the King of Italian Reds
It is considered the king of Italian reds and is eulogized by fans around the world. Few realize, however, the compared to Bordeaux, Barolo is a relatively newcomer to the stage of world wine greats. Barolo comes from designated vineyards in the relatively small hilly Langhe region of Piedmont located in the northwest corner of Italy.
wasn’t until 1963 that laws were passed (Denominazione di Origine
Controllata) regulating all aspects of the production of this wine. It is
hard to believe that it was only four decades ago that Beppe Colla of
Prunotto produced the first single vineyard Barolo.
Vintages release features 12 Barolo and 4 Barbaresco, which are both made
exclusively from the Nebbiolo grape. It is not a newcomer and can be
traced back to 1303 where it triumphed in neighbouring Asti and was
referred to as “Nubiola”.
some may suggest that it is the king of grapes, few growers outside of
Italy would support this notion. Unlike Bordeaux’s Cabernet Sauvignon
and Merlot or the Rhone’s Shiraz, Nebbiolo is, in the words of Nicolas
Belfrage, “a temperamental creature, not to say neurotic, multi-faceted
perhaps, but full of contradictions” (see the 2005 fully revised
Mitchell Beazley hardcover Barolo
to Valpolicella The Wines of Northwest Italy).
are not exactly words that make grape growers jump for joy. It is even
more challenging than Pinot Noir. It is so difficult, that after
phylloxera devastation, when it came to replanting vineyards on
louse-resistant North American rootstock, most Piemonte growers opted for
more accommodating varieties, such as Barbera. In fact, today Nebbiolo is
only grown in 6% of the Piedmont vineyards.
is no question that when Barolo is great, it is stunning delicious. The
problem is the high price and the difficulty in finding greats examples.
My tasting notes are littered with disappointments, my best experiences
coming from on site tastings in the region itself. Without question,
Barolo has a magical affinity with the local cuisine.
other dishes, the joy can be muted, even unrewarding. Perhaps we been
brainwashed by the multitude of other fruitier and/or richer styles coming
from other grapes. Having said that, I understand that some producers,
presumably very few, are illegally adding other varieties (Barbera, Merlot
and Cabernet Sauvignon) to improve their wines.
Regarding today’s release, one to balance the enthusiasm emanating from the current Vintages Catalogue that pyramid expectations to unrealistic heights. Any notion that all these 2000 vintage releases are 100-point wines is simply ludicrous. Ditto for the statement: “if you are buying 2000 Barolo, you can practically find an outstanding wine with your eyes closed”. If you believe this you can stop reading. However, I guarantee that you some of these wines will be disappointments. Moreover, with few exceptions, they do not make excellent gifts for celebratory drinking in 20019 and/or 2025.
while some may love decanting wine, young and old, beware: decanting a
mature wine one hour before serving can mean that it will be totally dead
and undrinkable by the time you taste it. Old fruit is fragile and subject
to immediate collapse after being released from the bottle where it has
been held captive for decades.
terms of accessibility, today’s best buy is Cantina
Terre del Barolo 2000 Barolo
(586289) at $41.95. It is a modern style at an affordable price for
drinking soon. It has a fairly deep red colour with an ambering edge. The
nose is complex and slightly smoky with spicy plum and dried red apple
notes. On the palate look for fairly rounded, medium bodied, gently juicy,
best Barolo is the classic Pio
Cesare 2000 Barolo
at $69.95. The stewed ripe plum purée nose has those desirable red
licorice notes. Very dry and yet harmonious, the medium-full bodied,
complex, fairly juicy, ripe, chocolate-plum flavours show excellent
While this classic could be enjoyed today with appropriate
decanting, the best will be in the future.
four Barbarescos, Ca’Rome
di Romano Marengo 2000 Barbaresco Sori Rio Sordo
(979146) at $63.95 is recommended. It has an alluring nose - complex,
gently juicy, ripe plum purée with some slight faintly smoky, leathery
notes. It is firm, well structured and slightly chalk with dusty ripe plum
and dried red cherry flavours and a zingy, leathery, lingering finish.
Shows good accessibility now, it will likely drop off for a year or so and
then open up again.
on, of all the Italian reds in today’s release, I have two best buys.
The least expensive is a Valpolicella Classico Superiore coming from
2001 Capitel Dei Nicalò
(984997) at $16.95. The plumy, sun dried tomato nose has some smoky
chestnut notes. It is very dry, still somewhat peppery and fairly extracty
with bitter chocolate and dried plum flavours. It could use another year
or so of aging.
you are looking for a best buy classic you can drink today, the refined
and yet complex Ornellaia 2002 Le Volte (964221) at $24.95 will not
disappoint. It is focused on fairly seamless, slightly spicy, ripe plum,
cherry and cassis flavours with a dusty chocolate finish that shows plenty
of lingering acidity.
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