Top 12 Barolo Producers, Part 1

The best of the best in Barolo


With a nice and relaxing weekend looming, for most of you at least, I thought this was a great time to stir things up a bit. I’ve just returned from my annual visit to Piedmont, and I have to say that with each visit it becomes clearer and clearer who is making good wine and who is making great wine.

Making great wine doesn’t mean having a good year, it means making great wine year in and year out with consistency and clarity. I don’t mind if a winemaker’s hand is obvious, as long as it doesn’t obscure the essence of terroir, soil and variety.

After some thought about both the wines and how I should allocate my limited resources in stocking my cellar, I’ve drawn up my list of top producers of Barolo. The list includes some hall of famers, a few up and comers, and a few major producers who are beginning to lose a little ground.

This list is sure to disappoint many, but it’s my list of the 12 top producers of Barolo. You disagree? Let’s see what you’ve got then!

#12-Giovanni Canonica

So here’s a new producer for me. I’ve tasted a grand total of one wine from Gianni, but it was a doozy. His 2008 Barolo from the Paiagallo vineyard, which overlooks the village of Barolo, was all purity and finesse. It was a singular expression of Barolo like none I’ve had before, making Canonica a producer to follow.

This is organic wine; pure and joyous in its expression of soft wild cherry fruit. It’s possible that 2008 just happened to be a particularly good year for Gianni, but I’m betting his two and a half decades of experience, in minute quantities I might add, probably also have something to do with it.


#11-Bruno Giacosa

Here we have a famous producer who deserves to be in the Barolo hall of fame for the many, many exceptional wines he has produced over the years. So what is he doing at number 11? I mean he was responsible for what is arguably the greatest Barolo of all time, the 1989 Collina Rionda, right?

Yes, that’s all correct, but the wines of Giacosa have become both painfully expensive and, dare I say it, less impressive! It’s true. I think the wines of Giacosa have become quite variable, with high points in 1999 and 2005, but some low points in between. That variability coupled with their pricing policy has moved them down to the bottom of my top 12 list.

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#10-E.Pira of Chiara Boschis

Okay here’s a surprise, a modernist producer! Yes, Chiara Boschis does employ some thoroughly modernist technique, the barricaia can attest to that, but the wines are pretty damn impressive. Plus I had to include one more modern producer here to show you all how unbiased I really am!

Seriously though, while I can rattle off the names of at least two other Barolo Boys whose wines I enjoy, none of the new guard produces wine that morphs into a classic expression of Barolo as well as these do.

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This is another producer in the same boat as Giacosa. I’ve always loved the wines of Vietti and they make up a large percentage of my cellar, but the wines have recently been priced out of my reach with current releases of their single vineyards routinely selling for well over $100 a bottle.

Still, the achievements of Vietti can not be ignored and nor should their very well priced Castiglione bottling, a blend of some very fine crus in their own right.

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Oddero has produced some fine wines over the years; wines that have aged well but never really pushed the winery into the public eye or the top tier of producers. There have been some real flashes of brilliance, such as the Vigna Rionda bottlings from 1989 and 1996 (an aside: their Vigna Rionda is now being produced as a 10 year reserve, expect the next release to be the 2006 in 2016) and the killer 2004 Mondoca di Bussia.

So what are they doing on this list? Well, they’ve been making better wines year after year, and the wines have become fresher, cleaner and more transparent. In short, they are building a stable of thoroughly convincing wines and the barrel samples I just tasted convinced me that they are on the cusp of their big breakthrough!

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The wines of Cappellano have mostly cruised under the radar for years, though Teobaldo Cappellano did see his wines re-enter the U.S. market with resounding success before he passed away entirely too early in 2009. These were and remain rather unique wines, whether it’s the Pie Franco bottling from the family’s Gabutti vineyard that stands as a testament to determination (it’s Piedmont’s only ungrafted bottling of Barolo) or the more mainstream Rupestris, if organically farmed vines in Piedmont can be called that.

Whatever the case, these are compelling wines. They are powerful and yet elegant with a particularly happy disposition that is tough to describe in English, though the Italian simpatico, in fact molto simpatico, seems to fit quite well here.

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And Finally...

You didn’t think I was going to play all my cards here did you? You’ll have to wait until Monday for part two of this series, with the all-too-predictable line up to come as we enter the land of Barolo GIANTS!

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  • Snooth User: SteveKroll
    121363 33

    I couldn't disagree more about moving Bruno Giacosa to the bottom of the list. He has continued to produce outstanding Barolos throughout the last decade. Not a single vintage in the 2000's has scored less than 90 points in Spectator (although the '89 Collina Rionda you admire was close to the bottom of THEIR list at 78 points).

    May 24, 2012 at 1:50 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 236,475

    Well, that doesn't say much about their ability to prognosticate now does it? Seems more likely to support my assertion, but I'm not basing my point of view on what someone else has said or written, just my own tasting experience with these wines. YMMV

    May 24, 2012 at 3:12 PM

  • Snooth User: SteveKroll
    121363 33

    Greg, I haven't had the '89, so I can't comment on that, but I've tasted the '98 and '01 Falletto and enjoyed both. I also have a '98 La Rocche and '04 Falletto socked away. I do agree with you with regard to Giacosa pricing in recent years. It's gotten ridiculous and he's priced himself out of most people's pocketbooks.

    May 24, 2012 at 3:27 PM

  • Don't sleep on Giovanni Rosso!

    May 24, 2012 at 6:18 PM

  • Let me guess, the next article leads up to Damilano?

    May 24, 2012 at 9:44 PM

  • Cannubis maybe?

    May 24, 2012 at 9:44 PM

  • I don't know who are on te first 6 positions yet. But a few names are predictable.
    Anyway I do agree about your opinion concerning Bruno Giacosa. Giacosa is not up to scratch and overpriced if you take QpR in account.

    I would like to see Guiseppe Rinaldi in your following line up, for his consistent Brunate-Le Coste bottling over de last two decades. And Massolino will be there for sure. I am curious about your opinion about the good (but overly hyped) Bongiovanni.

    Why do people think Damilano is so special? Last decade this Barolo producer made a lot of progress. There have been investments. But if Damilano really shows up in your last 6 wines it would be a laugh.

    May 25, 2012 at 1:14 AM

  • Snooth User: Giacomo Pevere
    Hand of Snooth
    806471 999

    I mostly agree with your list,only Giacosa spot may be discussed. Forgetting price for a second he still produce amazing wines, Red Labels particulary (2001 Le Rocche del Falletto Riserva are the 100/100 closest wine i ever tasted). On the other side i agree with you he never reached again quality of Collina Rionda (important note: he never had vineyards in that cru, he bought grapes from Tommaso Canale, dead in 2010. Giovanni Rosso has inherited that parcel of Vigna Rionda and his 2007 Vigna Rionda is still a Tommaso Canale production.) and i can't afford this price. 11 spot are a little severe.

    About the top 6 picks i hope to find Maria Teresa Mascarello, daughter of Bartolo, is such a heavy legacy and she didn't struggle. If that list is about top producers (not quality for price...) is pretty easy to predict Roberto Conterno as #1. A place in that list for Tommaso Canale can be a nice Lifetime Achievement Oscar.

    May 25, 2012 at 5:05 AM

  • GDP...nice list. I'm going to guess the top six. A modernist for sure but where does Scavino fit in? Love your response on Giascosa above. Well said. @Steve, with all due respect, the scores you cited as an assertion of quality in Piemontese wines are written by someone who is not respected in the region. He misses the mark need only look at his pronouncements on the 97 and 00 vintages.

    May 25, 2012 at 10:55 AM

  • Snooth User: scarlet11
    466655 48

    I sell Oddero through my company, Soilair Selection, here in CA and I couldn't be more in love with this producer and their stellar wines!

    May 25, 2012 at 11:32 AM

  • I hope perhaps Rivetto make it in to the next cut. Enrico & Alessandro are doing great things in Piemonte. I've just returned from visiting a hand-picked selection of vineyards - and their vineyards in and around Sinio and their winemaking is exceptional. A future star.

    May 26, 2012 at 6:24 AM

  • fabulous

    Sep 24, 2013 at 9:25 AM

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