Archive for Red
Syrah is undoubtedly one of the true “noble” grape varieties of the world & has been for a long, long time. Unfortunately, Syrah is not in fashion right now & I am not sure exactly why. I, in fact, wish I had a dollar for every time a wine professional/wine buyer/server has told me in the past 5 years, how Syrah based wines, (especially New World versions) do not sell so well for them. I would be rich!
I am saddened to hear of this plight.
Well grown & crafted Syrah deserves a niche in the wine world. Not only does this grape variety have world class potential, it also can fill the big puka between Pinot Noir & Cabernet Sauvignon in terms of weight, drama & profoundness. The very best can have intricacy, pedigree, UN-heaviness & texture a notch or 2 away from Pinot Noir, with the depth, masculinity & regality a notch or 2 away from Cabernet Sauvignon. Syrah can be an ideal “tweener”.
Here are 3 examples which reminded me of this thought.
The Ogier family had been farming their vineyards & selling off to their grapes for many years (more recently to prominent producers such as Chapoutier & Guigal), until 1987 when they decided to grow & produce their own wine under their own label. At that time, they owned roughly 6 acres in Cote Rotie. Son, Stephane, started working alongside his father in 1998 & took over the domaine in 2000. Where previously, the winemaking was much more traditional with NO stems & NO new oak, Stephane changed his style to 100% Syrah, 80% de-stalked, 3 to 4 week stainless steel fermentation & 18 month barrel aging (30% new). In addition to their Cote Rotie, Ogier also began producing special bottlings–Embruns (2001) from purchased fruit & 50% new barrels; Lancement “Terroir de Blonde” & Belle Helene (a cask selection from their Cote Rozier parcel–30 months in 100% new oak). This is a producer of northern Rhone Valley Syrah well worth checking out. This 2001 Cote Rotie (13 years old), for example, was elegant, classy, refined, masculine, majestic with a surprising velvety texture. It had a gamey, rustic core with garrigue character & a sandalwood edge. I can imagine all kinds of meats & rustic meat preparations which one can have a field day with!
Noel Verset, for me, was one of the iconic stalwarths of the tiny Cornas appellation, who not only helped define an appellation, but shed a very different light on what the Syrah grape variety could be. His vines were old, his highly revered Sabarottes parcel yielded grapes like no other on the hillside & his winemaking was very traditional. I have to say, the resulting wines were truly one of a kind. They had a wild-ness–green & black peppercorns, true andouille sausage, raw meat, lots of red fruit, crushed rocks, garrigue with lots of herbal notes. His was a small winery, perhaps 800 case production in any given year. Rumors started circulating around the 2000 vintage, that he was retiring. (He even mentioned his thoughts on retirement on a visit I made in 1991). Subsequent vintages would pop up every now & then–I saw a smidgeon fo the 2003 & a tiny bit of 2006….& then quiet. It was the end of an era. Yes, there are other Cornas (Thierry Allemand & August Clape) which deftly carry on the appellation on the world class stage, BUT there was only 1 Noel Verset. I was completely enthralled with the 1995. It was quintessential Verset Cornas–wildly rustic, rock, peppercorns, wild herbs, with the rank smells of real French andouille sausage. It really sang out & was a thrill to savor.
For many, the Chave Hermitage is the pinnacle of northern Rhone Syrah. The family has been growing grapes & making wines on Hermitage hill since 1481. The vines today are organically & biodynamically farmed. “Every year, we start from zero in assembling the wine.” The core & backbone comes from the Bessards parcel, their largest parcel, located furthest west. Tasting out of barrel once with Gerard Chave, I found the Bessards to have a smokiness, a strong minerality with a certain elegance, velvety middle & lots of tannins in the finish. His parcels have very old vines. I found Le Meal was also smokey, but had distinct floral (violets, jasmine), ripe, jammy black cherry, green olive, spice & pepper with more of a middle, a riper, higher glycerine mouthfeel. Rocoules was fresher fruit, yet not as showy, with licorice, smoke, cassis, green notes & much more tannic. Peleat–more acid/structure with green olive, smoke & even an apple nuance. Diognieres had ripe cherries, jammy, bordering cassis like qualities with a funky/earthy edge. Baume–licorice, cherry, more austere, structured & refinement. L’Ermite–smokey, earthy, barnyard funk, green peppercrons, jammy–the most outgoing right out of the gates. The Chaves are master blenders, using all of the pieces to create a complete Hermitage–or as I used to say about the old Barolo masters—create an orchestra sound rather than just the horn section. Chave is the best at that! and HAS BEEN SINCE 1481!
Some interesting Mediterranean RED wines were opened & shared by the gang on this night. They also made sense for the kinds of foods we do in VINO.
Chapoutier owns 79 acres of prized parcels on Hermitage hill. That is a sizable chunk, to say the least. The core of their Sizeranne bottling comes from Les Bessards & its predominately granitic soils. There is also some Le Meal (old alluvial terraces with gravel & some calcareous) & some Les Greffieux (silt with shingles at the foot of the hill). The grapes are de-stemmed, fermented in concrete & aged in casks for 12 to 14 months. This 1989 was wonderfully aged–a peach/nectarine aroma with red & black fruit, dried flowers/hawthorne, forest floor, leather, peppercorns, camphor, sandalwood….very refined, classy & sophisticated. The various components were very much in harmony & this proved to be a fabulous drink.
I first visited Rostaing, I believe in 1991. Having visited his uncle Marius Gentaz just prior, I was really taken back at first with Rene’s VERY modern looking winery, especially when one compares this to the cellars of Gentaz Dervieux, Clape, Chave, Noel Verset I had visited earlier. In addition to the building itself, I was also quite surprised to see so many NEW barriques in use down in the barrel room. Interestingly, I did taste this very wine on that visit. My notes–“smokey (ash tray like), tarry, PEPPERY, black fruit, cassis, blackberry, tremendous concentration, high glycerine, lots of wood tannins, some caramel in the finish“. Since I did put any stars by the wine, I am not sure that I didn’t like it that much back then. Well, the wine has changed considerably since then. Everything is well integrated, though one could still smell & taste the considerable amount of new oak used in its production. It was, however, stylish, well polished & very well balanced. Typically Rostaing blends in fruit (95% Syrah & 5% Viognier) from 13 different lieu dits (schist, mica & silex soils)…partial de-stemming,..& aged in 228 liter barrels with a big chunk being new (in 1989). I went back to see Rene a couple of years ago. Because it was in the middle of harvest , we did not get to chat so much this go around & tasted but a few wines. I like his wines much better now. I did notice he has a roto fermentor now & also uses demi-muids in addition to the 228l barriques.
The Ceretto brothers sure shook the bushes in their neck of the woods, especially keen at marketing. When I first visited them in the early 80’s, their newly built winery looked like a modern Californian. The staple of their Nebbiolo was their Zonchera Barolo bottling (produced from a core of Zonchetta of La Morra, just under Brunate, which they discontinued with the 2010 vintage) & their Asili Barbaresco (which they discontinued with the 2011). The 1988 Zonchera was still alive in the core, just lean & refined. It is a pretty wine, but I would have probably liked several years younger, when it still had more flesh to the bones. OR, maybe it just got dwarfed by all of the other standout wines tasted on this night. I am still very thankful at having tasted it.
Now, here was a very interesting wine! Elisabetta Foradori is the master of the Teroldego grape variety. Her biodynamically farmed vineyards (of massale selections) are located in the Campo Retaliano valley. Some say, Teroldego is genetically related to the Syrah grape variety. I am not sure if that is true, but it certainly can make for complex, deeply flavored & colored, compelling wines, that’s for sure. Granato is all estate fruit & produced only in certain vintages & generally aged in OLD oak for 12 to 15 months. The 1999 was still VERY youthful at its core–sweet, black fruit, olives, herbs, earth, even chocolate & spice, while being well focused, hearty, masculine yet so cerebral, graceful & well balanced. This sure was a pleasure to experience.
Aldo Conterno was certainly regarded as one of Barolo’s iconic figures. He left his family’s domaine, Giacomo Conterno & founded his own in 1969 in Monforte d’Alba. His top holdings–Vigna Cicala, Romirasco & Colonello–are all top notch parcels within the Bussia Cru. His Granbussia bottling is a Riserva blend of all 3 parcels, produced only in great vintages which features much structure & depth of fruit. Grandbussia is released at least 7 years afterwards. Unlike his devout “traditionalist” brother Giovanni at Giacomo Conterno, Aldo adapted techniques from both the new as well as the old in pursuit of making better wine. He reduced, for example, the time on the skins, and vehemently believed in long maturation in large oak. This 1996 was stellar–classy, stylish, majestic & sophisticated. The perfume showed classic Barolo/Nebbiolo character, as did the palate, in a very refined, well balanced style. Yes, it can go on aging for a long time, but I loved how well it showed on this night with lots of vigor to its core.
3 epic, rustic red wines from the 2007 vintage (7 yars old)—2 from Italy & 1 from Spain. Each should really ring your bell. It is VERY important for us at VINO to continually feature top caliber wines from the Mediterranean basin. Yes, it is our passion….BUT….it makes sense with the kind of foods Chef Keith creates. How does the lay person sift through all of the labels & marketing jargon to better determine what to buy? Here are 3. Yes, just another opportunity to learn!
There are many top caliber Brunello di Montalcino. Ciacci Picolomini, however, standout because of their desire to make the wines in the vineyard & then showcase its purity in the finished wine. Although many producers may say that in their spiel, Ciacci Picolomini truly delivers it in the wine. Pianrosso is their top site—stony slopes near the Orcia river in the south-southwest corner of Montalcino. This majestic, 100% Brunello is fermented in stainless & concrete & aged for 36 months in 20 to 62 hectoliter Slavonian oak.
This is a very masculine, provocative style of Barolo from Alice Bel Colle in the Alto Monferrato area of Piemonte. Theirs is a contiguous 96 acres of hillside, east to southeast facing at 950 feet elevation. This wine was aged for 24 months in large Slavonian casks & old French oak barrels.
Clos Pissarra is a new standout wine project from Priorat, Spain, under the direction of Mater Sommelier Emanuel Komeiji. They excel at small batches of superstar wines, grown in the VERY steep, non-terraced hillsides of slate with virtually no top soil. La Vinyeta is their top bottling, 2.5 acres of 125 year old Carignane & Grenache. The yield in 2007 was a miniscule 1 ton, for the 2 ½ acres!!!!!!—1/4 ton per acre……50 cases worth..
The Scherrer Vineyard is located on a bench in Alexander Valley, above the Silver Oak planting. The first vines were planted in the 1912. The “Mature” vines were planted in the early 70’s.. The best way, I can describe this SENSATIONAL bottling, is to say, this is a superb old vine Zin crafted by a Pinot master—elegant, suave, well textured, seamless & so impeccably balanced.
The legendary Monte Rosso vineyard was planted in the 1880’s on a steep, rocky hillside on the Sonoma side of the Mayacamas Mountains. This wine is 99.8% Burgundian oak, 25% of which is new. If you haven’t checked out Robert Biale before, here is your chance…..& with their best bottling.
Carol Shelton has garnered so many awards & acclaimed for her single vineyard Zins over the years, it really is hard to keep up with it all. Still, she is remarkably & thankfully as humble & “down to earth” as can be. We love her Zins because they exude a ‘sense of place”, have vinosity & have wonderful texture & balance. I believe this is the last vintage she used the 105 year old vine fruit from Rue Vineyard on revered Wood Road for this bottling. The 2007 spent 18 months in oak, a combination of French, American & Hungarian to “frame” her art piece.
This is a masterful Zinfandel blend (78% Zin, 28% Syrah & 4% Mourvedre) grown in the limestone/siliceous clay hillsides of Paso Robles from winemaking superstar Matt Trevisan. Matt has several really interesting Zin parcels to work with–Heaton, , Whalebone Hill, Poppy & Cushman being the most notable. Typically Whalebone Hill forms the core of the “Outsider” bottling, blended with some lower brix/higher acid Syrah to keep tension in the wine & lowering the over alcohol content. He is without a doubt at the top of his game right now & this wine will show you first hand why.
Carlisle is undoubtedly the most highly acclaimed Zin maestro in the game today as supported by all of the high scores & press he deservedly garners year after year. This organically farmed vineyard was planted in the 1927 in the eastern bench of the Santa Rosa flood plain of the Russian River Valley. They have so far identified 50 different grape varieties in the vineyard–a TRUE heirloom vineyard! Truly, one of the standouts today!
Here are 4 tasty, very interesting red wines from southern France.
I have become a real sucker for Old Vine Carignane, especially when it is grown & produced in the hands of an artist like this. Yes, this is a relatively new domaine, but the vines of this 1 hectare parcel are over 100 years old & now really showcases the clay-limestone soils the vines grow in. It really is about the hands on farming & the
hands off winemaking. BUT you really need to know what you are doing!
2009 Roquete Chateauneuf-du-Pape
The Brunier brothers of Vieux Telegraphe bought this domaine a few years ago. This domaine produces a very different Chateauneuf-du-Pape, eventhough the Brunier brothers oversee it. It is really because the vineyards are so different than Vieux Telegraphe & its highly revered La Crau parcel. One vineyard, for instance has more sand, which gives the wines more finesse. Another has galets, for the stony character of top notch Chateauneuf. Yet another has clay on a bedrock of limestone. So, eventhough the grape mix is similar to Telegraphe, the resulting wine is VERY different. Kind of like singing a song in a different voice.
80% Mourvedre, 18 months in foudre, this is bold, masculine Bandol with character, depth, complexity, soul AND finesse in a very unique & different way than its more famous neighbor Domaine Tempier, a few stops down the road.
This is classic Old World Syrah in all its glory. For those tasters asking what a bench mark French Syrah smells & tastes like, here is the one for you. 850 feet in elevation & only 150 feet away from the officially designated Cote Rotie hillsides. WOW!
California Merlot sure changed the quality perception & trajectory of this grape variety. Then to pile on, the movie “Sideways” made Pinot Noir cool….at the expense of Merlot. Needless to say Merlot sales dropped significantly….at least in our restaurant. Well, on the world stage, top echelon Merlot from Bordeaux, such as Chateau Petrus, has certainly NOT been tarnished. It is still one of the most expensive, highly sought after red wines in the world!!!! Why? Of course, supply & demand play an important role….BUT undeniably……so does the soil. With top echelon French wines, it really is about the soil, first & foremost. So…..on this night, we decided to try 4 Merlot based wines…..side by side. To make things even more fun,we will serve them BLIND!
Hopefully, this tasting will be insightful. Just another learning opportunity.
One of Washington State’s most highly acclaimed Merlots. The 2009 was rated 92 points by the Wine Advocate & the Wine Enthusiast publications in a generally less regarded vintage. Some would say, this wine shows the potential Merlot has in Washington. 81% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon & 4% Petite Verdot.
grown in the clay-limestone soils of Montagne St Emilion on Bordeaux’s Right Bank. 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc & 5% Malbec, 12 months in 60% cement, 20% each—new & 1 year old barrels. Chateau Tour Bayard is quite a “find” in today’s wine world & its escalating prices. As a friend recently noted, “this estate over delivers every year in quality for the dollar, with the elegance & sublime quality of St Emilion with firm chewy tannins & delicious plump fruit”.
2009 Chateau Belles Graves “Lalande de Pomerol”
88% Merlot & 12% Cabernet Franc—across a small “river” from Pomerol…in clay/gravel soils with flint, quartz & mica. 15 months in oak, 25% new. “Lush, velvety textures” …another terrific value.
Here is a chateau certainly on the rise. Records show evidence of this estate in the 1500’s. The 32 hectare estate is a mere 500 meters from St Emilion’s hill on the southern slopes & over the years, their wines were noted for their perfume, finesse & alluring bouquet. Michel Rolland started consulting in 1993….& especially recently, this domaine has meteorically jumped to superstar status, pointed by the elevation to “Grand Cru Classe” status in 2006. 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Quite internationalized in style, which at least partially explains its high scores.
When I was growing up in this industry, southern France was thought of as producing a sea of mediocre wine. Then…..later on…. several larger companies looked to take advantage of the ample sunshine to produce value oriented Chardonnay, Cabernet & Merlot in sizable quantities. Some had succeeded but more have fallen by the wayside.
Now, thankfully, more & more small, adventuresome, passion driven wineries are popping up. Where many initially planted & worked with Syrah or Grenache, there are more taking advantage of extreme soils & old vine Carignane plantings to produce tasty, interesting, “terroir” driven southern French borne red wines. Where Syrah & Grenache can dominate a wine’s true character, Carignane in comparison especially like those listed below, can serve as a conduit for the vineyard’s soils & character…..all done with wonderful delicious-ness. Then by blending in other grape varieties as seasoning, one can end up with a more complete, tasty, interesting, delicious red wine. Here are 4 standouts for me—1 from California & 3 from southern France. Hopefully, these 4 will show tasters a whole ‘nother dimension to “rustic” red wines.
A terrific, truly provocative red from California. The base is Carignane & Mourvedre from 130 plus year old vines out near Oakley, with some Grenache & Syrah added in. The 2012 is foot stomped, wild yeast fermented & bottled unfiltered & unfined. One could say, this is a homage to the wines of Maxime Magnon, which I am sure served as an inspiration. Provocative & absoluteluy delicious!
One of the most delicious French “country” red wines, the 2010 is 60% Carignan, 30% Grenache Noir, 10% Mourvèdre. It is certainly has been one of our absolute favorites over the past 25 years.
“The first vineyards at Domaine de Fontsainte, in the Corbières appellation, were planted by the Romans. The Fontsainte vineyards surround the hamlet of Boutenac in the area known as “The Golden Crescent.” This swath of land is one of the sunniest in the appellation of Corbières, enjoying south-southeast exposure, and protection from the cold, northeast winds by a large 500-hectare forest. The cooler sea breezes from the Mediterranean help this sun-soaked terroirachieve balance as well. Like many of the vignerons that we work with, Bruno believes that “great wines are made in the vineyard” and less in the cellars. He farms the land sustainably and keeps treatments to a minimum. Silica, clay, and limestone dominate the subsoil of Fontsainte’s vineyards. Many of their vines are older, especially the parcel known as La Demoiselle, which recently celebrated its hundredth year”.
2012 Maxime Magnon “Campagnès”
Another game changer—who studied with superstars Didier Barral & Jean Foillard. His Campagnès bottling is 95% Carignan; also Grenache, Syrah, Grenache Gris, Macabou & Terret
“Maxime Magnon, part of one of France’s most revolutionary wine movements, farms nine parcels over eleven hectares, with steep vineyards that reach high altitudes, and manages it all on his own. Maxime is part of the new wave of passionate viticulteurs who cultivate their vines with the utmost respect for nature and the soil. He’s certified organic, but also incorporates biodynamic practices into his vineyard management.
Most of Maxime’s vineyard land is comprised of schist and limestone subsoils in the sub-appellation Hautes Corbières, bordering Fitou to the South. This is incredibly tough terrain to farm in, as there is virtually no top-soil, just pure rock and garrigue. Maxime’s tête de cuvé, “Campagnès,” is a single vineyard of the hundred-year-old Carignan, and is the most age-worthy in his line-up. All wines are aged in second-hand, Burgundian barrels sourced from a producer in Chassagne”.
A truly standout southern French red blend (2009–50% Carignan, 30% Syrah, 20% Grenache) from a REAL game changer!!!!!!
“Domaine Léon Barral is a beacon of revolutionary winegrowing. Didier farms thirty hectares of vineyards, and this is no small feat. Incorporating biodynamic practices into a vineyard means working the soil rigorously, and with so much land to farm, it is fortunate that he has so much help. His workers of choice? A team of twenty cows, horses, and pigs that graze the cover crops in and around the vineyards. The simple act of grazing cultivates healthy microbiotic activity in the soil, bringing mushrooms, ants, ladybugs, earthworms, and other essential life forms, which add important nutrients while aerating the soil. This is the concept of sustainability at its finest, where the ecosystem creates interdependence between the animals and the vineyards.
The grapes benefit the most from this environment, which ultimately translates to tremendously powerful, complex, and age-worthy wines. Most of Didier’s vines get full southern sun exposure. In this Mediterranean climate where summer heat waves and drought are constant during the growing season, pruning in the gobelet style shelters the grapes from the blistering sun. Most of his vines are very old, but vary up to ninety years of age, keeping yields naturally low”.
When I was growing up in this industry, we were always taught…..there were only 5 noble grape varieties—Chardonnay & Riesling for white wines….AND Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon & Pinot Noir for red wines. Back then, many of our favorite Pinot based wines were light in color, elusive, more fragile & all about refinement, purity, finesse, nuance & seductive-ness. (Of course there were exceptions, but not like today!) As I have mentioned in past VINO tastings…we look in 2014….to show participants….our version of what is good wine…..examples which can serve as benchmarks, which subsequent wines tasted can be judged by. On this night, we will be featuring THREE examples of what we mean….1 each from California, Germany & Burgundy. We are, by no means saying this is all that Pinot can & should be. It is more about understanding where we came from….so we can ask better questions moving forward. Hopefully, this tasting will be insightful. Just another learning opportunity. To make things even more fun,we will serve them BLIND!
One of Burgundies standout producers of more classically styled wines. “Chaignots—where the oak trees grown”—is 60 year old vines on a 8 to 20% slope, 260 or so meters in elevation.
What classic Burgundycharacter–dark cherries, earth, spice, decaying Autumn leaves, with a tight knit weave from beginning to end, still tight in structure, but impeccably balanced. Don’t even think about opening another bottle for a few years, that’s for sure.
2007 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir “Bien Nacido Vineyard”
Here is a truly superb, pure, transparent older vine Californian Pinot crafted by a Master, using grapes from his home turf. I have heard some people say, Au Bon Climat is producing too much wine nowadays & the quality has suffered. I do not agree, I really think the ABC wines typically showcase elegance, refinement & balance (which includes balanced alcohol & oak). This is just another example of what I mean.
2007 Rudolf Furst Spatburgunder “Centgrafenberg”
A silky, highly refined, wonderfully ethereal Pinot Noir from red sandstone soils & superstar German winemaker Paul Furst. This wine definitely displayed the decaying leaves, musky, earthy characteristics of Burgundy, that’s for sure. If you get the chance, you should look to try the Furst Pinot Noirs……of which he has several bottlings–“Tradition”, “Centgrafenberg”, “Hunsruck”, “Klingenberg”; “Schlossberg”….AND his Fruhburgunder. They are well worth the search.
2001 Robert Chevillon Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Les Roncières :
• “Before the land was cultivated with vines, it was full of brambles or ronces. 52 year old vines, East by southeast sun exposure, 250-300 meters in altitude, with a steep grade of 20%“.
Our friend Brent kindly brought this wine. Eventhough it was from a different Chevillon Premier Cru than the one listed above, in this case Roncieres”, it did showcase the Chevillon style. In fact, on first sniff, I thought this wine was aged Volnay…..BUT with the first sip, I was pretty sure it was a Robert Chevillon Premier Cru & therefore Nuits St Georges. They have a different weave to their matrix….& this 2001 was much more open & outgoing. One could tell it was high quality….as it really dwarfed the preceeding wine, which was a 2001 Grand Cru from another producer. In comparison the Chevillon displayed lots of intricacies, character & sublime pedigree, which may not have noticed on its own, but was certainly evident side by side with the previous wine! I though this was a fabulous drink.
That is not meant to be a criticism of the previous wine. When we first smelled & tasted it, I thought it was really good & quite interesting. It also said Cru quality right out of the gates. No, this was meant to be more of a comment/reminder how fabulous the subliminal, often under rated style of Chevillon can be.
A customer 2 nights ago, asked me the difference…. between Barolo & Barbaresco. I thought that would make for an interesting blog…..especially if I could incorporate quotes from other notables on the subject. Just so you understand, There is NO ONE correct answer. It would therefore be crazy to generalize, as there are so many factors/variables which can influence the outcome. I am, however, just hoping by asking the questions, it will start the discussions….AND hopefully the comments from each will help to shed more light on the topic……from different perspectives. I have found that is a great way to learn.
I greatly thank the contributors, for your comments, in some cases, sticking your necks out, so we can learn & therefore ask better questions.
ALFIO CAVALLOTTO (Cavallotto Tenuta Bricco Boschis)
Well, the most important difference between Barolo and Barbaresco is that in average Barolo is more structured and there is more complexity. In average it has a better attitude to age & for a long time. Barbaresco normally is ready before to be well drank; it is a little bit shorter in the back taste but it can be very elegant with a very fragrant bouquet.
The production of Barolo is about 12 millions of bottles; Barbaresco is product in about 4,5 millions bottles.
The two territory are separated by the plain area around Alba town and so they aren’t adjoining. The soil of Barolo, in particular the soil of the East side (Serralunga Castiglione, Monforte) called “Elveziano” is much older than Barbaresco area and is richer in calcareous clay. Barbaresco, that is very close to Tanaro River, is richer of sand and the soil is a little bit more humid.
Of course, depending from producer to another one, there are many difference about the characteristics of the wines and it can change a lot if the producer is more “classic” or “modern”, if he works very well in the vineyards or not etc etc.
GIORGIO PELISSERO (Pelissero)
“Although we start from the same grape variety and from a geographic area
with similar characteristics and very close the one to the other, Barbaresco
and Barolo present significant differences.
Barolo is rougher, crude, austere, structured, Barbaresco is more elegant,
refined, delicate, more winning.
The characteristics are anyway similar for these two wines, while they’re
both sons of the same vine variety, the Nebbiolo, grape that for his own
history and for his varietal characteristics originates acid, complex and
harsh wines. The Barbaresco area, for its geographical shape and for its
soil, mitigates more and better this characteristic roughness then the
The main difference is in the fact that the Barbaresco area has the form of
a hand with its five fingers, where all the fingers are opened towards the
valley, characteristic which allows a great air circulation which permits
the climate, during the maturation period and during the whole year, to be
more regular then the climate in the Barolo area, without in fact great
peaks of high and low temperatures during all over the year. This condition
permits a major regularity among the different vintages, too.
In the Barolo area instead the hills are more “closed” – to understand You
may think about the form of a funnel – and for this reason they keep inside
them a sort of sacs of heat, so called sultriness, and humidity, that cause
a different perception on the different vintages of the wines.
To joke, in Piemonte people always say that Barolo is the king of the wines
(being more structured and majestic), while Barbaresco is the queen (more
elegant, delicate, soft and refined)….this is the reason why I only
GIORGIO RIVETTI (La Spinetta)
“Barolo and Barbaresco are two great wines and they have one huge factor in common and that is their grape varietal, Nebbiolo. To me Nebbiolo is the most intriguing varietal in the world and of course, I might be biased, as I am a born and raised Piemontese. However it is difficult to argue, that Nebbiolo is one of the scarce varietals that are elegant, yet full bodied with length. To me Nebbiolo is the race horse, that is so powerful yet so elegant, when it moves.
Now having said this, Barolo and Barbaresco, both being Nebbiolo from vineyards that in fact are only some 10-15 miles apart from each other, are two very similar wines. I doubt, that even wine producers from the area, when having to taste Barolo and Barbaresco blind, would always get it right. Some Barolos would fall more in the category of Barbaresco and vice versa. Yes, there are some generalisations, people say that, Barolo is more dense, more deep and more made for aging. However, I believe that the intensity and longevity of a Barolo or Barbaresco depends on the producer and his vineyard. Are the vineyards south facing, what is the soil like, how old are the vines, very important, at what yields is the wine being produced. Factors like this, will more decide the expression of the final product, whether the Nebbiolo would be perceived more as a Barolo or a Barbaresco.
My concern regarding the discussion of the differences of Barolo and Barbaresco goes into another direction. I am much more concerned about a negative trend: More and more Barolos and Barbarescos with the DOCG on the label, that taste like Langhe Nebbiolo, too light and with no aging potential are entering the market. This trend is a real shame and reflects bad on the area and all of the producers. Langhe Nebbiolo wines offered for a Langhe Nebbiolo price, yet on the label it is written Barolo or Barbaresco. This unfortunately will confuse the final consumer much more, than trying to identify the exact differences between a great Barolo or a great Barbaresco.
To me everything that is called Barolo and Barbaresco should be top wine and should be sold at a price point the wine and the work of the producer deserves, anything else we should call what it is, Langhe Nebbiolo!”
VITTORIO FIORE (semi-retired, superstar consulting oenologist)
“the question that you do to me is one of the most difficult to answer (and it is the same one that a now distant day a colored taxi driver in NY did to Bob Parker, putting him in big trouble) as Barolo and Barbaresco have everything in common except the production area and some cellar practices .
First of all, both are obtained from the Nebbiolo and the amount of grapes per hectare is 8 tons for both Barolo and Barbaresco.
Barolo must be kept for 38 months , of which at least 18 must be in wood , while the Barolo Riserva is required 62 months , 38 of which in wood.
Barolo can be put on the market after January 1st of the fourth year following the harvest , while the Barolo Riserva must wait until at least January 1st of the sixth year following the harvest.
The Barbaresco , however, must be kept for 26 months ( of which at least 9 in wood ) , while for the Barbaresco Riserva –50 months of storage , of which at least 9 to spend in the wood.
Therefore, the element that distinguishes these two wines and gives each of them their own personality, is definitely the environment in which the grapes are grown.
Barolo is born in the towns of Barolo, Castiglione Falletto , Serralunga d’ Alba and part of the territory of the municipalities of Monforte d’ Alba, Novello, La Morra, Verduno Grinzane Cavour , Diano d’Alba , Cherasco and Roddi within the province of Cuneo.
The Barbaresco is produced instead in the towns of Barbaresco , Neive, Treiso (former village of Barbaresco) and part of the village ‘ San Rocco Senodelvio ” already part of the town of Barbaresco and aggregated to the municipality of Alba in April 1957, within the province of Cuneo.
But the most important aspect that gives the measure of the difference between these two giants of Italian enology, is certainly that organoleptic. The BARBARESCO is perhaps more light and elegant , while the BAROLO is more powerful and concentrated.
STEPHEN TANZER (world renown wine writer…..International Wine Cellar / Winophilia)
I’m more likely to want to recommend specific wines to Winophilia readers than to TALK about the differences. I find generalities are no more important than winemaker styles. What would you say beyond Barbaresco typically being lighter and more floral, and perhaps peaking earlier? Seems to me that differences due to the slightly earlier harvest in Barbaresco could be more important that stylistic differences between the two zones.