getting back to the original post, damn Pat, that’s a lot of producers to try …
minor updates made
Pat, BTW, have you purchased the Masnaghetti book yet? For someone like yourself who has spent a lot of time on classifying the various producers, having the vineyard maps side-by-side would be a great piece of additional info.
Bob, Thanks for the suggestion but I’ve already got it.
I came across this thread by chance via a Google search that had nothing to do with what the thread is actually about. But I appreciate Pat’s attempt to put something like this together as a buying guide when there is no opportunity to taste the wines prior to purchase. So I’d like to contribute my two cents.
Before I do that, I should say that for me personally, the critical parameter is the wood regime, more specifically the use of new, small barrels. I have, with time, become increasingly distracted by oaky scents in Nebbiolo wines and nowadays avoid buying bottles that are likely to show them. Fermentation/maceration surely has a decisive impact on the character of the wine as well. But in this regard, I have found that I do not automatically want to rule out producers that do not qualify as perfectly traditional, particularly since there is no simple relationship between the length of fermentation/maceration and the extent/nature of the extraction.
What follows is a list of the producers where I find reason to question or comment on the current classification, where I can help classify those that are not yet classified or where I can add names of wineries not yet on the list. I have grouped them according to where they are placed in the list of the original post at the time of this writing.
Currently Modern but Formerly Traditional
Renato Ratti: This winery uses short fermentation/maceration but ages in botti (large casks). So I am not bothered by oaky scents in this case and buy some from time to time. I would not classify them as modernist without qualification at this stage. They might, however, have been a bit more modernist in the recent past than they are now.
Terre del Barolo: To my knowledge, this producer (the biggest coop in the Barolo district) was never modernist but always traditionalist. The MGA Barolos (Castello Riserva, Cannubi, Monvigliero, Ravera, Roche di Castiglione Riserva) are often quite attractive (to my gusto) and very inexpensive at the cantina (20-25 euro). When I visited this summer I also found a non-MGA Riserva 2010 for euro 17.50 that I found good enough to buy a six-pack. Evolved, but in a nice way, and ready to drink already at this early stage. The MGA wines are as a rule more normal with regard to evolution but have, for the past decade or so, been released rather late, which means that you don’t have to wait so long in order to fully enjoy them. For example, the vintages on offer for Monvigliero when I visited this summer were 2006 and 2007.
Ca’ del Baio: I certainly wouldn’t put this producer in the modernist camp. With the exception of the Vallegrande, fermentation/maceration lasts for one to two months. And none of the three Barbarescos that I have tried display any obvious oaky notes although the wood regime varies: botti only for the Vallegrande, a mix of botti and tonneaux for the Asili, and tonneaux of third or fourth passage for the Pora. The Marcorino sees a mix of barrels, like the Asili, and the Asili Riserva is aged in tonneaux of second and third passage. But I can’t remember having tried those two so can’t really say what they are like. This is a favorite producer of mine. The quality is high and consistent and the prices moderate.
Cascina Cucco (now named Tenuta Cucco according to the home page): I wouldn’t classify this producer as modernist without qualification. Both fermentation/maceration and wood regime varies depending on which of their three Barolos we are talking about: non-MGA, Cerrati, and Cerrati “Vigna Cucco”. The wines aged wholly or partly in smaller barrels are on the border-line of my oakiness threshold. But there is no question that they tend to be very good wines in their style and are sold at quite favorable prices. Last I visited (some ten years ago), the most expensive Barolo was 22 euro IIRC.
Montaribaldi: It’s OK to classify this producer as modernist but it is worth mentioning that the least expensive of their B&B-wines (Palazzina) is aged partly in botti and that I didn’t find the only vintage I have experience with (2006) noticeably oaky. A very enjoyable wine for a very modest price (16 euro at the Enoteca Regionale del Barbaresco IIRC).
Pietro Rinaldi: Another case that is hard to classify. Fermentation/maceration is short but the wood regime is not clearly modernist. The Barolo Monvigliero is aged in large barrels and the Barbaresco San Cristoforo in tonneaux (about twice the size of a barrique) of which 70 percent new. I didn’t find the latter particularly oaky when I tried the 2013 this summer. I found that particular bottle (the only one I have tried from there) OK but was not sufficiently enthusiastic about it to buy more. Still, this might be a winery worth keeping an eye on.
Josetta Saffirio: It is probably OK to classify this producer as modernist since fermentation/maceration is short and the wine aged in smaller barrels (don’t know the exact size). However, I can’t say that I find the only wine I can remember having tried from here (non-MGA Barolo 2010) particularly oaky. Rather, I found it enjoyable enough to buy a three-pack.
Mauro Sebaste: The fermentation/maceration is relatively short (a couple of weeks) but the Barolos are aged in botti only and show no trace of oakiness. So I would put Sebaste in the “traditionalist” or “lean traditionalist” camp. This is a producer whose Barolos I have found to be very consistent in terms of quality, very likeable, and available at moderate prices. In particular, I am fond of the Monvigliero, which, regrettably, is no longer made.
Luigi Voghera: The fermentation/maceration is relatively short (10-12 days) but the Barbarescos aged in botti only. I don’t have enough experience with this winery to say more than that.
Ascheri: It is probably not incorrect to classify this producer as “lean modern”. However, it might be worth mentioning that I have never found the Barolos from Ascheri, which I have sampled rather extensively (especially the Pisapola and the Sorano), to be noticeably oaky. I might add that I think they are about the best Barolos you can easily and regularly (with an emphasis on both) source via Internet shops in Europe (particularly in Germany) at a price as low as 20 euro. I have bought and drunk quite a few Ascheri Barolos over the years but have recently felt slightly less enthusiastic about buying again, probably because I am a bit bored with them at the moment. But this might change.
Fracassi: Umberto Fracassi is a humble gentleman (a Marchese although he is unlikely to flaunt his title) with a wonderful sense of humor. To my knowledge, he is the only Barolo maker located in Cherasco as well as the only Barolo maker who makes Barolo from the very small part of Cherasco that is included in the Barolo district (MGA Mantoetto). At age 81, he still manages his winery and makes excellent Barolo (based on my tasting of his 2010 and 2012). To my knowledge, there is no trace of modernism here so this producer should be reclassfied as traditionalist.
Elio Grasso: This producer appears twice in the list (as “lean modern” and “lean traditional”) with the specific wines to which the classification applies mentioned in parentheses. Since there is a separate category for producers that are variable depending on the specific wine, it would make things more consistent to put Grasso there as well (still mentioning which wines are more traditional and which are more modern).
Giovanni Manzone: Fermentation/maceration is long (30-40 days) and the wine aged in a combination of botti and tonneaux (of unspecified age) save for the Gramolere Riserva which is aged in tonneaux only (possibly because the quantity is too limited for a larger vessel). I have never found any disturbing signs of oak in the wines I have tried from here and have positive experiences with the quality. A producer I am following with some interest although I have not yet had suitable opportunity to buy more than a test bottle or two.
Franco Conterno: I would put this producer further towards the traditional end. While the fermentation/maceration is relatively short (a couple of weeks) the Barolos are aged in botti only and I have never been troubled by any distracting oak scents in the many bottles I have tried from this winery. The quality is mostly very good (although I have encountered a few bottles I did not care for) and the prices modest. By and large, this is a producer I have favorable and pretty exensive experience with.
Rocche dei Manzoni: This is a producer I would put in the modernist camp (unless they have scaled back their use of new and small barrels in recent years). The fermentation/maceration is pretty short for the most part and the wines clearly marked by oaky scents. I initially liked what I tried from here (Vigna Cappella di Santo Stefano 1996, Rocche Riserva 2001) and bought some. But the fact that my palate now finds oaky scents increasingly distracting along with the fact that the oak didn’t get less prominent with age in the wines I bought means that I wouldn’t try again unless someone told me that the oak regime has been revised.
Fratelli Alessandria: Fermentation/maceration is pretty short but the Barolos (not just the Monvigliero) are aged in botti only and there are no distracting oak tones in the wines. The classification as such is probably OK but the parenthetic mention of Monvigliero as the only “lean traditional” wine is incorrect. I have bought and drunk quite a few wines from here over the years (most recently the Gramolere 2008) and have found the quality to be very good and consistent and the prices reasonable.
Pecchenino: When this producer first started to make Barolo about a decade ago (the Pecchenino brothes are better known for their outstanding Dolcetto), I think they were more modernist than they are know. At the current stage, based on their home page, they would qualify as traditionalist period. I have tried their Barolo Le Coste a couple of times in the past (vintage 2004 and 2006 I think) when the wine-making was (I think) somewhat different than it is now. And while I found it pretty good, I was not convinced that it merited the relatively high price. Perhaps it is time to give it another try now. As to Dolcetto, this is one of my favorite producers: Excellent and consistent wines at modest prices in view of the quality.
Reverdito: I’d say that this is a producer where the classification depends on which wine we are talking about. The Bricco Cogni is/was aged completely in barrique. I initially liked it but by now find it far too oaky. Other wines may be aged completely in botti (their home page is being revised so I can’t check) and I recently enjoyed their Codane (2004 IIRC).
Ugo Lequio: Here I just note that this producer appears twice (as “lean traditional” and “traditional”).
Comm. G.B. Burlotto: This is another tricky producer to classify. On the one hand, as John Morris has already pointed out, the Monvigliero is not just a traditionalist but an “ultraditionalist” wine, i.e., it is produced using techniques that are no longer commonly practised among “traditionalist” producers (the grapes crushed by human feet; two months maceration with submerged cap) and which certainly gives this Barolo a character entirely of its own. It was the first really good Barolo I tried (back in 2003, vintage 1997) and it has remained a favorite ever since. On the other hand, the Cannubi is aged (partly or wholly; the website is being revised so I can’t check) in tonneaux, of which I am sure at least some are new. I still like the Cannubi (this is a producer where it is difficult to come up with anything negative to say about any of the wines) but there is no question that it has seen some new and small barrels and stylistically I prefer the Monvigliero as well as the traditional (as opposed to ultratraditional) non-MGA wines (Acclivi and “normale”).
Fontanafredda: Should be moved to the category “variable by individual wine”.
Cantina del Pino: This is a producer I would put in the modernist or “lean modern” camp unless practices have changed recently. The wines I have tried (non-MGA 2000 and Ovello 2001 and 2004) were clearly marked by oaky scents. I used to like these wines a lot and bought quite a few but as my palate has changed, I am less likely to seek them out again. Still, there is no question that these are well-made wines within their style.
Information Not Available
La Ca’ Növa: This is a traditional producer. I have had quite a few bottles from here (all either Montefico Bric Mentina or Montestefano) and when they are on they are a steal (15 euro, formerly slightly less, at the Enoteca Regionale del Barbaresco). However, the quality is in my experience not entirely consistent. I loved the 2001, 2006 and 2008. But the bottles from 2004 that I tried were disappointing (reductive notes) as were those from 2013 that I tried this summer (without much of a body, limited aromatics, somewhat bitter tannins).
Prinsi: To my knowledge, this is a traditional producer though the home page is being revised so I can’t check the details. The Barbarescos from here that I have tried (Gallina and Gaia Principe) have mostly been quite charming though I didn’t care for their Fausone Riserva (2000 or 2001). The 2004s, where I bought a six-pack of each cru, have also matured very well. The fact that their Barbarescos are moderately priced doesn’t make things worse. I have found other good wines here as well: The Langhe Nebbiolo Sandrina 2004 was excellent and I wouldn’t have protested if it had been labeled a Barbaresco. The Barbera and the Sauvignon Blanc are good as well.
B&B-Producers That Are Not Yet on the List
Cozzo Mario: Relatively short fermentation/maceration (two weeks), aged in botti only. This is one of my favorite producers although I do not visit them primarily on account of their Barolo. They are located in Dogliani and most of the production is based on grapes other than Nebbiolo: Excellent Dolcetto, Barbera, Syrah, and Arneis. The quality is consistently high and the prices very modest.
Gillardi: Has only recently started to make Barolo. The first vintage might be 2011. Not sure about how it is vinified but it would surprise me if it would fall in the modernist or “lean modern” camp. This is another favorite producer, although I visit them primarily on account of their Dolcetto (Cursalet and Maestra, very good and not expensive) and their Syrah (Harys, which is 30 euro at the winery but very good). Haven’t yet had an opportunity to try their Barolo.
Cantina del Nebbiolo: Traditional
Diego Morra: Methods unknown
Carlo Viglione (di Giulio Viglione): Relatively short fermentation/maceration (about two weeks), aged in botti only
Really useful input - thanks for writing that up.
With Cascina/Tenuta Cucco, might be worth trying again before buying. We visited a couple of years ago and the wines were relatively disappointing, being a little jammy (in the context of the region). Weren’t they a rebirth of an old established name? I wouldn’t write them off, but would definitely be trying before buying. FWIW I did buy a bottle of the Cerrati (2010 vintage IIRC), which appealed the most, so maybe I’ll revise my views when I open it.
I absolutely echo the encouragement to people looking up La Ca’ Nova for value and that they are pretty traditional. I enjoyed the slightly unkempt nature of the place and the relaxed tasting. They seem to do things at their own pace, untroubled by the modern era.
I’d also agree with you on Giovanni Manzone - I’ve not noticed the oak and like the build of the wines.
As to Cascina/Tenuta Cucco, it was taken over from Cappellano by the Stroppiana family during the 1960s. Some major investments in order to refurbish the estate and, I presume, increase the quality of the wines were made in the late 90s. When I now look at their home page, I can see that it has changed hands yet again in 2015 and is now owned by the Cairo family. This probably explains the partial name change, Tenuta sounding a bit more impressive than Cascina.
I am pretty sure that the past owner left to others to actucally run the business. Not sure whether this will be true about the new owner as well, which means that we might see some stylistic changes over the next few years. What I know is that Beppe Caviola used to serve as the consulting oenologist and perhaps still does. But judging by the fact that he consults for a large number of wine makers in the area and that these wine makers have widely divergent styles, I am not sure that he has much to do with the stylistic choices at Tenuta Cucco either.
What I also know is that the vineyards are considered to be among the very best in Serralunga (which in view of Serralunga’s reputation also means that they are also considered to be among the very best in the Barolo district as a whole). Cerrati as a whole is excellent and the part of it known as Vigna Cucco, – higher, steeper, and closest to the village – is absolutely top notch. It is the grapes from here that are used for the flagship wine, formerly named Vigna Cucco and now Cerrati Vigna Cucco in order to comply with the new “disciplinare”. Grapes from the lower and less steep part, further away from the village and known as Posteirone, is used for the “ordinary” Cerrati.
I am not quite sure what you mean by “yammy”. I have never felt something like “cooked” flavors in the wine from here in any of the bottles I have tried (all vintages from 2001 to 2007, except 2002 and 2003). But the wine is certainly made in a style that emphasizes the fruit, predominantly dark fruit. Possibly, this is what Alessandro Masnaghetti has in mind when, in his Barolo MGA book, he calls the wines from here “fleshy”. Elegant, austere or high-toned are not words that come to mind when I think about them.
As to La Ca’ Növa and the Rocca family that owns/runs it, I have actually never visited the cantina in spite of enjoying their wine for so many years now. Part of the reason is that, like many other Barbarescos, they are easily available at the Enoteca Regionale del Barbaresco at what I take to be the same low price as they would charge at the Cantina. Furthermore, for reasons already indicated, these are not wines I’d buy in quantity without prior tasting. And in the Langhe area, where there is rarely a regular stream of customers walking through the cellar doors all the time, I don’t like to visit for a tasting session without knowing that there is something I am sure I will like enough to buy. In view of how generous people in the area are with their time as well as opening new bottles for you, I’d feel awkward walking out the door without having bought something, preferably quite a bit.
So what I usually do is pick up a couple of bottles at the ERdB for tasting and then go back there for more if I like them enough. It would be interesting to visit La Ca’ Növa though. My expectations of what I’d encounter matches the brief description you provided.
Anders, I appreciate the thoughtful feedback. I’ll review it more thoroughly soon and make changes as necessary. This feedback is important to keeping the classification current so if anyone else has comments, I’m all ears.
Glad to hear. Take your time.
One thing I forgot to mention concerns the first category in general: Currently Modern but Formerly Traditional. That one doesn’t make much sense to me since all producers that are currently modernist were by definition traditionalist before the modernist wave started some 30 years ago. So I suggest you eliminate that category and put the producers in that category among the other modernists. Einaudi, however, should be placed under "Formerly Modernist, Now Moving to Traditional, and Boglietti should be placed under Variable by Individual Wine. Most Boglietti Barolos still see some barriques (though possibly less than earlier) but the Brunate is now aged in botti only according to the home page.
You are incorrect about Ratti. He uses barriques for his Barolo.
Terre del Barolo also uses barriques.
Ca’ del Baio: The classification is not based on how the wines taste, but what methods are used. Maceration is in temperature controlled steel tanks for 5-30 days and barriques are used afterwards.
Cascina Cucco: barriques are used for the first year of aging
Montaribaldi: barriques are also in use, as you note.
Pietro Rinaldi: Again, the classification is not based on taste, but wine-making. new tonneaux makes him pretty modern by this classification
Mauro Sebaste: Barriques are in use, especially for the Riserva.
Luigi Voghera: Barbaresco is aged in “Allier oak casks” which is not a term I’m familiar with. Maceration is brief. I’m open to changing this one if someone can define Allier oak casks for me.
Fracassi: Here you are correct. I will change this one to traditional.
Elio Grasso: Your request will be honored.
Giovanni Manzone: I will move to lean traditional
Franco Conterno: Short maceration and small botti positions this producer in the median group
Rocche dei Manzoni: I see no evidence of barriques in use on their webpage. Did I miss it?
Fratelli Alessandria: the short maceration resulted in being classified as lean traditional
Pecchenino: You are correct. Changed.
Ugo Lequio: thank you for catching that
Fontanafredda: You are correct.
Cantina del Pino: I see no evidence that barriques are in use.
The website states clearly that small oak barrels are in use. Moved to modern.
Renato Vaca of Cantina del Pino on I’ll Drink to That says that the first year juice goes into small barrels. After a year it is then switched to the big boys.
BTW I love this thread and the chart on the first post. Great work.
Thank you, I will move Cantina del Pino
I admit to being partly wrong here. The single-vineyard wines are partly aged in barriques. For the Marcenasco (which is an ancient name corresponding to what is today known as Annunziata), only botti are used. So in this case, it depends on which bottling we are talking about.
I have learnt never to trust the translated version of the home page, particularly when it comes to the technical details. It frequently happens that the English version is out of date or wrongly translated. Have a look here and you’ll see that all Barolo from Terre del Barolo are aged in botti only:
I am aware that the classification is based on what methods are used. What I said about that was the following:
“With the exception of the Vallegrande, fermentation/maceration lasts for one to two months. And none of the three Barbarescos that I have tried display any obvious oaky notes although the wood regime varies: botti only for the Vallegrande, a mix of botti and tonneaux for the Asili, and tonneaux of third or fourth passage for the Pora. The Marcorino sees a mix of barrels, like the Asili, and the Asili Riserva is aged in tonneaux of second and third passage.”
This is based on the Italian version of the home page, which you find here:
In other words, no barriques are used, only tonneaux in some cases, which are roughly twice the size of a barrique. These are not new but used (second to fourth passage, except, possibly for the Marcorino where there is no information about the matter). That smaller barrels are at all used may in this case be a matter of practical necessity more than anything else. For wines that are made in small quantities, you simply can’t use big barrels. And wines produced in sufficient quantity to fill one big barrel may not fill two so that the rest has to go into smaller ones. I am sure all the wineries, even the most traditional ones, use some smaller barrels to handle problems of this kind. As to fermentation/maceration, it is at least a month for all bottlings except the Vallegrande.
As I pointed out, both the fermentation/maceration time and the wood regime vary depending on which bottling we are talking about. The Barolo Serralunga ages in botti only, the Cerrati ages partly in small barrels (probably tonneaux) of the third passage and partly in botti, and the Cerrati Vigna Cucco ages in barriques. I therefore suggest that you put this winery into the category “Variable by individual wine”.
And again, I am well aware of what the classification is based on. Yes tonneaux is used for the Barbaresco which puts the winery on the modernist side and botti is used for the Barolo which puts it on the traditional side. So I suggest that you put this winery too into the category “Variable by individual wine”.
Yes, smaller barrels (400 liters) are used for the Riserva according to the home page. Again, this may be for no other reason than the quantity being too small to fill a large barrel. At any rate, this is on the whole not a modernist producer and should be placed closer to the traditional end.
Yes, maceration is rather short as I mentioned. The Italian version of the home page says “botti”, which almost always means large barrels. Allier is the region in France where the oak comes from. Even some of the most traditional producers now prefer to get the oak for their large barrels from places other than Slavonia. When I visited Burlotto a couple of years ago, Fabio told me that he now prefers to get his botti from France since the quality of the wood from there is better. According to him, the French carefully tend their oak plantings so that wood of the proper kind is always available. The Slavonians tend to be more sloppy about that, and as a result, the quality is lower.
Don’t know what you mean by small botti. According to the home page, the botti used vary in size from 15 to 30 hl, which is the normal range for botti size. Fermentation/maceration is short, as I mentioned. How to classify is your call in the end, but if I were you, I would (for reasons mentioned in my first reply to you) pay more attention to the wood regime than the fermentation/maceration time (where the time is just one of several parameters that affect the outcome and therefore has no straightforward relationship with how much of what is extracted). “Lean traditional” would in my view be more appropriate in this case than “median”.
No you didn’t miss it if you looked at the home page. It doesn’t go into detail on the wood regime. But it is well known based on other sources that they use barriques. Let me know if you need help digging up a reasonable source.
Same story here. It is not mentioned on the home page but well know based on other sources.
Can you please provide a link to the place where the Prinsi website says that. As I mentioned, the home page was being revised when I posted my first reply so I couldn’t check. When I tried again today, it was still under maintenance so that no information about the wine-making technique is available.