Top 12 Barolo Producers, Part II

The best of the best in Barolo


So we meet again to follow up on my somewhat surprising list of the best producers of Barolo. This time around, it’s the top six list. These are the heavy hitters, the super stars, the best of the best.

To me, these are all very obvious choices. Each has produced a line up of spectacular wines for at least a decade, often longer, and they are well known and well represented in the cellars of wine lovers everywhere. Even so, I still want to recognize their efforts myself.

So here we go, the six best Barolo producers in my opinion are…


#6- Giacomo Conterno

We are entering the land of giants and there is no bigger, more important, more successful producer of Barolo than Giacomo Conterno. For decades their wines, Barolo, then Barolo from the Cascina Francia vineyard, to be joined soon (2010 vintage) by Barolo from the newly acquired Carretta vineyard and their iconic Monfortino, have vied for the honor of being the wine of the vintage.

The wines of Giacomo Conterno continue to be monumental, though in truth the competition has caught up and begun to produce wines equal in quality and character to Conterno’s entry-level bottlings. The same cannot be said for their reserve: Monfortino. It remains as a rather singular expression of Barolo; ultra intense and long lived, and frequently breathtakingly good. It’s also painfully expensive, the 2000 vintage is the least expensive vintage currently on offer and it goes for just over $300 a bottle, which is actually a bargain for wine of this quality. Bargain or not, I can’t afford it, so Giacomo Conterno stays at number 6 on my list.

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#5- Giuseppe Rinaldi

Giuseppe Rinaldi has produced world-class wines for decades, as a relatively recent tasting proved. Year after year, in big years and small, the wines of Giuseppe Rinaldi have aged into marvelous examples of classical Barolo. With two vineyard blends in the stable, a relatively unusually if once prevalent practice, it’s easy to see that Giuseppe and more recently his daughter Marta Rinaldi are skilled in allowing the lands of Barolo to speak with their own distinct voices.

The production here is limited and the demand both strong and increasing, so these wines tend to be a bit tough to find, particularly in back vintages. They are worth the effort. The wines, produced organically, are elegant and wonderfully expressive.

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#4- Bartolo Mascarello

Speaking of expressive vineyard blends, there are few producers as well known or as well regarded as Bartolo Mascarello, which has been ably run by Bartolo’s daughter Maria Teresa since his passing in 2005. Bartolo’s wines remain legendary and Maria Teresa has continued his legacy while lending her own shading to the wines.

Over the past few years the Barolo from Bartolo Mascarello has become fresher and brighter with more nuance, elegance and purity. For the most part, the wines of Maria Teresa are still young pups, but they have all they need to age into world-class wines.
 

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#3- Fratelli Brovia

I think this is where I start to get into trouble. I’ve said it before and I’m ready to say it again, Brovia is the new Giacosa. Before you get ready to close this entire article, allow me to explain.

Brovia, like Giacosa, is making wines from some of the best sites in Piedmont. Brovia, also like Giacosa, has achieved a certain level of finesse and, much like Giacosa, Brovia has worked hard to retain a sapid red fruitiness to their wines.

After saying all that, I would have to say that Brovia is not quite where Giacosa has been, particularly with the red label Riservas. The crus of Brovia can go head-to-head with the crus of Giacosa and match them for nuance today, and at about half the price to boot!

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#2- G.B. Burlotto

You should have expected this. I’ve been touting the wines of Burlotto for years. Their Cannubi expresses the lean, austere nature of that site almost perfectly, but the Monvigliero bottling of theirs takes things to another level. Not only is the wine an anachronism in today’s world (foot trod, no temperature control during fermentation and long macerations), it’s also terrific, totally unique and remarkably well priced.

I think Burlotto Monvigliero is one of Piedmont’s truly iconic wines. It is a remarkable expression of site and style where the winemaker really becomes part of the terroir, insofar as terroir seems to be used these days. It is a wine that is recognizable for its distinctive traits that arise, in theory, from the vineyard, but obviously also from the way the wine has been made.  

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#1- Giuseppe Mascarello

The Maestro.

Responsible for one of my top wines this year as well as last. This year, I was able to taste the 2007 Monprivato, which has to be one of the top two or three wines of the vintage. Finally, a 2007 that captures the warmth of the vintage without becoming a caricature of itself, while still remaining 100 percent true to site and style. This wine rocks.

Last year my jaw dropped when, after spending a week tasting 2007 Barolo, I happened upon the 2004 Villero; a symphony of precision and detail. I look back at all the Giuseppe Mascarello wines I’ve bought and tasted and am struck over and over again by how much these wines resonate with me. They are simply brilliant Barolos, among the greatest wines of the world and still mostly affordable. What more could a Barolo lover ask for?

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Comments

  • Snooth User: Giacomo Pevere
    Hand of Snooth
    806471 999

    I mostly agree with you, your picks are the best in the business right now. Just one dubt. Conterno at #6, no questions about his wines but too expansive (my opinion is exactly the same and like you i can't afford it...) but Mascarello, your #1, is not very far from Conterno prices (Ca'D' Morissio is around 250€ here) and both have unquestionable quality. Why did you want this distance between them? I onestly don't see it.

    Are you gone to Nebbiolo prima? A bit envious of your visit to Langhe. :)

    May 28, 2012 at 2:34 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 196,440

    Here in the states Monprivato is about $90 a botle and Mascarello's villero can be had for $75 a bottle, compared with $120 for Cascina Francia. A big jump in price and I'm not sure there is a difference in quality to help support that difference. If we're talking about all Barolo, and I was specifically discussing wines under $125 a bottle, then Monfortino wins hands down.

    Back from Nebbiolo Prima, in fact I spent 2 weeks there, and extra week beforehand just to visit many of my favorite producers. Now I'm in Brazil of all places!

    May 28, 2012 at 4:43 PM


  • Snooth User: Giacomo Pevere
    Hand of Snooth
    806471 999

    I miss your 125$ price limit, now I agree a little more your list. :)
    I really appreciate reading the name of Bartolo Mascarello, better Maria Teresa Mascarello, he deserves it. He has on his shoulder a huge legacy. Same reason of Cappellano (maybe you have understand, i prefer traditional style... :D ).

    May 28, 2012 at 5:36 PM


  • Completely agree re your inclusion of Chiara Boschis, but omitting Domenico Clerico is criminal!

    May 28, 2012 at 8:50 PM


  • Snooth User: Barologeek
    1105930 16

    Giacosa ont 12th and G. conterno on 6th - I laugh my *** off! The only good thing about this is that Clerico is off the list. Congratulations

    May 29, 2012 at 2:14 AM


  • Giacomo Fenocchio Barolo 2006, at about £30 a bottle, tasted March 2012, is an excellent alternative for those of us not working in the higher echelons of investment banking.
    I love the Monprivato from memory now, 1982 and 1985, and the Conterno stable has a great red called Conca Tre Pile. The latter cured a cold once, after a whole bottle was slowly drunk one sad afternoon - which got better and better as the wine did and my throat did....

    May 29, 2012 at 4:44 AM


  • Snooth User: Giacomo Pevere
    Hand of Snooth
    806471 999

    Clerico divides Barolo lovers. :)
    I like its wines but I'm not falling in love for it.

    May 29, 2012 at 7:26 AM


  • Snooth User: Cbrown63
    292332 53

    You have also left out Angelo Gaja and Giacossa...that doesnt even make sense to me. What gives..these are two of the most famous producers of Barolo and Barberesco.

    May 29, 2012 at 8:46 AM


  • Snooth User: Giacomo Pevere
    Hand of Snooth
    806471 999

    Giacosa is #11 on the other part, this is a Barolo list and Gaja, technically, don't produce it.

    May 29, 2012 at 9:10 AM


  • Snooth User: JonDerry
    Hand of Snooth
    680446 2,861

    Now I'm thinking we should leave some room for Barolo for the LA dinner!

    May 29, 2012 at 3:17 PM


  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    92549 153,371

    Gaja is a great producer, but they have been priced out of the regular market for a very, very long time. Greg's list is solid. If there's one thing I've learned, it's to trust his palate. Turning me onto Burlotto is one thing I credit him with, great wines! I still need to taste more Brovia, but Greg's not the only source that's been raving about this producer. As for G. Mascarello, I think this will always be a hard sell for those who haven't witnessed their evolution. In their youth, they tend to be very lean and ungiving.

    May 30, 2012 at 7:46 PM


  • I think with the reviews you should also include the price range so people can have an idea about the quality they are getting for spending their money,

    May 31, 2012 at 4:32 AM


  • Snooth User: wimryan
    250731 8

    On my way to Piemonte in a month, this couldn't have come at a better time! Thanks Greg.
    BTW, you said you are currently in Brasil. Where? I live in São Paulo, and could recommend some nice places to eat with exceptional (and at times expensive) wine lists. Obviously, you are going to want to steer clear of 99,9% of the swill being pawned off as wine made here in Brasil, but there are some truly sublime Argentine and Chilean offerings...Let me know if you want any recommendations.
    Abraços from Brasil

    May 31, 2012 at 8:14 AM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 196,440

    Thanks for all the comments folks. A list like this is never going to make everyone happy, but I'm frankly surprised that only Clerico gets a shout out. Where's the love for Scavino, Sandrone, and Altare? Who, by the way, just took deliver of 6 botte to replace some of his barrique. Maybe there's a reason there after all.

    Wimryan,

    I'm in Bento. Unfortunately the only part of Sao Paulo I'll get to see is the airport, but maybe next time I'll hit you up for some recommendations.

    May 31, 2012 at 8:27 PM


  • Greg, I'm glad to see Brovia, one of my favorite producers, getting some love. Quick question about the 2001s. I tend to let Brovias sit a long time (eg. haven't touched the '89 Monprivato as yet),but when we were in the Langhe a couple of years ago, several producers mentioned that the '01s were maturing faster than anticipated, a thought echoed by some tasters on other sites. Have you tried any of Brovia's '01s recently?

    Jun 01, 2012 at 5:15 PM


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