for yourself, you may be surprise)
- 2007 was big and racy in its youth, yet recent experiences have shown them in an odd place right now. I’ve watch ‘07s fall apart in the glass; yet there’s drive and persistence in 2007, which makes me wonder if they may mature into something special—so for me, I’m holding them. (Drink or hold)
- 2006 gave us big, brooding, dark wines with stern tannins matched by concentrated dark red fruit—this is a vintage for the cellar. (Hold)
- 2005 is one of the prettiest vintages I’ve ever seen in Barolo. These wines are feminine and acid driven with bright Nebbiolo fruit. They can be enjoyed today, but I still believe the best is yet to come. (Drink or hold)
- 2004 was considered classic upon release, and we were warned not to touch them. Today I hear rumors that these are starting to open up. However, this is a vintage which will only get better with time. (Hold)
- 2003 was a torrid, hot year for Barolo, which often shows notes of cooked fruit. They can be fun to drink, but not what I’m looking for in a bottle of Barolo. (Drink)
- 2002 was a year where most producers didn’t make any Barolo. This wasn’t just about the growing season, but more about hail which destroyed fruit throughout the region. You can count the number of noteworthy ’02s on one hand, and they are ‘interesting wines’—but good luck finding them. (If you find one, let me know)
- 2001 was another classic vintage and to this day remains structured, yet beginning to show a glimpse of what’s in-store. Leave them in the cellar for now. (Hold)
All that said, for me, I find the true glory of Barolo to be in its seemingly immortal personality. Sometimes I wonder if some bottles may outlive me. Yet that is part of the infatuation.
When I open a Barolo for dinner, it’s at 10 a.m. in the morning.
When I taste a Barolo and it seems closed, I simply leave it for the following day. (It’s almost always better.)
When I buy a young Barolo it’s for my cellar; typically with a plan of leaving it untouched for at least ten-years. I’m still waiting on the ‘89s, ’96s and ’99s to open up. And if I want to drink one sooner, I’m either pulling one from the cellar, which I bought over a decade ago, or buying older wines from a trusted source.
For drinking older Barolo, some vintages you can still find on the market and are truly worth buying are: ’74, ’78, ’82, ’85, ’88, ’90, ’95, ’97 and ’98.
This may seem like a lot of work, yet once you experience the depths a Barolo reaches over time, it suddenly makes a lot of sense. Worrying about where a wine was stored and how long it sat on a retail shelf can drive the Barolo lover mad. All you can do is trust in your source—or buy them young and store them well.
In the end, Barolo is worth your patience.
What follows are some the most exciting, young Barolo that I’ve tasted recently. Each of them is well worth your attention.
2007 Vietti Barolo Villero Riserva – The nose showed rich, dark-red fruit, spice, sweet-rosy florals, and a hint of mint. On the palate it was driven, with almost electric tension to its dark red fruits and spice, yet floral and earthy all the same. Intense and concentrated in its fruit, seeming to saturate the senses, yet balanced througout. The finish seemed to last for over a minute as dried cherry, leather, rose petal and spice slowly faded. The ’07 Villero Riserva is drop-dead gorgeous now, and should continue to mature in the cellar. It’s far from a typical ‘07, and structured like a race horse. (96 points) Website
2010 Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole – The nose was gorgeous. Forward, yet refined, showing brilliant cherry and rose tones, followed by pine nettle and mineral tones. With time in the glass, the fruit turned to dark raspberry and hints of resin. On the palate, it was youthful and lean, yet clenched like a fist, showing tart red fruit, hints of menthol, earth and mineral tones. Floral tones lingered long on the finish with a hint of dried cranberry. It’s a beautiful young wine. (95 points) Morrell
2010 Cordero di Montezemolo Barolo Enrico VI – The nose was dark, rich, savory—gorgeous—with balsamic tones wafting up from the glass together with plum, violet florals and dark soil. On the palate, focused red fruit, espresso bean and mineral tones flowed in silky waves, yet clenched toward the close by its youthful structure. Saturating, dark red fruit, herbs and floral tones returned on the finish. This wine is just a baby now, yet it should flesh out beautifully over the coming years. The nose alone is worth the price on entry. (94 points) Website
2010 Pecchenino Barolo Le Coste – The nose showed black cherry with sour floral tones, undergrowth, hints of grapefruit and a menthol lift. On the palate, it was feminine, with red fruits contrasted by fine tannin in a juicy and seemingly weightless expression. Staying red berries lingered on the finish, turning dry as the wine’s structure bore down on the palate. This is a serious Barolo in need of time in the cellar, yet should emerge as a beauty. (94 points) Morrell
2008 Massolino Barolo Vigna Rionda Riserva – At first understated on the nose, this opened with a few minutes in the glass to display a gorgeous mix of tart black cherry, dark soil, minerals and floral undergrowth. On the palate, this showed silky, acid driven textures, which gave life to its brilliant red fruit personality, contrasted by a core of minerality and inner floral tones which created a push and pull that lasted through the finish as structural elements clung to the senses. Will it age? Yes, this is a balanced wine with center-focused fruit. Yet, there is no harm is trying a bottle today. (94 Points) Website
2006 Elio Altare Barolo Cerretta – The nosed showed classic notes of dark red fruits, violet floral tones, dark spices and earthy undergrowth. On the palate, it was structured and brooding with its dark red fruits, tobacco, minerals and soil tones, yet ultimately leaving a sense of refinement with each sip. Long on the finish with dried black cherry, savory herbs and lingering mineral tones, as youthful tannin tugged at the senses. (94 points) Morrell
2010 Cordero di Montezemolo Barolo Gattera – The nose on the 2010 Gattera was seductive and rich with dark black cherry, plum, sweet balsamic tones, licorice and minerals. On the palate, this turned more to youthful restraint, as tart red berry fruit and mineral tones washed against the senses, only to be quickly reeled in by fine tannin. The finish was structured, as tannin and acid seemed to tug at the palate, yet through it all a note of concentrated red fruit lingered long. This is a wine that requires patience, and a lot of it, yet should blossom into something wonderful. (92 points) Website
2010 Massolino Barolo – Intense and flamboyant on the nose with striking dark red fruits, dusty soil tones and rosy floral notes. On the palate, it showed a yin and yang of ripe versus savory red fruit with hints of herbs and a satisfying acid-driven balance, which ultimately kept the tannins here from tiring the senses. The finish was firm, yet focused in its fruit. This wine has great potential and is a tremendous value. (92 points) Website
2010 G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe – The 2010 Barolo Albe impresses with a bouquet which literally reaches up from the glass to pull you in. Notes of pine nettle and mint are front and center, joined by wild berry fruit and floral rosy tones. On the palate, sappy, brooding red fruits are contrasted by a streak of vibrant acidity. It’s tightly coiled yet silky at the same time with an herbal lift lending freshness. The finish was long and seemed to touch upon all the senses while also revealing a formidable structure, which was otherwise buried under its intense fruit. It’s surprisingly enjoyable now yet will reward further cellaring. (92 points) Morrell
Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido