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Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz

Barolo 2004, do bargains still abound?

Posted by Gregory Dal Piaz, Jul 8, 2009.

As many of you know I am very enthusiastic about the latest Barolo releases. The  best wines of the 2005 vintage will probably eclipse the best that 2004 has to offer. One small problem is that with the sales of premium wines grinding to a halt it makes no sense for retailers to be buying these 2005’s.

With many 2004’s still on the shelves and discounts popping up left and right I thought it was a perfect time to revisit some of the best values in 2004 Barolo to see how they’ve fared with an additional year in bottle.

As usual I tasted each wine twice, once immediately apon opening and then again after about 4 hours. As is to be expected most of the wines changed significantly over the course of this time, some for the better and some for the worse.

As a group these lower-priced Barolos, with a single Barbaresco thrown in, were a very elegant and immediately appealing group of wines. They are testament to the vintages early appeal with their relatively silky tannins and integrated acidity. A few wines showed a touch of dilution, which is not uncommon in this vintage of relatively high yields.

All in all I found most of the wines have remained true to their earlier assessments. Marcarini continues to impress with wines that start slowly yet have such wonderful balance that they virtually burst into shape with time in the bottle. Guido Porro makes what is arguable the best value in all of Barolo. Luigi Pira needs to be better represented in my cellar, Franco Conterno too!

The notes pretty much speak for themselves and offer a great glimpse at a set of wines that are just finding their running legs before drifting off to their big sleep. On the note I might add that I think these wines will have a relatively short closed window with few exceptions.

Now onto the wines.

Flight 1

Attilio Ghisolfi Barolo -  Apon opening this had a nice array of tarry, herbal and clay tones that recalled calamine lotion with a touch of lurking roasted strawberry. In the mouth it offered up ripe tannins and balanced acidity with relatively simple cherry fruit tones and a touch of earthy spiciness on the follow through. With air this gained a touch of gamy leatheriness and some smoky, white pepper scented notes of sausages. The fruit turned a bit blacker and gained a light medicinal edge but the wine remained an excellent, very typical straightforward slightly rustic Barolo 88pts

Marty felt “the tannins were a little rough on this one, a little rustic” though Justin “loved the style” and found the wine “harmonious”.

Burlotto Barolo - At first this offered up some simple light cherry in alcohol and sweet earth tones but air caused this to gain a touch of a raw/terpene note. In the mouth this was delicate yet drying with a decidedly savory and spicy character that was a bit chewy and tough with a long, mineral tinged finish. Air did not move this much though it did gain quite a clear strawberry tone to the fruit. It never really seemed to come together and remained uninspiring 85pts

James found this to be “ too fruity, too much strawberry”  though John found the wine to be “fresher, yet it seems disjointed”.

Rizzi Barbaresco Pajore - With a light nose that showed sandy soil tones and dried grass notes this was delicately aromatic right out of the bottle.  Airing brought out some sharp, spicy soil tones and a fine white mushroom/woodsy edge to the bouquet.  In the mouth this was zesty and bright with succulent strawberry fruit and delicious, clean yet uncomplicated fruit and soil tones that gained nice complexity with air revealing a touch of anise and bitter root tones that complimented the wild berry/lingonberry fruit that emerged on the round, polished mid-palate.  89pts

Jim found this to be “like herbal tea, but I wish it was sweeter” while John found “an almost Pelaverga pepperiness” to this wine.
Flight 2

Cavallotto Barolo Bricco Boschis - This smelled big and muscular right out of the bottle and that translated into a rich and smooth mouthfeel packed with fine-grained tannins and fleshy fruit though there was a sense that there was more extraction of matter than flavor here as the red currant fruit was a touch diffuse and short on the finish. With air this gained excellent focus on the nose with tight, high-pitched notes of rosehips and tobacco, and while the palate remained a touch diffuse the seductive red fruit notes with their tinges of roast chestnut sweetness had a lovely texture. Ripe tannins and enough acidity to keep this rather consistent wine interesting. 90pts

Justin found this to be “very floral” while Jim thought it was a bit “ chunky but closed”
Vietti Barolo Castiglione - This was very aromatic apon opening with notes of camphor, chalk and earthy, medicinal herbs framing the red fruit. The entry was smooth, suave and sexy with sweet wild cherry and herb flavors only slightly marred by a hint of wood tannin that grew on the finish. This was mouth filling with excellent balance and finesse and wonderful clarity to the fruit so imagine my surprise when I revisited this and found it to be rather closed and almost mean with some oak showing and a slightly muddy, extracted feel.  This shut down rather impressively with air so either drink this quickly or put it away and hope the fruit emerges with the pristine beauty it originally showed. 90pts based on it’s earlier showing.

Justin found this to be “ dilute, buttery and off-putting” while Jim noted “oaky, oaky, oaky”.
Franco Conterno Barolo Bussia "Munie" - This opened slowly with a touch of torrefaction on the nose over a bed of almost weedy herbal components. With air the weediness took on a decidedly floral note and joined delicate notes of macerating cherry on the nose.  What started as an earthy, chewy, yet short mouthfeel blossomed into a lovely rich mouthful of fruit with big cherry tones and layered complexity that saw notes of herbs, flowers, dried spices and root vegetables join in. The finish was beautiful and precise, riding as much on acid as on tannin and finishing on notes of balsamic church candle and mineral notes. A lovely, complete expression of Nebbiolo. 92pts

Marty found this to be “plummy” as did Jim while Justin found “cherry pit, barnyard and dirty winemaking”.

Flight 3

Burlotto Barolo Monvigliero -  Olives and spicy green middle eastern tones immediately greated the nose with this wine and were joined by notes of hung game, moist tobacco and sweet, candied root, angelica root tones after several hours of air.  This was initially quite bitter and beef bloody with lots of candied raspberry fruit tones that gradually added some vegetal, cucumber like notes and a very big flourish of fresh green herbs that set up the palate for this green/red fruit tension that was very intriguing and lead to a crisp clean finish with some subtle pignoli nut bitterness. After several hours air the big herbal element remained as did a very quinine like medicinal tone that framed the red fruits. The mouthfeel remained both zesty and polished and I appreciated the great complexity and sneaky finish but this is a very distinctive Barolo, something I applaud. 91pts

Mark noted that if served this in a restaurant “I’d send it back!”  Justin found this to be “thinnish and flabby” John likened it to a Santa Barbara Pinot Noir and Marty found it to be the “most aromatic, with a touch of comet cleanser”. Jim called it “Burgundian” and added “I love the nose on this.”

Marcarini Barolo La Serra -  Opening with a classic, slightly seaweedy and camphor tinge that served to support subtle, earthy fruit tones, this  just built on the theme with air adding high toned seashell notes and nori to the sweet fruity tones on the nose.  A soft sweet entry is followed by a whisper of very fine tannins and lean yet transparent yellow cherry fruit with gentle notes of macerated flowers and soft wild strawberry fruit that leads to a finish with sneaky, building tannins.  This remains very taut and sheer with air gaining nuanced mint, tar and anise notes that yield to a bit of beet root on the finish. 92pts

Justin called this “Marcarini La Serra!” Mark added “ this is how I expect Barolo to taste”. Marty felt this had “all the elements” and John called it “tightly coiled”

Marcarini Barolo Brunate -  Deep and filled with roses, this begins a bit monotone on the nose with hints of dry earth, sassafras and beet root. With air this gains a bit or a brownie edge, full of moist earth, hints of game and BO and plump, roasted strawberry.  What begins as a lush, round, seductive mouthfeel turns even more polished with air revealing a touch of spice, white pepper and earth that lays like a blanket over the slightly bitter tannins and wonderfully integrated acidity.  This is well balanced and fresh but turns just a touch muddied on the finish.  91pts

Justin thought this to be “very backward and reductive” while John found this to be “ rustic in a way few of the others have been”. James found ‘something industrial” to this wine and Mark thought it “ was a little hot”.

Flight 4
Guido Porro Barolo Lazzairasco -  Initially deep and dark with baked earth notes and a touch of skunk to the nettles and cactus notes on the nose, this gained a bit of spice and light notes of macerated flowers with air but remained reticent. In the mouth this started off with a sweet entry balanced by a nearly bitter tones that emulated the tension of bittersweet chocolate that was followed by a flood of sweet, wild cherry fruit with a huge medicinal top note.  Air caused this to close down significantly, concealing the fruit and highlighting the formidable tannins. The initial taste revealed a wine with lovely polish to the tannins super acids, just a wonderful mouthful of Barolo, layered complex and with inner mouth harmony yet no shortage of energy and big power on the finish with a touch of aged animal/pork fat 92pts

Marty found this to be “full of cherry and earth.” John thought this was “totally classic but approachable” while Mark felt this was “totally typical.”

Luigi Pira Barolo - This started out quite reticent with subtle menthol and balsamic notes that morphed into a wonderfully aromatic nose redolent of waxy fruits, violets and vegetal undertones. Initially this was disjointed, rich and yet cut in half by the bright acidity that highlighted the red currant and cranberry tones of the fruit. The backend was quite lean and tapered off on the finish. Air brought out the lovely, polished ripe tannins that gave this wine the texture of flannel and helped support deep, rich, chewy red fruits in a rich, tannic style of wine that hag great lingering length.  This will get better and better. 91pts
James felt the “tannins are really drying” while Mark thought the “tannins are sweet”.  Marty enjoyed the “big body and nice full finish” of this wine.

Guido Porro Barolo Santa Caterina - This was wonderfully fresh on the nose with heather floral tones and whisps of wild strawberry emerging with some air yet with time the floral elements took control of the aromatics and added a base of cigarette smoke, oily coffee beans and spearmint that was compelling.  Polished and broad in the mouth with wonderfully fresh strawberry fruit and elegant notes of anise and herbs, this remains lithe and refreshing in the mouth. Air adds to the power here, introducing a touch of pruniness and the fruit turns darker but retains a seamlessness and purity that is very attractive. A wonderful bottle of Barolo 93pts.
John thought this resembled a “Barolo Chinato”

And with that a pretty awesome tasting was ended. I am glad to say I have already laid down all of these wines in my cellar except for the Rizzi and Franco Conterno, which were picked up at their respective wineries. I would love to have additional bottles of both stored away and plan to work on remedying that situation soon! These are lovely wines, approachable by Barolo standards, and real values in today's marketplace.

So get out there and see what's lying about on your retailers shelves. With the retail market they way it is I wouldn't be surprised if you could find these wines for a song, and perhaps a dance!

Gregory Dal Piaz

Community Manager



Reply by 97mjr, Jul 9, 2009.

Great event. Thanks for organizing.

My favs were
-Marcarini La Serra
-Guido Porros esp tje SC
-L Pira,
-Ghisolfi (esp considering the price)

I was disappointed with the Burlottos.

Reply by Marty N, Jul 9, 2009.


Many thanks for putting this tasting together before these babies begin their expected naps. For me, the most "unique" wine of the nite was the Burlotto 2004 Monvigliero with its apparent typical, unusual and predominant aroma of what many would consider black olive tapenade.

Marty N

Reply by John E Morris, Aug 23, 2009.

Looking back over my notes this week, I see that I tracked Greg for most of the wines, though I generally gave them a point or two more each.

The exceptions: Greg rated the Franco Conterno and the Marcarini Brunate 2 points higher than I did, and I didn't like the Burlotto Monvigliero at all. I gave that 70 points versus Greg's 91.

The biggest surprise to me was the Rizzi Pajore, which I had tasted from tank in December 2005 and thought was extraordinary for its depth and balance. Rizzi's importer didn't bring in the 04s (Greg supplied this bottle), which was a drag because I'd been planning to stock up.

From bottle now, it seemed surprisingly strawberry-ish (which I don't consider typical) and a bit jammy. I believe they picked quite late in 2004 - perhaps a tad too late. I still gave it 89/90, but it was not the blockbuster I expected after tasting it at the cantina.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Aug 23, 2009.

Tahnks for followingup John. You gave the Monvigliero a 70?!? What did you give the Burlotto Normale then?

Reply by John E Morris, Aug 23, 2009.

I initially gave it 91 but marked it down as it sat in the glass longer and ultimately scored it 87/88, versus your 85.

Reply by GregT, Aug 24, 2009.

Was that actually Dr. Marty? And the original John Morris?

How did you get such an august group together???

Clearly out of my league!

Reply by John E Morris, Aug 24, 2009.

Greg lured us with the promise of wine, women and song. Unfortunately, the girls didn't show up and the karaoke machine was broken.

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