11 August 2017


Barolo 2013 – Dec.’16 review of wines from villages of Novello, Barolo & Castiglione Falletto

  • 11 August 2017 /

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)

Novello (6 wines tasted) – noticeable shift from the earthier (also in colour), squarer wines of La Morra to the more refined, raspberry coloured, finer, Alpine snow-fresh, violet-scented wines of Novello. Here the profile is cooler, tighter, more elegant, as personified by the Ravera vineyard, surely a ‘Grand Cru’ candidate in the making, with its chalky red/rose fruit, tight ethereal weave & raciness. A village to watch, especially given the warmer weather.
Barolo (33 wines tasted) –  another marked change from the linear, snow fresh wines of Novello to the more spherical, warmer mandarin skin Nebbioli of the village of Barolo, from vineyards nestled in the sweet spot/heart  of the Barolo zone; the round shape of the wines perhaps reflecting the natural (ly warm) amphitheatre of the village & their sandy/silt soils. Despite the cool nature of the 2013 vintage, Barolo appears to have reached  a good & juicy level of maturity, giving supple, marzipan, currants, camphor/orange peel & spice notes; certainly more appealing than those of La Morra at the village level, if less intense than Novello. There were high hopes for the 13 examples of Cannubi, a candidate for ‘Grand’ Cru if ever a classification took place. Although the Cannubi wines in general showed more presence & complexity compared to the easier-to-approach Barolo village wines, there appeared to be too much quality variation – too hot, too spirity, too old wood? – so tasters came away disappointed; a ‘Premier Cru’ vineyard certainly, with fine tannins & ethereal camphor notes in a few cases, but short of being a ‘Grand Cru’ on this showing. Is the new 37ha size of Cannubi (from 2010 vintage) now working against it? Sarmassa staked a greater claim for ‘Grand Cru’ status, albeit from only 4 wines: more confident, fresher, while also being violet-scented, velvety & lush. Brunate, from the vineyards within the Barolo village commune, took this sense of ‘Grand Cru’ entitlement to another level, with wonderful cologne freshness, raciness, white soil structure, opulent dark fruit & iron presence; if arguably more refined & svelte than the Brunate from the La Morra side.
Castiglione Falletto (11 wines tasted) – an exciting & consistent flight of chiselled wines, but sadly only 11 samples submitted from the older, alkaline, limestone rich Helvetian soils that often seem to produce wines combine the best of both Barolo & Serralunga; indeed where Castiglione sits geographically. No change here as 2013 threw up wines of great breed & white stone refinement – a real highlight, where the wood was well integrated. Villero, with its soft peach-skin charm & warm fragrance would easily qualify as a top ‘Premier Cru’ experience while Rocche di Castiglione takes this to a ‘Grand Cru’ level, with a tighter mesh & overall bigger presence of something electric, racy & profound; showing far too young at this stage.