Nowhere is this more obvious than with the for lack of a better term, ‘lesser’ varieties. Dolcetto and Barbera in particular have been victims of excessive winemaking in Piedmont for years, and are only now emerging from under these veneers. Truth be told even here chez Burlotto there is a modern wine, the Barbera Aves. Fabio plays a bit with lower yields, riper fruit, and perhaps unexpectedly small format French oak with his Aves; a wine I have admired but have never preferred to Burlotto’s classic Barbera d’Alba.
It is the expressions of these classic varieties, vesty and pure, perfumed and showing such beautiful typicity that really seals the deal for me. It should not be heard to make great $60 wine, even in Barolo, but for $20 you’d have a hard time finding better Freisa or Dolcetto, Barbera or best of all Verduno’s own Pelaverga. These are all delcious wines, but the Pelaverga is so emblematic of Verduno, and like the region with a long history but mostly ignored by enthusiasts and writers alike until very recently, that I can’t help but have a soft spot for it. In truth though the Burlotto Barbera and Nebbiolo d’Alba are the wines I most often reach for at this price point.
Like Verduno, G.B. Burlotto has a long history stretching back to the middle of the 18th century and in some circles is most famous to this day for being the sole provider of wine to the 1899 -1900 Polar Expedition by the Duke of Abruzzo. Looking back Burlotto has always been a bit of a pioneer, and a renegade, being among the first to bottle their wines, from vineyards in Cannubi and Monvigliero. The also were among the first to recognize the quality of their own Pelaverga decades before it became a popular if obscure variety.
This sort of risk taking and leadership continues to this day at Burlotto, even if it is hidden under a gauze of calculation and caution. Burlotto remains a family run business of modest size producing about 60,000 bottles a year. It's tough to make sudden or significant changes when your family relies on such a small production, and this has worked to Burlotto’s advantage. Whatever changes have been implemented over the years have been gradual and well thought out, not in pursuit of fad or points for that matter, though it is inarguable that today’s Burlotto wines have never been better.
In some ways it is easy to overlook these wines. they are elegant and built on balance and freshness, never power. They may not win competitions or large scaled comparative tastings, because that’s not their milieu. These are wines to be enjoyed with both food and friends, or simply with either. They satisfy on a very basic and visceral level. They are pretty in a world where wines are expected to be more. But they don’t need to be, and these wines are proof.
For my money these are some of the finest, most consistent, most captivating, and frankly delicious wines available today at the respective price points. When I drink these wines they make me happy and not just in an intellectual or hedonistic way. No. They hit me emotionally and put a smile on my face. What more could one ask for?
Yes there are wines that may be better, but they are most certainly more expensive and in truth few are better than a well aged bottle of Burlotto’s Monvigliero. Time may prove me right, and if it does we can look on these days fondly and reminisce about the days when Burlotto Monvigliero was such a great value. Will you be joining me?
One final note here before I leave with some tasting notes. I wrote about about a well aged bottle of Monvigliero. It should be mentioned that one of the great things about Burlotto’s wines is that you don’t have to wait forever for them to come around. They might go through a grumpy phase, as most great wines are prone to do, some 5 to 10 years after the vintage but in general Burlotto’s wines,and here I'm am speaking in particular about their Barolos, being so elegant and well balanced, tend to shut down later and open sooner than many similar wines. It’s an added advantage that makes enjoying Burlotto’s wines that much easier to enjoy!