I have a number of Barolos in the cellar but, seeing as I don’t know Italian wines very well, I have always tended to think they need many years before broaching since this is what I had always heard…
Purists may very well agree but, dammit, if ten years or so is sufficient in many (most?) instances, I may have to do a little experimentation…
Obviously there are parameters such as producer, terroir, and vintage to work into this, but if people didn’t think they had to wait half a lifetime to enjoy the wines, they would be much more popluar in my opinion.
It depends what you want from aging wine, if all you’re looking for is for some of the hard edges and structure to soften and open up then sure it’s ‘sufficient’, but Barolo can transform as it ages, and that takes much longer. It’s common these days to make a wine that is very good on release or after <10 years, but if you want that + factor than aging is the only way.
I’ve had a number of 04s that are quite approachable.
But I think there are two distinct issues which O’Keefe doesn’t distinguish:
Are the wines more approachable young? Yes.
Are the wines now displaying at, say, 10 years, the complexity you want for in the very best wines? I think the answer to that is, No.
If you go back to the 80s or earlier, many Barolos and Barbarescos were aged in wood casks for longer periods and lost fruit in the process. In the worst cases, they developed VA at objectionable levels. The wines were tough slogging young. You had to wait them out until their tannins softened and they developed a tertiary sweetness.
Those problems are generally avoided now, and winemakers have learned to manage tannins better. The additional fruit and (somewhat) moderated tannins make the wines easier to enjoy at an early age. And, of course, some producers tart up their wine with new oak barriques, which can give them a sort of sucker appeal on release.
But I’ve tasted a number of Bs and Bs from the late 90s through 2005 this year, and few have qualified as truly mature – showing real tertiary flavors. Most still have a fairly primary flavor and aroma profile, even though their tannins have softened.
So, no you don’t need to wait many decades for your Bs and Bs to provide pleasure, but they are still very slow to develop really mature profiles.
A wine can be “awesome,” for some palates, without being mature. If what you want is sweet young exuberant fruit, you may in fact prefer them that way. But it would be a huge leap to believe that any 2010’s were “awesome” in the same way that mature examples will be.
There’s more to “approachable” than not having sandbags of tannin. 10-year-old Barolo may be less aggressively tannic than it used to be, but they are still in the same not-fun-to-drink, in-between period where the initial primary fruit appeal is gone (if it was ever there in the first place) and nothing much else interesting has developed to replace it. I recently sampled several in this zone in the course of deciding whether to sell or keep. It was not a useful exercise in figuring out what to sell or keep, but it was useful in reminding myself not to open 10-year-old Barolo and expect to have a good time.