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.
#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.
#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!
#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.
#1- Giuseppe Mascarello
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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