A blind tasting in Dec. 2016 at the castello di Barolo by 6 members of the UK trade of 2013 Barolo vintage, featuring 162 wines kindly donated by 87 producers over 3 mornings. The tasting was structured by village (revealed to the tasters) & by key vineyard (also). The key objectives of the event were:
– To understand & assess the character & quality of the 2013 Barolo vintage
– To identify the character & terroir of the individual Barolo villages, & of the single vineyard Barolo wines through the 2013 vintage, highlighting any ‘Premier’ or ‘Grand’ Cru candidates.
The Vintage, 2013:
A later & cooler than normal harvest, recalling the years before global warming. A not particularly cold winter was followed by an unusually cold & wet spring that brought downey mildew & lower yields. Summer remained generally cool, with only a burst of summer heat in late July, early August. Further rain in late August & again in late September threatened Nebbiolo berries, swelling them with juice. Good soil drainage & vineyard sites key in being able to wait for the phenolics to ripen before the skins split. Waiting ideally until mid October onwards when the temperature rose & fine weather returned. The vintage therefore in the main produced wines of a generally paler garnet red colour (vs. the darker 2012s), with bright, fresh fine aromatics, a restrained balance of ripe red fruit & elegant tannins pepped up by racy acidity, good village & vineyard definition; the best examples confident of further development in bottle over the medium/long term (10-20 years)
2013 Barolo – blends of more than one village (9 wines tasted/presented):
While the future arguably lies in focussing on the individualities of terroir, particularly when approaching the region from a Burgundy paradigm, it is these blends that will provide the gateway for many consumers. This was vintage were a Barolo blends from more than one village – the traditional approach to making Barolo – may have fared best, enabling the producer to vary the proportions from each village source depending on the quality of fruit available. Certainly, looking back over the 3 mornings, it was the first nine blended Barolos that seemed to have benefitted from this approach, being strong & balanced in character.
2013 Barolo from Grinzane Cavour (3 wines):
Only three samples submitted so difficult to draw any conclusions, except that the wines have an (red?) earthiness about them? Whilst other villages had wines that showed considerable potential, this had none. So when thinking about its location as an appendage to the Barolo zone, whether its inclusion in the DOCG comes down to a curiosity of history, an impressive castello and its famous son?
2013 Barolo from Verduno (6 wines):
With its lighter, chalky-sand character of their soils, not a million miles away from the Roero, & fine east/south-east aspects, did not appear to have suffered from the cooler, damp conditions, showing a homogenous range of pale red/blush wines, delicately perfumed & pretty with rose petals, musk, almond, white pepper spice & creamy red fruit. Perhaps a simpler commune to understand, with joyful fruit and elegance the order of the day? To taste they’re (white stone) ethereal, charming; Monvigliero personifying this village character thanks to its talc-like soils (but regrettably only 2 examples made it for the tasting).
2013 Barolo from La Morra (37 wines):
Very different with its generally more fertile (magnesium rich?), heavier clay soils is for many a quintessential Barolo style: darker garnet red, the nose full & earthy with incense/sandalwood/potpourri notes, the palate broad, rounder (higher pH?), suppler, often massaged by the (over) use of French tonneaux/barriques, the tannins earthier perhaps. The tasting seemed to suggest that some of the village La Morra in 2013 found it harder to reach full maturity, so throwing up some wines with slightly bitter &/or green tannins/fruit. Winemaking influence in La Morra perhaps the most noticeable? La Morra is the home of the once ‘modernist’ movement but this tasting would suggest that many are now turning towards a more classical expression, being neither too extracted (‘modern’) or too rustic (‘traditional’). No noticeable character or added value attached to the Rocchettevino single vineyard Barolo (albeit only 3 samples submitted); more incisive & characterful perhaps was the Gattera ‘cru’. Another ‘Premier Cru’ or even ‘Grand Cru’ candidate would surely be Arborina whose Barolos were shown to be different with a bold, tightly wound tannic structure, & rich, mouthfilling mixed spice character – how much that is down to terroir or winemaking is unclear. More terroir character was shown by the flight of six Barolo from the Rocche dell’Annunziata vineyard, rightly regarded as a ‘Grand Cru’ among Barolo’s vineyards: certainly more refined, ethereal & perfumed than Arborina with a noticeable rose essence fragrance & fine tannins displayed by the finest examples. Brunate (from the village of La Morra), another clear candidate for ‘Grand Cru’, also showed well albeit by only 4 examples submitted: more chalky white structure (as we head towards Barolo), bolder, darker, brooding, with fuller bodied, masculine, deep seated & balsam/menthol oil notes compared to the slender Rocche. Normally another ‘Grand Cru’ candidate is Cerequio, but unfortunately only one sample made it to the tasting.
Next: review of 2013 Barolo from the villages of Novello, Barolo & Castiglione Falletto