How to make the most of young Barolo?


Fairly late in the game, I have decided to get into Italian wines, including perhaps the most famous, Barolo.
At my age, and with my bank account, I cannot lay down wines to drink in 20+ years, or buy such wines at auction. Therefore, I have bought about two cases of wines from the past decade.

I have seen that some people open such young wines not hours, but days before drinking.
I’m seeking advice : a rule of thumb about opening/decanting times and would appreciate your input.
Obviously, parameters such as producer and vintage come into play here. So, let me be more specific. I’ve got mostly 13s (Terre Sovrane, Gianfranco Alessandria, Borgogno Cannubi) and 15s (Sandrone Le Vigne and Vajra Cosi de Rose).
I know that 16s are for the long haul.

A related question: is Barbaresco generally more early maturing than Barolo? If so, and because it looks that the wines are less expensive, that may be my ticket to enjoying great Nebbiolo.

Best regards,
Alex R.

Alex, I bought a wonderful Occhipinti Frappato (there’s a thread on it) from Univerre yesterday.

Not Barolo of course!

A lovely little caviste, we had been to the resto several times but not the shop.

Buy some 14 Barolo; that’s drinking well now and relatively cheap.

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There are good Barolos/Barbarescos that are not that expensive and drink well at a younger age, say 10 years or so after the vintage. A couple are Vajra Barolo Albe and Produttori del Barbaresco. Also, it is not that hard generally to find decently priced Barolo or Barbaresco with some age on them. In the US, there is a store in NYC called Chambers Street that often has some of these. Don’t know what is available in Bordeaux, but when traveling is easier why not just hop in a car and go to Barolo/Barbaresco.

I’ve been drinking a number of 2016s including the Vajra Coste di Rose and Vajra Albe mentioned above. They’re good now with some air and great on day 2. Also agree the 2014s are even more approachable. For my taste, I don’t think there is need to age young Barolo for 10 or even 20+ years as was generally accepted for a long time.

I’d recommend pouring a glass and giving it an hour or so to breathe. Give the bottle a swirl, recork it and put it in the fridge for consumption the next day.

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Alex, I would say 2013 is a less approachable vintage than either 2015 or 2016, so I would probably drink those last. In general, even for more “top end” single vineyard barolos, both 2015 and 2016 can be drunk young, but they can have pretty austere tannin. That said, they will also keep for days - I had a Brovia Rocche over 3 days a a few weeks ago, and it certainly improved. Rather than 2014, which I think is a very varied vintage (Castiglione Falletto in particular suffered from very bad weather and many top producers didn’t even make single vineyard wines), I would suggest 2011. It, was, at the time, viewed as a lighter and less impressive vintage after the touted 2010, but it’s drinking very well now.

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Pop and pour them. Would not decant. I find they are the most giving right after opening, and much tighter even on the second night. Air really shuts down young Nebbiolo.

Try your young barolo with some fatty food to cut through the youthful austerity. A fatty pork chop, prosciutto etc. I like the pairing of young barolo with prosciutto.

2016s need time, but not 20 years imho. They may be approachable in the same year as 2013s. So if you have 2013, don’t be afraid of 2016s (especially the base barolo/barbaresco for which there are many WB threads). I find 2015 to be a bit closed/grumpy right now but think they will open up a few years ahead of the 13s and 16s. Ditto the '14 recommendation, are decently priced 14s out there - although its not vintage I generally like and mostly to avoid imho.

Or 2012, which tends to have great aromatics and is earlier-maturing. 2014 was difficult and inconsistent in Barolo due to rain and hail storms; much better in Barbaresco.

There may be some truth in that, but you really need to differentiate within Barolo, because there are significant differences in soils and altitudes.

The wines of La Morra and Verduna in Barolo tend to be a bit lighter in body and tannins and more feminine; those from the far end of the appellation in Serralunga and Monforte, at higher altitudes and different soils, tend to be more tannic and slower to mature.

The altitude in the Barbaresco zone is generally lower, and I think it’s hard to tell the difference between a good Barbaresco and most wines from La Morra or Verduno tasting blind. By contrast, Serralunga and Monforte wines have much more structure and are often quite recognizable if you have tasted a fair deal of Barolo and have piad attention to the vilages. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a Barbaresco that could be mistaken for a Serralunga Barolo. Wines from the villages of Barolo and Castiglione tend to be somewhat in between in style.

There is a lot of great 2016 at lower ticket prices. It is one reason why folks call it a great vintage, is there is a lot of quality across the board, up and down… some have suggested the top producers didn’t move up a tier versus 2013 while the lower tier are all step levels up in 2016. Vajra BdV is one people are going gaga over and its $75 - I haven’t tried it, but people are comping it to $200+ barolos. I have not tried the Vajra 2016 Albe, but that’s one that gets a lot of love on this board for $35. I bought a lot of Vietti Castiglione base barolo $45, which I think will benefit from only a couple years cellaring (although it can go longer), a deal compared to his next step up single vineyards at $300+ in the aftermarket. People love the Produttori Barbaresco $35 which I think can also be cellared a couple years (and is earlier drinking than the Castiglione) - I did like it but found it to be lighter bodied and went with cellaring the Vietti. I haven’t tried the Brovia base/‘normale’ barolo for $50 which people love (although I have tried the single vineyards for $100 and I thought they were great). You can find Burlotto ‘normale’ for $65 (which is more than in past, but given his Monvigliero is now $550… the normale is nearly 1/10th the price!). I am a fan of the Grasso single vineyards (both of them in 2016) which I paid $80. the La Ca Nova Montestefano was pretty good for $35. I liked the 2016 Barale Serraboella ($35) a lot at a tasting, to where I bought a case, although I did not like it as much trying it again finding it to be slightly hot… but will give it time and will serve it in the future at a cooler temp and I think will be fine QPR. These are just my opinions/suggestions… there are many more threads for them in 2016… and people on this board hate some of the wines above (some say Vietti Castiglione can’t be cellared, the La Ca Nova is too modern/oaky, Grasso sucks etc.). But I think, generally, there is a lot of quality in 2016 for everyone’s palate/preference.

Nebbiolo prices are up dramatically over the last couple years, but I think they will continue to inch up given relative value to other wine regions (although I personally don’t see another double from here).

This mirrors my own experience on the rare event that I open one young.

Yes, I agree completely. I decant old nebbiolo, almost never young unless I know the specific wine very well already and know it’s the right call.

Plenty of good advice already in this thread, I’ll emphasize one more. Yes many Barolos are indeed highly structured and hard to enjoy young. But far more are only moderately structured, have a lot of youthful fruit, great aromatics and are fine to drink young, especially with appropriate food (just about anything Italian, pairing is not that exact a science).

Many here have pointed out earlier drinking vintages that are still in market (2011, 2012, 2014, maybe 2015). I’d add producer. Producer producer producer. Not everyone is trying to make massively structured ageless wines. While some have been mentioned here, search any thread on Barolo and you’ll find more ideas.

Alex, if you have a chance, and they are available, I would buy some softer recent vintages. Barbareco can be earlier maturing and while there is a bell curve of structured vineyards in both Barolo and Barbaresco that is wide, I would tend to agree that on average Barbaresco matures earlier.

Most recent 15 vintages: I put in bold years that are worth picking through in italic and bolded ones that I think I would best serve your search. Please understand these are generalizations, and you can find both gems and garbage from any of these years picking individual wines. These are not the best vintages, but what I think would serve your needs best. Of those I chose for you, only '08 is among my qualitatively favorite 5 vintages in the last 20 years.

2003: avoid

2004: Classic firm vintage. Many still closed for my taste, but if you can find them will be good mid to long term goodness soon.

2005: Some forward very good wines made. A pretty overlooked vintage with often very enjoyable wines.Caveat about more modern leaning producers and the warm vintage

2006: Classic, somewhat stern wines that are years away from revealing greatness at last for my preference of drinking window. If you want to cellar mid term, these have a decade head start and could along with '04 be a good option.

2007: Warm and the fruit turns toward plum and most wines lack lift. Some good wines were for sure made, but not very exciting. For sure most are ready to drink, but lack what I desire in nebbiolo (unfortunate as it is my wedding year).

2008: A beautifully perfumed vintage with classic but less firm character than 04, 06,10,13,16. I think this could be a very good option. Some are still closed, but will mature sooner than the other classically proportioned vintages. I love 08 as a vintage.

2009: My least favorite vintage in the last 20 years except 2003. I would avoid. There are some very good wines, but not representative to what I would want to drink in nebbiolo. Many come across as warm and muddled.

2010: a classic structured year- wonderful but likely not what you are looking for. The best wines will take quite some time to come around

2011 A ripe year, but I think that producers really started hitting strides dealing with climate change and better wines resulted. Many producers made delicious wines. Wines from cooler sites can be especially good. Historically great vineyards (parts of Cannubi for example) or wines that tend toward fuller bodied can come across fat.

2012- I know some really like this vintage, and I wish I did as it is my son’s birth year. There are some very good wines that would fit your needs, but many wines seem to have a hole in the midpalate and discrepancy between fruit vs pip maturity. There are many good ones, but I have concern for this vintage. Many disagree with me, and I hope they are right, but this is how I feel about '12

2013- I love the vintage but probably not what you need as many have or are shutting down.

2014 caveat emptor. Very irregular. The highs are high, but the average wines are not selling for a reason. Notably great wines are unfortunately the already expensive producers- Exception being Barbaresco which you could do well seeking out.

2015: This vintage turned out better than I had feared based on early in botti tastings. Some hot vineyards are flabby but there is a lot to like and many wines could fit your desire. I also think this may not be a vintage that shuts down hard, but I’ve been wrong so many times of over the last decade plus of following wines through elevage to drinking that I doubt myself

2016: A classic vintage that likely does not fit your need. Some breathtaking wines.

2017: Sadly the first vintage since all the above that I have not been able to taste in botti or bottle, so no opinion.

Also buying really well made base Barolo can help you. Three producers off the top of my head I would strongly consider buying their base:
Post 2014 Oddero

I would exercise caution choosing modern producers from warmer years and also toward the earlier years of this list when many were pretty heavy handed in the cellar, at least more so than now. I don’t want to derail this conversation into that direction, so I will end my opinion there.

I hope this helps you some, and feel free to PM me if you have any other questions about producers, etc.

Happy hunting!


What is the general consensus on hyperdecanting here?

Thanks for that excellent vintage summation, but I’ve had a couple of 2003’s that were not bad (for the vintage), notably G. Rinaldi & G Mascarello, especially at the prices offered. Also, I found 2009 not to be that bad, but I avoided modern producers. A vintage to drink early, though.

What a great post. Thanks.

Many thanks to all of you who answered, and especially to Todd.

I have more confidence now in buying and, especially, opening these wines.

My plan, once we are allowed to travel again freely, is to go to Piemonte.
Ideally, this would be in the truffle season.

All the best,
Alex R.

I think there is a lot of joy to be found i well made Langhe/d’Alba Nebbiolo based wines. And they are often ready earlier.

Less than a year ago i tasted the 2012-2015 Sandrone Valgmaggiore side by side. Very good stuff with just a few years bottle age. You can even buy the late release version at an okay’ish price so you don’t have to wait.

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