Boatloads of Barolo


Having just returned from the Alba Wine Exhibition (I hope you followed my daily updates on Twitter at GregoryDalPiaz), I have a ream of tasting notes and photos to share. In the next 2 emails I'll be offering a few notes on wineries that performed well during our 4 day tasting. It will take a few more days to get all of my notes from the actual tasting completed and we'll have them up on the site by the end of next week but in the meantime here's a bit of Barolo to get you started.
Our first flights of Barolo included wines from both Barolo and Novello, the South-western corner of the region where the blue tinted Tortonian marl of the west side of the Barolo region is the dominate geological feature. These compact, mineral laden soils yield wines with terrior that tend to mimic these qualities, though the sandier soils in the north of the region tends to produce wines that are leaner and more expressive of this minerality. In general, this southwestern quadrant of Barolo produces silken, elegant wines with admirable focus on a medium bodied frame. Many of the 2005 Barolos from these two communes seem to be a touch dilute so producers who tend to go for more power or greater extraction seem to have come out ahead in this vintage, though there are some exceptions.

Some of the top wines from Barolo in our tasting were the widely available wines from Fratelli Barale and Cascina Adelaide. Barale makes very traditional wines that tend to emphasize the tannic nature of Nebbiolo, they age well though can be a bit agressive in their youth. The 2005 Castellero was typical for this house but with enough fruit to allow for more harmony once the tannins have softened.

The Cascina Adelaide on the other hand is a somewhat more modern wine, one that emphasize a softer structure and greater fruit in it's youth. The 2005 Cannubi already had integrated tannins and features lovely fruit and perfumed aromatics of classic roses and Raspberry. If either style sounds interesting to you you might want to check out a few of their wines that are currently on the market. Both 2003 and 2000 are somewhat early maturing vintages, certainly when compared with 2005, and may give you a very clear idea of each house's style without having to wait for the wines to mature and soften.

Barale F. Lli Barolo Castellero 2003

Cascina Adelaide Barolo Cannubi 2000

We wrapped up our tasting of wines from the village of Barolo with a handful of the Riserva bottlings from 2003. This torridly hot vintage produced wines that failed to excite me. It's a pretty simple vintage and while many of the wines are offering good near term drinking, and have certainly improved in the bottle since last year, I can't say that I have found a wine that was worthy of becoming a Riserva bottling.

We continued our tasting of Barolo by sampling the offerings from the two smaller, lesser known communes of Novello and Verduno. These communes represent the north and south of the western limit of Barolo and offer an interesting contrast of styles. Verduno tends to offer elegant wines greatly influenced by the sandy nature of their soils. Novello on the other hand tends to produce wines with a slightly chewier, rounder style of wine. Both communes can be the source of good values and both Elvio Cogno, the one time winemaker of the famous house of Marcarini, and Fratelli Alessandria are producing balanced, well priced examples of these fine wines.

Elvio Cogno Barolo Ravera 2000
WA 87 (8/2005): The 2000 Barolo Ravera, with a nose of tar and truffles, is a medium-weight wine, slightly tannic at the moment, and with a dryish finish which indicates that some bottle time would be useful. Drink: 2006-2014. - Flickinger Wines

Barolo Monvigliero Fratelli Alessandria 2004

Speaking of Marcarini, they continue to be one of the great values in Barolo and offer two classic examples of La Morra Barolo with an opulent, yet elegant, demeanor with supple fruit making them easy to appreciate in their youth. La Morra is the source for the closest thing one can find to an introductory style Barolo that will please a broad range of tastes. One does need to pay attention though as La Morra is the home of the modernist movement in the Langhe and thus produces a disproportionate quantity of wine that reflect winemaking over terroir. This was more true in the past but still holds to a certain extent.

If you prefer a more traditional interpretation, you can not ignore the wines of Marcarini but if you are looking for something a bit more modern, give Mario Marengo's Brunate a look. While still in a medium weight style, Marengo's wines tend to be just a bit fleshier yet retain the soil tones and elegance that has justifiably made Brunate one of the regions premier vineyard sites.

Marcarini Brunate Barolo 2004
Deep and filled with roses, this begins a bit monotone on the nose with hints of dry earth, sassafras and beet root. With air this gains a bit or a brownie edge, full of moist earth, hints of game and BO and plump, roasted strawberry. What begins as a lush, round, seductive mouthfeel turns even more polished with air revealing a touch of spice, white pepper and earth that lays like a blanket over the slightly bitter tannins and wonderfully integrated acidity. This is well balanced and fresh but turns just a touch muddied on the finish. 91pts

Mario Marengo Barolo Brunate 2001

La Morra seemed to suffer from some of the dilution that is the hallmark of 2005. Heavy rains during the harvest left more than a few wines lacking enough buffering fruit to handle the formidable tannins of the vintage. In my next emails I'll be focusing on the wines from Castiglione Falletto, Monforte and Serralunga where I found the wines tended to have more density and overall better balance. There were some real successes to be found and I can't wait to share them with you.

Until then, Ciao!

While Piedmont has been blessed with an unprecedented string of great vintages, 2007 is shaping up as one of the best and these are the most compelling examples of these wines that I have tasted in several years. If you are looking for real Piedmontese character but don't want to break the bank you owe it to yourself to try a few of these wines. You won't regret it!

Elio Altare Barbera D'alba 2007
From one of the modernist movements leaders comes this deftly stylized Barbera.

G.D. Vajra Dolcetto D'Alba 2007
An elegant Dolcetto, aromatic and quite elegant for the variety.

Renato Ratti Barbera D'alba Torriglione 2007
A plush, richer style of Barbera that is perfect for summer Bar-B-Qs.

Luigi Pira Dolcetto D'Alba 2007
A rich, muscular and spicy version of this ever popular varietal.

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  • Snooth User: longwing
    559249 7

    Regarding the wines that won't break the bank: I've noticed that Barbera D'Alba and Dolcetto D'Alba are both more popular (and more available) than Nebbiolo D'Alba. Is there a reason for this?

    Aug 29, 2010 at 11:57 AM

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