Barolo wines from the 2014 vintage are now available for sale in wine shops. Some consumers might have heard that Barolos from this vintage suffered from the inconsistent weather in Piedmont’s Langhe district. It is true that the weather for much of the growing period was not good, but a mild, pleasant autumn saved the vintage from becoming a disaster--at least not for those wine growers who had the foresight and courage to wait the bad weather out. For these growers, the harvest was quite late…as late as October 24 through the 26th.
But Nebbiolo, the grape variety used exclusively for both Barolo and Barbaresco, is a very late ripener--perfect for late harvests. It is not unusual in this region that a fine, mild autumn (especially September) saves the vintage. An extreme late harvest example occurred in the 1978 vintage here. The harvest ended on November 15th--and yet it proved to be a great vintage--that needed about 30 years to mature!
In many Barolo vineyards, the summer of 2014 presented three hailstorms and heavy rainstorms, especially in July. The storms were so localized that Barbaresco, 15 miles away, was spared (no hailstorms there, and one-third of the heavy rains that Barolo received). Both regions lived through a cool, cloudy, dreary summer. As a result, some 2014 Barolo wines--particularly those whose grapes weren’t picked late--are diluted and lack depth. In fact, many wines weren’t bottled at all; and many producers made only one Barolo wine from the vineyard(s) that survived the weather best.
Ironically, the finest 2014 Barolos, some of which I describe in my tasting notes below, are beautiful, balanced Barolos. But readers will find an enormous degree of variability in the 2014s. Some of the wines are light, washed out and lacking in fruit, but a few are quite dark, potent wines that were clearly the result of either very low yields in the vineyards and/or efforts to gain concentration in the cellar. The best 2014s possess extraordinary aromatic intensity, finely delineated fruit and silky tannins that are the result of fully ripe skins and seeds.
Recently, at the annual Festa del Barolo tasting of the newly released 2014 Barolos in New York, I had the opportunity to taste thirteen 2014 Barolos (plus two 2013s), some of which were excellent. Four major Barolo producers were not included in the tasting: Bartolo Mascarello, Bruno Giacosa, Giuseppe Mascarello, and Cappellano (all of whom invariably make great, long-lived Barolos). They were not in the tasting, partially because the crop was so small in 2014, or they did not make a 2014; but also because a few of the great, traditional Barolos seldom show their wines at tastings.
Prices for the 2014 Barolos are basically the same as the better 2013 Barolos; producers explained that the crop is so much smaller than average that they could not reduce the price. The wines are listed in the order in which they were presented. The average price of the wine is given (when available) along with my rating of the wine:
Azelia (Luigi Scavino) 2014 Barolo Margheria ($79): The Margheria Vineyard is located in the commune of Serralunga d’Alba, although the winery is in Castiglione Falletto. Margheria’s vines are 65 years old. The wine has red cherry aromas, and is quite perfumed, very precise and pure. Azelia shows good acidity, a trademark of Barolos, but especially in 2014. This Azelia Margheria is fairly light-weight, elegant and clean, typical of the Azelia style. Its tannins are not totally ripe, but there is a purity of fruit with a licorice quality. Limited production. This is a Barolo to drink soon, within 7 to 10 years. 92
Massolino 2014 Barolo Margheria ($44): Massolino, in Serralunga d’Alba, makes full-bodied Barolos, more typical of the Serralunga commune. For some reason, until recently Massolino has never received the acclamation it deserves, and has kept its prices low. As a result it is perhaps the Best Buy of this group. Its 2014 Margheria has dark fruit, is a rich wine with full tannins, and at this point tastes very youthful, but I believe it will be fine in five years. Right now, it is quite delicious, a commanding, authoritative wine, typical of Massolino Barolos. 92+
Renato Corino 2014 Barolo Rocche dell’ Annunziata ($67): Annunziata is a hamlet of the La Morra commune, and Corino’s Barolo made from Rocche dell’ Annunziata is the most renowned vineyard in Annunziata. This Barolo appears to be quite approachable and light-bodied, but has lots of acidity. It is actually rather intense right now, and will probably need a minimum of 10 years to develop and mature. It has lots of depth and concentration with red fruit flavors, primarily strawberries and cherries. At an embryonic stage now; it needs time. 90
E. Pira (Chiara Boschis) 2014 Barolo Via Nuova ($88): The affable Chiara Boschis is a force in the Langhe, arguably the leading and most well-known woman winemaker in the region. Her family history dates back to 1761, with the founding of the renowned Borgogno winery, which the Boschis family sold 11 years ago. Chiara purchased the E. Pira winery in the town of Barolo and made her first E. Pira Barolo in 1990. Her Via Nuova Barolo is a blend of grapes from three vineyards, the Terlo vineyard in the village of Barolo plus two other vineyards in Monforte d’Alba and Serralunga d’Alba. All of Chiara’s vineyards are certified organic. Since her brother Giorgio Boschis joined her (from Borgogno), E. Pira’s Barolos have become more traditional in style, and better, in my opinion. The 2014 Via Nuova has tons of red fruit flavors, sleek tannins, and very good concentration. A very pretty wine, delicious now. 93
Brovia 2014 Barolo Unio ($53): Located in the commune of Castiglione Falletto, the Brovia winery, over 150 years old, is another Barolo producer that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Brovia is a traditionally made Barolo, consistent in quality, that is extremely well-priced. Because of the weather in 2014, Brovia made only one Barolo in this vintage, a blend of two vineyards, which they called Unio. It is a vibrant wine, with grip and tannin, but rather light and Burgundian—a departure from Brovia’s classic full-bodied style. Nevertheless, it is a real success, a tribute to the skills of Brovia’s winemaking. 94
Armando Parusso 2014 Barolo ($53): Parusso included full clusters of grapes and did long maceration in the difficult 2014 vintage for his one Barolo in Monforte d’Alba. The resulting wine has fresh, fruity flavors, and is very easy drinking, especially for a Barolo. It is quite delicious right now, but it is a wine to drink now and in the near future. It is not made for long life. 89
G.D. Vajra 2014 Barolo Bricco delle Viole ($80): G.D. Vajra, one of the newer (1972) Barolo wineries, was founded by Aldo Vajra and is now run by his son, Giuseppe. Vajra’s vineyards, the highest in altitude in the region, are very windy, without the heat of most Barolo vineyards. They are located around the hamlet of Vergne, part of the township of Barolo. Vajra’s vineyard, Bricco delle Viole, makes a wine that reflects its cool altitude: its aromas are pronounced and lovely, and it is very drinkable. But will it age? With its ripe, exotic fruit, it is not classic Barolo. It has rich texture, with very supple tannins. 91
Giuseppe Rinaldi 2014 Barolo Brunate ($200): Giuseppe (Beppe) Rinaldi has always been one of Barolo’s greatest winemakers; his 2014 is a truly outstanding Barolo from a difficult vintage. He passed away last September 2nd at the age of 69. His work in the town of Barolo will be carried on by his two daughters, Marta (winemaking) and Carlotta (agronomist). Rinaldi’s style has always been very traditional; he made well-structured, balanced, very long-lived Barolos. His 2014 has exceptional floral, red fruit aromas, with depth, tension, delicacy, and herbal nuances, such as mint. Amazing complexity, with great acidity. It is drinkable now, but its structure and complexity guarantee long life. Rinaldi’s 2014 will be difficult to find, because he lost 50% of his production from hailstorms. Right now, the only place you can find it is in Piedmont. 97
Luciano Sandrone 2013 Barolo Vite Talin ($130 to $150): Although Luciano Sandrone’s 2014 Barolos are available, he and his daughter, Barbara Sandrone, chose to show their 2013. Whether this decision was due to the small 2014 harvest or because the 2013, generally a better vintage, is showing better, we do not know. Luciano Sandrone, in a relatively short time (his first vintage was 1979) has risen in popularity; today he is ranked among the top dozen Barolo producers. Sandrone has gradually changed the style of his Barolos over the years to a more traditional method. His 2013 Barolo Vite Talin is full-bodied, dense, and tannic, with very good acidity; it is very aromatic, with black cherry and dark berry flavors. Its classic structure and remarkable fruitiness make it a standout Barolo that will be long-lived. The winery is in the town of Barolo. Its 2013 Barolo price averages about $25 more than its 2014s. 93+
Giacomo Conterno 2014 Barolo Cerretta ($265): Those many fans of Giacomo Conterno Barolos, generally regarded as the greatest Barolo, or certainly always in the top three, will be disappointed to learn that Roberto Conterno did not make his standard Barolo from his prized Cascina Francia vineyard in Serralunga in 2014--only the third time this has happened; the other two years were the poor 2002 and 2003 vintages. But Conterno did salvage enough grapes in Cascina Francia to make his magnificent Monfortino Riserva in the late-harvest 2014 vintage (it will be released in a few years). Conterno’s 2014 Barolo that we tasted is from the Ceretta Vineyard, also in Serralunga—although his winery is in Monforte d’Alba. The Ceretta is a big, full-bodied Barolo, especially for this vintage; it has a delicate perfume, and shows tar, concentration, complexity of flavors, and pure dark fruit. It is a complete wine, a great wine for this vintage. I rated it 93+; my companion rated it 95, so I will give it: 94
Elvio Cogno 2014 Barolo Ravera Bricco Pernice ($100): The Ravera Vineyard, located in the commune of Novello--also the home of Elvio Cogno’s winery--has become renowned only recently to Barolo lovers. Why it has taken so long to attain its recent popularity is a mystery considering how many great Barolo wines have been made from its grapes. Winemaker Valter Fissore, son-in-law of founder Elvio Cogno, is now running the winery and producing superb Barolos from Ravera. The 2014 Cogno Barolo Ravera made from Bricco Pernice, a special parcel of Ravera, has it all: Lovely aromas, rich and fleshy ripe fruit, and an elegance combined with power. It is drinking well now, but its structure and balance should guarantee long life for this wine.
Wine and price not released yet. 95
Fratelli Alessandria 2014 Barolo Monvigliero ($77): The commune of Verduno, one of the lesser-known Barolo villages, has one magnificent vineyard, Monvigliero, with a high-altitude, and it is completely south-facing. Only a few wineries are located here, and one is Fratelli Alessandria. Its 2014 Monvigliero shows spicy, herbal aromas, mainly mint and menthol, and light, soft tannins with decent acidity. The vineyard’s clearly cool site will be an asset during warm vintages. Its 2014 is a wine to drink soon. 88+
G.B. Burlotto 2014 Barolo Monvigliero ($180): Burlotto is the most renowned winery in Verduno; it has a long history, dating back to its founding in the mid-19th century. Fabio Alessandria, current winemaker and direct descendent of founder G.B. Burlotto—and yes, related to the Fratelli Alessandria--has revived Burlotto and put it on the current Barolo map as a leading winery. But Fabio’s 2014 Monvigliero is fairly light-bodied, with soft tannins, a wine to drink soon. 90+
Roagna 2013 Barolo Pira Vecche Vigne ($232): Roagna did not make a 2014 Barolo. Roagna has long been established in Barbaresco, its home, but now also makes Barolo wines. In 1989, Roagna purchased the Pira Vineyard in Castiglione Falletto. Pira Vineyard has parcels dating back to 1937, and the 2013 Pira Vecche Vigne was made from the old vines. It is perfumed and delicate, with menthol and earthy aromas, ripe fruit and depth of flavors. It is just lovely. 93
Vietti 2014 Barolo Rocche di Castiglione ($180): Rocche Vineyard in Castiglione Falletto has arguably been Vietti’s best Barolo vineyard, although winemaker Luca Currado has also made superb Barolos from the Villero Vineyard in Castiglione Falletto and lately, the Ravera Vineyard in Novello. Vietti’s 2014 Rocche, with herbal, menthol aromas, shows purity, depth, and concentration. It is a compelling Barolo with bright red fruit flavors and a good tannic grip. It is drinking well now, but will mature and improve. A very good effort in this irregular vintage. 94
In conclusion, I was surprised that so many good Barolos were produced in 2014, considering the weather during the growing season. But I would suggest that buyers of current 2014 Barolos should choose very carefully and stick to proven Barolo producers, such as the many described in this column. I thought that the best 2014 of this tasting was Giuseppe Rinaldi’s, but sadly, it might be impossible to find in the U.S. My next favorite was Elvio Cogno’s Barolo Ravera, and the price should be reasonable. Two 2014 Barolos I would look for are Brovia’s and Massolino’s, both excellent and selling at very reasonable prices. Also, you might still be able to find 2013s in some wine shops; 2013 was a good Barolo vintage, and is reasonably priced.