In fact there is a nexus where the villages of Barolo, Castiglione, and Monforte meet and the vineyards that drape across this band of terrain read like a veritable who's who of great Barolo. One after the other, Monprivato leads into Fiasco which leads into Villero, and then come Bussia, Cannubi, Sarmassa and Cerequio
2005 was a vintage where these great crus really showed why they have earned such fame. Unlike 2004, when virtually every plot of Barolo produced superlative results, 2005 was a much more challenging vintage yet, from the stress of these challenges came wines that really speak of whence they came. Whereas the wines of 2004 speak in joyous tones of sun, warmth, and are perfectly pretty, the growing season of 2005 speaks in raspy tones with gesticulating gnarly hands. To prefer one over the other is perfectly natural, and more great wine was certainly produced in 2004, yet these 2005s are more emotive wines that resonate with me on a visceral level that the 2004s have failed to do.
It was not particularly surprising that some familiar - and grand - names came out on top during the recent blind tasting in Alba. Two wines, the Brovia Rocche and Vietti Rocche di Castiglione were stars of the tastings. Both wines were rich and full of spicy berry fruit but two other wines from Castiglione, the Cavallotto Bricco Boschis and Vietti Castiglione bottling were not far behind and promise to be two exceptional values from the vintage exhibiting wonderful black raspberry fruit tones on a balanced medium weight frame.
Barolo Castiglione Vietti 2004
This was very aromatic apon opening with notes of camphor, chalk and earthy, medicinal herbs framing the red fruit. The entry was smooth, suave and sexy with sweet wild cherry and herb flavors only slightly marred by a hint of wood tannin that grew on the finish. This was mouth filling with excellent balance and finesse and wonderful clarity to the fruit so imagine my surprise when I revisited this and found it to be rather closed and almost mean with some oak showing and a slightly muddy, extracted feel. This shut down rather impressively with air so either drink this quickly or put it away and hope read more...the fruit emerges with the pristine beauty it originally showed. 90pts based on it's earlier showing.
Barolo Bricco Boschis Cavallotto 2004
This smelled big and muscular right out of the bottle and that translated into a rich and smooth mouthfeel packed with fine-grained tannins and fleshy fruit though there was a sense that there was more extraction of matter than flavor here as the red currant fruit was a touch diffuse and short on the finish. With air this gained excellent focus on the nose with tight, high-pitched notes of rosehips and tobacco, and while the palate remained a touch diffuse the seductive red fruit notes with their tinges of roast chestnut sweetness had a lovely texture. Ripe tannins and enough acidity to keep this read more...rather consistent wine interesting. 90pts
As I alluded to earlier, Monforte offers a combination of elements that seems to draw on all elements of Barolo. Here one finds power and grace, the home of the iron fist in the velvet glove. These are captivating wines that have uncommon richness and precise balance that allows them to age gracefully for decades. The unique terroir found in Monforte, in particular to the south, often imbues in the wine a slight balsamic, vegetal tone that can add complexity and freshness to these wines and really set them apart.
In 2005 the conditions were such that even wines from the more northern reaches of the zone frequently offered up hints of this balsamic character such as the fresh herbal tones that I found in the elegant, freshly styled Poderi Colla Dardi le Rose or the suggestions of wildflowers I found in the lovely Oddero Mondoca di Bussia. Also from Monforte was the Mauro Veglio Castelletto, a more modern interpretation but one done with elegance and finesse from a producer I have consistently rated highly.
Barolo Oddero 2004
A really lovely wine that combines some roundness and rich fruit with purity and fine balanced structure. Just lovely darker fruit that have layers of earth, smoke, tar, and soil driven spices embedded in almost flamboyant fruit. The finish is long, bright and pure. Surprisingly approachable this is one of the Value buys of the year for Barolo. A very strong effort from an Oddero that has produced their finest wines ever in 2004.
Barolo Castelletto Mauro Veglio 2004
The Monvigliero vineyard is known for the austerity and age-worthiness of its wines. Fratelli Alessandria, simultaneously traditional and ambitious, capitalize beautifully on the power of this vineyard sight. Here is a bottle for cellaring or long decating, and food is a must. - Astor Wines & Spirits
Our final flights consisted of wines from Barolo's eastern most village, Serralunga. Here the soils are rich in compressed sandstone and have a relatively high mineral content. The vines in Serralunga may struggle more each year due to these meager soils, and the higher, and thus cooler, elevations at which many of these vineyards are planted. However, when the wines of Serralunga are "on" they posses the character of the finest athletes, powerful yet lean with a decisive, determined character.
The appeal of these wines is based on their structure as much as their flavors, which tend to the dark, medicinal end of the spectrum. They are prized for their crisp, muscular mouthfeel and can come off as a bit blocky in their youth but these full-bodied icons blossom into beautiful wines with ample time in the cellar.
Brovia scored another winner with their Ca' Mia bottling with its remarkably deep, rich and layered fruit and the two bottlings from Luigi Pira, the Marenca and Margheria showed excellent promise by a producer who has moved from one strength to another, not to mention further from his modernist roots, with each passing vintage. But the real star, this year as last, was Guido Porro who produced two dynamite wines, the Lazzairasco and Santa Caterina. These are not only great bottles of Barolo but they promise to be among the most affordable examples of the vintage when they are released later this year and well worth putting on your watch list.
Guido Porro Barolo "Vigna Santa Caterina" 2004
This was wonderfully fresh on the nose with heather floral tones and whisps of wild strawberry emerging with some air yet with time the floral elements took control of the aromatics and added a base of cigarette smoke, oily coffee beans and spearmint that was compelling. Polished and broad in the mouth with wonderfully fresh strawberry fruit and elegant notes of anise and herbs, this remains lithe and refreshing in the mouth. Air adds to the power here, introducing a touch of pruniness and the fruit turns darker but retains a seamlessness and purity that is very attractive. A wonderful bottle of Barolo 93pts.
Luigi Pira Barolo 2004
This started out quite reticent with subtle menthol and balsamic notes that morphed into a wonderfully aromatic nose redolent of waxy fruits, violets and vegetal undertones. Initially this was disjointed, rich and yet cut in half by the bright acidity that highlighted the red currant and cranberry tones of the fruit. The backend was quite lean and tapered off on the finish. Air brought out the lovely, polished ripe tannins that gave this wine the texture of flannel and helped support deep, rich, chewy red fruits in a rich, tannic style of wine that hag great lingering length. This will get better and better. 91pts
Well I hope you've enjoyed these little forays into my favorite wine region. I still have notes from the 2006 Barbaresco tasting to share and will be trying more Barolo in the very near future. These wines are among the finest in the world so try a few sometime and see if they are as attractive to you as they are to me.
Until then, Ciao!