Up until today, the 2 greatest Barolo vintages of the last 40 years were generally acknowledged to be 1996 and 1982. Now we can add 2010 to the list.
2010 was a cool, late ripening vintage, the result of a long growing season, cool nights that preserved lively acidity, a warm July month that concentrated the grapes and small berry size that ensured good tannic structure. The wines have great depth and richness of taste.
“It is a year that will appeal to classicists, as the wines are translucent and incredibly expressive. Stylistically, the 2010s remind me of the 2004s, but with more mid-palate pliancy and overall depth. Readers who have tasted the 2010s from Tuscany (especially Chianti Classico) and/or the 2010 Red Burgundies will have a very clear idea of the style of the vintage. Simply put, 2010 is the greatest young Barolo vintage I have tasted in 18 years of visiting the region and a lifetime of buying, cellaring and drinking these wines” Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
“Classic” is the word. This is Barolo as it once was. Angelo Gaja described the weather “as if we had travelled back in time.” The earlier ripening of the past decade gave way to long, cool maturation on the vine, allowing those quality conscious producers, who strive towards acidity, depth, and structure, to make wines their grandfather’s would have recognized. However, we are far from the old-school vintage of yore that took 25 years to come around. With the modern improvements in the cellar and vineyard, there is more finesse and accessibility in the finished wines than ever before.
It’s something of a mystery why Barolo isn’t a larger part of the vinous conversation in the English speaking world. It is undeniably one of the great regions, standing side by side with Burgundy and Bordeaux atop the summit. No one argues the depth or longevity of the wines, or the dedication and talent of a fairly large collection of artisanal growers. Yet, even as the prices for top Burgundy and Bordeaux push ever upward, the best Barolo, with a very few exceptions, can be had for under $100. Despite over a century of achievement and an internationally recognized ambassador in the form of Angelo Gaja, Barolo still, inexplicably, falls under the radar.
“Although Barolo is still is a relative bargain, a factor in the general difficulty in selling Baroli is the lack of generic marketing of this region and, as a direct consequence, a general lack of broader knowledge and appreciation from wine lovers and professionals alike. While many wine professionals try to outdo each other showing off their meticulous and sophisticated knowledge of Burgundy, they are generally much less confident talking about Barolo. This is despite the fact that Barolo is very similar to Burgundy, sharing the intricacies of a fragmented vineyard area and single vineyards owned by many growers, all bottling their own interpretation of the site.” Walter Speller, Jancis Robinson’s Purple Pages
To provide a simple explanation, Barolo is a region in Piedmont, southwest of the town of Alba, in the Langhe hills. The grape, Nebbiolo, is a late-ripening, persnickety varietal which prefers very specific soils and has very specific climactic requirements (it needs a longer, cooler, diurnal growing season).
“Nebbiolo is rivalled only by Pinot Noir in its ability to express the subtleties of different terroirs. Nebbiolo tends to be light in colour, high in both acid and (especially) tannin, and to exhibit a haunting array of aromas which might include tar, cordite, dried cherries, liquorice, violets and roses.” Jancis Robinson, Wine Grapes
The range of micro-climates and soil types in the ranging hills have led to a persistent discussion over the need to sub-divide the Barolo zone, in the same way as Burgundy, into communes and vineyards. To offer a few examples, the vineyards around La Mora offer a more open, fragrant style while Monforte and Serralunga tend to be more concentrated, with Castiglione expressing itself firmly, and this without getting into the single vineyards or exceptions to the general styles of each commune. To go into that would require a book which has yet to be written. Suffice it to say, Barolo can express itself just as distinctively as Burgundy, with the same potential for greatness.
When a historically great vintage in a historically great region comes along, it’s truly reason to become excited. 2010 is such a vintage in Barolo. The relative value of these wines is enormous. The best will age gracefully for decades. If you are looking to start laying down wines, but feel priced out of the concept, this would be an amazing place to start. Or, if you’re already collecting, don’t miss these wines. Or, if you just want to discover the exceptional nature of Barolo, you’ll never find a better opportunity. It isn’t nicknamed the “Wine of Kings, the King of Wines” for nothing.
To find out more information about the current allocation of 2010 Barolo available from Le Du’s, e-mail JT at JT@leduwines.com