Barolo: New and Recent Releases, Part 2
Barolo: New and Recent Releases, Part 3
Barolo is one of the world’s best wines, but at times you couldn’t be blamed for thinking that there were only thirty or so Barolo wine estates worthy of being talked about and their wines tasted, given those are the ones most people talk and/or write about. Not so: there are many very fine estates in Barolo today and running after the usual names only helps drive up prices of that happy few while virtually guaranteeing you miss out on many other very fine, age-worthy wines.
The simple truth of the matter is that the Barolo denomination boasts today the highest concentration of talented winemakers and wineries anywhere in Italy. Nowhere else in the country are your chances of picking a bad or flawed wine as low as they are in Barolo. There is a very large number of very good tom outstanding Barolo estates to buy wine from. If you limit yourself to only drinking the same old-same old, well, you are doing yourself a disservice. Clearly, there are some Barolo estates that are more prestigious than others; but compared to say Burgundy, only a few Barolo wineries make wines that fetch extremely high prices and that are currently really sought after by collectors world-wide. Those are the wines the presence and vintages of which you invariably read about in long-winded dinners and tasting reports (same with Montalcino’s wines: at times, you really couldn’t be blamed for thinking Soldera is the only winery making Brunello).
Another issue with the Barolo narrative is the evaluation of vintages, which has often been tilted in the favour of hot immediately appealing vintages but the wines of which age poorly and are often marred by gritty tannins. Such was the case with most of the wines from hot years such as 1997 and 2007, fleshy mouthcoating behemoths that though impressive at a cursory tastings when young were however hopelessly overripe and marred by gritty tannins that were never likely to resolve fully. By contrast, the graceful, perfumed wines of vintages such as 2005 were treated less respectfully, and this only because people who hadn’t tasted them or even worse, despite having tasted them, still evaluated them poorly just because it had rained a little that year during the 2005 harvest. To give you an idea of the sorry state of wine evaluations, when I guided a tasting of Barolo 2005 wines in London for Decanter something like ten years ago, I was initially criticized for having selected a poor vintage: well, the wines in the tasting were of course just fine when not downright dandy, and it was a smashing success. Clearly, nobody speaks of 2005 as a poor vintage anymore.
In the following long report on Barolo wines (so long in fact that it is divided in three parts), I cover as many wines from as many different worthwhile estates as possible. Clearly, I will get some evaluations wrong (who doesn’t?) and over the years will reassess and re-evaluate some wines about which I might have been too complementary or harsh, but for the most part you can be comfortable in the knowledge that the following tasting notes and scores reflect over thirty years of tasting Barolo’s wines repeatedly and that I do not favour one style over another. In this report, you will not find that only big fat wines get scored highly while lighter-styled, more graceful ones get panned, and viceversa. You will also find the wines of many different wine estates written up. Having lived in Italy for a total of thirty years at different moments during my lifetime, I know the Barolo area very well. In fact, at many wineries I began tasting the Barolos in the company of the parents of those making the wines today. What this means is that I have a very good idea of just how Barolo and its wines have changed over the years; even more important, I have an exact recollection of what the wines used to be like compared to those being made today at the majority of wineries I write about. This huge body of experience built up over thirty+ years has led me to write my most recent book, Barolo Terroir: Grapes, Crus, People, Places (available at amazon.com) with the help of good friend and wine writing colleague Michele Longo. At over 500 pages entirely devoted only to Barolo and its wines, it is like nothing ever written before on the subject, and I cannot help but recommend it to all those who love Barolo or to anyone who just wishes to know more about this beautiful wine, its grapes, its people and its places. I hope that it will help turn some of you into even bigger Barolo lovers than you already are, while giving other readers a new-found appreciation for the wine, truly one of the world’s greatest.
(Parts 2 and 3 of the Barolo: New and Recent Releases report will also be published in December 2022)
The 2019 vintage in Barolo will undoubtedly be remembered as an excellent one, if for no other reason that there was as much as a 20-25% reduction of yields with respect to 2018 as a consequence of the abundant rainfall during flowering that fatally reduced fruit set. A natural reduction in crop load that made for more concentrated wines even at those estates that aren’t normally so inclined to expend elbow grease on reducing yields. Overall, the 2019 wines will go down in history as typical of the more classic, less extreme years, wines characterized by profiles of very pure fruit, noteworthy acidity levels, and fine-grained textures, not to mention outstanding aging potential. Winter in 2018 and 2019 lasted well into 2019, with cold weather continuing into February, with not just low temperatures but rain also characterizing the season into mid-March. More rain in April had both positive and negative effects: on the positive, a buildup of soil water reserves for the dog days of summer that nowadays are to be expected more or less every year; and on the negative, flowering issues that brought about the aforementioned fall in crop load. However, such wet conditions and temperature spikes during June meant that disease pressure was high in 2019 and careful vineyard management was an absolute necessity to make successful wines. The warmest part of the growing season fell between the last week in June and the first of July, but milder days ensued, though rain was once again present off and on. Then, apart a second heat spell at the end of July, the rest of the summer was characterized by relatively mild temperatures and regular, low, amounts of rainfall that helped bring further liquid refreshment. Grapes were picked during a generally uneventful harvest season (a big hailstorm that hit areas around Alba in September missed most of the denomination). Beware that the hot days in 2019 really were hot: and so it is that you will/might hear and read that 2019 is one of three hottest Barolo vintages of all time, but the end-result was not that of a truly hot year. For in 2019, as just described above, it really wasn’t that hot during the entire growing season, and the vintage’s wines are absolutely nothing like those of 1997, 2003 and 2007.
The 2018 vintage in Barolo has received very negative reviews in some quarters but, and there’s no kind way to put this, they are generally wrong. For sure the wines are not as good as those of 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2019, but they are generally much better than those of 2014, and for my taste of those of the overrated and usually far too gritty 2011s and 2017s. In general, and by contrast to 2019, the 2018 vintage in Barolo will be remembered as a very generous one and the technical staff members at those estates that did not intervene drastically in order to reduce yields were unpleasantly surprised when the finished wines went into bottle (and in fact I had found during winery visits that many of the 2018 Barolos tasted dilute from cask already at that stage of development). Overall, the 2018 growing season showcased all that can be good and bad from a farming perspective. If you are among those who uphold that areas to the north see generally cooler temperatures and rainier weather come springtime, then the month of May 2018 in the Barolo area would certainly have proven your point. And then some. In fact, there were twenty-four days of rain out of the month’s thirty-one, and attacks of downy mildew were inevitable. In fact, rain was the hallmark of the early part of the 2018 growing season, with plenty of it lasting right into March (not a bad thing give how hot and dry 2017 had been, so soil water reserves were lacking) but picking up again in full force in May right into early June. But Mother Nature is always full of surprises, and once the vignaioli had overcome this period of constant obstacles, they were able to intervene meticulously and progressively in the vineyards thanks to a summer that passed under ideal conditions leading to a mid-October harvest in mostly ideal conditions. The end-result (ie. the wines) was totally unexpected in light of what had transpired earlier in the year during the first phase of the growth cycle, with wines that were generally much better than anticipated. Giuseppe Vaira of the G.D. Vajra estate summed it up best when he told me: “I really believe that the majority of today’s wine producers are too young to know exactly how to deal with weather patterns that are no longer much common. I for sure, like all my friends of a similar age, had never witnessed so much rain in May like we did in 2018. But my father had, and he told us how to best tackle the issue. We chose to prune long so as to overcome the large death of buds brought on by 2017’s just as adverse weather conditions, if for a different reason. But in so doing we were able to ensure better vigour distribution of the vine’s water intake. And from a winemaking perspective, we passed on performing infusive extraction methods that are all the rage nowadays but that are best suited to warm/hot years, while in years characterized by water-logged months such as May 2018 it’s much better to work with the sabre, rather than the fleuret”. Overall, the better 2018 wines are fruit-forward, full of charm and easygoing: they are neither especially complex nor ageworthy, but will make for excellent early drinking while your 2013s and 2016s mature in the cellar (not to mention outstanding restaurant choices, both as bottles and wine by the glass, given that most restaurants nowadays do not have much in the way of ready to drink older vintages). Poor wines do lack fruit and have savoury, saltpetery and mushroomy notes that are neither captivating nor inviting, but I stress that it is not a year of only or mostly weak and/or emaciated Barolos: that appears to be the case only for those who unfailingly prefer rich, thick mouthcoating wines (despite of course going on about how much they like refined wines, which always sounds just so nice). Another good thing about 2018 is that, much like with the wines of 2019 and 2016, the 2018’s exhibit generally good site identification, as is always the case with generally cooler climate years (by contrast, the vastly overrated wines of 1997 and 2007 show clearly prove how difficult it is to highlight somewhereness in hot years).
Speaking of hot, it is impossible to describe the 2017 Barolo vintage in any other way. Unlike 2018, the 2017 deserves to be viewed as a poor vintage, with many wines being gritty, tough and overripe. Of course, as these things tend to go, many of Barolo’s vignaioli will tell you that 2017 ended up better than it could have been thanks to the lessons learned in 2003, the first really hot vintage of the climate change era. Among the things learned was not to get carried away deleafing, because in similar years the UV light becomes a major problem for the grapes. For the most part that is true, but escaping unscathed from the heat in 2017 was indeed a tall chore. In fact, and this is important, though 2017 will always be remembered as a hot year (days of 38-40 degrees Celsius were not rare), it was not an especially droughty year thanks to at least some rainfall (for example, on September 3 and 4). Furthermore, diurnal temperature variations were marked, so that the end result was such that while the 2017 Barolos will be remembered for their showcasing the effects of a hot year (as mentioned, the worst of it being gritty tannins due to physiologic blockade of tannin metabolism), 2017’s wines will not go down in history as the absolute disasters they could have been, but are instead turning out better than feared and certainly much better than those of 2003 (and of 1997, I may add). Overall, while many 2017 Barolos are less than they might have been and it is certainly not a year in which I bought much, you can’t miss out on admiring the forest just because you like to focus on single trees. There were some very successful 2017 wines, though honesty dictates that I spell clearly such success stories were very much the minority.
We then come to two of the best Barolo vintages in recent memory, 2015 and 2016. The two were very different: 2015 was a great and quite warm vintage, unlike the potentially even better (certainly more classic) 2016 vintage. And so it was that 2015 required a great deal more vineyard work to make wines as good as those of 2016. In mid-October 2015, grapes tasted throughout many vineyards were extremely sweet (courtesy of very hot days in July and August), but as Barolo producers are in the business of making wine and not that of selling table grapes, having such sweet grapes may actually not be as great as it sounds. For this reason, those quality producers who had not employed enough judicious deleafing and topping measures during the growing season had no option but to resort to not using the grapes of the bricchi (the highest and best-exposed parts of the crus, where grapes usually ripen best), which is practically unheard of. Those producers who in 2015 couldn’t stand the thought of not cashing in on their ripest grapes and used them anyways ran two risks: either making high alcohol, round wines with little nuance, grace and expression of site, or wines that might be lusciously fruity on the nose and palate entry but then reveal tough, green, gritty tannins at the back (especially true of those grapes that had begun to dehydrate directly on the vine before full phenolic maturity had been reached). Even in 2016, a year that was slightly cooler than 2015 in its seasonal profile but still a relatively warm year, you will find many producers made wines with 15.5% alcohol. As an aside, let me just point out that’s the sort of stuff that tells you a lot about a specific site’s terroir relative to the role played by the estates that farm them.
The wines in this tasting report were tasted throughout 2022 in Shanghai as well as in Italy by my long-time writing associate, Michele Longo, a part-time contributor to the TerroirSense Wine Review. Because of flight restrictions and quarantine requirements, I was unable to visit Italy in 2022 and so I asked Michele to give me a hand in tasting and scoring some Barolos. His tasting notes and scores carry the (ML) specification at the end of the tasting note.
Overall, my scores for the 2018 Barolos are not as high as those of 2015 and 2016, and it would be very strange if it were otherwise. The year is simply not at the level of those other two, though the 2018 Barolos are not as thin or as sorry as some others have stated. The better 2018 Barolos will be ready to drink sooner and will make for very good restaurant choices when older vintages are not available (or are unaffordable) on wine lists and while your own bottles of better Barolo vintages mature in the cellar. Poorer 2018 Barolos are invariably marked by a strong savory, gummy, saltpetery note and thin bodies.
Alberto Burzi 2018 Barolo 93
Bright red. Aromas of bitter red cherry, red plum, licorice, violet and minerals. Juicy, sappy and fruity, with red berry, mineral, licorice, and fresh mint flavours lifted by harmonious acidity. Vibrant and light on its feet and very elegant, finely tannic finish. This is a gem and a major success for the vintage, not to mention a great buy. Drinking window: 2025-2034.
Alberto Burzi 2017 Barolo Capalot Vecchie Vigne 94
Deep ruby-red. Intyense aromas and flavours of red and black cherry, mint, truffle, wet stones and forest floor, complicated by mocha. Very creamy yet fresh, with suave tannins and a long multi-layared finish. Outstanding wine that is not at all pruney or stewed as are many other 2017 Barolos. Drinking window: 2025-2036.
Aldo Conterno 2018 Barolo Bussia Colonnello 94
Bright red. Aromas of apricot, red cherry, herbs and violet. Then showcases good inner-mouth perfume in the mouth, with full-bodied but light on their feet flavours of red cherry, sweet spices and herbs. The aftertaste is long and concentrated, with a noteworthy tannic backbone that is youthfully chewy yet polished. Given the characteristics of the 2018 vintage, it cannot surprise that the Colonnello can provide immediate enjoyment but has more than enough stuffing to age well for another ten years at least. Drinking window: 2025-2034.
Aldo Conterno 2018 Barolo Bussia Cicala 93+
Deep red. Aromas and flavours offer hints of dark red cherry, leather, underbrush and balsamic oils. Displays a personality that is at once sweet and polished yet brooding, with very polished tannins. The long finish features a ferrous and savoury note. Drinking window: 2025-2034.
Aldo Conterno 2018 Barolo Bussia Romirasco 94
Good full vibrant red. Classically structured and authoritatively flavoured wine boasting layers of fruit and a moderately tannic spicy finish that is very Romirasco (always the spiciest of the three Aldo Conterno Barolo crus). For added complexity, the red fruit flavours vie with mineral nuances for attention on the long close. This complex wine can be drunk now or over the next fifteen years. Drinking window: 2025-2034.
Aldo Conterno 2017 Barolo Bussia 92
Deep red. Aromas and flavours of red berries, orchard fruit and minty herbs. Closes long and with bright acidity. With its flesh, power and somewhat burly tannins, this wine is very typical of the 2017 growing season. That much recognized, I’d say give this a try after 2024. Drinking window: 2024-2032.
Aldo Conterno 2017 Barolo Bussia Colonnello 93
Moderately saturated red. The nose is redolent of red fruit, dark plum and dried violet. Then similar flavours to the aromas, nicely complemented by hints of eucalyptus, cedar and camphor. Excellent focus and structure on the long, energetic and nuanced finish. Drinking window: 2025-2032
Aldo Conterno 2017 Barolo Bussia Cicala 93+
Good dark red. Dusty red cherry and licorice on the nose, with some fresher notes of mint and dried herbs adding interest. Then surprisingly sweet and pliant in the mouth, with menthol and oaky flavours currently overshadowing the superripe primary fruit. Closes with serious palate-saturating but ripe tannins. Drinking window: 2026-2035.
Aldo Conterno 2017 Barolo Bussia Romirasco 93+
Vivid red. Mineral-tinged aromas of red cherry, spearmint, cinnamon and tobacco. Then seamlessly woven flavours of black and red cherry, vanilla, cinnamon, cedar and forest floor, all complicated by a dusting of minerals. Dense and spicy wine that is amazingly food friendly thanks to lively but harmonious acidity. There’s a delicacy here that is unusual for Romirasco (which usually has the power of Cicala but much more elegance than that wine) and for the vintage, but remember to decant this four hours ahead for maximum enjoyment, otherwise the tannins will seem too grippy at first. Drinking window: 2024-2035.
Aldo Conterno 2016 Barolo Bussia Colonnello 96
Luminous medium red. Striking, nuanced aromas of strawberry, red cherry, coffee, cedar and minerals, with notes of menthol adding interest. Tangy and focused, with very deep red and dark berry and cherry flavours complicated by licorice and tobacco and nicely framed by fairly massive tannins and oak. I’d give this a few years to unfold fully for the full panoply of its aromas and flavours to develop, and then enjoy for another thirty years after that. A monumental Barolo, this is one of the best Colonnellos in years, a vineyard that gives more graceful wines than the rest in Conterno’s lineup but not so in 2016. Given the usual “lightness” of the Barolo from Colonnello compared to Cicala and Romirasco, I find young Colonnello wines are often underrated by most everyone, but this will not be the case of this gorgeous 2016. In classic years such as 1982, 2005, and 2016 the nobility of the Colonnello site shows through in spades. Drinking window: 2028-2046.
Aldo Conterno 2016 Barolo Bussia Cicala 95+
Vivid red. High-pitched, deep yet already expressive aromas of raspberry, gingerbread, sage, spearmint, tar and rose. Silky, open-knit red fruit flavors show very good depth and brooding minerality complicated by a nuance of rare meat. The floral note repeats strongly on the finish, which leaves traces of candied rose and sandalwood behind. As good as the Barolo Cicala is almost every year, I always find its more massive framework and brooding fruit to make for an undoubtedly mouthcoating and immediately impressive Barolo, but at the same time aa less charming, less nuanced one than the Barolo from either Colonnello or Romirasco. Drinking window: 2028-2046.
Aldo Conterno 2016 Barolo Bussia Romirasco 96+
Bright medium-dark red. Mint, rosemary and cedar nuances complicate aromas of ripe red and black cherry. Boasts very deep, rich, spicy red fruit flavours, plus nuances of eucalyptus, minerals and sandalwood on the long finish. The aftertaste is long and very pure. Aged three months longer in large Slavonian casks than the Barolos from the Cicala and Colonnello portions of the estate’s holdings, cellar it for another eight to ten years and enjoy for another fifteen-twenty after that. This second bootle was even better than one I tasted about one month ago. Drinking window: 2030-2045.
Aldo Conterno 2012 Barolo Bussia Riserva Granbussia 98
Deep red-ruby. Complex, brooding and intensely floral nose of raspberry and cherry preserves, lavender, sandalwood and star anise, accented by a subtle mineral undertone. Pliant and sappy on entry, offering precise red fruit flavors that gain weight and intensity with air, but turns decidedly more massive and structured in the middle and on the finish. Layered, complex, unctuously textured flavours of red berries, forest floor, sweet spices and minerals suggest old vines. It’s superlative, mouth-watering rich wines such as this one that make you want to immediately throw another rib-eye on the grill. A beautiful Granbussia, in fact one of the best in years, this avoids all the overripe, at times even pruney aromas and flavours of many 2012 Barolos, and hints at yer more development to come. And this specific bottle was even better than another I scored 97 in a recent Granbussia vertical I also wrote about in the TerroirSense Wine Review. Drinking window: 2028-2046.
Andrea Oberto 2016 Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata 95
Bright red. Perfumed, lifted aromas of dark red cherry, potpourri, and balsamic oils. Then more black cherry, mint, licorice, violet and dried herbs in the mouth. Expands nicely on the long back end, with a polished tannic backbone offering this extremely pretty mid-weight wine a serious side. At less than 4000 bottles/year, there’s unfortunately not much of this little gem made. Drinking window: 2026-2040.
Andrea Oberto 2015 Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata 95
Deep red. Complex aromas of red plums, dried flowers and minerals are followed up by similar flavours nicely framed by juicy acidity and youthfully chewy but noble tannins and a long, flavorful finish. This is really good and offers a readier-to drink impression compared to the 2016, but both are super-pretty wines. Well done here. Drinking window: 2025-2036.
Arnaldo Rivera 2019 Barolo Cannubi 95
Good full red. Very pretty, forward, ample nose offers vibrant floral notes of violet and red rose that complement nicely the underlying nuances of red and black cherry cherry, licorice, sandalwood and minerals. Boasts outstanding precision and lively cut to its bright, juicy and rather mineral flavours of blueberry, red cherry, herbs, candied violet, and black tea. Closes long, juicy and vibrant. I especially like this Barolo’s balance: while it’s not a blockbuster (and neither it should be, given it’s a Barolo from Cannubi), it still packs plenty of concentration and depth, while staying remarkably light on its feet from start to finish. I guess the best thing about this wine, besides it being delicious, is that this is a Barolo that really does convey a sense of the “real’ Cannubi and of the Barolo commune’s Barolos specifically. A spectacular first-time effort, one of the many fine wines you’ll find in the high end “Arnaldo Rivera” portfolio of the Terre del Barolo coop. It strikes me as these guys want to give the Produttori di Barbaresco some competition as far as world-class quality coop wines go! (Readers beware that this wine will only go on sale in the early part of 2023). Drinking window: 2028-2046.
Arnaldo Rivera 2018 Barolo Undicicomuni 91
Medium red colour. Simple but forward red fruits and licorice on the nose. Rich and suave but slightly chunky with round, savory red cherry and herbal flavours that while not the last word in concentration do offer food-friendly and early-drinking appeal. Aeration helps bring more red berry sweetness to the fore, with notes of dried flowers and leather. Easygoing and uncomplicated. Drinking window: 2024-2033.
Arnaldo Rivera 2018 Barolo Castello 93
Good full medium red. Very pretty floral nose also offers easygoing, in your face pomegranate, red currant and herbal aromas. Enters bright and light, but with very good sweetness to its solid core of savoury, herbal red fruit flavours. Only very lightly tannic and therefore not particularly powerful on the palate as is typical of the Barolos from this little-known and probably underrated Barolo vineyard district, but at the same time very fresh and smooth. Finishes long with nicely harmonious acidity that leaves an impression of considerable energy and lift. This would make an excellent and affordable wine-by the-glass number in restaurants and bistros. Drinking window: 2024-2035.
Arnaldo Rivera 2018 Barolo Monvigliero 94
Medium bright red. Red cherry, raspberry, violet and dried rose petal on the very perfumed nose. Then supple and sweet on the palate, with a lightly saline quality to its raspberry, anise and floral flavours. Nicely delineated, with well-integrated acidity and sweet tannins give this persistent wine plenty of early Monvigliero-typical appeal. Drinking window: 2025-2036.
Arnaldo Rivera 2018 Barolo Boiolo 92
Good dark red. Serious but inviting aromas of medicinal dark cherry, ripe dark plums, violet, forest floor, and iron. Then sweet and sappy, with an inviting creaminess of texture and nicely ripe flavours of minty dark and red fruit. This lively young Barolo finishes with excellent focus and balance, and offers plenty of easygoing charm and uncomplicated drinking possibilities. It will be readier to drink sooner than many other Barolos in the Arnaldo Rivera lineup. Drinking window: 2026-2037.
Arnaldo Rivera 2018 Barolo Bussia 93
Solid red-ruby colour. Forward, exuberant but also deep aromas and flavours of ripe red cherry, pomegranate, aromatic wood and milk chocolate, with hints of licorice and fennel for added complexity. Then also solid and fruit-forward in the mouth, with hints of violet, herbs, iron, and red and dark plum lingering nicely on the suave, long finish. This Barolo Bussia is a blend of three vineyard sites located in two subregions of the large Bussia vineyard district (Gabutti and Fantini). The Nebbiolo vines were planted in 1969, 2002, and in 2003. Drinking window: 2026-2038.
Arnaldo Rivera 2018 Barolo Ravera 92
Good bright, dark red. Slightly reduced aromas initially that open up with aeration showing notes of strawberry, herbs and oak. Suave and fine-grained, with good lift but not (yet?) much complexity to the cherry and herbal flavours. Another easy to drink, pretty wine from Arnaldo Rivera in 2018 that finishes with sweet tannins and nicely persistent spicy fruit. Drinking window: 2026-2035.
Arnaldo Rivera 2018 Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata 93
Medium saturated red. Red plum, redcurrant, dried flowers and a whiff of forest floor on the nose. Bitter red cherry and floral flavours show good ripeness. Supple, fine-grained and nicely concentrated, this spreads out nicely on the back end, finishing with smooth, ripe tannins and outstanding energy. Drinking window: 2027-2038.
Arnaldo Rivera 2018 Barolo Rocche di Castiglione 94
Good full, bright red. Precise, high-pitched aromas of red cherry, redcurrant, rose petal, minerals and leather, complemented by a mocha component. Suave and silky but concentrated, this offers plenty of stuffing but no undue weight. Closes long and refined, while saturating the taste buds with perfumed strokes of redcurrant, leather, mocha and minty forest floor. The harmonious acidity and the firm but polished tannins lead me to think this will have a slow and successful evolution in bottle. Drinking window: 2028-2042.
Arnaldo Rivera 2018 Barolo Villero 94
Luminous dark red-ruby. Brooding aromas and flavours of sour red cherry, raspberry, coffee and nutmeg. Offers both power and elegance, with deep flavours of red cherry, cinnamon, tobacco and leather that linger impressively on the smooth, rich, deep aftertaste. Best after 2027-2028, and likely to age well. Drinking window: 2028-2046.
Arnaldo Rivera 2018 Barolo Vignarionda 93+
Dark, bright red. Currently rather tight, reticent but pure aromas of raspberry, dried flowers and minerals. Pliant and sweet in the mouth, conveying an impression of flesh without weight and hinting at deep flavours that are very youthful and currently not especially expressive. Finishes very long and creamy, with a savoury quality to its rich and broad. Lovely traditional Barolo, if maybe not quite as complex as the best wines from this hallowed site. Drinking window: 2028-2046.
Attilio Ghisolfi 2016 Barolo Bussia 94
Bright red-ruby. Juicy red cherry, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom dominate the red cherry aromas and flavours. Medium-long and easygoing, offering lovely balance and suave rising tannins at the back, finishing very peppery and with real bite. Aged in 25-45 hL oak barrels for three years (from this part of Bussia , the wines have lots of tannin here so the long aging time in oak is necessary to have them smoothen over and resolve). This spent 15-16 days on the skins for a month and was fermented with natural yeasts at a maximum temperature of 30 degrees Celsius (the estate stopped using cultured yeasts as of 2000). This is really very good, boasting a medium-bodied personality that is well-balanced and perfumed. Drinking window: 2028-2046.
Attilio Ghisolfi 2016 Bussia Bricco Visette 96
Luminous deep red. Delicately smoky red cherry and minty herbs on the cool, deep nose. Dense, rich and layered flavours of ripe trawberry, walnut and grilled meat boast excellent definition and thrust on the long, structured finish. This really beautiful Barolo boasts laser-like acidity really lifting and extending the flavours on the back end. Aged partly in French oak 500 liters tonneaux (15-25% new oak every year). Visette is one of the most underrated subregions of the too large Bussia vineyard district, and has always been characterized by lifted, piercing Barolos such as this one. Well done. Drinking window: 2026-2044.
Azelia 2018 Barolo 90+
Bright red. Spicy aromas of cherry, redcurrant, licorice, dried rose, cinnamon and graphite. Nicely acid and juicy and balanced on the elegant medium-long finish. Pleasant and easygoing Barolo, ready to drink now. Drinking window: 2023-2030. (ML)
Azelia 2018 Barolo San Rocco 93+
Luminous red. The aromas and flavours of red roses and red fruits are elegant, graceful, fine, and balanced. A building spicy note adds interest on the long suave finish. Drinking window: 2024-2034. (ML)
Azelia 2018 Barolo Margheria 93
Good full ruby-red. Clean and precise aromas and flvours of red cherry, spicebox, minerals and violet. The aftertaste is nicely persistent and minerally. To my way of thinking, this is more intense and deeper than the other wines I tasted from Azelia in this vintage. Drinking window: 2024-2034. (ML)
Azelia 2018 Barolo Cerretta 92
Moderately saturated red. Brooding aromas and flavours of strawberry, smoked meat, sandalwood and herbs. At this point in time, maybe just a tad less expressive and complex compared to previous releases. It doesn’t strike me as being the deepest Barolo Cerretta from Azelia ever, but I find its serious, austere delivery of red and dark fruit flavours very pleasant. Drinking window: 2023-2030. (ML)
Azelia 2015 Barolo 91
Bright red. Delicately smoky notes of red cherry and violet, complemented by sandalwood and earth notes. Then juicy and very precise in the mouth, with a round, suave mouthfeel and nicely lingering flavours of red cherry, roasted coffee beans and candied violet. Closes long and bright. Drinking window: 2023-2030.
Bartolo Mascarello 2018 Barolo 95+
Vivid red. Aromas and flavours of red rose, red cherry, iris, and blood orange. Downright silky, with a nuanced and delicate disposition, this closes long and graceful on the long, vibrating finish with repeating notes of candied violet and a rising ferrous element. Like with many 2018 Barolos, this is extremely pleasant and enjoyable right now. An outstanding wine and one of the best of the 2018 vintage, the only reason it doesn’t achieve a higher score is because of the 2018 vintage that didn’t really allow for 97-98 point wines to be made. Drinking window: 2028-2040.
Bava 2016 Barolo Scarrone 95
Bright red. Elegant and refined with a pleasant balsamic and mineral nose and similar nuances to the red cherry and berry flavours. Well balanced with silky tannins and a long earthy finish. I liked this much more than some other tasters. Drinking window: 2024-2032. (ML)
Bersano 2013 Barolo Riserva 94+
Good full red-ruby. Deep, austere aromas and flavours of ripe red cherry, spicebox, Oriental wood and herbs. Very structured from start to finish and requiring plenty of time in a good cellar, this carries its youthful Serralunga Barolo signature front and center. Drinking window: 2025-2033. (ML)
2018 Barolo Brunella 94
Brght red. Expressive aromas and flavours of red cherry, sweet spices and blue flowers. Finesse and elegance in spades here, not to mention depth and complexity and a velvety texture on the long finish. Drinking window: 2024-2033. (ML)
2018 Barolo Cerequio 93
Good medium dark red. Perfumed aromas of violet, rose and sassafrass. Deep and complex, with dense and smooth tannins nicely supporting the flavours similar to the aromas. Well balanced and actually rather seductive and refined on the long and pleasant finish. Drinking window: 2025-2035. (ML)
2018 Barolo Villero 93
Cool red colour. Inviting aromas of violet, rose and red berries. Rich, deep and intense with smooth and silky tannins. Closes long and powerful, as you’d expect from a Villero wine. Drinking window: 2025-2035. (ML)
Bovio 2018 Barolo Parussi 93
Bright red. Inviting nose offers red cherry, violet, minerals and sweet spices. Then juicy and lively but with sneaky concentration to its red berry and red cherry and herbal nuances, finishing long with a rising violet note and seamless tannins. Not the most concentrated Bsrolo you will ever drink as was typical of the 2018 vintage, but this has lovely balance and length. Well done. Drinking window: 2024-2033.
Bovio 2017 Barolo Parussi 93
Bright red. Initially very ripe, almost porty aromas of stewed red fruits; becomes gentler and more refined with aeration, picking up lively floral and spicy nuances. Multilayered and suave in the mouth, with no hint of grittiness whatsoever, offering rich ripe flavours of underbrush, scorched earth, used leather and almond paste. Closes long and full, with noble tannic clout. This is a rare Barolo from the 2017 vintage that really benefits from decanting ahead and is far better than a superficial initial taste might lead one to believe. It also proves how a talented producer could make a very good wine from a south-facing site at low altitude (the vineyard lies roughly at 230 meters above sea level) even in the hot 2017 vintage. Well done here. Drinking window: 2024-2033.
Bovio 2016 Barolo Parussi 96
Vivid red. Wild rose, cinnamon, sandalwood, orange peel and red roses jump out of the glass right into your nose and into your mouth. Layered and complex, with noble youthful tannic bite providing support on the long sweet spice-accented finish. If you ever needed a demonstration of how much better the 2016 vintage was, and is, for Barolo compared to the 2017, this Barolo offers evidence in spades. As good as Bovio’s 2017 Barolo Parussi is, the 2016 is simply heads and shoulders above it. Drinking window: 2025-2038.
Bovio 2016 Barolo Gattera 97
Now this is a true knockout: not the biggest and/or richest Barolo 2016 you will ever drink, but a paragon of balance, and true Gattera-like aromas and flavours. Deep bright red. Very perfumed aromas of raspberry, red cherry, plum, mint, and violet, with a hint of iron and flint in the background adding complexity. Then precise and classic, with a penetrating quality to its steely flavours of red cherry, berries, forest floor and orange peel. Finishes with a distinct mineral edge and noble tannins. Made entirely from extremely old vines (70 years old, roughly). This is one of the absolutely best under-the-radar Barolos of 2016. Drinking window: 2025-2040.
Bovio 2016 Barolo Arborina 95
Bright red. Perfumed notes of violet and iris complement juicy red cherry and plum on the nose. Then breezy and perfumed in the mouth too, but with an old vine-typical depth to its round red and blue fruit flavours. Finishes long with hints of minerals and underbrush. Bovio’s Arborina vines are in fact about 45 years old. Drinking window: 2026-2038.
Brezza 2018 Barolo 91
Vivid red. Forward aromas of red cherry and berries, complicated by underbrush and minerals. Then similar flavours, with harmonious acidity keeping the mouth refreshed and clean. Very easy to drink right now thanks to impeccable balance. Drinking window: 2024-2034.
Brezza 2018 Barolo Cannubi 95
Bright deep red. This is surprisingly brooding on the nose for a Barolo Cannubi made from the best part of this too large vineyard site (Brezza is lucky to own vines in the Cannubi Centrale, by far the best part of the Cannubi vineyard district), but at the same time very perfumed and precise. Boasts bright aromas and flavours of red cherry, red rose, violet, mint and minerals. Silky and elegant, but with real underlying power, this is a knockout Barolo and one of the best from what was a difficult vintage. Drinking window: 2028-2040.
Brezza 2018 Barolo Castellero 93
Good full red. Tobacco, spicebox, and herbs complement ripe red cherry on the nose. Rich ricpe and smooth, with very good backbone to the red cherry and tobacco-accented flavours. Closes long, ripe and lifted. In my view, this is one of the best Castellero Barolos ever from Brezza, so that’s saying something. Drinking window: 2025-2038.
Brezza 2016 Barolo Sarmassa 94
Dark red. Complex aromas and flavours of dark red cherry, mint, herbs and spices. Multilayered but very folded onto itself, with a clenched personality presently, this hints at considerable wealth of fruit beneath the tannic cloak. As you’d expect, this offers more depth and power of Cannubi, but as good as it is, it also strikes me as being less complex and deep than that wine this year. Drinking window: 2025-2038.
Brezza 2016 Barolo Sarmassa Vigna Bricco 96
Luminous red. Sexy raspberry and blackberry aromas are accented by violet and minerals, with a sneaky rose note emerging with air. Lush red and dark berry flavors are juicy and impressively bright, with tangy minerality providing noteworthy focus. Finishes long with impressive thrust and sweetness. A classic in the making, this is an expressive characterful mouthful of Barolo. Drinking window: 2026-2044.
Brezza 2017 Barolo 91
Bright red. Enticingly fragrant for a 2017 Barolo, this opens with aromas of ripe red berries, truffle and rose. Then nicely polished and savory, with raspberry nectar and herbal nuances on the palate. The rising tannins toughen up a bit with air on the long back end, but this is a delicious Barolo that can be drunk now. Drinking window: 2024-2032.
Brezza 2017 Barolo Cannubi 92
Good full red. Aromas of red cherry, camphor, rose jam, and underbrush. Then brighter and more lifted in the mouth with a sour red cherry and pomegranate set of flavours that are typical of Cannubi but not so much of the 2017 vintage. Finishes long with noteworthy tannic power and a hint of wild fennel. Drinking window: 2025-2034.
Brezza 2017 Barolo Sarmassa Vigna Bricco 93
Good full red. Red cherry, mulberry, and plum are complemented by caramel on the nose. Broad and lush in the mouth, with a high-toned quality to the perfumed flavors of red fruit and sweet spices. Finishes with good persistence, broad and horizontal, with smooth, ripe tannins and lingering spicy perfume for the year. Drinking window: 2026-2036.
Bric Cenciurio 2016 Barolo 90
Good full red-ruby. Enticing aromas of plum, violet, and flint. Enters full bodied and savory, with mostly dark fruit flavours accented by clove and herbal nuances. The aftertaste is long and mouthcoating. This is slightly rounder and sweeter than the winery’s 2015, but it’s still fairly rigid at present. Drink 2026–2034.
Bric Cenciurio 2016 Barolo Monrobiolo di Bussia 94
Deep red. Perfumed aromas and flavours of red cherry, violet, rose and flint, plus a complicating note of underbrush. Closes long and with hints of woodsy herbs and chocolate. This is excellent, rich dense and sweet, showcasing much better balance and depth compared to the 2015 Monrobiolo di Bussia, as it strikes me as having better balance and ripeness of tannins. For those who are not acquainted with this vineyard district, the Monrobiolo di Bussia is lower down than the Bussia cru and looks towards the town of Barolo. Aged in tonneaux for two years. Drinking window: 2026-2040.
Bric Cenciurio 2016 Barolo Coste di Rose 93+
Bright red. Very clean, fresh and pure aromas and flvours of sour red cherry, pomegranate, wild fennel, clove and star anise. Closes long, steely and youthfully austere; here the tannins need time but there’s plenty of promise given there’s more than enough fruit not to be drying presently and to outlive the tannins. Drinking window: 2024-2036.
Bric Cenciurio 2015 Barolo 89+
Red cherry, tar, and licorice dominate the nsoe and the mouth. The aftertaste is long but slightly bitter and also shows a touch of grittiness. Made with a part of Coste di Rose grapes and others from rented grapes in Novello. Drinking window: 2028-2044.
Bric Cenciurio 2015 Barolo Monrobiolo di Bussia 90
Good full red. Bright aromas of red and blue fruit, iron shavings and camphor. Enters smooth, but then turns quite rigid and steely, with intense flavours of tar, and dark berries. The aftertaste is full but very tannic and bordering on the drying. Will the fruit outlast the tannins? I wonder. Drinking window: 2028-2040. K
Bric Cenciurio 2015 Barolo Coste di Rose 93
Bright red: this is lighter coloured than the Monrobiolo di Bussia, most likely because of the old vine Nebbiolo Rosé component the other Barolos from the winery lack. Hence typically marked more by notes of brown spices and balsamic oils on the nose and in the mouth, with the red cherry and berry fruit aromas and flavours more perfumed and refined. The nicely lingering graceful finish has repeating floral nuances. Drinking window: 2025-2038.
Brovia 2018 Barolo 91
Good full red. Pleasant and easygoing Barolo, ready to drink now offering aromas and flavours of red cherry and marzipan. Not the longest Barolo you’ll ever drink but lovely. Drinking window: 2025-2038. (ML).
Brovia 2018 Barolo Brea Vigna Ca’ Mia 93
Bright red. Easygoing aromas and flavours of red cherry, herbs and minerals. Balanced and very refined, this boasts a pleasant texture, and its nuanced personality really reflects the character of the vintage. Drinking window: 2025-2038. (ML).
Brovia 2018 Barolo Garblèt Sue’ 92
Good saturated red. Aromas and flavours of kirsch, fennel, clove and spicebox. A little bit less expressive and complex compared to the previous vintages but still pleasant, balanced and refined. Drinking window: 2025-2038. (ML).
Brovia 2018 Barolo Rocche di Castiglione 93+
Bright red. Perfumed aromas and flavours of red cherry, tobacco and camphor. Pleasant, complex and rich, finesse and balance. Closes long and clean. Maybe the most interesting Brovia Barolo of the 2018 vintage. Drinking window: 2025-2036. (ML).
Brovia 2018 Barolo Villero 93
Good dark red. Aromas and flavurs of red cherry, underbrush, sandalwood and herbs. Balanced, fine, not particularly powerful or deep for a Villero Barolo, but well balanced and pleasant. Drinking window: 2026-2038. (ML).
Brovia 2015 Barolo Garblèt Sue’ 96
Saturated red. Cherry-vanilla, red rose, violet and smoke on the nose that is lifted by a hint of candied orange peel. Juicy and sweet, offering very lush and complex flavours of red and dark berries, coffee, milk chocolate, and a repeating note of vanilla. The finish features a tangy red cherry skin note and lingers long and pure with outstanding depth, clarity and spicy length. This is one of the best Garblèt Sue’ Barolos I remember having at a similar stage of development. Drinking window: 2025-2038.
Bruno Giacosa 2018 Barolo 94
Bright medium-pale red. Deep, expressive aromas of ripe red cherry and raspberry jam as well as of black cherry, with notes of cinnamon and espresso. Soft and rich in the mouth, with an unctuous texture and very broad, suave flavours of strawberry, fruitcake, minerals and coffee candy. Finishes thick and long, with a sweet suggestion of cherry preserves and of candied violet and noteworthy freshness that provides welcome lift on the back end. This is a very good showing indeed for the year: given the difficulties posed by the 2018 growing season, Bruna Giacosa chose not to release any of her famous single-vineyard Barolos, opting instead to blend the grapes from the Falletto and Le Rocche del Falletto (or Vigna Le Rocche, as it is now called) portions of her vineyard in Falletto vineyard district to make just one Barolo for the vintage. It follows that there is some exceptionally good fruit at the core of this wine which has benefited from the inclusion of grapes from the property’s best sites. Drinking window: 2024-2036.
Bruno Giacosa 2017 Barolo 93
Bright medium red with a garnet tinge. Ripe red berry and cherry aromas are complicated by baking spices and dried flowers. Then deep, youthfully chewy red fruit and orange peel flavours are nicely framed by juicy acidity, which extends the ripe fruit flavours the long, slightly spicy finish. A fleshy, even substantial Barolo in keeping with the 2017 vintage style, but blessed by much more noble tannins than the vast majority of its 2017 counterparts. Well done. Drinking window: 2024-2034.
Bruno Giacosa 2016 Barolo Falletto (Etichetta Bianca) 98
Luminous bright red. Amazingly perfumed, complex and deep on the nose, with aromas of Oriental spices, cinnamon and red cherry syrup. Then slightly austere and tight in the mouth in the manner of many 2016 Barolos, but boasting very deep and rich flavours of strawberry, red cherry, tar, iron and black tea notes. Closes long and vibrant, with a refined quality and noteworthy but noble tannic bite. Absolutely superb Barolo: this is “only” the white label, non-Riserva wine, but is practically of the same quality level of that truly magical wine the estate also made in 1996. About 13,000 bottles made: my advice is to hunt one down at all costs. Drinking window: 2026-2043.
Bruno Giacosa 2016 Barolo Falletto Riserva Vigna Le Rocche 100
Fully saturated bright red. Captivating aromas of red roses, violets, red cherry, black truffle, minerals and exotic spices. Then similar flavours to the aromas that convey a deep, powerful and extremely refined personality, boasting super-refined tannins. The finish is almost endless and is at once unbelievably silky yet structured, while featuring repeating red cherry and red rose nuances. This gorgeous wine is a textbook example of why people all over the world fall in love with Barolo and Bruno Giacosa’s wines in particular. Drinking window: 2028-2050.
Bruno Giacosa 2014 Barolo Riserva Le Rocche del Falletto 96
Good full bright red. Perfumed and very horizontal in breadth, this offers enticing, almost piercing floral nuances (iris, lavender, violet, peony, pink rose) to the red berry, pomegranate, peppery and gingery-like aromas and flavours. Closes long and very lifted, with a steely mouthfeel that has sneaky amounts of flesh and a nicely spicy finishing kick. Lovely balance and noteworthy freshness here. I really liked this Barolo’s surprisingly light, almost pinot-like touch: it’s just a lovely wine, plain and simple, but one that also packs much more stuffing and concentration that is well-hidden beneath its apparently genteel disposition. Beware that this improves markedly with aeration, so make sure you decant at least one to two hours ahead (not more, or you risk losing the full-force of this wine’s amazingly floral perfume). Drinking window: 2028-2050.
Ca’ Rome’ 2016 Barolo Cerretta 91+
Bright ruby. Good fresh perfumed sour red fruit and herbs on the elegant nose. Then also elegant in the mouth, with a clean and fresh set of flavours of red cherry, walnuts, forest floor, black tea and earth tones. Starts sweet and ripe, but turns very astringent on the long finish. Will this ever come around or will it drop its fruit first? I’m not so sure: forget about it in your cellar for another six years and see what will happen. Drinking window: 2028-2036.
Ca’ Rome’ 2015 Barolo Cerretta 94
Good full red-ruby. Aromas of red and black cherry, tamarind, blood orange, and oaky spices. Deep and rich in the mouth, boasting much more sweet fruit (red cherry, dark plum) than the winery’s very austere 2016 Barolo Cerretta, though there’s no shortage of tannic power here as well. Closes long and clean, with rising austerity; but I think the tannins are riper here than in the 2016 and this ought to age well and improve with proper cellaring. Drinking window: 2026-2034.
Cascina Luisin 2015 Barolo del Comune di Serralunga d’Alba Léon 95
Deep red. Licorice and smoke complicate red cherry and minty herbs. Then rich ripe and layered, but with very good freshness extending the ripe red fruit and tobacco flavours on the long sultry finish. Made with grapes from a plot in the Cerretta and a plot in the Teodoro vineyard districts, the 2015 Barolo Léon was fermented in cement tanks for fifty days, and aged in 30 Hl for three years prior to release. The wine’s name, Léon, or Leone in Italian, was the first name of the original owner of the vineyard (almost one hectare large) that Cascina Luisin’s owner, Luigi Minuto rents. The first vintage of this Barolo was the 2001 and that was a really excellent wine: Minuto had made a couple of barriques in 2000 from these vines to try and see what the wine was like: as he liked it, he decided to start up regular production of the wine). Drinking window: 2025-2035.
Castello di Verduno.
Castello di Verduno 2018 Barolo Massara 93+
Vivid rub-red. Deep and elegant, this offers a nuanced and expressive set of aromas and flavours of red cherry, aromatic herbs, earth tones, and camphor. The aftertaste is long and minerally. Drinking window: 2024-2035.
Castello di Verduno 2016 Barolo Massara 94
Good full red. Musky red berry and blood orange aromas are complemented by dried flowers and mint, plus a hint of forest floor and of wet earth. Exotic red fruit flavors are structured and linear giving the Massara (and I dare say Castello di Verduno) signature-Barolo style but that in 2016 are rounder than usual and nicely braced by harmonious acidity on the back end. This offers no easy sweetness but it’s a lovely Barolo that harkens back to more classic wines of yesteryear. Drinking window: 2026-2036.
Castello di Verduno 2015 Barolo Massara 93
Vibrant red. Very spicy, almost intensely peppery and not so fruity on the nose. Then juicy on entry, with nuances of sandalwood and herbs dominating, turning bigger and fleshier in the middle, and tapering nicely on the long, powerfully tannic finish to reveal a delicate and more floral side. Massara is characterized by a much richer, darker, clay-rich soil than Monvigliero (a more calcareous site) and this goes along way in explaining the differences between the two wines. Drinking window: 2024-2034.
Castello di Verduno 2013 Barolo Monvigliero Riserva 94
Luminous red. Perfumed, clean aromas of fresh flowers and red cherry are complemented by minerals and sweet spices on the enticing nose. Then nicely penetrating and tightly wound in the mouth, with rich, pure and sweet flavours of nicely ripe red fruit and sweet spices that boast excellent energy and cut. Finishes long and with repeating violet and rose nuances. Drinking window: 2023-2040.
Cavallotto 2018 Barolo Bricco Boschis 94
Bright red. Aromas and flavours of red cherry, sage, vanilla, and violet. Potent and refined, deep and balanced with a lot of character. Long and clean on the juicy tactile finish. The proof that the 2018 vintage can be a great vintage in the hands of talented winemakers. Drinking window: 2024-2036. (ML)
Cavallotto 2016 Barolo Vigna San Giuseppe 97
Fully saturated red. A ton of character in this wine, which is nicely expressive already, and boasting complex, ample, deep aromas and flavours of red and black cherry, graphite, eucalyptus and herbs. Closes long with a beautiful texture. A gorgeous wine. Drinking window: 2022-2045. (ML)
Cavallotto 2016 Barolo Vignolo 95+
Deep red. Perfumed if slightly clenched aromas and flavours of sour red cherry, moss, violet and sweet spices. Probably too young to evaluate fully now (hence the plus sign on my score), but holds plenty of promise. A “classic” Barolo for a “classic” vintage, which means this beauty will require time in a good cellar. Drinking window: 2028-2043. (ML)
Ceretto 2018 Barolo Brunate 93+
Deep ruby. Very pretty aromas and flavours of red cherry, pomegranate juice, minerals and balsamic oils: very La Morra. Offers a lot of charm and nuance on the long effusive finish, with bright violet and red cherry notes repeating. Drinking window: 2024-2036.
Ceretto 2018 Barolo Bussia 92+
Dark bright red. Raspberry, red plum, graphite and smoke aromas display good vibrancy and precision. Firm red cherry and dark berry flavours are subtly lifted by potpourri and baking spices, with youthful, dusty tannins leaving an impression of slight austerity behind, but buffered by a hint of candied plum that helps sweeten the spicy finish. Very young, this needs time in a good cellar. Drinking window: 2028-2040.
Ceretto 2018 Barolo Rocche di Castiglione 93+
Vivid red. Delicately floral red fruits, tobacco and sweet spices on the nose. Then nicely energetic, focused raspberry and red cherry flavours are framed by silky tannins and lifted by good mineral presence. Rich and fresh at once, with good finishing grip and lingering spiciness, this is at once seductive and nuanced, and is a very Rocche-like wine. Drinking window: 2026-2038.
Ceretto 2018 Barolo Bricco Rocche 94
Medium vibrant red. Raspberry, red cherry, milk chocolate and tobacco on the nose are complemented by an hint of musky coffee. Enters juicy, bright and fresh, but with dense, powerful red cherry and red raspberry flavours in the middle and lingering on the long aftertaste. Supple on the front half but slightly ungiving on the end, this 2018 benefits from some aeration. Always a standout in the Ceretto portfolio, this will prove very flexible at the table. Drinking window: 2028-2043.
Ceretto 2018 Barolo Prapó 93
Deep red with a bright rim. Red berry compote and musky floral aromas are complicated by underbrush, cardamom and balsamic oils. Sweet raspberry and red cherry flavours are given a refreshing bitter edge by a cherry skin nuance. Nicely energetic and steely as is typical with Prapó, this showcases very good balance and an elegant personality. Finishes with very good juicy persistence and lingering sweetness, not to mention noteworthy but polished tannic clout. Drinking window: 2027-2040.
Ceretto 2016 Barolo 93
Medium bright red. Explosive aromas of raspberry, bitter cherry, sweet spices and violet. Generous, tangy and pliant, boasting a lovely creamy texture over a firm spine with lively harmonious acidity really extending the cherry and raspberry flavors on the long smooth back end. This is really excellent and shows just how great a wine an “entry-level” Barolo can be. Back at the winery in 2019, I remember Federico Ceretto telling me that in 2016 all you needed to do was look at the grapes and you knew in that precise instant that the wines were going to be great. I will also point out that while Ceretto’s regular Barolo was also very good in both 2010 and 2013, the 2015 and 2016 are even better. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! Drinking window: 2025-2036.
Ceretto 2016 Barolo Brunate 98
Luminous red. Sexy blueberry and raspberry scents are complicated by notes of spicecake and dried flowers on the drop-dead gorgeous nose. More fruit-driven than some past examples of Ceretto Brunate Barolos, this offers captivating sweet red berry and cinnamon/nutmeg flavours and gentle, slow-building tannins. Open-knit and drinking well now but with the structure to age effortlessly another twenty years, the smooth, sweet extremely long finish leaves a lingering trail of sweet spices and flowers behind. Let me be crystal-clear: this is the best Barolo Brunate ever by Ceretto. Drinking window: 2026-2038.
Ceretto 2016 Barolo Bussia 96
Bright red. Perfumed still somewhat brooding aromas of dark plum red cherry, sweet spcies and oriental woods. Deep and powerful, with noble tannic clout nicely supporting the clean savory meaty, chunky but refined red fruit flavours on the long, rising back end. Still very young, this super-refined wine will only get better with proper cellaring. Though Ceretto hasn’t made too many vintages of this wine yet, it’s always great and one of the best in the family’s long lineup of cru Barolos. This specific plot is located in the best subregion of the Bussia, the Bussia Soprana, 0.7 hectares situated in between Romirasco and Cicala right above Colonnello. Some people really do have all the luck. Adding to the “why’s” of just why this wine is so exceptionally good year in and year out, is the extremely old age of the vines: so old in fact that even Federcio Ceretto told me they have no idea just how old these Nebbiolo grapevines are. Drinking window: 2028-2043.
Ceretto 2016 Barolo Bricco Rocche 97
Bright red. Enticing aromas and flavours of red cherry, spearmint, violet, raspberry liqueur and mint. Fresh and pliant, with a perfectly delineated multilayered fruit presence and suave tannins on the long youthfully tactile close. As usual, this boasts amazing balance typical of this vineyard district and very suave tannins. Drinking window: 2028-2042.
Ceretto 2016 Barolo Prapò 94+
Inky ruby. Deep, brooding aromas of strawberry, cherry pit and licorice, with slow-building smokiness and a touch of green tea. Big and taut but surprisingly light on its feet, offering zesty red berry flavours and good mineral lift. Still quite youthfully closed, finishing long, metallic and linear as is typical of this vineyard district. Will need plenty of time in a good cellar. One of the secrets to this Barolo is that these are Ceretto’s oldest Nebbiolo vines, planted in 1972. Drinking window: 2028-2043.
Cesare Bussolo 2017 Barolo del Comune di La Morra 90
Opaque ruby-red. Deep red and dark berry liqueur aromas, with rum-raisin and vanilla overtones. Creamy blackberry and dark cherry flavours are complicated by balsamic oils and candied flowers, without any rough edges. Turns more tannic with air, finishing with fairly gripping berry skin and porty qualities. Drinking window: 2025-2035.
Cesare Bussolo 2017 Barolo Fossati 91
Bright deep red-ruby. Liqueur-like black fruits, plums stewed in alcohol and eucalyptus on the nose, with a violet top-note. Lush, supple and sweet; quite outsized and powerful with terrific fruit syrup flavours and real density. Finishes with big, broad but polished tannins and excellent length. Very impressive, but the porty-syrupy nature of this ultra-concentrated Barolo may not be for everyone. This Drinking window: 2028-2043.
Ciabot Berton 2018 Barolo del Comune di La Morra 91
Bright red. Pretty aromas and flavours of violet red cherry and herbs. Closes juicy and broad. Pleasant and easygoing Barolo, ready to drink now. Drinking window: 2026-2036. (ML)
Ciabot Berton 2018 Barolo Ciabot Berton “1961” 92+
Dark red. Clean and suave aromas and flvours of red cherry, smoky plum and minerals. Well balanced, pleasant with smooth tannins and nicely textured on the long finish. One of the best “classic” (as in made from a blend of grapes from different vineyards) Barolos I’ve tasted this year. Drinking window: 2028-2041. (ML)
Ciabot Berton 2018 Barolo Rocchettevino 93+
Vivid red. Perfumed on the nose and in the mouth, with notes of red and dark berries, sandalwood and spices. The aftertaste is bright and juicy. Graceful, elegant and refined, with a lovely balance and silky tannins, this is really a great result for the year. Drinking window: 2028-2041. (ML)
Ciabot Berton 2018 Barolo Roggeri 93
Deep red. Brooding aromas and flavours of dark plum, violet and herbs. Tannic and muscular, but with a savory edge. As usual, this is deeper and structured compared to the Rocchettevino and all the other Barolos in this winery’s portfolio. Drinking window: 2028-2043. (ML)
Cogno 2018 Barolo Cascina Nuova 92
Medium bright red. Fresh red cherry, cocoa powder and nutmeg on the ample nose. Then juicy and nicely delineated, with moderate nuance and flesh to its broad ripe red fruit and orange peel flavours. The acidity is ripe and tannins rather lush. Maybe not the last word in complexity but very well balanced and fun to drink right now, and making an easy-drinking Barolo was the estate’s goal when they first created this wine. Drinking window: 2026-2034.
Cogno 2018 Barolo Ravera 93
Good full red. Piercing aromas of raspberry, bitter cherry, coffee and minty herbs. Then generous, supple and creamy, with ripe dark cherry and raspberry flavors. Closes with even, palate-dusting tannins on the satisfying, shapely and long close. Drinking window: 2027-2038.
Cogno 2017 Barolo Ravera Bricco Pernice 92+
Bright medium red. Cherry, strawberry and sweet spice aromas are complicated by notes of iron and vanilla. Bright and juicy on entry then a round, sweet middle palate and featuring good tangy cut on the long suave polished finish. There’s a hint of clinging sweetness and a note of smoky minerality on the long back end. Always a delightful wine from Cogno, the 2017 Bricco Pernice does not disappoint in spite of the hot year. Drinking window: 2028-2046.
Cogno 2016 Barolo Ravera 95
Deep red-ruby. Deep nose of strawberry, cherry cola and resiny oak; showed a strong plummy quality with aeration. Juicy and penetrating, with firm acids giving the red cherry, dark plum, milk chocolate and minty flavours good clarity. The strong oak character carries through on the palate. Finishes with round suave tannins and outstanding persistence. This is a real knockout and one of the better Ravera bottlings I have had from Cogno in some time, though they are all good, the 2016 seems to have an extra gear. Drinking window: 2028-2046.
Cogno 2016 Barolo Ravera Bricco Pernice 98
Deep, bright red. Explosive aromas of redcurrant juice, red cherry macerated in alcohol, sweet pipe tobacco and loam, with hints of brown sugar and candied violet. Then sweet and rich, with outstanding volume and depth to the vibrant but ripe red cherry, balsamic oil and milk chocolate flavours. Closes long with a nicely suave texture and excellent clarity and cut. Drinking window: 2028-2046.
Cogno 2016 Barolo Ravera Riserva Vigna Elena 100
Vibrant red colour. Profoundly complex aromas of sour red cherry, rose, violet, cinnamon, and balsamic oils on the thrilling nose. Energetic, focused and fine-grained, this boasts a elegant mineral overlay to its luscious, high-energy flavours of sour red berries cinnamon, lavender, and dark cherry. Closes with lingering notes of balsamic oils and minerals. The Vigna Elena is a textbook example of a wine made Nebbiolo CN 111 Nebbiolo Rosé and showcases why it should be planted much more than it is currently. The 2016 Vigna Elena is a marvelous wine and absolutely unique in its class and refined, perfumed reality, but it is also very structured and tannic (it’s a Barolo Riserva, after all) so it will age splendidly. Drinking window: 2028-2050.
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