The fine wine flavour of the month – of the year – is Barolo 2010. You would think this would make me happy. Instead, what I see is a missed opportunity to introduce more people to these great wines.
Take Burgundy-level vineyard complexity plus Italian labels multiply by long cellaring time to the power of Italian wine laws. Copy and paste into an old Bordeaux en primeur spreadsheet. The result?
A wine wrapped in more of a disorientating fog for customers than a drive in a minibus around hairpin bends in the Italian Alps in winter.
Time to get back to basics. Time to go back to Wine School!
You can never know too much when it comes to Barolo. So when I saw a Berry Bros & Rudd Wine School tasting of 2009 Barolo and Barbaresco at their cellars in St James’s Street, I put my hand up. Hosted by David Berry Green (DBG), who moved to Barolo in 2009. He lives and breathes nebbiolo. He can make the subject come to life with little tidbits of local gossip and stories about the landscape that can only come from spending a lot of time in a small village.
Quite happy to find myself in the Pickering Cellars with a glass of bubbly on a Monday night (a delicious Franciacorta from Cavalleri) and a table full of 2009 Barolo and Barbaresco, I looked up on the TV screen – “Single Vineyard or Blend, which is best?” I looked around the room at groups of excited people who were filing in from work and wondered, how deep are we going to go into this?
Thankfully DBG began the evening with talk about lasagne. That’s always a good start. “Lasagne is always better the next day, a lot like nebbiolo.” And so we were off on a journey through the Langhe. Talking to people sitting on either side of me after the tasting, with different reasons for being there, they agreed it was a unique insight into the region that could only come from someone who lives there. For those on the right to me, it was their first introduction to the subject while those on the left of me had just started to buy Barolo over the past couple of years.
What is the difference between 2009 and 2010 vintage?
In very simple terms: where the 2010 is the Queen on the throne, the 2009 is the court jester.
It is a light, ripe and fun wine that is very enjoyable to drink now while waiting for the serious tannins and powerful fruit of the 2010 to come together in the cellar. (Even at the Nebbiolo Langhe level – I have a case of Vietti Perbacco Nebbiolo 2010 following a case of the 2009 vintage – the 2010 is not ready and going back in the cellar for a few years).
If I could I would be drinking Barolo from 1988 – 1990 vintages now. The 2009s will be drinking over the next ten years, although some of the wines can be happily drunk now.
2009 Barbaresco, Manuel Marinacci, San Rocco Seno d’Elvio
If you are looking for an introduction to the Barbaresco style, this would be a good place to start. Manuel, originally a tango teacher in Argentina, has this little 4 hectare vineyard close to Alba creating a sweet and savoury, pretty wine with fine tannins.
2009 Barbaresco Basarin, Punset, Neive
The floral notes on the nose are spicy and savoury much as you would find in the best parma ham. In fact, this is calling out for a whole charcuterie board. Delicate tannins and silky palate, this is a joy to drink now.
2009 Barbaresco Rabaja, Cascina Luisin
A wine loved by restaurants, it is immediately all there and mouth-filling – boiled candy, cool cassis, truffles. One of the oldest producers in Barbaresco, the clay vineyards and Austrian oak gives a delicious spiciness to the finish.
2008 Barbaresco Paje, Roagna
Roagna does a powerful style of Barbaresco and in the classic year of 2008 it lives up to its reputation. Stronger tannins and pure fruit are held in check by an excellent line of acidity giving this big wine zip and thrills. Fantastic with the chicken saltimbocca (particularly with the sage).
2009 Berrys’ Barolo, Fratelli Alessandria
Berrys don’t disappoint with their own range wines and the woman next to me raved about the wines she has purchased from this range. You are getting a good taste of Barolo here: rose perfume, sophisticated use of wood, barely-there chalky tannins. Good value with a good dose of charm thrown in for good measure.
2009 Barolo, Vigneti Luigi Oddero
One of the great names from La Morra, this is a blend of their La Morra, Serralunga and Barolo vineyards. This means it has all the angles covered for perfect balance: deep fruit on palate, strong tannins, stern structure with a great flying finish.
2009 Barolo, Brunate, Marcarini
Like walking through a field full of flowers on an Alpine spring day. A nice cup of black tea on a picnic blanket under the shade, earthy characters, incense. Subtle power and great grip (of the imagination, perhaps, too).
2009 Barolo, Cascina Fontana
I love this wine, recently writing about it in this post: “What is deliciousness?” – so I was happy to taste it again, as always. Like most humble things, there is plenty it could shout about. The fruit could have bragging rights alone but are restrained by gentle tannins. The effect is the tannins form a beautiful backdrop for the gorgeous fruit.
2009 Barolo, Cannubi, E. Pira di Chiara Boschis
This was a great addition to the line up at Berrys, especially for newcomers – it is a phenomenon, packing a punch. Let’s just say it would stand out in a line up of 150 wines. Sweet but big tannins, full mid-palate, kirsch finish. For the nebbiolo nerds, E. Pira are now back to the barrique rather than the rotofermenter so will be following the next few vintages with interest.
2009 Barolo, Cantina Bartolo Mascarello
LUSH. That’s what I have written all over my notes for this wine. Fruit so full on the nose and palate. Molten tannins, excellent acidity and fruit tannins (rather than oak filling in the lack of ripeness which can be a bit boring in some 2009 Barolo – nothing boring here!).
2009 Barolo, Cerretta, Giovanni Rosso
Very “straight” wines here in Serralunga, much like the castle rising up over the hill in town. The red soil makes the wine deliciously deep and rich in colour, flavour and aroma.
2009 Barolo Villero, Castiglione Falletto, Giuseppe Mascarello
There is a lightness and complexity which is the work of a master. Excellent structure with a supple palate, but it is the aromas, those aromas. Complex sweet incense, candy, spring flowers – you could happily sit with this wine for hours just to let the aromas unfold and amaze.
I have to mention the food – this is nebbiolo we are talking about, if any grape needs food, this is it. Although strictly not a food and wine matching class, the food was an excellent accompaniment to the wines. The interplay of flavours gave an added dimension to the wines (I went back at the end of the tasting and drank the wines with the food so as not to confuse myself – and also to understand the retronasal aromas so important to Barolo and Barbaresco). I have certainly taken some flavour ideas away with me from the night – especially sage/chicken and Barolo.
Cheeses: Pecorino, Carboncino, La Tur
Canapés: beef meatball; rabbit terrine with tomato chutney; chicken saltimbocca; gnocchi with morels; mozzarella and pesto pizzetta.
An educational and delicious night at Berry Bros & Rudd – it is a highly recommended introduction (or a chance to refresh your knowledge) on this complex subject. It really did have something for all levels. Bravo.
“Barbaresco & Barolo – A Fine Wine Tutored Tasting”
Hosted by David Berry Green, Italian Buyer
Monday 31st March 2014
For more on Berry Bros & Rudd Wine School classes
Also, this looks great – new BBR Wine School day-long Summer Schools (from Champagne to Italy)
A visit with Berry Bros & Rudd to Piedmont, April 2011