Wednesday, February 19, 2014

2009 Barolo: Is Good Not Good Enough?

Cannubi reigns supreme with a number of excellent wines!
As we are all bombarded with news of how amazingly great 2010 Barolo is, and as importers and retailers speculate on just how much money they can squeeze out of us on presales of wines--which in some cases haven’t even been blended and bottled—I’m looking at the current release of 2009 Barolo. And why not? Oh wait; wasn’t this vintage canned as overly ripe with harsh tannins? Why, yes it was. However, that’s a broad generalization. The fact is, while many of us are spending ridicules amounts of money on wines we can’t even taste yet, there are wines turning up on the shelves now that may not be for the ages, but will drink well right out of the gate. What’s more, with all the speculation over 2010, don’t be surprised if you see these 2009’s heavily discounted. I’m not saying this is a great vintage, or even a good one, but there are some standout bottles that Barolo lovers will enjoy.

Cascina Gavarini at Monforte
2009 was an idiosyncratic vintage. Many people are simply calling it ripe and comparing it to 2007. However, the fact is that 2009 wasn’t your typical ripe vintage. Heavy snows built of up water reserves through the winter, (usually a good thing), but it didn’t stop there as a cool damp spring resulted in irregular flowering with more rain. In late July a steady heat set in, which didn’t relent. The ground water helped here, but combined with an excess of constant sun, the vines suffered without expert canopy management. Late August saw better temperatures and ripening into September, but further rain on the horizon prompted many growers to pick early. In the end, these wines were made in the vineyards, and those who failed there failed across the board.

You may wonder, why should we even consider buying them? I will admit that I have a tendency to associate classically-styled wines with quality. Yet, as the years go by and my cellar full of young Barolo (too young to drink) increases, I welcome a vintage that I can enjoy in the near term. In many cases, that’s what 2009 is, and in my opinion (because I heard many people say the same about 2003, and I disagree), it is one of the first young vintages that I’ve tasted where I actually enjoy drinking the wines.

So as we worry about how good 2001, 2004, 2006 and 2008 will one day turn out, and as we worry how we’re going to afford 2010, I suggest grabbing a bottle of Paolo Scavino Cannubi, Pecchenino Le Coste, Burlotto Monvigliero or any of my top scoring ‘09s, and give them a taste for yourself. I think you’ll be sipping and smiling, thinking about all those wines you might enjoy after twenty years in your cellar, and how much you’re currently enjoying the glass in your hand right now.

On to the wines:

2009 Paolo Scavino Barolo Cannubi – The nose really jumped from the glass in the 2009 Scavino Cannubi, showing dark raspberry, hints of spicy oak, chalky and sandy minerals with a slight sour floral note. On the palate, it was intense with dark red berry, mineral-infused stone and a formidable structure, which perfectly balanced the wine’s intensity. Saturating red fruit, which stayed long on the palate, personified the finish as this wine’s intensity slowly melted away. This dark beauty is a truly serious wine. (94 points)

Producer website: Paolo Scavino
Avg. price $115
Find it on: Wine-Seacher!

2009 G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole – The nose was feminine and elegant, especially for this ripe vintage, showing mixed ripe berries, rosy floral tones and lifting hints of menthol. On the palate, it was focused and refined with bright red fruits, which showed excellent depth before being pushed back by the wine’s youthful structure. The finish was long and elegant, yet drying as expected. This is a beautifully balanced, finessed wine which should drink well relatively early. (93+ points)

Producer website: G.D. Vajra
Avg. price $80
Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

2009 Pecchenino Barolo Le Coste – The nose was dark and powerful with ripe red fruits, sweet florals, spice and a mentholated freshness. On the palate, a grounding note of bitter, medicinal herb and spice, which provided a beautiful contrast of textures, met ripe raspberry and cherry. The finish was long with earthy dark fruits, which seemed to saturate the senses. The 2009 Pecchenino showed wonderful balance in its dark and brooding nature, a true standout in the vintage. (93 points)

Producer website: Pecchenino
Avg. price $65
Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

2009 G.B. Burlotto Barolo Monvigliero - The color was a beautiful translucent ruby. On the nose, I found heady aromas of ripe red berries and roses with crushed Kalamata olive, rosemary, and savory roasted meats. On the palate, it was tightly wound and feminine, showing densely packed dusty cherry fruit, herbal tones and minerals before it's fine tannins coated the senses. The finish was long, yet dry with red berry-concentrate saturating the senses. With time, this will gain weight and volume on the palate, making it a truly complete experience. For now, it needs time to fill out. (93 points)

Producer website: G.B. Burlotto
Avg. price $58
Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

2009 Brezza Barolo Cannubi – The nose showed intense tart cherry and herbs with a bright and vibrant floral rose and hints of grapefruit. On the palate, it was feminine, yet concentrated and pure with tart cherry and inner floral tones. The finish was long, showing dried strawberry and hints of residual tannin. (92 points)

Producer website: Brezza
Avg. price $50
Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

2009 Luigi Baudana Barolo Baudana - This showed a classic Barolo profile on the nose with dried cherry, crushed fall leaves, hints of iron, minerals and exotic spice. On the palate, I found juicy, ripe strawberry, yet it firmed up quickly, turning leaner with tannic heft. This wine was feminine and pure throughout with red fruit, inner floral notes and minerals on the finish. (92 points)

Producer website: Luigi Baudana
Avg. price $75
Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

2009 Virna Barolo Cannubi Boschis – The nose was floral and vibrant, showing a mix of cherry, strawberry, floral rose and minerals. On the palate, it was silky upon entry with ripe strawberry, inner florals and herbs, yet it quickly tensed up to reveal slightly gruff tannins. The finish was unrelenting with beautiful inner floral notes and a hint of citrus. (92 points)

Producer website: Virna
Avg. price $59.99
Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

2009 Cascina Bruciata Barolo Cannubi Muscatel – The nose was, at first, restrained, yet it opened beautifully in the glass to reveal strawberry, with a savory, almost meaty note, followed by floral perfumes and a hint of sweet citrus. On the palate, this showed an abundance of energy with dark cherry and a hint of citrus peel. The finish was tart yet long on fruit with hints of tannin tugging at the palate. (92 points)

Producer website: Cascina Bruciata
Avg. price $60
Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

2009 Elvio Cogno Barolo Ravera – Intense red berry, rosy floral perfume and dusty, dry spices filled the senses with one whiff from this feminine and floral Barolo. On the palate, I found tart, young berry fruit in a bright, feminine and floral expression of Nebbiolo fruit. A formidable tannic structure embodied the finish with tart berry extract clinging to the palate. This is a great value and excellent wine for the vintage though it is in need of time in the cellar to fully show its qualities. (91 points)

Producer website: Elvio Cogno
Avg. price $63
Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

2009 Damilano Barolo Cannubi – The nose was ripe and dark, showing intense depth with mixed berries, hints of spice and cranberry, dark soil and undergrowth. On the palate, soft textures quickly turned to intense concentration, which really saturated the senses with medicinal cherry, inner floral tones and earth. The finish was beautiful, as the usually Nebbiolo tannins laid back to display inner floral notes and red fruit. Very nicely done, yet drinking early for a Barolo. (91 points)

Producer website: Damiliano
Avg. price $78
Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

2009 Oddero Barolo Rocche di Castiglione – What was most striking about the Oddero Rocche was the color; a bright red and orange hue that’s almost transparent. However, one sniff, and this perfumed wine showed its power, as rich and dark ripe red fruits, spice, and hints of animal musk filled the senses. On the palate, it was structured yet focused, showing spiced cherry, cedar and earth. The finish was cut short by this wine’s tannic heft, yet a pleasantly earthy hint of fall leaves and wild berry lingered on. (91 points)

Producer website: Oddero
Avg. price $95
Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

2009 Fratelli Alessandria Barolo Monvigliero – The nose was fresh and lifting with pretty, sweet floral notes, cherry and stony minerals. On the palate, it was ripe with silky textured, dark red fruits and herbs. Inner floral tones lasted into the finish, along with saturating red fruit, which clung to the senses. (91 points)

Producer website: Fratelli Alessandria
Avg. price $61
Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

2009 La Spinetta Barolo Vigneto Campe Vursu – The nose was dark yet restrained at first, yet with time in the glass it began to open up, showing ripe black cherry, dried, dusty floral tones and hints of spice. On the palate, ripe red fruits quickly turned tart and structured, yet there was a focus and elegance to the fruit. Tart red berry lingered on the youthful finish with hints of undergrowth. (91 points)

Producer website: La Spinetta
Avg. price $60
Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

2009 Pio Cesare Barolo Ornato – The nose was dark with powerful ripe red fruits, spicy wood tones, potpourri and black licorice. Yet, on the palate, it was soft with silky textures, showing notes of cherry and dried spices in a very balanced and pure effort. The finish was long with spicy, dark red fruits and hints of tannin. Honestly, this wine was a pleasure on the palate, and it’s simply a shame to find so much oak influence in the nose. Maybe time will resolve that issue, yet with the 2009, I’m not sure the fruit will outlast the tannins. Yet, for someone who enjoys a modern style, this may be right up your alley. (89 points)

Producer website: Pio Cesare
Avg. price $100
Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

2009 Ceretto Barolo Bricco Rocche – The nose showed ripe berry, hints of sweet spice and rosy floral tones. On the palate, it was soft and velvety with raspberry, dark spices and a hint of cedar. The finish was long and juicy, yet I continued to wonder throughout this experience: where are the tannins? An excellent wine for instant gratification. (89 points)

Producer website: Cerretto
Avg. price $190
Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

2009 G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe - The nose was floral and ripe, showing spiced cherry, sweet florals, graphite, and lifting notes of peppermint. On the palate, it was juicy with weightless, silky textures and a dark red fruit persona. Sweet spices and inner florals lasted through the finish as tannins began to saturate, and dry out the senses. An excellent wine for it's price point and a great way to enjoy Barolo as your more expensive and austere bottles mature. (89 points)

Producer website: G.D. Vajra
Avg. price $37
Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

2009 Chiara Boschis Barolo Cannubi – The nose was restrained, yet with coaxing, showed an elegant mix of dark cherry, rose, soil and minerals. On the palate, I found soft textures met by flavors of red berry and tealeaf; however, there seems to be a lack of concentration here. It finished much in the same manner as a pretty wine, yet falling slightly short. (88 points)

Producer website: Chiara Boschis
Avg. price $86
Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

2009 Damilano Barolo Lecinquevigne – The nose showed tart cherry with floral rose, dark soil and gravel. On the palate, ripe red fruits were met by inner floral notes in an almost sweet style. Tannins took control through the finish, drying out the palate. (87 points)

Producer website: Damilano
Avg. price $32
Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

2009 Michele Chiarlo Barolo Cannubi – The nose showed textbook Barolo notes of dried strawberry, floral rose and dusty spice, yet lacking any serious character. On the palate, it was intense with savory red fruit tones and a rough tannic structure that seemed to muddle its focus of fruit. Dark soil and red fruit remained on the finish with grainy tannin tugging at the cheeks. (86 points)

Producer website: Michele Chiarlo
Avg. price $93
Find it on: Wine-Searcher!


  1. Excellent accounting of this vintage. I have brought a few of the better producers as I find they usually make excellent wines in vintages like this.
    G. Rinald
    Bartolo Mascarello
    Vietti Castiglione
    G. Conterno Cascia Francia

  2. Very helpful insight into producers I am not very familiar with. Thanks!

  3. I am really appreciating very much by seeing your interesting posts.
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