A First Look at Barolo 2010
Is the hype machine just spinning its wheels?
I recently spent a few days in Piedmont getting a head start on my annual look at the latest vintage releases, which in this case are the very highly touted 2010s in Barolo. While the vintage is shaping up to be special, two thoughts did occur to me.
The first was that these are generally not user friendly wines. They are tough, a bit mean, lacking in baby fat, but with exceptional balance and structural grace.
The second, was that 2011, a vintage thought of as another hot vintage, shows little of that hot character and may very well be the best ‘hot’ vintage since 1990. I loved what I tasted, and since those wines will not be released for another year, let’s focus on the vintage du jour for the moment.
We can begin with Brovia where the 2010s have decided to become a bunch of tough as nails sons of bitches. The 2011s at Brovia are gorgeous, incredible fruit and perfume with structure that I have never seen in a warm vintage. Truly terrific wines and the personality of each cru was so vivid, really exciting wines that should be fabulous relatively early on.
I noticed the same perfume to the fruit at Vietti and G Conterno last year. 2011 was a warm vintage but it's better than the previous warm vintages. Think 1990 not 2009. Unlike many other warm vintages these 11s have plenty of color, terrific colors in fact, which is an oddity. I'm allocating funds for both vintages, though on a 2 to 1 or even three to one basis. 2010 Garblet sue is the best example of that cru I've ever had. The other three are also standouts but perhaps not as far ahead of previous vintages. No doubt about it these are special wines, and while I’m not saying that if you missed the 89 and 90 Giacosas this might be your chance to grab back to back vintages of great crus that will be as legendary some day, I’m prepared to get awfully close to that statement.
Grasso's 2010s are lovely. The Chiniera much more feminine and attractive today showing great freshness and complexity, spicy and herbal. The Casa Mate decidedly more masculine and a bit less complex. Both show great potential and have a purity of fruit that is compelling, though stylistically a bit on the modern side in that the fruit is incredibly fresh and precise. Not a knock on the wines at all, just a stylistic not, I'm buying both, though more of the Chiniera.
It's worth noting that almost every 2010 I've tasted this week has a bit of a vegetal edge to the fruit. These are not going to be easy wines when they are young but have the potential to develop for decades. Sometimes it's more a chinato note, like with the Grasso wines, other times its more camphor and integrates well into very strong floral aromas as is the case with the Einaudi Costa Grimaldi, but it's there.
Einaudi's wines were also very strong. they moved from barrique then botte to half barrique for a year, then blended with the half already in botte. The percentage of new wood has also dropped from 50% to 30%. The wine show more delicacy and lightness than they previously exhibited and the Costa Grimaldi shows this in spades. Their Cannubi is a classic, it lacks the elegance of the Costa Grimaldi but makes up for it with depth of flavor, complexity and classically austere structure. The Costa Grimaldi is cursive with a fine ball point pen, the Cannubi a felt tip marker.
While 2011 may be a mixed vintage for Barolo it premisses to be a great vintage for Barbera and both the Einaudi Vigna Tecc and the Massolino Gisep are packed with incredible fruit, again showing an explosive ripeness and perfumed nature but without any exaggeration or roasted notes that were obvious in vintages like 2007 and 2009.
Massolino's Barolos in 2010 are classic old school Barolo. In need of patience to be sure, but so well delineated and capturing the soil imprint of each cru in Serralunga. Impressively complex and mineral driven on the palate. Their Parussi, from Castiglione north of Montanello and Bricco Boschis, is another powerhouse in 2010, a really fascinating contrast to the learner, more angular crus of Serralunga and an opulent, rich style for Castiglione.
I'm alway a fan of the wines of Guido Porro. They are easy to like as they offer great value but in some vintages he knocks it out of the park. 2010 Lazzairasco is one of those times. The Santa Catarina is lovely, elegant and refined, but the Lazzairasco is just explosive. Tasted 11 and 12 of both out of botte as well, more perfumed fruit from the 11s here, the 12s are so young but show good purity if modest scale.