Friday, May 12, 2017

The Queen to Piedmont's King; Time To Talk Barbaresco

I often talk about Barolo, and I am quick to add in a Barbaresco note or bottle to a tasting whenever I see fit. However, what you will hardly ever see in these pages is a tasting centered around Barbaresco. The reason for this, much like the reason why Barolo is more well-known than Barbaresco, is that as collectors get to know the region, there has always been a certain bias against Barbaresco, placing Barolo in their minds as the better wine. First, let’s put that idea out of our heads, because it simply isn’t true, but unfortunately it took me many years of tasting–and something of a paradigm shift–to realize it.

The change started over many years of tasting, as once in awhile we would throw a Barbaresco into a blind Barolo lineup. It didn’t take long to realize that these wines were finishing with top ranks. Keep in mind that I’m not just talking about Gaja and Bruno Giacosa. Produttori del Barbaresco and their portfolio of Riserva wines have long been the Barolo collectors’ secret love affair with Barbaresco, and they are perfect examples of how affordable a great Barbaresco can be and how well they can age.

What we’ve also seen in the last decade is an awakening of producers in the region. Some producers who had contributed their grapes to the Produttori parted ways to start their own labels and perfect a unique style, while others suddenly realized that the ground beneath their feet was worth showcasing, and they decided to clean up their cellars or take new oak out of the picture. Cigliuti, Paitin and Sottimano quickly come to mind as a new breed of winemaker that is changing what people think about the region.

Speaking of producers, it also pays to note that compared to Barolo, Barbaresco is more dominated by small family-run wineries (many of which contribute to the Produttori del Barbaresco), and these families produce only a small amount of wine. What this means for collectors is that we see much less Barbaresco in the market, giving Barolo yet another leg up and much more facetime with consumers.

There is one other important point, and that is how the wines mature. For the longest time, Barbaresco was thought of as a softer version of Barolo, and one that couldn’t age as well. While I will agree that the tannins in Barbaresco generally require less time to mature than the average Barolo, the fact is that they can age just as well. Much of this has to do with terroir, which shares many similarities with Barolo but also a few drastic differences. The soils in both regions are mainly calcareous marls, yet in general, the soils of Barbaresco are richer in nutrients, and in some locations, they contain deposits of sand. There’s also the moderating effect of the Tanaro river, which is one of the key elements thought to be responsible for the superior wines produced by Gaja, whose vineyards benefit directly from the river’s warming breezes by day and cooling breezes at night. Lastly, there’s the required aging regimen in wood, 18 months for Barolo versus 12 months for Barbaresco, yet you’ll find many of the region’s producers aging their top wines longer.

What it all comes down to is that Barbaresco is not just worth a Barolo lover’s attention, it should be required, and anyone who ignores these wines is simply doing themselves an injustice. Barbaresco provides all of the classic flavor and aromatic profiles that we love from Nebbiolo, often maturing a little earlier, but also lasting in the cellar for decades–and all of this at what is often a better price.

This brings us to our most recent tasting at RiverPark in New York City. The theme was simply Barbaresco, but the producers were the top names of the region. Produttori del Barbaresco, Gaja, Bruno Giacosa and Roagna all filled the table. As is usually the case with this group (a bunch of Barolo lovers who met and organized on Antonio Galloni’s Vinous forums), the big gun always come out. The best part is that it’s never about showboating or trying to one-up each other; with this group it’s simply about sharing great wine with good friends.

On to the Tasting Notes:


Our first flight was originally intended to be a showcase of older wines, but due to a corked bottle of ‘65 Cappellano, it turned out to be more of a Produttori del Barbaresco flight. What is there to say? This was the flight for the true lover of mature Nebbiolo. Both bottles were completely mature, and unfortunately the Ovello was a bit over the hill (possibly not a perfect bottle). With that said, I still enjoyed it. As for the ‘67 Pora, it showed all the hallmarks of perfect maturity and an unexpected richness and meatiness that made it the wine of the flight. I simply love mature Barbaresco.

1967 Produttori del Barbaresco Pora Riserva Speciale – At first, the nose was dark, damp and almost moldy, yet the ‘67 Pora came around quickly in the glass to reveal dried flowers, strawberry, hints of mint, forest floor and minerals. On the palate, it displayed a dark and meaty character with savory, almost salty minerality, dark red fruits and hints of smoke. It finished on dried berries and plum, with a touch of light tannin. (93 points)

1971 Produttori del Barbaresco Ovello – The ‘71 Ovello was completely resolved and on the decline, yet I still found something to like with its bouquet of dried roses, cinnamon, orange peel, and amaro. On the palate, I found light textures with hints of strawberry and a zing of acidity, which added much-needed liveliness. It finished short on dried fruit and flowers. (NA)

The Gaja Flight was a real treat. The best part about it was to see just how enjoyable the entry-level Gaja Barbaresco can perform and mature. No Gaja is ever cheap, but it is a breath of fresh air to see the most affordable wine showing this well with age. Both ‘82s were gorgeous, and you could sense the stamp of the producer between the two of them. However, in the end, the Costa Russi simply had a depth that the ‘82 normale couldn’t touch. That said, I’d take either wine any day of the week. Then there was the ‘85, which was so pure and wonderfully drinkable in its maturity that it stopped me in my tracks. Lastly, the ‘89, one of my top three wines of the night, was simply gorgeous. I strongly urge readers to pay attention to these wines when they show up in the market, because they represent great relative value.

1982 Gaja Barbaresco – Tasting this next to the ‘82 Costa Russi was a fantastic experience, as the vintage and Gaja style was evident between the two of them. Granted, once I moved on to the Costa Russi, it was hard to come back, but I absolutely adored this wine all the same. The nose was dark and rich with sweet herbs, moist soil and minerals. On the palate, I found silky textures lifted by vibrant acidity, as pure red fruits gave way to savory mineral tones. It finished on dried cherry, red florals and a bite of lively acidity. (92 points)

1982 Gaja Barbaresco Costa Russi – The Costa Russi took everything I loved about the ‘82 Barbaresco tasted next it and took it up a notch. Here I found masses of depth in its dark, rich red fruits with sweet spices, undergrowth, and minerals. On the palate, I found silky, almost chewy textures contrasted by zesty acidity with notes of black cherry and dark chocolate, which slowly morphed into a savory expression of dried inner florals, minerals and earth. The finish was wonderfully long and vibrant with spicy sweetness and dried strawberry. (95 points)

1985 Gaja Barbaresco – What a beautiful and pure expression of Barbaresco! The ‘85 was in a perfect place on this night. The bouquet was a mix of crushed cherry and strawberry with hints of sweet tea leafs and herbs. With time, a savory mineral note came forward, adding even more depth. On the palate, I found a vibrant and fresh expression with zesty acidity adding verve to its dried cherry fruits. Inner florals and earth tones lingered through the finish, along with dried wild berries. (93 points)

1989 Gaja Barbaresco – Showing all of the hallmarks of this great vintage–dark, deep and still reticent–there’s still so much going on beneath the surface. The ‘89 Barbaresco displayed the most inviting bouquet of pine nettles, menthol, sweet herbs, spicy dark red fruits, and brown spice. On the palate, I found deep silky textures with dark red fruits, iron-born minerality, tea leafs, brisk acidity and lingering fine tannin. It finished firm and youthful with dark red fruits, sweet herbs, and hints of tobacco. I can imagine that another five years will put this in a perfect place for drinking. (96 points)

The Bruno Giacosa flight was, as always, highly anticipated and quite a revelation. I must note that I added my note for the 1970 Santo Stefano, which was not at this original tasting, but was tasted only days later with the same preparation as all of our other bottles. In this flight, I witnessed the feminine elegance of Santo Stefano first-hand. The ‘98 was a gorgeous wine and, in the end, the wine of the night for me. To be able to taste the ‘70 only days later and revel in the similarities of the two of them was also a great opportunity.

We also had the controversial ‘11 Asili, which I found to be a good wine, but far from what I’d expect from a Giacosa Barbaresco. Lastly, the 2000 Asili, a wine that I believe needs more time to truly show its virtues. In the end, this was a tremendous flight.

1970 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano – What a treat. The nose on the ’70 Santo Stefano was much richer and darker than you’d expect, with smoky sweet herbs, dried strawberry, exotic spice, orange peel, and crushed flowers. On the palate, I found lifted, feminine textures with brisk acidity enlivening mineral-infused dried cherry with wonderful inner sweetness. It was shorter than I hoped, but how can you hold that against this 47 year-old wine–it is simply stunning. (94 points)

1998 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano Riserva – Wow… simply wow. The ’98 Santo Stefano is pure beauty, grace and elegance on this night. Lifted and feminine with a complex mixture of dusty spice, dried flowers, minerals and a dark and savory hint of undergrowth. On the palate, it was soft and caressing to the senses with a stunning mix of brisk acidity and saturating red berry fruit. Fine tannin lingered on the finish, but this wine is so enjoyable already, as the overall expression is fresh, lifted and spicy. (97 points)

2000 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva – The nose was dark and rich with earth tones offset by brown spice, as crushed strawberry and rosy floral tones mingled. On the palate, I found velvety textures lifted by balanced acidity with notes of dried black cherry, ripe strawberry and crunchy minerals, yet it lacked the depth of the best vintages. The finish showed a light coating of fine tannin with remnants of dark fruit lingering. (94 points)

2011 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva – The nose was intense, yet seeming more new world than old, showing sweet spices and a toasty quality to its cherry and raspberry fruit. On the palate, I found textures of weighty velvet ushering in floral-tinged red fruits and hints of dried orange with tannins that were almost completely enveloped by its fruit. The finish was long, with dark fruits lingering along with a coating of fine tannin. Others at the same tasting enjoyed this more than I did, and in some cases they have more experience with the wines. Personally, it’s hard for me to imagine the ‘11 maturing into a great Giacosa Red Label. (92 points)

The Roagna flight was most memorable for just how different yet equally enjoyable the ‘96 Paje was from the ‘96 Crichët Pajé (made from vines at the crest of the Pajé cru with extended time in barrel and late release). From the collector’s and wine lover’s standpoint, I couldn’t be happier about this, as the former costs a quarter of the price of Crichët Pajé. However, neither wine was better; instead they were simply completely different. Numerically, I scored them nearly the same, but in the end I had only a small preference for the Crichët Pajé, and mainly because it possessed more richness, while the straight Pajé was all about energy.

1996 Roagna Barbaresco Pajé – This was an outstanding showing for the ‘96 Pajé, especially served next to the Crichët Pajé of the same year. The nose showed sweet herbs, savory earth tones, smoke, brown spices and crushed strawberry. On the palate, I found zesty, grippy, energizing textures with vibrant acidity giving way to pure red fruits, minerals and hints of orange peel. It finished long, with dried berries and hints of tannin, yet energetic and spicy. (94 points)

1996 Roagna Barbaresco Crichët Pajé – Much more approachable than I would have expected, the ‘96 Crichët Pajé showed a bouquet of dried roses, sweet crushed berries, moist soil, exotic spices, and dark wood tones. On the palate, I found silky textures offset by zesty acidity with tart red fruits, exotic spice and mineral tones. It finished long with saturating red fruits and youthful tannin, but much less than I would have expected. It was gorgeous, but served next to the ‘96 Pajé, it shows the aging regiment over the vibrant fruit. (95 points)

Article, Tasting Notes, and Photos by: Eric Guido

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Was It Worth All The Hype? 2013 Barolo

For the last two weeks NYC has been honored to host the who’s who of Piedmont for Antonio Galloni’s La Festa del Barolo, and with many of these producers came my first taste of 2013 Barolo from bottle. Let me just say that the hype is officially warranted.

Over the last two years we’ve been hearing hints about the possibility that 2013 could be the next great vintage. Producers would wax poetic over their expectations, and as friends returned from the region having tasted from barrel, each one would go on and on about the vintage.

The first clues we had to the potential of 2013 came from Antonio Galloni of Vinous, who is constantly on the ground in Piedmont and tasting across a wide range of both young and mature wines. I still think back to his 2012 Barolo article “Grace Under Pressure”, where he tipped his hat in saying “The 2013 Barolos I have tasted from cask are aromatically compelling, rich and structured; in other words super-classic. At their best, the 2013s come across as slightly richer versions of the 2010s.” The comparison to 2010 and the thought of an added level of richness set my imagination on fire.

However, there was another thing to consider, and that’s the escalation of Barolo prices and how important it is to get in as early as possible, especially when you consider the mad dash that collectors made for the 2010’s. All of this has cumulated into one of the most highly anticipated vintages that I have ever witnessed.

And so, as the list of Barolo producers who would be in town for La Festa grew, my message to everyone I knew was to please, please, please let me taste some 2013 Barolo--and my wish was granted.

Chiara Boschis, Elisa Scavino, Fabio Alessandria, and Giuseppe Vajra all took the time to taste and talk with me about the vintage, and what I found was nothing short of spectacular. The 2013 vintage was defined by wet and humid conditions in the spring, yet balanced out into a long and warm growing season, followed by the perfect yin and yang of warm days and cool nights in the fall. The result was a perfect crop for any producer who tended their vineyards with care. Giuseppe Vajra, of G.D. Vajra, told me that he “...feels like the 2013 vintage is closest to the 2008s,” which happens to be one of his all time favorites.

For me, I find the structure of 2010, the aromatics of 2012 and the vibrancy of 2008, but we can talk in these terms for days. In the end, these are some of the most enjoyable young Barolos I’ve ever tasted. They posses stunningly layered aromatics, which continue to open in the glass over time, coupled with beautifully refined tannin, depths of fruit and enveloping textures. Frankly, it was difficult to pick favorites in nearly every tasting. I also couldn’t help but notice how enjoyable the Barolos made from a blend of vineyards were as well. The Paolo Scavino Barolo and Carobric, the Chiara Boschis Via Nuova, and the Vajra Albe were all amazing wines that will be thrilling us for decades to come.

I’m happy to say that 2013 Barolo will be arriving on our shores very soon, and I will certainly be a buyer. Let the hunt begin.

On to The Tasting Notes:



2013 G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole - The nose showed incredible depth with exotic floral tones, saline minerals, a bit of marine flora, plum, dusty spice and rosy florals. On the palate, I found mineral-laden cherry, cranberry, inner floral tones, exotic spice, and exquisitely fine tannin. The finish was long, long, long with masses of inner floral tones and dried berries. This wine has a long life ahead of it, and I can’t wait to see where it’s going. (97 points)

2013 Vietti Barolo Rocche di Castiglione - The nose was gorgeous and lifted with bright rosy floral tones, brilliantly pure red fruits, dusty earth, soaring minerality, wet stone, and exotic spices. On the palate, I found feminine textures with tart red cherry, herbs, inner florals and gorgeous, balancing acidity. It finish long and fresh on sweet herbs, minerals and fresh cherries. This is classic Rocche. (97 points)

2013 Paolo Scavino Barolo Bric dël Fiasc - The nose showed intense mineral-infused red berry, cherry, cranberry and hints of plum with a savory edge, then evolving into mint, licorice, undergrowth and hints of herbs. On the palate, silky yet massive textures gave way to a dark mix of both ripe black and tart red fruits, with notes of dark earth, minerals and a twang of bitter herbs. Tannins saturated the senses, yet they weren’t drying or tiring, as a coating a dark red fruits soothed the palate. This was a remarkably balanced Bric del Fiasc that is deceptive in its early appeal. (97 points)

2013 Comm. G.B. Burlotto Barolo Vigneto Cannubi - The nose showed masses of dark red fruits, crushed berries, wild herbs, pretty floral tones, and dusty spices, yet through the entire experience remained floral and finessed. On the palate, I found, dense, silky textures which coated the senses with notes of crushed berry and strawberry, before transitioning to inner florals and leather tones. It was much more lifted and refined than expected, with a long finish, displaying fresh red fruits and inner floral tones. (96 points)

2013 Vietti Barolo Ravera - The nose is incredibly deep, rooted in minerals, earth and spice, with dark floral tones, black cherry, plum, blackberry and mint. With time it opened even more to to reveal ethereal florals and herbs. On the palate, I found elegant, velvety textures, with sweet tannins and brisk mineral-laced acidity, giving way to dark fruits, minerals, plum, dried citrus, and hints of lavender. The finish was incredibly long with saturating dark fruits, yet youthfully tannic and closed in on itself. (96 points)

2013 Paolo Scavino Barolo Carobric - The nose on the ‘13 Carobric was stunning. Here I found a layered, lifted and classic mix of crushed cherry, rosey florals, minerals and undergrowth, which turned savory over time, adding hints of dark spices and tobacco. On the palate, I found a vibrant yet silky expression with depths of red cherry playing a sweet-and-sour act on the senses, along with savory herbs and zesty acidity. It finished fresh yet structured on cherries and spice. (96 points)

2013 Comm. G.B. Burlotto Barolo Monvigliero - This is unmistakably Monvigliero. The nose displayed black olive, savory herbs, exotic florals, crushed strawberry, and Indian spice. On the palate, I found soft textures with pure red berry fruit, inner florals and a balanced mix of fine-grained tannins and brisk acidity. It was lifted, pure and classically structured throughout. The finish was long of dried cherry, strawberry and floral tones. (96 points)

2013 Vietti Barolo Lazzarito - Here I found a dark and brooding bouquet of black and red fruits, moist earth, minerals, fresh mint, and hints of exotic spices. On the palate, I found silky, enveloping textures laced with fine tannin, giving way to saturating dark red fruits, hints of spice and bitter herbs. The finish went on and on--and on--with minerals, mint and a bitter twang of herbs. This an amazing vintage for Lazzarito. (96 points)

2013 E. Pira & Figli (Chiara Boschis) Barolo Cannubi - This is a chameleon of a wine, with a bouquet that showed medicinal herb, raspberry, at times almost dark syrupy, then turning to black cherry, balsamic tones, giving way to minerals, dusty exotic spices and earth. On the palate, I found silky textures (very textural and dark - almost imposing at times) and dark red fruits which coated the wine’s fine tannin and saturated the senses over time. It was imposing and intense on the long finish, as fine grain tannin coated the senses, yet it’s wonderfully balanced. This should have some future in store. (96 points)

2013 E. Pira & Figli (Chiara Boschis) Barolo Via Nuova - The nose was remarkably pretty with dark red fruits, roses, minerals, and exotic spices. It was brooding and at times reticent, until a note of minerals and crushed stone joined the fray. On the palate, I found lean, dense textures with dark red berry fruit laced with minerals and a web of fine tannin that saturated the senses. It was amazingly long on saturating dark red fruits and tannin. So classic. (95 points)

2013 Paolo Scavino Barolo Cannubi - The ‘13 Cannubi was a dark and imposing wine of massive depth. Here I found notes of black cherry, sweet herbs, dark chocolate, dusty spice, and crushed stone. On the palate, a massive wave of velvety textures flooded the senses, and red and black fruits gave way to fine tannin. It was quite monolithic yet not over the top, and it tempted me with what was yet to come. The finish displayed intense tart black and red fruits with lasting minerality, seeming to create a black hole on the palate. I can’t even imagine what this wine will reveal in the decades to come, but I’m sure it will be something very special. (95 points)

2013 Paolo Scavino Barolo Bricco Ambrogio - This showed a stunning array of aromatics, as eucalyptus and mint opened up to become tart cherry, roses, minerals and hints of undergrowth. On the palate, I found weighty textures of sheer silk, yet lively and balanced, as notes of plum and black cherry gave way to savory tones of salinity and herbs. It finished long on black cherry, spices and fine-grain tannin. (95 points)

2013 Luigi Baudana Barolo Baudana - The nose was dark and rich with brown spices, crushed blackberry, a dusty mix of minerals and spice with a hint of animal musk. On the palate, I found remarkably soft, velvety textures with zesty black fruits, ripe plum and a bitter hint of herbal spice. It was at once youthfully tannic, yet fresh with a dark and imposing persona, finishing long with dark red fruits, saturating spice and a coating of fine tannin. (95 points)

2013 Luigi Baudana Barolo Cerretta - The nose was spicy, with sweet florals and minerals, tart cherry, wild berry, and brown spices. Over time it became more polished and dark fruited, yet never losing it’s mineral thrust. On the palate, it was dark yet lifted and fresh with notes of wild herbs, blackberry and gruff tannin. Drying over time with youthful tannin, the finish was long and structured, only hinting at fruit. The cerretta will require many years in the cellar to show its best. (94 points)

2013 E. Pira & Figli (Chiara Boschis) Barolo Mosconi - The nose was polished yet earthy, showing dark red fruits with dusty spices, crushed stone minerality, dark earth and floral tones. On the palate, I found pure, silky textures offset by vibrant acidity with tart red fruits, fine tannin and with a zesty acidity that created a bright expression with inner rosy florals. It finished long with tart berries and clenching young tannin. (94 points)

2013 Vietti Barolo Brunate - The nose was dark and rich, showing mineral-laced floral tones, iron, hints of sweet dark spices, and balsamic tones. On the palate, I found savory, silky textures, with dark red berries, plum, and hints of balsamic. It finished incredibly long and brooding with penetrating notes of dark red berries and dried spices. (94 points)

2013 G.D. Vajra Barolo Ravera - What an incredible bouquet on the 2013 Ravera. Here I found sweet dark florals, and brown spices in an exotic and hauntingly beautiful mix, than minerals, earth and undergrowth come forward. On the palate, I found soft textures with ripe dark red fruits, minerals and slow mounting tannin. It finished refined with saturating, brooding tannin and caking minerality. (94 points)

2013 Paolo Scavino Barolo - This displayed a remarkably layered and engaging bouquet for an entry-level offering. Here I found woodsy earth tones with hints of mint, opening to mineral-infused cherry and tobacco. On the palate, I found lifted textures with a fine web of crystalline tannin that gently caressed the senses, as notes of tart cherry were smoothed out by zesty acidity. It finished long and structured on tart cherry and herbs. This was a fantastic showing. (94 points)

2013 Comm. G.B. Burlotto Barolo Acclivi - What an exotic and floral bouquet, showing wild herbs, strawberry and hints of rose. On the palate, I found soft textures offset by tart red berry, inner floral tones and dusty spices. It finished dry with a coating of fine tannin and masses of dry extract. (93 points)

2013 Vietti Barolo Castiglione - The nose opened with hints of cedar dust, dried cherries, and crushed fall leaves. On the palate, I found refined and silky textures, with pure red fruits, spice, intense minerals and savory depth. The finish was long with hauntingly dark floral tones and hints of bitter herbs. (93 points)

2013 G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe - The bouquet displayed intense bright cherry, mint, pine, hints of cedar, roses and spice. On the palate, I found silky textures with a cherry and plum mix, lifted by wonderfully balanced acidity and a hint of youthful tannin. The finish was long with a coating of tart cherry, blackberry, medicinal herbs and hints of spice. (93 points)

2013 Comm. G.B. Burlotto Barolo - The nose was gorgeous, showing crushed raspberry, hints of herbs, and dusty spice. On the palate, I found soft textures, lifted by pure red fruits, inner floral tones and light tannin. It was remarkably pure, leading in a long finish with hints of tannin and inner floral tones. (92 points)

2013 Paolo Scavino Barolo Monvigliero - The nose displayed sweet herbs, undergrowth and cherry liquor. On the palate, silky textures were offset by a bitter twang of tart red fruits and herbs, as the Monvigliero maintained its freshness through zesty acidity. The finish was long with saturating dark red fruits, spice and mint. I enjoyed this quite a bit, yet it lacks the textural heft that brings balance throughout the rest of the lineup. (92 points)

Article, Tasting Notes and Photos by: Eric Guido