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Vinexus’ Barolo 2013 Vintage Report

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17.01.2017Nick Bielak and Richard Ballantyne have just returned from a 2 day trip to Barolo with a busy program of tasting the 2013 vintage, and the early indications are that it is an excellent vintage – certainly the best, in our view, since the wonderful 2010.
Trying sum up a vintage in a few words, especially in a complex region such as Barolo, is a mighty task, but what is clearly apparent is the vintage’s ability to allow the vineyards sites to express their individual personality. So, if I had one word, it would be “definition”.
2013 is one of those vintages where it is difficult to classify it as either warm or cool. The start to the growing season was damp. May had 18 days of rain which would have caused issues with fungal attack if the growers had not been proactive with their viticulture or treatments. The weather in June, predictably, started to improve and flowering arrived, as per normal, in the middle of the month, and the vines caught up very quickly with good berry set and veraison in August. The summer had typically warm days, but cool nights. These are conditions which allowed the skins to thicken well and has resulted in wines with good colour. Fabio Alessandria of GB Burlotto describes it as a vintage without extremes – without the moderate heat stress of the 2011s.
The harvest was made under favourable conditions and allowed picking dates 15 days later than the previous 10-year average. Luigi Einaudi began theirs the 3rd week of October.
This is a vintage which seems to encapsulate the best characteristics of the other recent vintages. It had a long growing season similar to 2010 and you can find similar vineyard definition in the 2013s. It has the immediate appeal of 2012, but with more substance and certainly with more ageing potential. The tannins in 2013 are much better formed than they were in the hot, early vintage of 2011. For me this is not so much a ‘Pinot’ vintage like 2012, the wines have taken on a distinct ‘wild’ character of Nebbiolo, with fully formed aromatics, but more than anything these are framed with proper tannin structure and good acidity.
Many wines were bottled at the end of last year, but some are unhurriedly still in cask for bottling soon.
Poderi Luigi Einaudi, Barolo
Luigi Einaudi is a historic estate, founded in 1897 by Luigi Einaudi in the region of Dogliani a few KMs south of Monforte d’Alba. Although the estate was originally founded on their beloved Dolcetto, over the last 60 years they have acquired prestigious sites in the commune of Barolo, and more recently a site in Bussia, the latter we will have the opportunity to see over the coming years. For the moment, we have three Barolos to examine. Starting with Terlo, this is a site which is very close to the centre of the village of Barolo running south towards the village of Novello and northwards on the same embankment which eventually becomes Cannubi. The estate produces two wines from this Menzione Geografica Aggiuntiva (shortened to MGA, or what the growers now like to describe as ‘Mega’): a straight Terlo and Vigna Costa Grimaldi. The wines bear a family resemblance with bright red fruit characters, a touch of red apples. Costa Grimaldi is a parcel which turns southward on this rippling hillside and you can see the augmentation in density in the wine. Their Cannubi continues with the red apple characters with a breadth and presence that lets you know you are tasting a ‘Grand Cru’. The Barolos at Einaudi have become precise since I first started tasting here in the late nineties, with less influence from French oak, allowing each wines to express itself a little earlier on and retaining more elegance and typicity.
Paolo Conterno, Monforte d’Alba
This was my second visit to this estate and once again cautiously following the windy single track to this site through the snow which really tested the handling skills of our Fiat 500. This estate is deeply rooted in one MGA, that of Ginestra: for me one Barolo’s most fascinating Crus. Ginestra has its own personality, set apart from the others of Monforte d’Alba. Here, the wines are ethereal and delicate, partly down to the elevated altitude which summits at around 500 metres, although Conterno’s are on the main south facing ridge of Ginestra (historically known as Roddoli) just below 400 metres. Looking east through the windows of Conterno’s tasting room you can spy the great sites of Serralunga: Francia, Briccolina, Ornato and Falletto, merely separated by a narrow valley. Despite the proximity to Serralunga, the wines bear little resemblance to the wines found there. The soils here are from the formation of Diano Sandstones which you can clearly see in the cuttings along sides of the roads.
Giorgio Conterno made his first vintage at his family’s estate in 1990 and was born here, so he is as deeply rooted in this cru as his vines are. There are two 2013s which are available to taste: his Riva del Bric which shows the friendliness of the 2013 vintage. The fruit is dark and scented with polished tannins. This is one characteristic which is apparent in all the wines that we tasted of 2013 is that the tannins are very present, but their textures are fine and ripe. His next wine, simply labelled as Ginestra is made from selected parts of this site. The 2013 is a big impact wine, not in terms of super-concentration, but for its aromatics. If this were a Burgundy, and his wines are very Burgundian, this would be a Vosne Romanée. Dark fruits, with a wild, untamed character. The first word I wrote on my tasting note was ‘wow’. This is the kind of wine that you leave in your glass for twenty minutes and with each nosing you can find something else. Layers of complexity which suggest that this wine with have a long evolution. To back this up, Giorgio generously opened some bottles of 2009 & 2008 Ginestra Riserva which added to my impression of how slowly and elegantly the wines from here evolve, inching their way towards maturity.
Cavallotto, Castiglione Falletto
Cavallotto is another producer that is historically synonymous with one Cru, in this case, Bricco Boschis: which is a monopole of this producer, and has been made in this form by the Cavallotto family since 1948, making it perhaps the earliest version of a single-Cru Barolo in the modern era. Tradition weighs heavy at Cavallotto and you sense their pride in their ancient Slavonian oak barrels aged in a cellar below the vineyard of Bricco Boschis. This is a south-west facing site from where you can see the famed cru of Monprivato which is the next ridge to the south. Bricco Boschis makes a very concentrated version of Castiglione, and in fact quite different from its neighbours’ wines. There is no standard Barolo at Cavallotto, and in 2013 we have one wine to taste as their other site, Vignolo, will be released as a Riserva, in a further two years. Bricco Boschis 2013 was drawn from one of those aforementioned Slavonian casks and had a deep, almost impenetrable colour. The fruit is very black, with scents of liqueur cherries and forest floor. Always with Cavallotto there are the powerful tannins and with 2013 they are certainly there in abundance, but they are finely textured and ripe, and with enough acidity to ensure long ageing of this vintage.
Ciabot Berton, La Morra
Ciabot Berton is run by brother and sister team of Marco and Paola Oberto. They own 9 hectares of Barolo vineyards in various MGAs all in the commune of La Morra. La Morra is renowned for its more accessible style of wine, with rich, polished fruit and ability to drink a little younger than others, certainly Monforte and Serralunga. The 2013s are not yet bottled so we tasted samples freshly drawn from the vats by Marco. The Barolo Classic is a blend of three of their vineyards and constitutes a little less than half of their Barolo production. This is a classic La Morra, in a fresh, crunchy style with an emphasis on elegance. The purity and definition of the vintage can be clearly seen in this wine. Next was Rocchettevino, a vineyard that visitors to La Morra pass as they wind their way up to the town from the Alba road. This wine has a great nose, full of personality and fleshed out with plush fruit. Roggeri is the final wine to taste and has more density and concentration, therefore, it is normally aged in French oak for a short part of its elevage. Despite that there is no trace of oak in the wine: certainly a bigger impact wine, and a great partner to the more elegant Rocchettevino.
G.B. Burlotto, Verduno
Verduno is the most northerly of the 11 Barolo communes, and is home to a few of Barolo’s great vineyards, most notably Monvigliero, which has an almost perfectly straight south exposure, with sandy marl soils of the Sant’Agata formation, similar to those found in other great vineyards of La Morra and Barolo such as Brunate and Cannubi. Verduno is home to one of my favourite producers of Barolo, G.B. Burlotto, which has been under ownership of the same family since the 1850s, being pioneers of estate bottling in the region. The 2013s were bottled in the late part of summer 2016. Four wines to taste here: Barolo Classic which is a blend of a number of sites, Acclivi which is a selection, then two single vineyard wines: Monvigliero and Cannubi. Monvigliero is their calling card, and on paper would seem to be quite an extreme wine, as it is the only wine that I (and owner/winemaker Fabio Alessandria) know of that is made with maceration on the stems, and foot-trodden too. Yet the resulting wine is remarkable with its freshness and vibrancy. It pulsates with layers of reds fruits, flowers and dried herbs. Cannubi on the other hand is broader and richer with a slightly darker and mysterious character. Very much the baritone to Monvigliero’s soprano.
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