Legendary Aged Barolo Just Past Its Prime

Today’s Story: Giacomo Borgogno & Figli

Borgogno is one of the most legendary, time-tested producers in Piedmont, producing Barolo since their founding by Bartolomeo Borgogno in 1761. Though the estate always produced quality wines, it was Cesare Borgogno who launched the estate to new heights when he took over in 1920 by exporting the wines to Argentina, Europe, and the United States. Cesare also initiated the practice of keeping half of the Barolo Riserva production in their cellars for 20 years before release. When Cesare passed away in 1968, the estate went to his granddaughter Ida and her future husband Franco Boschis with the couple joined by their children Cesare and Giorgio in 1984. In 2008, the Farinetti family acquired the winery and remains set on maintaining the rich traditional practices of the Borgogno and Boschis families to this day.

Today, Borgogno consists of roughly 38 hectares with 8 hectares made up of woodlands and 31 hectares planted to vine. Roughly 60% of the vineyards are planted to Nebbiolo, with the balance planted to Dolcetto, Barbera, and Freisa aside from 2 hectares of Riesling and 3 hectares of Timorasso. The estate also owns vines in the famous Barolo Crus of Liste, Cannubi, Cannubi San Lorenzo, Fossati, and San Pietro delle Viole. In 2015 and 2016, Borgogno commenced a shift to organic viticulture and does not use any chemical fertilizers or herbicides in the vineyards. The traditional methods of winemaking remain in place, with wines experiencing long spontaneous fermentation in concrete tanks without selected yeasts and long aging in large Slavonian oak barrels.

Today’s Wine: 1961 Barolo Riserva

100% Nebbiolo; 13.5% ABV

The 1961 Barolo Riserva is translucent and pale tawny in color clinging onto pale garnet in the bowl of the glass. The nose is decidedly tertiary, with aromas of earthy mushroom, musty cellar, dried tobacco, black tea leaf, smoked game, and tar leading the way with incredibly faint dried rose petal, cherry, and dusty raspberry in the backdrop. On the palate, the wine displays notes of forest floor, dried underbrush, truffle, leather, black cherry, fig, rose, anise, and faint cinnamon. This is medium-bodied with medium acidity, light tannins, and a medium finish. While still showcasing textbook aged Barolo characteristics, this is certainly past its prime and I would’ve loved to try this 5 years ago.

Price: $200. This is a bottle for a fun tasting experience, but while it is drinking decently well for the age I do not think it’s worth the price paid because this is past its prime. Pair with veal and truffles, pheasant, or delicate mild cheeses.

Textbook Aged Barolo From a Monumental Vintage

Today’s Story: Piero Testore

Unfortunately, today’s producer is another that, no matter how hard I try, does not appear to have a searchable history. I once again found accords of a select few enjoying the wines of Piero Testore, which according to CellarTracker consist of 1967 and 1974 vintages of Barolo. I’m sure there is more out there somewhere, so if anyone knows about the history of Piero Testore please let me know!

Today’s Wine: 1967 Barolo

100% Nebbiolo; 13% ABV

The 1967 Barolo is pale tawny in color holding onto pale ruby in the bowl of the glass. This certainly needed some time to breathe and really started to show well after 4 hours decanting. On the nose, I get dominating aromas of forest floor, earthy mushroom, and musty cellar before a beautiful bouquet of stewed cherry, dried rose, anise, dried herbs, tea leaves, tar, and cinnamon. On the palate, this displays notes of dried cherry, stemmy raspberry, dried-out licorice, dried rose, mild tobacco, truffle, sous bois, and light peppery spice. Beautifully aged, this Barolo is medium-bodied with medium acidity, integrated medium (-) tannins, and a medium length finish.

Price: I paid $60, though I’m not sure what the market value of this is/should be. I’m certainly glad I took the chance on this bottle because once it opened up, it was not only fun but incredibly enjoyable. It doesn’t hurt that the 1967 vintage for Piedmont is one of the excellent, milestone vintages. Pair this with filet mignon, veal, or white Alba truffles.

High Quality Value Barolo

Today’s Story: Paolo Scavino

Paolo Scavino was founded by Lorenzo Scavino and his son Paolo in 1921 in Castiglione Falletto within the Barolo region of Italy. Throughout its history, Paolo Scavino remains a family endeavor born on traditions of farming and today Enrico Scavino (3rd generation) and his daughters Enrica and Elisa (4th generation) operate the estate. Enrico is nearly 70 years into his work at the winery (he started in 1951 at the age of 10) and he has been instrumental in expending the estate’s holdings to include some of the greatest crus in all of Piedmont. With 30 hectares of vineyards across 20 crus in Castiglione Falletto, Barolo, La Morra, Novello, Serralunga d’Alba, Verduno, and Roddi, Paolo Scavino grows the traditional grapes of Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto.

Today’s Wine: 2013 Barolo

100% Nebbiolo; 14.5% ABV

The 2013 Barolo is deep garnet in color and moderately opaque. This needs a good two hour decant, but once it opens up the nose emits aromas of cherry, strawberry, black raspberry, blackberry, anise, dried leather, tobacco, truffle, garden herbs, and oak. On the palate, I get notes of muddled raspberry, black cherry, pomegranate, licorice, rose, crushed granite, scorched earth, chocolate, clove, black tea, and cigar box. This wine is full-bodied with high acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $43. This is a great value Barolo from an outstanding vintage, though I suggest giving it another 3 years in bottle and consuming over the following decade. Pair this with veal chop, venison steak, or assorted cheeses.

An Artist’s Barolo

Today’s Story: Vietti

Vietti was established in the late 1800s by Carlo Vietti in Castiglione Falletto, a small village within the Piedmont region of Italy. Throughout its history, Vietti passed from generation to generation and today its guides Luca Currado Vietti and his wife Elena make up the family’s fourth of winemaking. Though Krause Holdings acquired the Vietti estate in 2016, Luca and Elena maintain their familial approach to winemaking and the acquisition allowed them to expand vineyard holdings with a number of prized crus. I would be remiss, however, to skip the 1960s-1970s when discussing Vietti since the estate entered somewhat of a turning point under Luca’s parents Luciana Vietti and winemaker/art connoisseur Alfredo Currado. Alfredo’s contributions include one of the first Barolo crus (Rocche di Castiglione in 1961), single varietal vinification of Arneis in 1967, and the Artist Labels in 1974. The idea for Vietti Artist Labels spawned from an evening and bottle of wine Alfred shared with a group of friends (some of whom were artists) who declared that spectacular wines like the Barolo Rocche they were drinking deserved unique labels designed by artists. Since that evening, certain wine bottlings are adorned with original works of lithographs, xylographies, etchings, silkscreens, and linocuts inspired by a particular wine in a particular vintage and are only used once. Since the 1982 Barolo Villero, all Artist Labels are dedicated to wines exclusively grown in that vineyard.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Barolo Castiglione

100% Nebbiolo; 14.5% ABV

The 2015 Castiglione is pale to medium garnet in color and moderately transparent. I double-decanted this and then let it open up for about an hour, and this needs every bit of air in its youth. The nose showcases aromas of baked cherry, dried strawberry, orange zest, licorice, mint, scorched earth, truffle, tar, and oak. There’s also a bit of heat that will blow off with air or further aging. On the palate, I get notes of bing cherry, black raspberry, stemmy wild strawberry, earthy mushroom, tobacco, rocky soil, bitter dark chocolate, dried green underbrush, and charred oak. This wine is medium- to full-bodied with high acidity, high tannins, and a long finish. Give this 5 more years of bottle age and drink it over the following decade.

Price: $48. This is an outstanding value for well-made, textbook Barolo. If you buy this now give it plenty of air, though this is a great addition for your cellar at an everyday price-point. Pair this with venison steak, bistecca alla fiorentina, white Alba truffles, or assorted cheeses and charcuterie.

Barolo That Won’t Break the Bank

Today’s Story: G.D. Vajra

G.D. Vajra was established in 1972 by Aldo Vaira and is named after his father Giuseppe Domenico. A few years earlier, in 1968 to be exact, Aldo joined a mass of student protestors in the streets of Turin however was discovered by his father and immediately sent to his grandparents’ farm in Barolo for a summer away from trouble. After spending several months on the farm, Aldo’s dream of one day starting a winery began to blossom and he joined Suolo e Salute in 1971 where he became a pioneer of organic agriculture in Piedmont. With the inclement weather and poor vintage of 1972, Aldo was faced with either leaving his fruit on the vines to rot or defiantly bottle wines, laying the foundation of G.D. Vajra. During the mid 1980s and early 1990s, Aldo’s three children Giuseppe, Francesca, and Isidoro were born and continue to operate the winery today as a family endeavor.

G.D. Vajra is located in the village of Vergne in the commune of Barolo, with vineyards planted 400 meters above sea level. Over time, Aldo gradually increased his land holdings under vine to 60 hectares of which 10 hectares are planted to Nebbiolo. With vines located in Bricco delle Viole, Ravera, Fossati, La Volta, and Coste di Vergne amongst other sites, Aldo crafts magnificent wines in a traditionalist style coupled with modern practices particularly when it comes to using oak. To learn more about G.D. Vajra or scroll through their portfolio of wines, check out the website here.

Today’s Wine: 2011 Barolo Albe

100% Nebbiolo; 14.5% ABV

The 2011 Albe is bright medium ruby red in color and moderately transparent. Once this opens up in the decanter, the nose offers aromas of black raspberry, bing cherry, licorice, rose petal, smoke, tar, forest floor, black tea, white pepper, and oak. There’s also some heat on the nose that will take some time to blow off. Once in the mouth, I get notes of sour cherry, raspberry, strawberry, truffle, scorched earth, tobacco, crushed granite, chocolate, and oaky spice. This wine is full-bodied with high acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $36. At this price point I was hoping for a lot out of this bottle in terms of value, but the wine seems a bit too out of balance for me particularly with the alcohol. While 2011 was not a bad vintage for Barolo by any means, maybe it would be better to try something from 2010 or 2015. Pair this with pheasant, duck, or pork chops.

Nobility in Piedmont

Today’s Story: Cordero di Montezemolo

The Cordero di Montezemolo winery traces its roots to 1340, however the Cordero di Montezemolo family is of Spanish origin and did not settle in Piedmont until the mid-1400s. Though the family has deep roots in Piedmont, they did not find foundation in wine but rather in printing/typesetting businesses as well as military and diplomatic roles for the Royal House of Savoy. As a well-established and aristocratic family in Piedmont, the Cordero di Montezemolo family tree intertwined with the Falletti family who were one of the most noteworthy noble families in the Alba area and also proprietors of the Monfalletto Estate. In 1918, Maria Lydia (the daughter of Marchese Luigia Falletti) married Paolo Cordero di Montezemolo and the Cordero di Montezemolo family cemented their future in wine.

Maria Lydia and Paolo unfortunately passed away at young ages, however their son Paolo who was orphaned at the age of 15 grew up under the care of his grandmother Marchioness Luigia Falletti. When she passed away in 1941, Paolo inherited her entire property holdings which included the Monfalletto Estate in La Morra. Though Paolo through his ownership of the estate marks the Cordero di Montezemolo family’s foray into wine production, the estate throughout its history has been family owned and operated. Today, the estate is under control of its 19th-generation with Giovanni Cordero di Montezemolo and his children Elena and Alberto at the helm.

Though the historical single-body vineyard of the estate consists of 28 hectares (69 acres), Paolo Cordero di Montezemolo expanded the property in 1965 by purchasing a two hectare plot of old vines in the Villero area in Catiglione Falletto. The estate expanded further over the years through purchases and leasing agreements, and today total vineyard land sits at 51 hectares (126 acres). For all of their land, Cordero di Montezemolo started the organic farming certification process in 2013 and achieved certification a couple years ago. They use natural mineral products and repellents from organic material to fight parasites, organic products and green manure for fertilization, and natural grass planted beneath the rows to foster biodynamic balance. Not only do these efforts protect the land, but they help culminate into wonderful wines full of complexity and demonstrations of place.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Barolo Monfalletto

100% Nebbiolo; 14.5% ABV

The 2015 Barolo Monfalletto is deep garnet in color though moderately transparent. I decanted this for an hour and drank it over the following three hours due to its youth. Once this opens up, the rather intense nose showcases aromas of cherry, dried strawberry, rose, sweet tobacco, black licorice, black tea leaf, mint, Asian spice, cocoa powder, and oak. On the palate, I get notes of dried cherry, raspberry, cranberry, licorice, tobacco, dried rocky soil, chocolate, iron, and toasted oak. This Barolo is full-bodied with high acidity, dusty medium (+) tannins, and a long finish with notes of green herbs. Though elegant and somewhat approachable in its youth, this wine has the structure for the long haul and I would give it another three years of bottle aging and drink it over the following decade.

Price: $48. This is a great value Barolo for me, especially given the intensity and complexity it shows at a young age. Pair this with duck, quail, or game meats. Add some white truffle to these dishes and now you’re talking.

Rising Star in Barolo

Today’s Story: Giulia Negri

The story behind Giulia Negri and her wines is a unique one, with Giulia taking over her family’s well-established Barolo estate at the age of 24. Though she studied management and biology during college, Giulia returned to the Langhe commune of La Morra after a palate-shaping journey through Burgundy. Inspired by the wines and winemaking practices of Burgundy, Giulia started crafting small amounts of Barolo released as several “microcuvées” before fully taking control of vineyard management and production of her family’s 150-year-old estate in 2014.

Located in the Serradenari cru of La Morra, Giulia’s vineyards stretch from 400 to 536 meters (1,312 to 1,758 feet) above sea level. Not entirely shocking after reading those numbers, Serradenari is the highest point in the Barolo zone with breathtaking views of the Alps from Liguria to Mount Cervino. Though the vineyards for her Barolo bottlings command West and Southwest exposure, Giulia inherited small plots of Northern facing Chardonnay and Pinot Nero planted by her father that allow her to experiment with the varieties that helped shape her palate in Burgundy. In caring for her vineyards, Giulia practices organic farming (she started in 2014) though full conversion and certification is expected for the 2019 vintage. A traditionalist at heart, Giulia hand harvests all fruit for her wines, practices long and gentle maceration, ferments with only indigenous yeasts, and minimizes filtration. Her resulting wines are elegant in their youth thanks to fine-grained tannins, yet they have the structure to withstand the test of time in the cellar.

The Giulia Negri portfolio consists of seven wines. Her three Barolo bottlings consist of Marassio (0.8 hectare at 536 meters above sea level), Serradenari (1 hectare at 520 meters above sea level), and La Tartufaia (2 hectares at 460 meters above sea level). In addition to her Chardonnay and Pinot Nero I mentioned earlier, she also produces a Langhe Nebbiolo Pian delle Mole and a Barbera d’Alba. Though these wines can be difficult to find due to the small quantities and relative novelty of production (I had to special order mine), Giulia’s wines are worth seeking out. Though young, she seems to be making quite the name for herself and is certainly a rising star in Barolo.

For more on Giulia’s background, facts about each wine, and pictures of this beautiful estate check out the website here.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Barolo La Tartufaia

100% Nebbiolo; 14% ABV

The 2015 Barolo La Tartufaia is pale to medium ruby in color and almost entirely transparent. This wine is a blend of 80% Serradenari cru (vines planted in 2004) and 20% Brunate cru (40-year-old vines). I stole a sip right out of the bottle, but because of its youth let this decant for an hour before pouring a glass. Once the wine opens up, the nose showcases aromas of bright red cherry, redcurrant, rose petal, violet, saddle leather, forest floor, underbrush, clay, tar, and delicate oak. In the mouth, I get notes of cherry, raspberry, dried cranberry, rose, cured meat, tobacco, loamy earth, rocky minerality, slight spice, a hint of truffle, and faint presence of oak. This wine is medium- to full-bodied with moderately high acidity, ultra-fine medium (-) tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $60. I think this is a great value for Barolo, and I love the story behind Giulia and her wines as well. Pair this with duck, quail, filet mignon, truffles, or goat/sheep cheese.

Nearly Lost but Rising Again

Today’s Story: Commendatore G.B. Burlotto

Burlotto, founded in the commune of Verduno during the mid-19th century by Giovan Battista Burlotto, is another historic Barolo estate. A pioneer during his time dominated by French wine, Burlotto started bottling his Barolo bearing his estate’s name before even Giacomo Conterno’s Monprivato. This was a radical move, as all of his competitors continued to sell wine in cask or demijohn. As Burlotto rose to superstardom, he became the official supplier to the Royal House of Savoy and the Duke of Abruzzi took only his wine during his arctic expedition to the North Pole. G.B. Burlotto served as winemaker for 77 years (1850-1927, his death) all the while serving as Verduno’s greatest champion and bringing the commune up to par with Serralunga and La Morra.

Unfortunately, this did not last. Once G.B. Burlotto passed away both the estate and Verduno faded once more into the background. Nonetheless, Burlotto remained a small, family-owned and run winery that today is rising once again. The estate is managed by G.B.’s great niece Mariana Burlotto and her husband Giuseppe Alessandria, while winemaking duties fall to their son Fabio. Fabio introduced many modern techniques for making wine, however he does try to stick with the traditionalist methodology of his great-great-grandfather. In making the Monvigliero, for example, Fabio gently crushes the grapes by foot, there is 60-day maceration on the skins, and he ages the wine in large wood botte (source). This process is very rare nowadays, which makes it cool that Fabio produces his best wine in this manner.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Barolo Monvigliero

100% Nebbiolo; 14.5% ABV

The wine is pale ruby red, though it is bright and rather transparent. I decanted this bottle and drank it over two hours due to its youth, but I was surprised how approachable this is. The very aromatic yet delicate nose showcases aromas of wild strawberry, raspberry, rose petal, leather, earth, tar, pine, and white pepper. Once in the mouth, the 2015 Monvigliero shows notes of black cherry, strawberry, licorice, dried soil, limestone, and mineral all in elegant fashion. This is full-bodied with high acidity, medium (+) dusty tannins, and a long finish. I would cellar this for another 10 years (even though it’s shockingly approachable) but the bottle will last for decades beyond.

Price: $200 (though I got this for a steal at $100 retail). This is a very special bottle, and Burlotto’s top-tier wine, and the elegance this shows is worth the price. Pair this with duck, quail, or pork.

Killer Single Vineyard Barolo

Today’s Story: Oddero

After my lengthy post on Cos d’Estournel two days ago and yesterday’s fresh Frank Cornelissen, I have an easy post today on Oddero since I wrote about their history in King of Wines on October 11. Long story short, Oddero is one of the great historic wineries producing Barolo and Barbaresco and they date back to the 18th century. Considered a traditionalist producer, Oddero releases some of my favorite wines.

Without further ado…

Today’s Wine: 2012 Barolo Riserva Bussia Vigna Mondoca

100% Nebbiolo; 15% ABV

This wine comes from the Mondoca vineyard, an estate vineyard of Oddero, located in Monforte d’Alba within the menzione geografica Bussia. The vineyard exemplifies some of the most difficult conditions in Piedmont, including dusty white soil poor in nutrients and the highest temperatures for any vineyard in the Barolo area.

The 2012 Riserva is bright ruby red in color and fairly transparent. Once this opens up, the nose showcases aromas of cherry, raspberry, licorice, red rose petal, tobacco leaf, tar, white pepper, and a hint of cinnamon. In the mouth, this classic Barolo shows notes of black cherry, dried cranberry, cola, underbrush, dusty dried earth, tobacco, mild chocolate, and sandstone. The wine is medium- to full-bodied with high acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish. Plenty of gas left in the tank with this bottling, as I’d suggest letting it age another 7-10 years.

Price: $115. Great value for high-quality traditional Barolo. Overshadowed by the 2010 and 2013 vintages in Piedmont, I’ve realized lately there are some great values in 2012 which is still a solid vintage. Pair this with game birds, pork, or even steak.

King of Wines

Barolo is a wine worth devoting yourself to.

Battista Rinaldi

Today’s Story: Oddero

Oddero is one of the great, historical producers of Barolo and Barbaresco, with the family owning property in Piedmont dating back to the 18th century. This being said, Giovanni Battista Oddero started producing wines in the commune of La Morra sometime between the 18th and 19th centuries, kicking off what today marks seven generations of winemaking for the Oddero family.

As Oddero’s wines found their way into the world, first by small barrels, bottling began in 1878 under Giacomo Oddero and the winery recently discovered that their Barolo was exported to the Americas via small barrels as early as the late 19th century. This is in stark contrast to today’s winery, which is impacted immeasurably by another Giacomo (grandson of the above).

The second Giacomo worked tirelessly during the 1950s to renovate the farm and winery, meanwhile fighting to demonstrate the quality of Piedmont wines to the world. In doing so, Giacomo helped lay the foundation for DOC and DOCG certifications for wines of the Langhe and guided agricultural regulation for products such as cheese, nuts, and vegetables.

Today, Oddero is led by his daughter Mariacristina and two grandchildren, Isabella and Pietro.

Today’s Wine: 2010 Oddero Barolo

100% Nebbiolo; 14.5% ABV

2010 was a fantastic vintage for Piedmont (just wait until I review a 2013 Barolo!) characterized by a long, cool growing season that allowed for late harvesting of the fruit. Many of these wines seem to be structured and bold, yet elegant at the same time. Age-worthy is almost an understatement…

Our wine today appears a beautiful clear ruby in the glass with, as expected, no signs of aging near the rim. Still somewhat tight on the nose, we get aromas of black cherry, plum, eucalyptus, and leather. After two hours of air, the wine softened a bit and some early alcohol on the nose wore off. On the palate this is a bold, food-worthy Barolo with notes of cherry, dried strawberry, tobacco, just-past-its-prime red licorice, and loamy earth. Medium- to full-bodied with mouthwatering high acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a medium (+) finish that seems to go on for over half a minute. I think this is just starting to enter its drinking window but has plenty of gas left in the tank.

Price: $50. This is an outstanding value to me, in one part due to the quality of Oddero as a producer and another the ability to pull this off the shelf with 9 years of age. Let this breathe while you cook gamey meats, steak, or red sauce meat pastas.