Saturday, 3 June 2017

The Barolo Boys In Piedmont - A Long And Rewarding Thursday

The first full day in Barolo and we were anxious like whippets dogs on the starting line. 9.30 we drow into the yard of the Giuseppe Rinaldi winery.

We were meet by Carlotta Rinaldi, daughter of Beppe Rinaldi, one of the Last of the Mohicans (the two other were the late Bartolo Mascarello and Theobaldo Cappellano).
Carlotta talked with great passion of the legacy of Barolo and the art of blending grapes from different vineyards into the works of art that the Baroli from this estate are.

And the Rinaldi estate is turning out some really fine Baroli. Too bad that the prizes have reached stratospheric limits, and even worse that the Rinaldi´s doesn´t get a bigger chunk of that money. They still sell the Barolo at the estate at 30+ Euro/bottle. That is if you can get on their private list. And you can´t. Believe me, we tried!

Giuseppe Rinaldi
2013 Barolo Tre Tine
The Trine Tine is a blend of grapes from Ravera, Cannubi San Lorenzo and Le Coste. A very elegant, floral, seemingly light but focused nose with notes of sweet lingonberries, violets and forest floor. A high, pure nose. Very fine.
The taste is tight and seedy with notes of red currants, fir, mushrooms and roses. A beautifully intensity even though it appers to be light. Still a baby of course, this has great potential.
95p   (tasted 2017/05)

2013 Barolo Brunate
The Brunate displays a tad darker fruit, more spice and maybe a bit deeper. But it is also more closed on the nose. A very fine scent of dried strawberries. Refined.
The taste is tighter than the Tre Tine with notes of cherries, incense and tobacco. A very long structured finish with a lovely acidity. This will be a winner if you hold it for 6+ years.
94p   (tasted 2017/05)

Carlotta Rinaldi in Le Coste
After a wonderful visit to Giuseppe Rinaldi we headed to the estate where I made my first ever winery visit in Piedmont some nine years ago - G. D. Vajra. Milena and Isidoro Vaira took great care of us and we tasted the following wines.

G. D. Vajra
2016 Riesling
The Riesling here is a clonal selction from Geisenheimer in Alsace and are grown in two vineyards - Fossati and Bertoni. And the wine is a stunner. A ripe, herbal, fresh nose with energy and notes of lemon, ramson, chrushed flint and a touch of mint. Salivating!
The taste is fresh and racy with notes of grass, spices, lemon and asphalt. Tension and finesse. This is really good. Or as Isidoro said - "a perfect wife to our Barolo".
91p   (tasted 2017/05)

The new lable of the 2016 Riesling...
Milena & Isidoro Vaira
2016 Dolcetto d´Alba
The Dolcetto has an open, spicy nose with a fine mix of raspberries and blueberries with some thyme and chrushed rocks tossed in. Very good.
The taste is fresh and direct with notes of ripe lingonberries, gravel and herbs. Accessible and juicy. Good structure.
87p   (tasted 2017/05)

2015 Barbera d´Alba
A varm, outgoing nose with notes of dark raspberries, licorice, almond paste and a hint of chocolate. Deep and very good.
The taste is broad and warm yet finely tuned and filled with a mix of red and black berries. A very fine acidity cleans the palate. Long finish with a earthy finish. This is good.
90p   (tasted 2017/05)

2013 Kyé Freisa
I know that Freisa is the closest relative to Nebbiolo, but that don´t make me like it more I´m afraid. The nose is linear and high pitched with notes of paint, lingonberries, dusty earth and rose petals. You get a glimpse of Nebbiolo aromas on the nose from time to time.
The taste is tight and dry with high amounts of tannins and notes of lingonberries, cigarette ashes and dusty earth. Again, some Nebbilo treats, but this is not up my alley. The finish is like licking on blotting paper.
85p   (tasted 2017/05)

2013 Barolo Albe
This has some nice cherries and tar on the nose but it is rather light in the middle and don´t have much stuffing.
The taste is young and tight with notes of red cherries, road dust and undergrowth. A medium long, dry finish. This is good, no question, but IMHO it is this more of a Langhe Nebbiolo than a Barolo.
86p   (tasted 2017/05)

2013 Barolo Baudana, Luigi Baudana
This estate is managed by the Vaira family since 2009. A dark, compact nose with notes of ripe raspberries, some blackberries, tobacco and licorice. Big and brawny for a 13. Very good though. Nice, solid fruit.
The taste is structured and dense with notes of black cherries, hard raspberry candy, plums and cocoa. Long lasting and mouth filling. Not elegant but very likeable.
89p   (tasted 2017/05)

2013 Barolo Bricco Delle Viole
Aaaah, this is the real stuff. A refined, deep, floral nose that makes you giddy with joy. Wonderful notes of dark roses, dry licorice, cool tobacco scents and, yes, violets. Very fragrant and fine.
The taste is balanced and multi layered with notes of ripe red cherries, violets, spices and dried flowers. Very long and harmonious. The tannins are ultra-fine. This will go into the cellar for sure.
94p   (tasted 2017/05)

After two winery visits the stomach screams - food! So we head up to Serralunga and our home away from home - Centro Storica - where owner Alessio reigns over this supreme Vinoteca with down to earth food and a stunning wine list.
While waiting for the food we quenched our thirst with a glass of Bollinger. Then some plin (made by Alessios mother, yummy as always) and a glass of Barbera.

2014 Barbera d´Alba Vigna Ceretta, Roberto Voerzio
2014 was a tough year for Dolcetto and Barbera, but Roberto usually knows what he is doing, so we ordered this wine with confidence. It was also a difficult year for Nebbiolo but the autumn was much better than the cold and rainy summer and the wine growers that waited as long as possible told us that they were happy about the 14 vintage. It will interesting to try them next year. We tasted a few from tank, notes to follow.
The nose of the Voerzio Barbera is dark, deep and concentrated with notes of raspberries, trumpet, undergrowth and licorice. Open, scented and very good.
The taste is full-bodied and round with notes of dried raspberries, road dust, licorice and some blackberries. An uplifting acidity. There is a hint of vanilla in the end of the finish. Very, very good.
90p   (tasted 2017/05)

The 2013 Barolo vintage
Before the account from our next visit, some words about the 2013 Barolo vintage.

It is a complete wash out! Don´t buy anything! Nothing! So there, stop reading and move on.

Well actually no, quite the opposite, but those who just read until the line above won´t buy anything and I can buy more...:-)
We heard from all the producers we visited last year (see reports from that trip at the bottom of this page) that they were very pleased with the 2013 vintage, almost all of them calling it a "classic" Nebbiolo vintage.
Of the 81 Baroli tasted on this trip, 57 were from the 2013 vintage.

What to say about the vintage then? The one thing that striked us when tasting these wines is that - even though there are minor and major differences between for example the wines from La Morra compared to the ones from Serralunga or the differences between upbringing in old Slavonian oak or barriques (although the major part of the producers that have been using barriques are cutting down on the time the wines spends in them or abandoning them altogether) - all wines showed a racy, energetic freshness.
They are more floral than usual, the red fruits are more forward (especially strawberries - some are almost Burgundian like), there is a sweet/sour sensation to the fruit that is really fine, the tannins are sappy and very silky, and they are very fresh, lively, vibrant and almost gulpable.

Are these wines for the short term then? They will not need as much time as the 2006 or 2010 to come around, but make no mistake, even though they seem almost ligth and airy there are more stuffing to them than are immediate noticable. I must confess being smitten by this vintage and will buy plenty.

There were one exception though, keep on reading...

When we walked back to our car we asked ourselves, what just happened? A visit that we have looking forward to turned out to be, to be fair, a disappointment.

There were some possible explanations. There were three groups of visitor there at the same time and the assistent (Chiara were not there) had a tough time to cope with all groups. Since we have been to the cellars before we declined the cellar visit and tried to focus on the wines.
Yes, the bottles were opened beforehand but according to the assistent they have had several visits during the day so they had to be opened on that day. And when the large party arrived back from the cellar replacement bottles were opened of most of the wines. We got to try those freshly opened bottles but sadly our views were the same.

E. Pira
2016 Dolcetto d´Alba
A young, inky nose with notes of dark fudge, blueberries and warm earth. Juicy and fine.
The taste is dry and earthy with notes of blueberries, spice and nuts. A medium long finish with a fine acidity. Very good.
86p   (tasted 2017/05)

2015 Barbera d´Alba Superiore
A large scaled, warm nose with notes of cooked raspberries, licorice, tobacco and dark candy. A touch alcohol. Very warm.
The taste is big, sweet and dense with notes of plums, blackberries, dark chocolate and damp earth. A long, drying finish with a touch of alcohol warmth. Tasted from two bottles with the same impression.
83p   (tasted 2017/05)

2015 Langhe Nebbiolo
A touch seedy and cool nose with notes of ripening cherries, dry earth and hard licorice. Medium bodied and good.
The taste is tight and a tad superficial with notes of dried strawberries, lingonberries and road dust. A medium long finish with a good acidity. Good.
86p   (tasted 2017/05)

2012 Barolo Mosconi
A steady, plummy nose with warmth and notes of licorice, earth sprinkled raspberries, branded cherries and warm spices. A fine warmth but where is the nerve and finesse, usually found in Chiaras wines?
The taste follows the nose with fine enough warm, plummy fruit, a long finish with some firm tannins and a nice mouthfeel. But it lacks definition and refinement. Tasted from two bottles.
88p   (tasted 2017/05)

2012 Barolo Cannubi
But the Cannubi will be great?! Well, no. It is a really good wine, don´t get me wrong, but I am used to higher levels when it comes to the Baroli from Chiara. This has a deep, seedy nose with notes of red cherries, smoke, wild flowers and spices. A fine warmth. Medium deep.
The taste is big, tight and seedy with some hard extracted tannins and notes of sweet/sour cherries, licorice, damp earth and tobacco. Long. Again, a very good wine on its own, but not up to Chiara´s usual standard.
90p   (tasted 2017/05)

2013 Barolo Mosconi
Did something go wrong in 2012? But the 13´s will surely be up to par!
Well, not really.  The nose of the Mosconi is deep, warm and fairly concentrated with notes of red cherries, licorice, undergrowth and a hint of tar. A fine, warm depth.
The taste is seedy and expressive with notes of hard cherry candy, dried mushrooms, rosehips and warm tiles. A long finish with some coarse tannins. The best of the bunch.
91p   (tasted 2017/05)

2013 Barolo Cannubi
The nose of the Cannubi is subdued and warm med some cooked cherries, smoke and undergrowth. A medium depth. Nothing wrong with it but a tad bland. From a newly opened bottle.
The taste is warm and tight with notes of black olives, hard cherry candy and forest floor. Some austere tannins. Long. Again, not a bad wine but it definitive lacks the energy and liveliness of all other 13´s we tasted. I would really like to taste these wine again.
89p   (tasted 2017/05)

It is late afternoon when we role up to the estate of Aldo Conterno which from a distance looks like a small village on its own.

The Aldo Conterno estate
We are greated by Giacomo Conterno and now starts an eight our session with starts with a tasting, then a vineyard visit and finally a dinner with Giacomo. As we noted when we head back to our accommodation, life could be worse.
First the tasting!

Aldo Conterno
2014 Bussiador
The 14 vintage has a more Burgundian touch than the more outspoken 13. The production is only 25% of the normal one. But what a wine! The nose is young, greenish and very refined with notes of cool yellow plums, hazelnuts, flint and passionfruit. Very handsome. Dry lemon fudge. Really interesting.
The taste is cool, young and pure with notes of lemon cream, minerals, almond butter cookies and cap gun smoke. A long, focused finish. Would love to have some bottles of this to put in a fine Burgundian line up.
93p   (tasted 2017/05)

2014 Barbera d´Alba Conca Tre Pile
A deep scented, dark nose with notes of dried strawberries, moist undergrowth, smoke and fine floral scents. At the same time heavy and light. Very, very good.
The taste is tight, racy, with a fine laid back warmth and notes of raspberries, sandelwood, dried flowers and bakelite. An almost salty finish. Long and warm. Really good and highly drinkable.
92p   (tasted 2017/05)

2013 Barolo Bussia
The Normale has a fine, elegant, laid back nose with notes of roses, licorice, cough medicine and lots of floral elements. Very, very good.
The taste is cool, tight and medium bodied with notes of hard cherry candy, gravel, rosehips and cool tobacco. A long, linear finish that will need 3-5 years to come around.
91p   (tasted 2017/05)

2013 Barolo Colonnello
The three vineyard wines - Colonnello, Cicala and Romirasco - are masterpieces in the 2013 vintage. The Colonnello soars up from the glass with enticing aromas of ripe strawberries, Christmas spices. violets, licorice and dried flowers. Magnificent. There is a touch of band aid that adds to the complexity.
The taste is pure and aristocratic with balance and energy, and notes of hard cherry candy, raspberry licorice, sweet minerals and violets. The finish goes on and on and on. Briliant.
97p   (tasted 2017/05)

Colonnello or Cicala...? I say both!!

2013 Barolo Cicala
The Cicala is denser, deeper and a bit sturdier on the nose compared to the Colonnello. Full of black cherries, fir wood, violets, dark flowers and a touch of mint. Very, very deep. A vibrating, rich nose.
The taste is tight, seedy and multi layered with notes of sweet/sour cherries, warm sand, dried flowers and lots of mushrooms. The finish is two minutes long and so racy, so vigorous, so sappy. Wait 6+ years and you´re probably looking at perfection.
97p   (tasted 2017/05)

2010 Barolo Cicala
We talked about different vintages and how the 13´s compares to the last great vintage, the 2010. And all of a sudden Giacomo gets up and fetches a 2010 Cicala! Comparing the 10 to the 13 it is obvious that the 10 is a bit darker, denser and with more dried up sweetness than the 13. But it doesn´t have that high strung energy that the 13 have. This 10 is for the long haul. More tobacco, earthy notes and the tannins in the finish is more brutal (in a nice way). When asked which we preferred, my two fellow Barolo Boys both preferred the 10 while I and Giacomo preferred the 13. I am in good company :-).
96p   (tasted 2017/05)

2013 Barolo Romirasco
What to say about the Romirasco? Words can´t do justice to masterpieces like this. It is all that the Colonnello and Cicala are, but then there is that special Romirasco touch, that purity, depth, complexity and supremacy. A breathtaking wine, that just needs those 8+ years to add some mature complexity to it. These wines carry a rather hefty price tag but in this case it is, to quote a certain wine critic, a no-brainer, this is one for the the cellar.
99p   (tasted 2017/05)

After this fabolous tasting we got in the car with Ciacomo to pick up the third Barolo Boy, who arrived in Alba late on this day. On our way back Giacomo asked if wanted to make a short trip through the Cicala and Romirasco vineyard. Is the pope catholic?!



2009 Barolo Riserva Granbussia
Back at the estate Giacomo fetched a last bottle for us to taste, the 09 Granbussia. A very deep, dark flowery nose with notes of dried cherries, ceps, dried roses, leather and some freshly grounded coffee. Some maturity. Very, very good. A very fine warmth to the fruit.
The taste is tight and structured with notes of red and black cherries, forest floor, leather and dried flowers. A very long, distinct finish. Drinking fine already but will keep for many, many years. Really fine.
94p   (tasted 2017/05)

After this fantastic tasting and long talk with Giacomo we all headed to Osteria I Rebbi, a new restaurant for me and for the Langhe area. It is located in Monforte and have in the business for four years.  The food was great and the wine list rather new but full of gems.

No notes for the wines but the 04 Bruno Paillard was a stunner and the 12 Sassicaia was a real treat. The Barolo Boys had a great afternoon and evening with Giacomo! I wonder what he thought...

It had been a long and rewarding Thursday, but laying my head on the pillow I was already eager for the upcoming day...

Fried calf´s brain - yummy!


  1. Amazing post, my friend! We've very much aligned when it comes to the 2013 Aldo Conterno line-up.

    1. Thanks Jörgen! They do indeed merit something more than 87p...:-)