Barolo and Barbaresco vintages

I have always liked Barolo and Barbaresco but have rarely bought any (hard to buy everything). However, a tasting here about a year ago has ramped up my interest. DC winos drink Haut Brion 1966, Dom Perignon 96 and 02, aged Barolo and much more! - WINE TALK - WineBerserkers

I am learning producers, both from tastings and posting here. However, I would love to see thoughts on vintages, both recent and not so recent (as it is still possible to find older wines).

Also, I take it that when I see a wine labeled say Barolo or Barbaresco that is kind of equivalent to village wine in Burgundy and when I see specific vineyards it would translate more to premier cru and grand cru vineyards. Is their a hierarchy to vineyards or is it like Germany - each to his own.

Last question first - if there is a hierarchy of vineyards, it is much more subjective than the villages-premier cru- grand cru system that you are you used in Burgundy. However, one thing I think is important to note is that there are five primary zones in Barolo, and that might be more in keeping with communes like Gevrey, Vosne, Beaune, etc. in that the wines have different characteristics due to soil, exposition, elevation, etc.

My point being that if you are going to start exploring/purchasing Barolo, don’t just buy wines made in Barolo or La Morra, but also consider Castiglione Falletto, Monforte d’Alba and Serralunga d’Alba (there are other zonas as well, but for starters, those listed are the five primary production areas in Barolo).

I’m sure you will get many responses to your questions, so I’ll let other chime in, but I will observe that if you are going to start buying Barolo, this is a great time to be doing it, as we have had a string of good to great vintages to choose from, so there is a lot of good wine out there at competitive prices to start one’s cellar with.

Howard–if you are a tanzer subscriber, there is a recent thread that goes thru vintages in fairly great detail. Also eric G.'s blog is a great resource. (thread somewhere here on the first page). Lastly on your last comment, remember there are a few tradional producers who choose to just produce a Barolo as their top wine, generally a blend of their top sites.

Yeah, the Tanzer thread is quite good…

To me, Barolo ages longer than Barbaresco as a rule. There are plenty of Barbarescos that age well, but I tend to view them as being open slightly sooner. In fact, that might be the difference… not so much how long they last, but that Barolos take longer to hit their stride in general

As for vintages, i’d say that all of the vintages from 1995 on are good in general. . Some are just good, no better (2000) and some are classic (1996) with most in between.

I’d avoid 1991-1994 - I’m sure there are good wines in there, but it’s too much of a crapshoot.

1989 and 1990 are classic vintages with 89 being more structured. 88 seems overlooked including by me, something I need to remedy.

1978, 82 and 85 are all good to great.

The tasting group I’m in did some 1995s recently and they’re tasting quite good now with some slow ox and air. Not a ton - double decant a couple of hours before starting service. They’re not really mature, but are getting there. Leave 1996s alone more or less - classic vintage, bit of a waste to open them now unless you just want to see what a great vintage is 15 years in as a reference point.

My rule of thumb is that these wines need 15 years from vintage to start showing their stuff unless you try them young. Every time I’ve had 5-10 year old examples I might like them, but comment something to the effect of “these need more time.”

Thanks for the shout-out John.
The V.I.P. Table

As for my thoughts for Howard. When it comes to retailers that have back vintages, you may already be aware of these guys but one of the greatest resources you’ll find is Chambers Street Wines. Mature bottles, fair prices and I’ve yet to get a lemon. Chambers Street Wines

As for a generalization vintages, What’s drinking well now without going too far back.
1988, 1989 (with some coaxing), 1990, 1995, 1998 and 2000 have all entered early maturity.
1996, 1999, 2001 are all on the verge of early maturity but not quite there yet.
2003 is drinkable but the style is not what a Barolo drinker expects out of the gate.
2004, 2005, and 2006 all need time, but 2005 should come around first (a lighter, floral and feminine vintage), while '04 and '06 will need some serious cellar time.
2007 is a little hard to wrap your head around, you can drink it now but the stuff is so rich and hot that I’m still on the fence about the quality of the vintage.

Bob did a great job describing the designations. As you explore, you may find that you prefer one over the other. Or that one day you’ll be in the mood for something from La Morra, when the next day Serralunga will hit the spot.

Howard – For info on vineyard sites, the Slow Food Wine Atlas of the Langhe is quite informative and classifies what it considers the best sites, drawing lines in some case within the generally accepted boundaries.

As a general matter, the wines of La Morra, Barolo and the western side of Castiglione are a bit more open than wines from the more southern and eastern parts of Barolo (Monforte, Serralunga, the eastern side of Castiglione). These are quite perceivable when you taste a range of sites from the same producer.

There are big differences in elevation as well as soil within the Barolo appellation, from the ~250 meter level on the lower slopes of La Morra and Castiglione up to more than 400 meters in the upper slopes of La Morra and Monforte.

On vintages, many of us are not such great fans of 1997, 2000 and 2007, because they were warmer years and the wines are often a bit diffuse. But there has been such an abundance of good years since 1996 that that’s hardly a worry. (No one mentions 2002, which was largely a washout, and 2003, as Eric alluded to, was the year of the freak heatwave across Europe.) My personal favorites of recent decades are 1989, 1996, 1999, 2001, 2004 and 2006, with 98 providing some nice drinking now.

Howard – A couple of further thoughts…

As a Burgundy lover, you might check out 95 and 98, which have produced a lot of wines with more finesse and less power.

Also, you might want to look at Barolo producers from La Morra and Verduno (e.g., Marcarini and Burlotto), whose wines tend to be very refined. I think the Produttori di Barbaresco bottlings – the normale/torre included – fall in this category, as well. Burlotto’s Monvigliero, in particular, can be very Chambolle-like.

Finally, one thing to keep in mind vis-a-vis the cru bottlings: Obviously, there are superior sites, and growers have found they can market wines by using those names. But many of the normales are blends or younger vines from top sites, so I don’t think the analogy to village Burgundy is that close. The vineyard locations with poorer exposures or soils can always be used for barbera, dolcetto, arneis, freisa, moscato or whatever, so it’s not as if its nebbiolo or nothing.

Actually, now remembering that you are a burgundy guy, I’d suggest looking for some 98’s. It’s a really aromatic vintage with seductive nebbiolo nose(s), really highlights the parallels with pinot noir.

I’ve always loved the 98 vintage. Partly it may be that it matured a bit earlier, and thus has been in a better place than some surrounding vintages in the last few years, but I think it’s also just a great vintage whose non-blockbusterness is a plus – john stimson’s description is a good one. The only problem I have is that I always drink 98s when I can find them, so I never have many left on hand.

Bulls-eye John - had the 04 last night and thought the same thing. What a great wine to serve blind…

Isn’t that the one that tastes like olives? [scratch.gif]

Howard, if your goal is to start cellaring some good nebbiolo, don’t overlook other appellations that feature wines made from that grape, e.g., gattinara and carema. Personally, I find that wines from these regions often fill the nebbiolo bug for burg lovers with the added benefit of being less costly and maturing sooner.

For the record, some of my best nebb experiences in the last two years have come from the 2000 vintage. I think the vintage is maligned because it is bigger and less precise than the vintages around it, plus backlash for Suckling being 100 points on the vintage as a whole (still I think the only “perfect” vintage in WS history). But to my palate, some of the wines, Giacosa and Voerzio in particular, aren’t over-ripe, and have the benefit of drinking well now. Which helps me keep my hands off 1999, 2001, etc…

Thank you, for thinking of that, and maybe the following does not change the recommendation. However, I am looking for Nebbiolo to be Nebbiolo. If I want it to be pinot noir, I will buy Burgundy. It does a better job of being pinot noir than anything I can think of. I am looking for more traditional producers, and I think from other threads and from tasting I am finding some that are not the real high priced wines. I just do not have any idea of vintages, and your recommendation of 98 does sound like a good vintage.

I don’t get the olives. I get red cherry aromas that echo Chambolle to me – something quite unique to Monvigliero. Of course, with harder tannins you won’t find in Burgundy.

It’s not that you’d mistake 98s for Burgundy, but structurally they are more akin to red Burgundy than some of the heavy-weight vintages. I think 95 fits this bill, too, from my more limited experience. The Burlotto Monvigliero and Neirane 95s are wonderful, and a Francesco Rinaldi Cannubbio a year ago was also very refined. I know Greg dal Piaz is a big fan of the 95s.

Eric, and others, thanks for your help. If I take your advice and buy an older vintage from Chambers Street, I see that they have really interesting wines from really old vintages of Produttori del Barbaresco. The 1967, 1968, 1974, 1975, 1979 and 1988 are almost identically priced. Any thoughts?

Hi Howard,

The '67s from the Produttori are getting to be a pretty delicate lot, but still with a lot of complexity in the more ethereal style of old age. I love the '79s, which are right at their apogees and really quite overlooked, having come on the heels of the superb 1978s. The 1988s are still a tad on the young side for my palate, but with excellent quality across the board and well worth having in the cellar. I have had some very good 1974s, but would still focus on these other vintages from the Producttori if the prices are comparable. Keep in mind that they will really be happier to settle in after travel in your cellar for a minimum of six months- the sediment in older nebbiolo is much more bitter than in older Burgundies or Bordeaux and really can mar an older wine that was shipped recently. I wasted a fair number of older Baroli before I finally figured this out and would highly recommend letting the wines settle for an extended period of time once you get the bottles into your cellar. Thought the Tar Heels were going to knock off Kentucky the other day- good looking team this year…

Best,

John

Thank all of you for all your responses. I don’t know how much Nebbiolo I will end up drinking, but articles from A View From the Cellar and threads on this board are getting me more comfortable in dabbling with it.

One issue will be John that I agree with you on 2010 Burgundies, so there goes all my money. I tasted 2010s at Jadot, Trembley, Mugneret-Gibourg and Maison Ilan last summer and was extremely impressed.

As for the Heels, we are very good in basketball this year, but so are Kentucky and Ohio State. I think that this year has the best teams at the top since 2008, when all four 1 seeds made it to the final four. I don’t think there will be any Butlers or VCUs in the final four this year. The top teams are too good. A lot of this is because with the NBA lockout a lot of guys came back this year.

Going back to Nebbiolo, I have a couple of bottles in my cellar of Produttori, but have not opened them. I think what I will do first is get a bottle of their Nebbiolo from Bassins and just open it to see what I think of them. Then, go from there.

I have always found the easiest way to learn more about a type of wine is to convince 10 or 12 other people to open bottles for you to try, so therefor I think this has DC Wino OL written all over it. Or you could just buy a bottle of Produtorri from Bassins and drink it.