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Question for the Barolo Cognoscenti

[I’m posting this question here to avoid congesting / distracting the ongoing EP thread]

Barolo is a wine I think I would enjoy more of, as a vino da meditazione. However, because it’s towards the expensive side and beyond, I’ve not tried many; this is primarily out of concern for not really knowing how to differentiate between them, and for not having a benchmark Barolo to work from in terms of coming to understand them etc.

I’ve noticed various producers & vintages in various threads on here, which has been great and very informative. I now have bucketloads of tabs open with various Barolos to peruse.

The choices however are overwhelming. So … if you were to select say three specific Barolos - any retailer - that for you personally capture what Barolo is all about, and most importantly are ready to enjoy now, what would they be? Ideally within the £30-50 range, but all thoughts welcome :~}

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To help you on your merry way, try to think of Barolo’ as a diamond shape, with a diagonal line running (ISTR) NE to SW.

To the left of this line (and generally in Barbaresco) you will find slightly softer, more perfumed relatively lighter wines. To the right, you will get the harder more tannic wines.

So, first things first, so you prefer tannic, masculine wines, or more perfumed, ‘feminine’ wines?

Secondly, do you like lots of wood, some wood, or no wood flavours in your wine?

And thirdly, do you like New World or Old World (stereotypically) wines?

Answer those three questions, and lots of people on here can give you superb answers :smiley:

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Barolo is about several things. A debate emerged 20 years ago or so about traditional and modernism. Angelo Gaja led the latter. It was a period when the Conternos believed in huge old casks long maceration and a tannic wine that emerged over a 25 year period. Modernists looked to quicker maturation, smaller barrels, less tannin more fruit. Gaja started a revolution of softer fruitier wines.
If you want some good examples search out Brovia. A small family who year in year out sell good priced great examples of village wine.
Try growers from Monforte D’Alba. Quite traditional but great structure. Also worth a punt is Boglietti in La Morra, softer and more approachable. Lastly Liugi Einaudi offers excellent typical Barolo. Happy hunting.
Best book is “the wine atlas of the Langhe” hard to get but the best book there is.

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I look forward to the responses you get too . A wine I don’t know enough about . ( far to much Rhone attention/addiction(!))

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Me too! Will be watching this thread eagerly.

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I generally enjoy fragrant perfumed reds, but at the risk of seeming evasive, am certainly not impartial to the odd blockbuster too. And I tend to prefer “Old World” reds.

Part of my wish here though is to “understand” Barolo, in some ways almost regardless of my own subjective enjoyment of any bottle I might buy. So for instance, one might find a read-up saying “classically perfumed, with rose and tar” etc. But I’m not yet in a position to “know” what that actually really “means”.

So in addition to pinpointing some specific specimens to try for my own [hopefully!] hedonistic enjoyment, I also - and I think particularly - want to develop a feel for the territory so as to be able to correspond my own tastes against such descriptions.

So for instance, I certainly know through trial and error precisely what I “expect” in an Assyrtiko or a Xinomavro. And pretty much for Aglianico. Godello likewise. But for Barolos, I don’t feel I have a starting point to work from.

So it’s a matter of “knowledge” as much as “enjoyment”.

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This could take some time then :smiley:

Okay, so in generally broad terms, given your budget, and not sticking solely to TWS for wines that will drink fairly soon but give you an idea, I’d advise buying:

Giovanni Rosso Serralunga d’Alba (part modernist, more Burgundian wines)

Rocche Costamagna Rocche dell’Annunziata (traditionalist, lighter)

Cavallotto Bricco Boschis (very traditional, tannic and need years to come round)

Azelia San Rocco (was modernist, now dialling back on the new French oak, full bodied, New World esque in profile)

Marco Marengo Brunate (mix of traditional and modern, but from La Mora, so ‘lighter’(!!) wines to start with.

And if you like setting fire to piles of your cash in the street, and wouldn’t mind a lifetime of wincing as costs rise, why not get into Burlotto? :smiley:

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I would suggest trying some barbarescos. Personally I find them as good as Barolo and sometimes even more seductive.
Good value Barbaresco from Rizzi, Produttori, Cascina Luisin, Verduno.
Barbarescos tend to give more at the beginning of the drinking window in my experience and can age very well.

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Hi,

I’m not going to provide an ideal wishlist as unfortunately buying Barolo by the bottle isn’t that easy (especially if you want a vintage that’s ready to drink) so there isn’t a huge amount of choice, and you asked for specific recommendations.

From TWS there’s one obvious choice at the moment - the Vajra Coste di Rose. I haven’t had that particular wine but their Ravera is an excellent example of Barolo and I’m sure that would be, too. I’m not sure how well that bottle from that vintage will show yet though - some 2015s are pretty drinkable but others very tannic, and a Vajra might be in the latter camp.

From Lay & Wheeler I could recommend the 2009 Grasso Vigna Chiniera, the 2012 Rocche Costamagna Rocche dell’Annunziata and the 2012 Cogno Ravera. I haven’t drunk those specific wines (although I’ve had a few different Grassos and Cognos) but I would say:

  • 2009s are drinking well now, and Galloni recently said 2012s are a good vintage for current consumption (I haven’t opened any myself but am planning to soon)
  • Grasso is a good example of firm and slightly glossy Barolo (although by no means the firmest or the glossiest).
  • Cogno is very traditional and whilst Ravera has its own particularities it’s certainly a classic example of austere, intellectual Barolo
  • as noted above, Rocche is a good example of the lighter La Morra style
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Thanks Bluebeard. Interesting what you say, and I have one or two of those at L&W tabbed. The issue of buying in cases is one of the reasons I’ve been hesitant to jump in to date. On a relatively modest edukashun-based salary as I am, cases of wine are a significant purchase!

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Some very good options already, and the very valid point raised that it is difficult to buy Barolo by the bottle at good prices and with some age.

If I were you, I would try to fix a couple of the variables for a first exploration. Perhaps a horizontal of one producer from the same vintage. Maybe Fratelli Alessandria would fit the bill.

I could provide a dozen producers and still not scratch the surface of those I would consider good.

Perhaps I might suggest a couple of retailers (sorry TWS) whose views I trust and could put something together for you - James & Gabriele at Ultravino and Ed at Uncorked. Ultravino normally sell by the case, but ask nicely and they might mix you an exploration trio (it is in their interest to get you hooked).

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The people who have already posted on this thread are those who really know their stuff; the people I am doing my best to learn from.

I find it a difficult question to answer, though, as one of the lovely things about Barolo is how individual the wines are. Drinking broadly seems a good idea to me.

In your suggested price range, I would recommend Baudana Baudana.

The best Barolo I’ve had was probably G. Mascarello’s Monprivato. That would be a bit more expensive, sadly.

Really, I’d suggest trying every Barolo you can lay hands on, and just see what each one offers you. The main descriptors you see used are helpful once you know what you tend to like but they don’t really conjure up what the wines are like to drink, as that is quite difficult to pin down.

But then comes the most difficult decision of all: when to drink each bottle of perfumed paradise in order to catch it at its best?

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I was also thinking of suggesting Fratelli Alessandria from Uncorked. Might also be interesting to buy the 2014 and the 2015 normale and compare.

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I am on a not too dissimilar quest. I have loved pretty much every Cote Rotie (bear with me) that I’ve tried so far but I keep seeing descriptions of Cote Rotie (including some of the ones I’ve tried) which liken them to Burgundy and Barolo. I find this strange since I can find no point of comparison between the Burgundies and Barolos I have so far tried, and been generally disappointed by, and the far more muscular Cote Roties I’ve tried, and generally loved. Maybe I’ve just been trying the wrong ones? I suspect the slightly more traditional and eastern Barolos will be more to my taste. I have a Barolo due to arrive any day now from the Castiglione Falletto region which I believe combines characteristics of both west and east and is rather more approachable than the typical Serralunga.

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A couple of bottles of this just appeared on the website. I kindly left a few for others :wine_glass:

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You’re in the best hands on this thread with the likes of @Tannatastic, @strawpig, @Olivercg and @Bluebeard who are the Piedmont experts on this Community.

The elephant in the room on your original question is that to my mind, “understanding” Barolo requires you to drink a mature Barolo. It is with maturity that the true magic of Nebbiolo grown in this unique terroir reveals itself. Those heady scents of tar, roses, truffle, cigar embers, and gauzy, mulchy walks in dank woodland only come with age. If you drink Barolo too young, you may not quite see what the fuss is about as you will be assailed by a wall of tannin and acidity. That is not to say there is no pleasure to be had from enjoying the lifted red fruits and silk-coat tannins of young Barolo, but it is a different experience…

With particular respect to my friends across the Atlantic, the definition of “mature” is very subjective, but in foggy hills of the Langhe I would say it needs to be at least 15 years old. As others have pointed out, finding mature Barolo to purchase by the bottle is not easy. Barolo is not the most popular wine in the market, but it does have a hugely loyal following amongst its die-hard fans and so most Barolo is snapped up by the case and squirrelled away in cellars to be forgotten about for decades, never to be seen again for purchase.

I agree with all the excellent suggestions on this thread to try to nail down some sort of idea of what you like, particularly:

  1. Barolo vs Barbaresco - the latter is often open for business earlier
  2. Lighter, “red fruit” styles (La Morra/Verduno) vs more full bodied, “darker fruit” styles (Serralunga vs Monforte d’Alba)
  3. Traditionalist v Modernist (i.e. how much sweet vanilla oak do you like to taste?)

In terms of a Barolo to try now that is readily available, I would echo @Bluebeard’s recommendation for the Rocche Costamagna, “Rocche dell’Annunziata” 2012 - this is ready to go and is super lifted, fragrant and perfumed with red cherries, mint, orange rind and some gentle spice. This should give you an idea of the ethereal fragrance of Barolo combined with the level of tannin. I tasted the 2012s from Rocche Costamagana in 2019 and they were already open for business.

Now the expensive bit, I’m afraid. Lay & Wheeler have mature Barolo by the bottle, and I would look to 2004 for something that’s available and that will also drink well now, such as:

2004 Barolo Bricco Viole, Mario Marengo, Piedmont | Lay & Wheeler

2004 Barolo La Serra, Gianni Voerzio, Piedmont | Lay & Wheeler

2004 Barolo Monvigliero Riserva, Castello di Verduno, Piedmont | Lay & Wheeler

2004 Barolo Arione, Enzo Boglietti, Piedmont | Lay & Wheeler

As always, give them a good decant, and serve them in glasses with plenty of space for swirling. Welcome to the Nebbiolo Addict Club.

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I’m not entirely sure I’m comfortable with ‘expert’, I think ‘keen enthusiast who probably spends a bit too much time thinking about, and money on, Barolo’ is more suitable :smiley:

And 2004 is an excellent suggestion for dipping toes - it is probably the most approachable of all the ‘classic’ vintages of the last couple of decades.

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Well said everyone :wine_glass:
Definitely opening a bottle this week

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Also from Howard Ripley, recommend and it has not gone stratospheric as so many have, the Conterno’s split years ago with Aldo being the modernist, and it was years ago I could afford them.

Thank you very much indeed for the time spent on the replies here - really helpful and v.much appreciated. It’s precisely a mature open-for-business one/s I’m looking for. I’ll be buying one or two soon, guided by these ideas above, and already have a particular new glass arrived today as a vessel for this new area for me ; a pair of Riedel Veritas New World PNs - really lovely in the hand and elegant to the touch. We’ve got a few different Riedels, but this one trumps the lot on first impressions IMO. I shall report back in due course once the deed has been done.

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