Traditional vs. Modern Barolo / Barbaresco

Some questions have arisen about the definitions of the categories in my OP. I had left them vague on purpose as I hoped the board would help to identify the collective thoughts on what makes nebbiolo traditional (e.g.). For myself, I was thinking:

Traditional: Wines aged in large botti, long maceration times (e.g. 20+ days), avoidance of new oak, with a resulting wine that is highly structured and requiring extending bottle aging to enter a drinking window.

Modern: Wines aged in barrels, new oak frequently used, shorter maceration times via use of rotofermenters, riper fruit, resulting in wines that show a fair amount of fruit in the short to mid-term, even if extending bottle aging may result in a ‘better’ drinking experience. Basically, a clear divergence from traditional approaches that result in a wine that is approachable at an earlier age.

The categories I termed as ‘leaning’ in one direction or the other are for producers that can generally be thought of as one or the other but depart in enough substantial ways from the stalwarts of their ends of the spectrum to allow co-categorization.

Again, I’m far from an expert in this region (or any) of the world so take my definitions with a grain of salt. I’m happy to hear dissenting voices, clarifications, etc.

I might not be remembering things correctly, but someone on the board suggested that the “new botti” explanation was being bandied about a little too frequently… that said, I had a 2005 Cicala not that long ago and it was wonderful.

I know at least one winery in Barolo that claims to be fully traditional but isn’t, so it’s as well to be a bit skeptical.

I would put them in with Scavino, Altare, and others who went very modern with barriques, esp. in the 90s, but have dialed back in recent years. If Aldo wanted to be traditional, he would have stayed with his brother, but I do think it was his sons who took it to the next level before going back toward the middle again.

I would have to question about Gaja as lean traditional. Opinions?

I think Gaja has been modern for so long people just pass him off as being traditional.

Ca del baio ?

I attended a Gaja dinner ten years or so ago at Valentino in Los Angeles. The highlight of the evening was Angelo’s rant against modernist makers of Barolo and Barbaresco…

Would agree with Ken V (a true Barolo Jedi) regarding where to consign Aldo Conterno on this continuum. I would also not consider Gaja traditional.

Also surprised to see Guido Porro listed as traditional - I find him to be good value for an entry level look at Barolo, but his wines always strike me as “sculpted”, for lack of a better term.

Anybody have any info on the below?

  • Cantina del Pino
  • Castello Verduno
  • Seghesio
  • Sordo
  • Bruno Rocca
  • Schiavenza
  • Grimaldi

Baudana can probably be put with Vajra in lean traditional as they now own Baudana.

Azelia is another thats missing. Modern or lean modern?

Updated where possible.

For Aldo Conterno, it was suggested to me that I separate the wines made by Aldo from those made by his sons, which made a good deal of sense to me.

Gaja: I think it is easy to confuse the different wines Gaja makes. This list isn’t aimed to consider the non-nebbiolo wines of a producer and thus I think we should forgive Gaja for planting some non-traditional varieties in the area (e.g. Cabernet). I know that there is some talk of some field blends in some of Gaja’s nebbiolos (barbera, dolcetto). Still does one disagree that the great nebbiolos of Gaja lack the traditional elements?

Thoughts on the leaning categories: I had intended to use these categories, as well as all others to describe what the producers are currently doing. I think that some producers were placed initially in leaning categories because they once produced one type of wine but now produced another. I decided another category might be helpful and so I added a ‘Prince’ group - producers formerly known as traditional. I hope to use this list as a buying guide and so it is helpful to know that such a switch has occurred. If anyone has approximate dates for such changes off the top of their head, I’m happy to add that.

added Cantina del Pino, Bruno Rocca, and Baudana.

I’m not sure where to place Seghesio, Sordo, Grimaldi, Schiavenza, or Azelia either.

Bruno Rocca is modern, the use of oak clearly impacts the wine. Azelia leans modern. I guess. Kind of depends on where you draw the wine. If you use roto on any/all of wines or use small barrels for 2 of your 4 Barolo, where does that place you?

Sanjay, have you had any of the recent releases from here? Its been suggested to me that the style has been on the move towards modern since the ownership changed. Anyone else out there know?

I would consider them modern.

Which vintage did A. Conterno move “Lean Traditional” (made by Aldo) to “Lean Modern” (made by Aldo’s sons)?

TIA. Brodie

The current technical sheets on the Aldo Conterno site are not at all modern, so it would be wrong to put them as ‘currently modern.’

So have the sons moved entirely away from the small barriques?