Saturday, March 3, 2012

Marcarini Barolo: The Secret Is Out

A bottle I would have
loved to buy upon release.
There was a time when Barolo was cheap, at least by today’s standards. The escalation of Barolo prices was not just the result of inflation. The fact is that there was a time when the wonders of Barolo were only known to a small group of in-the-know wine lovers. Those lucky few built cellars full of some of today’s most collectible wines, and they did it with far less than what you need to stay in the game today.

Nov. 30th 2003 issue
of Wine Spectator
Much of this is due to the growth in popularity during the nineties and Wine Spectator declaring the 2000 vintage of Barolo, “Perfect.” The hype over the vintage in 2000 has now been shown to be unjustified, but the damage was done and the secret was out; Piedmont is producing some of the worlds most remarkable, ageworthy and collectible wines.

However, through all of this, there have been a small number of producers whose wines managed to fly under the radar, and with it, their prices remain very fair. Over time, the dividing line between quality and value has widened, but the conscientious wine lover can still find cellar-worthy, top notch Barolo at a good price. I just don’t know how much longer it can last.

Marcarini Barolo 1964 through 2007
This brings me to Marcarini and their Barolo Brunate. If you drink Barolo, the name Brunate should stand out to you, as it’s one of the most prestigious vineyards within the appellation. It is located at the southern boundary of La Morra with a small portion spilling into the commune of Barolo (the commune, not the wine itself). The Marcarini family is fortunate, as are we, that they have owned a portion of the Brunate vineyard for generations. When I entered the market six years ago, these wines were released at $35 a bottle and they were worth every penny. Now, at an average of $50, they are still a great buy, and a recent retrospective tasting of 12 vintages is all the evidence I need to show why.

Over time, little has changed at Marcarini. It’s a winery that is now run by its fifth generation. The winery itself is modern, but the winemaking is still very much traditional, with four-week long macerations on the skins and aging in medium-sized oak barrels of 20/40 hl. In the vineyards, the yields are low, and composting is organic with a strict selection of the grapes at harvest. Other than a replanting of the vines between 1980 and 1986, and the introduction of temperature-controlled fermentation, these wines are very much the same as what you’d receive in a bottle from 1964. Think of this as you read the notes below; I can’t think of a more ageable, traditional Barolo that I could recommend to you at a better price.

On to the notes:

1964 Marcarini Barolo
1964 Marcarini Barolo Brunate – The nose showed sweet dark cherries in soil with crushed fall leaves and dank, moist undergrowth. On the palate, it was lively and clean with dry red fruits, minerals and citrus rind. The finish clung to the palate and left me in awe as I considered the age of this bottle and how well it performed. (94 points)

1967 Marcarini Barolo Brunate – On the nose, I found a bright expression of dried red berry with copper penny and a note raw beef. On the palate, it was lively with inner floral notes and light red fruit until a mineral metallic note took over, which wrapped the palate through the close. (86 points)

1969 Marcarini Barolo Brunate – The nose showed animal musk with strawberry, undergrowth and minerals. On the palate, it showed subdued, lean red fruit, a slight metallic note and old cedar. The finish was drying with sour red fruits. (89 points)

1970 Marcarini Barolo Brunate – The nose showed vibrant cherry, smoke, potpourri, fall leaves and old cedar. On the palate, it was finessed and balanced with zesty acidity, showing red fruits, pencil wood and hints of rust. The finish was medium-long, pleasant and clean with focused dried fruit. (90 points)

1974 Marcarini Barolo Brunate – The nose showed animal musk with earth and crushed cherries in a buttery tartlet shell. On the palate, it was airy and lifted with good acidity, showing red berries and earthy minerals. The finish was staying and wrapped the palate in dried red fruit. (91 points)

1982 Marcarini Barolo Brunate – The nose showed rustic red fruits, musk, crushed fall leaves and a hint of spice. On the palate, it was elegant and still lively with deep, fresh red fruits. This finish was medium-long with silky balance. (93 points)

1985 Marcarini Barolo Riserva Brunate – The nose was vibrant and appealing, showing dried flowers and sweet dusty strawberry. On the palate, I found dark red fruits, with cedar, sweet spice and lively acidity. The finish was clean and fresh with hints of lingering tannin. (92 points)

1989 Marcarini Barolo Brunate – The nose was classic with cherry, airy floral rose, menthol and tar. On the palate, it was smooth as silk with fine tannic structure pulsing through its core, yielding intense, yet focused red fruit and hints of spice. The finish brought more of the same and coated the palate is silky tannin. It’s amazing how young the bottle seemed and even more amazing to think what it may be in another 5–10 years. (94 points)

1990 Marcarini Barolo Brunate – The nose showed rich red fruits, dark wood, crushed fall leaves and a hint of varnish. On the palate, it was clean and focused but ripe with red fruits and lacked the depth of greater vintages. The soft finish melted away from the palate leaving a hint of drying tannin. (89 points)

1995 Marcarini Barolo Brunate - The nose showed dark red fruits and moist earth with sweet spice and cedar wood. On the palate, I found a full-bodied expression of ripe, sweet cherry, cedar and herbs against a balanced structure of tannin, leading to a pleasant finish that turned the sweet cherries to sour berries. (92 points)

1996 Marcarini Barolo Brunate – The nose was massive and brooding with dark red fruit, herbs, rose and tobacco, which closed up quickly in the glass and refused to coax back out to the front. On the palate, smooth dark red fruits caressed the senses but were quickly ushered off as its structure took over the palate. The finish showed mouth-coating tannin with an airy, herbal lift. With time, this may be absolutely gorgeous but on this night, it was a bruiser. (93 points)

2007 Marcarini Barolo Brunate – The nose was sweet and pungent with confectionary fruits, tartlet shell, dark chocolate and plum. On the palate, it was juicy with ripe fruits, spice and mint with a smooth sheen; yet a twinge of burning heat marred the palate into the finish, where tannins took center stage. (89 points)

Find Marcarini Barolo Brunate on Wine-Searcher!

If you made it this far, I’d like to take a moment to make one more recommendation. I seriously urge you to consider some of the other wines from Marcarini as well. Marcarini is well known for the Brunate bottling, yet the Barolo La Serra is another excellent Barolo for the money. La Serra is another single vineyard bottling from the commune of La Morra. While known to be more accessible earlier than the Brunate, it’s still an excellent bottle of Barolo that can provide mid-term cellaring and a great deal of value. Lastly, it’s worth checking out the Dolcetto d’Alba “Boschi di Berri.” In Piedmont, Nebbiolo is king with Dolcetto and Barbera receiving real estate in lesser-known locations. This is not so with the Boschi di Berri, a dolcetto that is made from vines that are literally over 100 years old and planted on native root stocks. It is a wine worth seeking out and should be on the short list of anyone who is looking to explore the wines of Piedmont.


  1. Thank you for great notes! I have the 97 and 00, have you tasted those?


  2. Unfortunately I haven't tasted either of them. However, I'm on the lookout now. I actually feel foolish for not starting to put these away sooner.

  3. I will be opening both soon and post a note. Very god wines from this estate

  4. Thanks for these interesting notes! I had the 64 Brunate a few years back and can only agree - a stunning bottle of wine.


  5. Thanks for the post Eric. I had the 07 La Sferra this year and it was fabulous.

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  7. Has anyone tried the 1968 Barolo Brunate?


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