Seeking advice on the "last frontier" - Barolo and Barbaresco

Good evening all,

As alluded to in a few other threads lately, now that I am 45 and have a cellar full of wines I know and love- and which should last a lifetime based on my consumption rates, and especially given current pricing on many fronts- 2019 is the year where I slow buying dramatically. For a handful of Burgs and German wines- I will do a few bottles a year for a bit longer- but I would also like to put some serious attention on an area where I have long had interest but have little experience. Namely Piemonte- and specifically, Barolo and Barbaresco.

I spent a lot of time considering my cellar this year, and even based on my sparse TNs for the Piemonte region, it is clear that is a gaping hole in my collection and how I plan to make use of it. It is not just the wines and their character that I am lacking- but also some additional emphasis on wines that will enter their drinking windows over the next 10-12 years while most of my French reds are still slumbering. Plus it will be nice to have the fun of starting over again one last time exploring a new region.

And while I realize this is a very general question, I have done a good bit of homework and come up somewhat confused. It would appear there is a great deal of turmoil over the “modern” vs. “traditional” concepts (with each term subject to enormous personal interpretation), but also that quite a few wineries are moving about within those categories of late- it seems more fluid like California than in the case in Bordeaux and Burgundy where the lines have been drawn and seem rarely crossed of late.

Today was a perfect example- I was offered a six pack of 2011 Paolo Scavino Barolo Riserva Novantesimo. Given the price, I wanted to try something less expensive from Scavino first and grabbed a library release of their 2006 Barolo Carobric. Got home and started researching to find a great deal of disdain for Scavino from the traditionalist camp, a couple of raving TNs for this particular 2011 from people I trust and whose palates are aligned with mine, and also claims they have been dialing back the oak of late such that the $100 bottle of the 2006 I will open tomorrow may not tell me quite what I need to know.

And so I post here to with thanks for any knowledge and ideas I can add to my current starting point.

A few data points to assist in any recommendations,

  1. My TNs for Barolo are few- but by far my greatest love and admiration has been for Bruno Giacosa wines 1990 and prior. No TNs for subsequent vintages- just starting my career when the 96s went through the roof and could not afford them. Rumors of stylistic issues concurrent with internal family matters kept me away after.

  2. I do not care for any of the Gaja wines anymore. I used to like the Barbarescos young, but with time the newer vintages (mid 90s and later) are rather anonymous with age to my palate.

  3. On the Tuscany side- do not care for the SuperTuscans or Pergole Torte. Same issue as Gaja- tasty young, but lacking distinction with age.

  4. The two Tuscan wines I do love and cellar right now are Soldera in any vintage and, when I can find them, single vineyard Val di Suga wines in stronger vintages.

  5. The two Piemonte I have “discovered” recently and plan to buy in every vintage for a few years are E. Pira & Figli (Chiara Boschis) Barolo Cannubi and Bartolo Mascarello Barolo.

  6. These wines will, for the most part, be consumed with simple and hearty fare relevant to their regions, as I do with French wines. So I am seeking harmonious mid-weights with good acidity and a preference for aromatics over volume. Think Chateau Magdelaine or Meo-Camuzet (my two largest holdings in Bordeaux and Burgundy, respectively.) Experience has taught me to not ask for modern vs traditional recommendations, but suffice to say the wines need to be very strong in the aromatics department and not too heavy handed with the oak.

Thanks for any thoughts. I will be tasting before buying- and welcome any help getting a good selection of things to start with. And I would ask in particular about Aldo Conterno- I have very good access to all of their wines and from what I have read they seem a good potential fit.

I will be curious to hear of your experience with the Scavino wine.

There are many examples of Barolo and Barbaresco that would seem to fit your more elegant preferences.

A short list with which to begin should include:

The better producers of Verduno, the most elegant source in Barolo so Burlotto, Frateli Alessandria, and Castello di Verduno

Mascarello’s Monprivato, particularly of late since the style has been moving in this direction.

Cascina delle Rose in Barbaresco, which is all about mid weight finesse.

Giulia Negri/Serradenari and Alberto Burzi, which will be hard to find but represent the newest generation of producers striving for a more delicate, approachable style.

Giacomo Fenocchio, very traditional but at the same time quite elegant.

If you are not particularly oak averse there is Mario Marengo where I find the base wines to be quite fine, though they do show more oak than I prefer.

Massolino, particularly Margheria where the sandier soils lend the wines true finesse.

Vajra, particularly Bricco delle Viole, a higher altitude vineyard.

Poderi Colla Barolo and Barbaresco, traditional, quite complex and elegant with a certain tenderness that I find quite seductive.

Roagna, which has become quite expensive but the wines are so Burgundian.

Produttori del Barbaresco is worth exploring, particularly their base Barbaresco which remains one of the qpr leaders of the region.

Castello di Neive Barbaresco, which are the most powerful of the Barbareschi I suggest here but still offer balance and finesse along with medium body.

Francesco Rinaldi is a fine classisist, both crus and the Base Barolo, Oddero is less classic, though returning to form and also produces a very fine Base Barolo worth pursuing.

In fact I would suggest base Barolo as both a good introduction to house style as well as the perfect solution to a more everyday Barolo need that will not require a decade or more to peak, though they will last far longer than that. I regularly stock up on the Barolo from Brovia, Massolino, Oddero, and Francesco Rinaldi.

Of course there are many other producers that I could recommend, and no doubt that you might like but given your stated parameters these seem to be the best betts.

Aldo Conterno is producing very good wines, but they are powerful, more dense, and far chewier than Bartolo Mascarello of Pira’s Cannubi. Hedonistic wines that are worth trying but which may prove to offer too much for your needs.

Please follow up with your discoveries. it will be interesting to hear what resonates with your palate!


Thanks for that rundown Greg. Always a great bit of info from you.


Greg has given you a good list that I don’t really think I could add to. I have slightly different preferences but years of knowing Greg lead me to defer to his greater knowledge.

That being said, given your time horizon, I would consider focusing more on the Alto Piemonte. That has been the most interesting region in the world to me over the last 5 years. New producers are popping up and there are a wide range of wines being made some of which scratch the Langhe itch, others which have no analogue. Despite the fact that my holdings don’t align with this state of affairs, we drink more Alto Piedmont reds than any other region. It suits the way we like to cook and eat, most of the wines are reasonable, if not cheap, and many are available with several years of age already on them and in a drinking window. Barolo and Barbaresco are going to mature at much closer to your Burgundy timeline while the Alto Piemonte wines seem to mature faster and many are blends with nebbiolo.

Pira and Mascarello make interesting bedfellows and I also wouldn’t consider Meo to be particularly mid-weight or shy with oak. My largest holdings in Burgundy are Mugneret-Gibourg, Barthod and Louis Boillot the latter two are true mid-weights, IMO. I would consider Meo to be a bit bigger than Mugneret. Magdelaine is the quintessential classicist Bordeaux and I wish I had loaded up before you cornered the market.

Elio Grasso, Brovia, Francesco (and Giuseppe Rinaldi), Brezza, Vietti, and La Ca Nova are some I think you may enjoy.

What is the common thread that ties that list together?

Tom you’re in for some fun, another great wine region to explore :slight_smile:. Gregory has done an excellent run down with many good ideas. I could add producers but instead will give some higher level thoughts (along the lines of things I wish I had done when I got into Piedmont).

I would strongly emphasize buying the lower level wines and opening them soon to taste widely among producers. There are regional/appellation wines (usually called Langhe Nebbiolo or something similar) and ‘entry level’ Barolo/Barbaresco (no vineyard designation). There is a lot of variation in quality level among these but they give you a pretty rapid feel for producer and vintage character. A good range of these from 2014-2016 is in the market now. You also benefit from the moderate prices on these wines.

As always, taste taste taste. And if possible visit Piedmont. It’s a beautiful area, much less developed then nearly every other major wine region I’ve visited, and crammed with gorgeous vistas. Oh, yes: also a top global cuisine. While visiting wineries is fun and simple, it’s also easy to drink well in restaurants.

Buy back vintage wines. This is somewhat challenging, due to change in the regions’ producers (as you note), extreme lack of availability, and storage issues. I buy aged wine at auction and I’ve encountered a LOT more bad bottles (storage problems) from Piedmont than from other regions (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Germany, California). Pre-2000 bottles bring a lot of risk. I still buy some, but have cut way back. Still it’s worth trying - vintages like 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009 are starting to open up and can help you understand a range of vintage types. 2011 and 2012 are still in market and many are being heavily discounted now.

On producers. Yes of course Bartolo Mascarello. But these wines’ prices have gone nuts, and availability is very very limited. Others (as you’ve seen) will be much easier to source. My favorites other than Bartolo are Cappellano (similarly unavailable), G. Conterno, A&G Fantino, Vajra, Fratelli Allessandria, Sottimano, Sandrone, many more.

this is going to be a great thread. i’m in a similar boat (a few years younger and got started on piedmont more than a few years ago).

You’re close enough that we could even drink a few of these together!

Wow- thanks everyone! Greg- really appreciate the detailed run down. Several of your recs were available locally, so at lunch I grabbed a couple. The 2006 Scavino I got on my own yesterday and opened this morning was a profound disappointment. So good in so many ways- and the oak just wrecked it. Had a full glass over about a 3 hour period and some left for tonight. I am savoring one of your excellent recommendations now, and one more to go tomorrow. Will post TNs once I have made local purchases since neither of today’s two new selections that you suggested is in great supply. I will say based on this wine I am enjoying now, you really nailed what I am looking for. Lovely, lovely wine.

Nathan, Michael, Rich and Claus- appreciate your recs as well. I have added them to my spreadsheet for short term exploration.

Yaacov- I will be in the City in April if you want to co-organize a tasting. By then I should have a nice array of things to enjoy from older vintages after I do some exploring.

I’m not surprised. They keep talking about dialing back the oak, but I’ve tasted recent vintages and been just as disappointed. The saddest part for me is that they take what should be such an elegant, pretty wine, Monvigliero, and ruin it with so much new oak and seemingly clumsy extraction. It tastes almost just like their other wines.

Greg’s list is fantastic. The only comment I have on it is to buy a little Mascarello Monprivato but wait the longest to drink that. It won’t be ready in the window you gave in your first post.

What producers do you like in the Alto Piemonte.

Pat Burton started and maintains a thread on modern vs. traditional Barolo and Barbaresco. Tons of great information here: Traditional vs. Modern Barolo / Barbaresco - WINE TALK - WineBerserkers

I think for the drinking window you mentioned a lot of the attributes you’re discussing are going to be best served by buying back vintages in most cases. even scavino and others more in the modernist camp are still best with age IMO. if you want to buy wines at retail now though, you may be as well served by searching out specific early drinking vintages as by looking at specific producers (not always true though!). if you are still learning the wines, sometimes it pays to grab some of the langhe/nebbiolo d’albas/etc.

if prices of great Piemonte producers are a worry with winding down buying, don’t forget about alto-piemonte!

Valtellina is also a fantastic region, although production is relatively small.

I will post a thread with the 3 TNs once complete, but for those interested in outcomes so far- here is the Scavino note plus day 1 of the first of Gregory’s awesome recommendations,

2006 Paolo Scavino Barolo Carobric

good deep red color, cherries on the nose, dark spices, quite a bit of spicy oak as well, at opening on the palate a quite robust cherry fruit with spice and bramble nuances, slight floral hints tending to the pink, good depth but starting on the mid-palate and continuing into the finish quite a lot of oak, over the course of 4 hours this became an immensely frustrating wine, a really beautiful and assertive mature fruit with all sorts of subtle notes just starting to appear but with the passage of time the presence of the oak becomes increasingly dominant and quite raw on the tail end, working all afternoon with the glass by my side- the attractive aromas kept me coming back for another sip and hoping beyond hope, but the wine just worsened with time. It is a great shame to be able to just barely see how good this really is and could be- yet wince at the painful raw wood finish. *, drink up- it will only get worse, this would easily be ***+ without the excessive oak, possibly better given the nuances that must be completely covered by the wood.

2013 Cascina delle Rose Barbaresco Tre Stelle

lighter red color with a bit of bricking, cherry and berry on the nose, at opening on the palate a most luscious cherry and wild strawberry, midweight, good length, quickly shut down a bit on the fruit side but developed wonderfully over the course of 4 hours and I will revisit it again tomorrow, the nose was a bit diffuse at first but gradually grew in strength until it perfumed the immediate vicinity even more than the 2006 Scavino Barolo Carobric earlier today, with time the cherry notes become dominant with the berry going into hiding, rose petals, a nicely persistent dry bramble- almost tea-like, a wonderful fragrance on the finish, at the 4 hour mark the fruit came back out- a little pool of succulent delights amid a harmonious blend of earth, rose and tea elements, a genteel wine, almost ethereal, quite beautiful, I would give this a little cellar time to develop but expect it will come into its own fairly soon with a long life to follow. (), 2023-2045.

The notes above tell the tale best- thank you Greg! 2013 Massolino Barolo tomorrow, and more in the coming weeks. It is all icing on the cake from here because today’s experience with Cascani delle Rose was everything I hoped for when seeking advice.

Tom, I would be interested in joining such a tasting. Happy to help co-organize as well.

Just talking out loud: what if one did it of 2013s instead of an older vintage? The 2013s won’t be most accessible, but if the goal is to get a sense of producer style, the 2013s will (i) reflect many current production styles (e.g., I did think a 2012 Scavino Cannubi was less clunky than a 2009 Monvigliero), and (ii) are still relatively purchasable at retail. I imagine we could assemble a group of 8-9 pretty easily (subject to the inevitable cancellations). Can mandate folks double decant in the AM to help open them up.

I am going to do this tasting of 2014s, to further my own knowledge, which unfortunately is sold out (and is earlier than April). But perhaps you can find a way to snag a ticket? Vinous | Explore All Things Wine

I don’t know what French wines you think will need more time than Barolo or Barbaresco, if you think this is the goal then I’d be exclusively be buying Barolo & Barbaresco from 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009, & maybe 2008.

Like many have already said better than I could, buying the base tier wines from the better producers will get you the results you’re most likely going to want. I agree with what’s already been said…but the one thing I haven’t seen (or maybe missed) was the idea to start buying wines at Rare Wine Co. They have impeccable provenance and I’ve gotten some great deals on Barolo from the 1960’s & 70’s from them.

Best of luck!! Enjoy the journey!

I won’t be able to make the Vinous tasting, but I would be up for doing a tasting of 2013s. The key would be to do it at least a day after I get there so that I can open things and leave them open overnight. Once I book plane tickets I will touch base with you two and see what we might arrange. There is a merchant in NYC I am sure you two know well who has been really great to me lately on getting into Italy- so I am hoping to invite those guys too.

Is opening a day in advance good enough? The last time I opened a lot of high end traditional Barolo/Barbaresco wines was when I had the 1990 Giacosas while in college. Took them 2-3 days to fully open, but day 2 was good enough.