One enters the courtyard at Burlotto through a small door in a big metal gate. Once that gate closes you could easily be stepping decades back in time, if one can ignore the incessant ringing of the phone that is. During my visit with Fabio there was no one else available to answer the phone so we were followed wherever we went by the ringing of Burlottos portable handset.
Well that did not detract in the least from the experience at this remarkable estate. One of the true pioneers in Barolo, Burlotto was the first to bottle wine for individual sale. What you buy today looks much the same as it did back than, as the label is essential unchanged.
The winemaking philosophy has also remained unchanged. Burlotto continues to rely on natural yeasts and intervene as little as possible in the vinification of their wine. Open topped wood tini are still used for much of the fermentation and with the flagship Barolo, are not temperature controlled except in the direst of circumstances. In a nod to modernity these 50 to 70 hectoliter vessels are made from French oak but fear not they are neutral vessels at this point. The ageing vessels on the other hand are a blend of Slavonian and French oak old enough to have lost the ability to mark the wines with extraneous flavors.
The mentality here is to intervene only when necessary, this is after all a family business and many people rely on these wines for their livelihood so who can begrudge them the rare intervention? Not I.
While one continues to tour the property you can really get a sense of how integrated the operation is in the lives of the family. Walking from slightly decayed though in the process of being restored, grand scale room to grand scaled room it is easy to get lost in the notion of a simpler, freer time. Though a trained Enologist Fabio respects the wines of Burlottos past and retains much of the winemaking of the past. Nowhere is this more evident than with the cru from the Monvigliero Vineyard.
Located in Verduno, the Monvigliero vineyard produces amazingly distinctive wines renowned for their aromatics that recall black olives. Produced from vines over 50 years old with full southern exposition, the roots dig deep into the soil and draws great complexity from the mix of 40% lime, 30% sand, and 30% clay that is found in Verduno. This high percentage of sand and the classic Marne di S. Agata rich in sea fossils is responsible for the lighter, more elegant expression of Nebbiolo that is typically associated with Verduno.
While the majority of Burlottos holdings are in Verduno they also own a prized parcel of the famed Cannubi vineyard. They produce a range of Baroli but the techniques used during the production of their Monvigliero bottling remain unique in the zone.
This benchmark wine undergoes a traditional vinification and by that I mean not only that it is macerated for a full 60 days, virtually unheard off nowadays, and fermented in those open top tini, with cappello sommerso but all the work is done manually, or pedali as the case may be!
The grapes for the Monvigliero are dumped by hand into the tini then they are tread by foot, an anachronism in Piemonte for sure but there is a reason behind this seeming madness. By using only soft feet to crush the grapes, and thus keeping the seeds intact, one avoids extracting their hard, astringent tannins that can dominate a wine that has enjoyed such a prolonged maceration.
This throwback technique allows Fabio to extract the maximum from his musts without throwing the wine off balance! After the fermentation is completed the wine rests for 30 months in neutral oak botti then it’s allowed to rest for an additional 2 years after bottling. The proof of course is in the drinking and as this shows when you’re drinking Burlotto you’re drinking well!
Elatis Rosato 2007
A Vino da Tavola blend of 55% Nebbiolo/ 35% Pelaverga/ 10% Barbera. 2.9% RS
A little yeasty on the nose with notes of green watermelon, dry herbs, strawberry and a touch of sandy glass. The sugar shows up on the entry with is obviously but balanced by a touch of tannin and good supporting acidity so it adds more weight that sweetness to the soft, cherried red fruits on the mid-palate. Develops a bit of sweet spices that recalls cinnamon and has an edge of pink peppercorn leading to the finale, which offers exuberant waves of fruit. Finishes long for a rose revealing a touch of minerality that balances out the watermelon candy tones nicely. What every white Zin wishes it were! This is one happy wine. 88pts
Verduno Pelaverga 2007
1 week maceration in tini, temperature controlled to retain freshness and aromatics, Malolactic fermentation in Stainless followed by three months in botte.
Intensely herbal on the nose at first this slowly segues into layers of mineral, thyme, cherry juice and spice that lean heavily towards white pepper. A lighter weight wine yet with some tough tannins keeping things wrapped a bit tightly, good balance with soft acidity. The flavors build in intensity with notes of spicy wild red berries and light gamey meat notes playing off each other. Notes of mahogany and herb add some interest on the back end and lead to a long, fresh, slightly peppery finish that is cleansing and ends on a brisk note of raspberry fruit. 90pts
Dolcetto d’Alba 2006
1 week maceration in tini, temperature controlled to retain freshness and aromatics, Malolactic fermentation in Stainless followed by ageing, half in stainless and half in botte for several months depending on the vintage.
Lovely floral tones soar from the glass, big violets then some dark coal, mineral notes, black earth, black cherry builds into lovely rich deep, dark fruits with background notes of sweet, tropical flowers but they never obscure the depth of fruit. At first this appears lean and elegant in the mouth but quickly adds impressive density with strong structural elements that make this both chewy and bright. This retain great freshness to the palate that offers up great inner mouth perfume of cocoa, sweet spices, floral and red berry notes but is a bit blocky at this point. It finishes with impressive follow through and good purity so it looks like it may need some time to relax a bit in the mouth. 89pts
Barbera d’Alba 2006
10 day maceration in tini, temperature controlled if needed, Malolactic fermentation in Stainless followed by about 10 months in botte.
This offers intense and focused notes of black fruit and moist earth that are so typical of Barbera. With time notes of rose petals, sweet spices, and a touch of forest fruits add to the perfume. Elegant with lovely balance in the mouth one finds very lovely balance here with fine acid serving like the frame of a kite supporting a sheen of transparent fruit, no need for tannin here. This is easy to like with pure black raspberry fruit and subtle notes of black spices and rosemary adding interest. The finish is classic Barbera, bracing with cleansing acids offering great precision to the spread of black cherry fruit. Maybe a bit simple but broad and with good length. 90pts
Barbera d’Alba Aves 2006
This comes from a select parcel of the vineyard that offers a better exposition yielding grapes that are a bit riper. Yields are kept a bit lower here as well to add to the richness of the wine. 10 day maceration in tini, temperature controlled if needed, Malolactic fermentation in Stainless followed by about 10 months in wood, half in barrique and half in 30 HL botti. The percentage of new wood varies as barriques are replaced as needed.
A bit smoky on the nose but packed with dark fruit. There is an obvious touch of chocolaty oak with some toasted cookie/toasted coconut notes as well so some of the wood was recently replaced. This is well balanced and certainly has more impact across the midpalate than the regular Barbera but there are super acids here and they keep everything lively. The pure, deep, spicy fruit is enlivened by the acidity and while there is a bit of cheek-grabbing tannin here it is unobtrusive. Not the most complex wine but the wood spice tones do add a bit to the ever so jammy black berry fruits. Eminently likeable and while the tannin does creep in around the edges the acid offer great pushback and leads to a touch of mulberry on the finish. 92pts
1 week maceration in tini, very variable elevage due to vintage character and quantities produced. Averages 3500 btls so usually fit only in smaller vessels. Vines were planted in 200, 2004 was the first vintage. Offers a bit of a winemaking challenge as this tends very heavily towards reduction.
A bit reticent on the nose but with time opens to reveal earthy, red berry fruit with a slight confiture edge, a bit flat but does add a touch of spice with time. The palate is full of contrasts, the texture is light and bright with clean acids and a touch of stiff tannin yet the flavors are dark and tarry. This shows a touch of bitterness and leans towards the savory end of the spectrum with notes of blue slate, bresaola, and old wood. Finishes with solid intensity of flavor and reveals a core of Ranier cherry fruit but ends on a very brisk note with austere tannins on the finale accentuating the slight bitterness of the wine. This would be better served with food. 86pts
Nebbiolo d’Alba 2006
A young vines cuvee. 1 week maceration in tini, temperature controlled if needed, Malolactic fermentation in Stainless followed by about 20 months in botti.
This starts off with a gently floral tone and a tarry top note over small forest fruits but continues to open and evolve revealing very thistle herbal tones, sandy soil notes, a touch of seaweed, slightly smoky, not fruit a fruit driven nose, though there is a nice base of lightly roasted red cherry fruit emerging, but with excellent complexity. Cool and crisp on entry with good density and lovely, very ripe tannins that offer impressive density for simple Nebbiolo. The flavors are fresh and mimic the nose with their herbal and soil driven tones. Tangy in the mouth with a slightly candied edge to the cherry and wild raspberry fruits, develops a bit of pomegranate and intriguing mineral tones on the back of the palate which lead to a very long, crisp fruit skin finish. This is great Nebbiolo and is example A in why Nebbiolo d’Alba is the greatest wine value on earth! 92pts
15 days maceration in tini, temperature controlled if needed, Malolactic fermentation in Stainless followed by about 30 months in botti.
Opens with a whiff of tar, which is followed by very pure fruit notes and a strong balsam edge that highlights the herbal qualities of the nose. Fine open rose notes emerge but then the aromatics draw back a bit. Fresh and crisp with great tannins framing the medium weight here, really fine balance, precise. Dark fruits but still feeling very fresh, perhaps a bit closed but very pure expression of Nebbiolo with red fruits, rose petals, green herb and slight menthol tones that lead to a cleansing precise finish. The wine is consistent from nose to finish but feels a bit folded in on itself. Seemingly a textbook base Barolo but in need of3- 5 years in the cellar. 90pts
Barolo Acclivi 2004
A blend of their three finest vineyards, Monvigliero, Neirane, and Rocche dell’Olmo. 15 days maceration in tini, temperature controlled if needed, Malolactic fermentation in Stainless followed by about 30 months in botti.
Intense ripe fruits greet the nose, red fruits with a slightly musky tone, pomegranate, menthol and a subtle dried fruit tone all add to the mix. Really develops fine complexity with emerging tones of dried strawberry, dried mushroom, a bit of calcium and fine women’s perfume. A bit weighty, like plush hanging drapes with folds and pleats to the dark core of fruit. The fine acidity keeps things bright in the mouth and the balanced tannins support the layered palate which features notes of earth, faded Middle Eastern spices, licorice and floral tones. Finishes very tight with taut red fruits leading to an earthy finale with notes of walnut and dried mushroom adding interest. 92pts
Barolo Monvigliero 2004
This benchmark wine undergoes a traditional vinification and by that I mean not only that it is macerated for a full 60 days, virtually unheard off nowadays, and fermented in those open top tini, with cappello sommerso but all the work is done manually, or pedaly as the case may be! Tread by foot, an anachronism in Piemonte for sure but there is a reason behind this seeming madness. By using only soft feet to crush the grapes, and thus keeping the seeds intact, one avoids extracting their hard, astringent tannins that can dominate a wine that has enjoyed such a prolonged maceration. This throwback technique allows Fabio to extract the maximum from his musts without throwing the wine off balance! After the fermentation is completed the wine rests for 30 months in neutral oak botti then it’s allowed to rest for an additional 2 years after bottling.
Huge intensity on the nose here with an initial blast that is almost bacony. Richly perfumed with notes of leather, rose stems, a bit of dried pork, very perfumed and almost Christmas holiday spice like in nature with a touch of ginseng. Big plummy fruit emerges with time, as does the trademark black olive note, very complex if atypical. Approachable and elegant with good acidity and very refined tannins that never get in the way of enjoying the depth of the wine. Opens with fine notes of tea and tartuffi, then dark fruits balanced by aggressive minerality, not overly fruit driven but there is plenty of dark plum fruit and a slight candy apple top note. Tannins are so soft and ripe that this almost feels like animal fat in the mouth! The finish is long and savory with a slightly peppery fruit just peaking out on the finale. This may very well close down in the bottle but is a brilliant effort! 94pts
Barolo Cannubi 2004
100% Lampia clone from vines averaging 20 years old. 15 days maceration in tini, temperature controlled if needed, Aged 10 months in small, 3-5 HL, French oak barrels where Malolactic fermentation takes place. Aged an additional 20 months in botte.
Slightly liquory fruit at first with a touch of fresh sawdust on the nose then turning very sweetly fruited and expressive with handfuls of freshly picked aromatic herbs, sandy soil tones, bright spicy red fruits, ever so jammy currants, sharp notes of dry, white soil, beautifully perfumed. A powerful yet elegant expression in the mouth with great structural balance that support a rich core of red fruits with a subtle medicinal edge. Very aromatic in the mouth with almost spearminty sweet herbs, dark spice notes and an edge of fennel. This offers up an impressive core of sweet-tart wild cherry fruit that shines brightly on the finish accentuated by subtle fennel seed and bitter cherry pit tones. Classic Barolo in need of 5-7 years in the cellar 93pts.
Step back in time with Commendatore G.B. Burlotto
- Reply by Nicolai Soegaard, Oct 11, 2008.
Greg, wonderful notes. When was your visit at Burlotto? That Monvigliero really sounds appealing. A friend of mine is quite fond of the 1999 Monvigliero. I have yet to try Burlotto myself. I guess I must try it while I'm in Piemonte next month.
- Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 11, 2008.
Nicolai, Thank you. The visit was in late May of this year. The wines really are excellent and well priced. They are wine that demand some attention! You are so lucky to be close to the promised land!