Tasting 2001 Barolo

What happens when you challenge the wine gods?


I have a good memory and as with most people it is particularly astute when recorded painful moments in one’s life. Take for example 1994, when I finally broke into my stash of benchmark 1982 Barolo. We’re talking Marcarini, and Cascina Francia, Monprivato and Vietti. There were six bottles in all, and I carefully decanted them before cooking dinner, where I served them with much ceremony. They sucked. To a wine they were hard and charmless. Closed as tight as an outhouse door in August.

Interestingly it was those wines, or rather those experiences that traditional barolo offered that created the off-shoot we know today as the modernist movement. That long faithful wait was a relic olden days we were told, and we were entitled to an easier, more approachable Barolo. One that is ready if not on release shortly thereafter while providing as much Nebbiolo goodness as those tough old birds could muster. Well in due time those 1982s came around of course, and quite nicely at that. I’ve enjoyed many of them and have yet to have a modernist wine that could measure up.

Actually that may not be entirely true. The Rocche dei manzoni Riservas from 1978 and 1982 are credited with being some of the first fully barriqued wines and they turned out splendidly, though the current releases from Rocche dei Manzoni seem to be wildly over-oaked. Or perhaps they’re not quite ready yet. Even the modernist need some time in bottle to show their best. At least thats what I was hoping. You see after many visits to Piedmont, this past MayI finally made it a point to visit those great modernists whose wines had yet to measure up.

I’ve tasted plenty of traditional Barolo on release, but less modernist, especially over the past decade or so since I realised they generally weren’t my thing. In fact while tasting the 2009s this past spring I was in fact struck by how little I liked some of the modernist wines, while honestly finding several producers wines to be quite compelling. I am all too familiar with my own fallibility so I decided there and then to do a little experiment. One where we could see if these modernist wines that I don’t like just need some time, and if in fact the modernist wines as a whole have fulfilled their promise of being more approachable than their traditionalist siblings.

Thinking back to 1994 I considered what might be the worst time to taste traditionally produced wines. Even the traditionalist wines of today are a bit more approachable than the versions being produced 30 years ago. Working on that assumption I figured that the wines to try for a tasting like this should be about 10 years old, so that brought me to 2003. I don’t want to taste 25 2003 of anything, so moving on 2002 was a washout in Barolo, and then there is 2001. A rather grand vintage with the added benefit of my having been bought quite extensively by yours truly on release. I actually supplied the lions share of the wines for this tasting. 17 of these wines having been purchased on release while I was in retail. I only mention this as an aside because even these wines that saw almost no time in the supply chain were not perfect. In fact two or possibly three of the bottom four wines of the tasting were in fact damaged. One would hope.

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Top 2001 Barolo tasted 10/13

Luciano Sandrone Nebbiolo Barolo Cannubi Boschis (2001)
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Vietti Nebbiolo Barolo Brunate (2001)
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Roberto Voerzio Brunate Barolo (2001)
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Ascheri Barolo Sorano Coste & Bricco (2001)
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Cavalotto Barolo Riserva San Giuseppe (2001)
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Fratelli Oddero Barolo Mondoca di Bussia Soprana (2001)
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Gb Burlotto Burlotto Gb-Barolo Cannubi (2001)
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Cappellano Rupestris Barolo (2001)
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Clerico Domenico Ciabot Mentin Ginestra (2001)
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Marcarini Nebbiolo Barolo Brunate (2001)
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  • A few thoughts:
    That seems like an overwhelming number of wines to taste - did you worry about palate fatigue skewing the results?
    I realize you were dealing with 13 year old wines, so is it possible that some of your classic monsters just gave up the ghost after 4+ hours of decanting/aeration?

    And a question (I am just learning about good Italian wines; my focus heretofore has been Bordeaux and Cal): Is Gattinara considered Barolo since it is nebbiolo, or is it a subset or…?

    Oct 17, 2013 at 1:22 PM

  • Snooth User: marc d
    164684 1

    Very disappointed to read this, particularly regarding the 01 Elio Grasso. I drank that wine shortly after release and it was a beautiful bottle. Kind of straddling the modern traditional spectrum (although not nearly as oaky as his Runcot bottle). Lots of fruit but it had great balance. I have several of this and the Ginestre cellared, I hope they turn out better then the bottle you guys tasted. The 01 Brovias I've tried have also been highly enjoyable. What a weird night you had!

    Oct 17, 2013 at 3:32 PM

  • Snooth User: Richard Foxall
    Hand of Snooth
    262583 4,004

    Gattinara is one of the other DOCGs that rely on Nebbiolo. There are a number of them, separate from Barolo and Barbaresco. A particular favorite DOCG of mine is Ghemme, which blends a little of other varietals into the nebbiolo and makes wines that drink really well at less than a decade. They also can be a little less expensive, but are harder to find in the US.

    I had dinner with a guy the other night who said the 1964 Baroli were drinking really well right now. So maybe that's the window to aim for... if you had the foresight to buy Nebbiolo when you were a child and the patience to wait for middle age!

    Oct 17, 2013 at 4:29 PM

  • Snooth User: Sam Se
    1383708 16

    Always top ... I love your super amazing blog :)


    Oct 18, 2013 at 2:17 AM

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