Parusso Barolo (Quite Unique)

I like to think of myself as an open-minded individual. As a matter of professionalism, I’ll try any cuisine, even if the thought of it turns my stomach, in order to better understand it and improve myself. I’m the same way with wine.

For years I’ve been a fan, of what would be considered, traditional styled Barolo. That has not changed. In fact, I’ve found it very difficult to understand the instant gratification that producers are looking for in these bottles. When I taste mature Barolo, it’s an uplifting experience and that experience is what I’ve built my cellar on. In contrast, most “modern” Barolo leaves me feeling disappointed and staring at the glass in wonder of what could have been done with this wine, had it not been altered so much.

With that said, I just had one of my first, truly positive experiences with “modern’ styled Barolo, and it was Parusso.

Last week, I had the opportunity to taste through a number of Parusso Baroli. Both the Bussia and Mariondino bottlings were represented and Marco Parusso was also present to speak (one on one) about the wines. I was really impressed, partially because I did enjoy the new releases in their youthful state. However, what truly impressed me was the 2001 Bussia, which was a beautiful bottle of Barolo that is just entering its drinking window.

In all fairness, Parusso is not your average “Modern” producer. New oak is present, yet he also practices a resting period for his grapes, before pressing, and whole cluster fermentation. It was a very interesting tasting.

I’ve placed my notes below. However, I’ve also placed a write-up with photos and extended commentary at The V.I.P. Table. Please visit the site if you can. Thanks

  • 2008 Parusso Barolo - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (9/5/2012)
    On the nose I found tart red berries, orange peel, cinnamon, cedar and herbs. On the palate it was full-bodied with a zing of acidity, showing raspberry and sweet spice. A hint heat fleshed out on the finish with moderate tannins clinging to the palate along with dried red fruits. (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Parusso Barolo Mariondino - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (9/5/2012)
    The nose was elegant and floral with cherry and strawberry fruits, herbs, and cedar box. On the palate an exotic mix of ginger, spice and orange rind mixed with its red fruits and hints of vanilla to create a truly unique experience. The finish was long, filled with spicy ginger and sweet floral notes. (94 pts.)
  • 2007 Parusso Barolo Mariondino - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (9/5/2012)
    The nose showed crushed red berries, sometimes tart and sometimes sweet, with floral notes and mint. On the palate it was rich with dark, almost black fruits and spice notes. The tannins were barely perceptible against its masses of dark fruits. The finish lingered long with hints of pepper adding an interesting layer to this dark beauty. (92 pts.)
  • 2006 Parusso Barolo Mariondino - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (9/5/2012)
    The nose was highly expressive with cherry and earthy woodland notes up front, backed by hints of spice, mint and brown sugar. On the palate, it was full-bodied and velvety, showing pure red fruits and earthy notes, which nearly masked this wine’s fine structure. Tannin was only perceptible on the finish as dried red fruits clung to the palate. (93 pts.)
  • 1998 Parusso Barolo Mariondino - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (9/5/2012)
    The nose showed dark red berries, spice box, dark chocolate and a hint of vanilla. On the palate, it was soft with a diluted feel, showing tart red fruit, cedar and angular tannins. The finish showed fading red berries. (86 pts.)
  • 2008 Parusso Barolo armando Bussia - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (9/5/2012)
    The nose was massive, showing dark red fruits, mint, sweet spices and a note of orange peel. On the palate, it was velvety and rich with notes of cherry, sweet spice and minerals. The finish was long, showing hints of this wine’s otherwise hidden structure. (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Parusso Barolo armando Bussia - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (9/5/2012)
    The nose showed beautiful floral notes, sweet spice, nutmeg and cherry jam with a hint of vanilla. On the palate, it was full-bodied and velvety with notes of black cherry, cinnamon and cedar, which lasted through the long finish. (94 pts.)
  • 2003 Parusso Barolo armando Bussia - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (9/5/2012)
    The nose was dark, sweet and brooding, showing brown sugar, plum, berry tartlet, a hint of herbs and tangerine. On the palate, I found crushed berries and dark chocolate displayed against a broad, almost chewy structure. Tart berry notes lingered on the finish yet dried out quickly, leaving behind hints of rough tannin. (88 pts.)
  • 2001 Parusso Barolo Bussia - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (9/5/2012)
    The nose on the ’01 Parusso Bussia was gorgeous, showing ripe cherry, cola, tobacco, potpourri and cedar spice box. On the palate it was rich yet firm, with black raspberry and hints of wood spice. The finish was remarkably long, showing refined structure and a lingering note of pure cherry. (95 pts.)

Very interesting. Are the Mariondino and Bussia grapes handled in a reasonably similar manner? Or is the vinification significantly different?

They are handled pretty much the same. The big difference between these two bottles is that the Bussia is a blend of vineyards, while the Mariondino is a single Vineyard bottle.

I enjoyed the read Eric, thanks.

A bottle of 2004 Parusso Bussia in Rome is what got me hooked on Barolo in the first place. It was dynamite. The cork is still in my suitcase. Thanks for the added insight.

I’ve had the 1990 Bussia twice in the past couple of years. The first bottle was very good and the second was okay though might have been very slightly off. Both seemed relatively young. Not sure what they were doing back then and how it compares to now though.

Michael, I would have still placed Parusso in the modernist camp back in the '89 & '90 vintages, although as Eric points out, modernist can be a “sliding scale” depending on what exactly the winemaker does or doesn’t do. I still have both the Meriondino & Bussia from these vintages, and while certainly not revelatory wines, they are drinking well with no decline expected in the near term for well-stored bottles.

I’m hoping to get some info on the changes that were made in the winemaking process through the years. Galloni makes a number of references to Parusso’s constantly evolving style. At the moment, the Parusso website is under construction but I’m hoping that may change soon. I’ll send an e-mail to the importer and see if they can give me any more information.

Thanks for the notes. I wanted to attend this but it didn’t work out. How was the restaurant?

Thanks for your thoughts, Eric. But what’s with this “resting period” for the grapes before they’re pressed; do you mean after they’re harvested and before they’re crushed, or after fermentation and before they’re pressed off the skins? How long a waiting period, and did Parusso explain what the purpose is?

From my blog, "However, what was truly amazing to me is that Marco leaves his grapes to rest in bins for 7 – 10 days before pressing. The reason for this is to allow the stalks or stems to dry, hence allowing the tannins to ripen further. "

Keep in mind that this is not to lessen the water content in the grapes (like Amarone).

The food was very good, but they weren’t prepared to handle 74 people at one time. I’m really excited to go back and try this place again because I can only imagine it would be a great experience when they’re not trying to push out 74 plates at a time.

It’s also worth noting that this dinner was hosted by Grapes: The Wine Company. It was a highly enjoyable evening.

Wouldn’t they start to ferment a bit in that amount of time? I’d think even the pressure from being in the bins might crush a few, particularly combined with the ripening sugars from fermentation. That is an interesting method, and I can see how allowing the stems to dry would change the tannic structure from a green note to something more dry.

Perhaps the grapes are kept cold during that period; otherwise, I’d think that either spoilage or spontaneous fermentation, or both, would possibly occur. I’ve never heard about letting the stems dry in that manner, but I’m not a winemaker.

es, they are kept cold. Sorry to leave that out.

If I understand Eric’s description correctly, this is a fairly common practice called “extended maceration.” Some winemakers leave the fermented juice resting in the fermentation tank with the skins and seeds for weeks, or even up to a month, on the belief that it may extract a bit more color and tannin from the skins and seeds before you finally press.

I’m not an expert on this, but I believe there is a wide range of opinion about what and how much this practice really accomplishes.

As far as the original post, I thought it was a very nice read. So many Berzerkers get Balkanized into these binary views of wine (modern Barolo bad / traditional Barolo good; ripe Burg vintages bad / lean Burg vintages good; low alcohol California pinot good / high alcohol pinot bad; etc.), but very often, different expressions and approaches can produce very good wines, including ones that aren’t in the category or style that you normally tend to like better. There are a lot more great experiences out there for the wine lover with an open mind.

Here’s a nice short article about extended maceration, and the confusion and disagreement over what it does to a wine. It mentions that it is used frequently in Piedmont in an effort to soften the hard tannins of Nebbiolo.

Extended maceration is after pressing, not before. It means extended past the end of the primary fermentation.

Translation problem, perhaps?

That’s correct, this is letting the whole cluster rest in a cold room for 5 - 10 days before fermentation.

Nice write up. The only Parusso I have drunk was an entire bottle 1996 Mariondino with a nice Italian dinner. I was rather impressed. My notes are incomplete, but there was no thought of overt modernness.