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Barolo Bounty
By Michael Franz
Jul 6, 2010
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The 2006 bottlings of Barolo--as well as Riservas from 2004--are now arriving on our shores, and they are terrific.  The 2006 Barolo wines clearly continue a historically unprecedented streak of strong vintages running all the way back to 1996, with the single exception of 2002.  The top wines from 2006 will rival their counterparts from the very best recent years--1996, 1999 and 2004--and since many of the top wines are produced in relatively small quantities, savvy Barolo lovers should pay sharp attention.  Right now.

I was able to blind-taste more than 200 of these wines at “Nebbiolo Prima” in Alba in May, and my WRO column last month provided background as well as reviews of the best wines from Roero and Barbaresco.  This column profiles the best of the 179 Barolo from 2006 that I tasted, along with the best of the 27 Barolo Riservas from 2004.  To see last month’s column, simply scroll to the bottom of the WRO home page and click on my photo, which will pull up an archive of my columns.

Here’s a bit of background on the tasting process that produced the following reviews.  I tasted all of the wines below, blind, in four carefully conducted peer-group tastings.  Every recommended wine was tasted at least twice, with a second evaluation performed before the identity of the wine was known to assure the accuracy of my score (since order of presentation can have a distorting effect).  They are set forth below in order of excellence, with the highest-scoring wines topping the list, and wines with identical scores listed in the order in which they were tasted.

This last aspect of the listing is possibly important, and warrants further explanation.  To be clear, all the wines that were scored at, say, 92 points are grouped together and are listed in the order in which they were shown and tasted.  Since the organizers of the tastings poured wines from communes reputed for more delicate wines earlier and ones from communes noted for more robust wines later, the position of any particular wine among all of those scored at 92 points is likely to convey something about the wine’s style.  There are exceptions, of course, but the 92-point wines listed first are likely to be more elegant, whereas those down the list are likely to be richer and more powerful.

When the producer’s name includes both a family and a given name, the family name usually appears first in order.  This is a convention followed by the organizers of the Nebbiolo Prima tastings, though it is not one that was followed with perfect consistency.  In a few instances I have taken the liberty of making corrections, but generally I have simply conveyed the producer names as designated in the tastings.

Names of particular vineyards and/or proprietary names of wines appear in quotation marks.  The final element in the entries is the name of the commune (or village) from which the wine was sourced, which may be of interest to serious students of these wines and which rarely appears on labels.

Don’t fail to work your way to the bottom of the list of 2006 Barolos to see the reviews of the Riserva bottlings from 2004.  Barolo Riserva has lost some cachet in recent years, but the best of them from 2004 are truly phenomenal.

Barolo DOCG 2006

Sandrone Luciano “Cannubi Boschis,” Barolo:  Concentrated and deeply flavored, but forceful and intense without seeming over-extracted or over-oaked, this is an extremely impressive wine.  It shows plenty of oak, but thanks to the striking depth of fruit, it is unquestionably in balance.  96

G.D. Vajra “Luigi Baudana Cerretta,” Serralunga d’Alba:  Deeply concentrated pigmentation provides a visual clue to what lies in store, and very expressive aromas and flavors fulfill the visual promise of this wine in spades.  There’s nothing tricky about it such as overt wood or over-ripeness or anything dirty or bretty; just a pure, natural-seeming core of fruit that is amazingly concentrated and layered, with an intricate array of nuances.  95

Poderi Colla “Dardi Le Rose – Bussia,” Monforte d’Alba:  This beautifully balanced, supremely tasteful wine is abundant and softly sweet but also focused and structured, with essentially perfect proportions between fruit, tannin, acidity and oak.  At once powerful and pretty, this shows very careful work in both vineyard and cellar.  94

Sandrone Luciano “Le Vigne,” Barolo, Monteforte d’Alba, Novello:  Sweet and ripe and terrifically appealing, this shows integrated oak and impressive density but still a pure, natural profile, with acidity and tannin are well under reins of the fruit, which is ample but clearly not over-ripe or over-extracted.  Great raw material that was expertly crafted.  94

Rinaldi Giuseppe “Brunate Le Coste,” Barolo:  A fascinating wine with superb complexity, this shows all sorts of earthy, meaty, leathery complexities on a concentrated core of fruit.  It isn’t easy to predict how this will develop or whether the funky, animal elements will become overly prominent, but it is a phenomenal wine now and a sure bet if consumed during the next five years.  94

Pira Luigi “Marenca,” Serralunga d’Alba:  Earthy, mushroomy and meaty, this is a wonderful wine that also shows fresh fruit and floral accents so that the earthy component doesn’t seem excessive.  Marvelously intricate.  94

Bric Cenciurio, Barolo:  Sweet fruit shows prominently on both the nose and the palate, but there’s nothing confected or over-ripe about this wine, which is pure and natural-seeming and deeply delicious.  The oak is very subtle, and though the wine could easily take more of it without being overwhelmed, the subtlety of the oak enhances the marvelous purity of this complete, convincing charmer.  93

Elvio Cogno “Cascina Nuova,” Novello:  An indisputably excellent wine, this shows precise aromas and flavors that speak first of lovely pure fruit, with nice accents of fresh flowers, spices, garden herbs and carpaccio.  Although other wines in these tastings showed more flashiness and oak, very few showed this much purity and class.  93

Le Strette “Bergeisa,” Barolo:  Showing great color and a very sexy nose, with sweet fruit that also dominates the palate impressions, this is wonderfully tender and open.  After an instant of seeming as though it might be a little too soft, it shows fresh acidity and lots of fine-grained tannin that firms the fruit without drying its sweetness.  One of the top wines in the tastings for sheer textural appeal.  93

Camerano Vittorio “Cannubi San Lorenzo,” Barolo:  Earthy, meaty, mushroomy aromas are backed by lots of sweet fruit and tannin.  Exemplary for its complexity and integration.  93

Poderi Einaudi “Costa Grimaldi,” Barolo:  This opens with lovely, open, sweetly fruity aromas that accurately presage the flavors that follow.  Nicely concentrated but still delicate, the wine shows fine depth of flavor before tannin and oak assert themselves in the finish.  There’s a lot of oak in the mix, but enough fruit to counterbalance it.  Built to develop, this should be held for a few years to let the oak integrate fully, at which time it will surpass most of its counterpart Barolos from 2006.  93

Brezza Giacomo & Figli “Bricco Sarmassa,” Barolo:  Lightly candied in its sweetness of aroma and flavor, this shows lots of dried cherry character that is nicely accented with nuances of flowers and spices.  93

Renato Ratti “Marcenasco,” La Morra:  Fabulous aromas with wood and florals and expressive fruit; complete and very complex, with lovely aromas, flavors and texture.  93  [This was the only Barolo from Renato Ratti included in the Nebbiolo Prima tastings, but I have subsequently tasted the 2006 bottlings of “Conca” ($75, 94) and “Rocche” ($87, 95), and they are terrific.  The Conca is firmer and more structured than the Marcenasco, but also deeper and more concentrated, so the balance is just as precise and the potential for development even greater for the future.  The “Rocche” is even better, with soft, lightly sweet notes of red and black fruits that are beautifully accented with floral and spice notes.]

Cascina Ballarin “Bricco Rocca,” La Morra:  Light floral aromas lead into a palate featuring ripe, soft fruit that remains soft and fruity until very late in the finish due to admirable concentration and very well managed tannins.  Soft and sweet but not simple, this is a gorgeous rendition of Nebbiolo.  93

Boglietti Enzo “Case Nere,” La Morra:  Young Nebbiolo in general and Barolo in particular are widely reputed to be hard, severe wines, yet this is soft, sweet and sexy, with very broad flavors on the palate and wonderful tenderness in textural terms.  Very ripe fruit shows a cherry liqueur character but nothing pruny or overripe.  A sexpot.  93

Conterno Franco “Vigna Pugnane,” Castiglione Falletto:  Very ripe notes of dark cherries and plums are the lead attraction in this wine, and they are very attractive indeed.  The sweet, soft fruit flavors are remarkably persistent, with just a little grip being asserted very late in the finish by some ripe, fine-grained tannin.  93

Podere Rocche dei Manzoni “Big d’ Big,” Monforte d’Alba:  Terrifically pure and expressive, this wine shows lots of spicy, smoky accents but ultimately it is the fruit that holds center stage.  Although it is intricate and balanced, ultimately it is the wine’s sheer generosity of fruit that leaves the strongest impression.  93

Pio Cesare “Ornato,” Serralunga d’Alba:  Conspicuously deep and dark color, with remarkably expressive aromas that leap from the glass, this is a very showy, modern-style wine built from ultra-concentrated fruit and very assertive oak.  93

Damilano “Cannubi,” Barolo:  Sweetly ripe fruit aromas are very appealing, and flavors follow suit is right in line, making this seem exceptionally pure and integrated.  The flavors are deep and the structure is subtle, as the acidity and oak and tannin are all enveloped in ripe fruit.  Already excellent, this may well develop into an outright outstanding wine with time for secondary aromas to emerge.  92

Germano Angelo “Vigna Ruè,” Barolo:  A very attractive spicy/sweet nose is followed by flavors to match.  Delicious and very judiciously structured, this can be enjoyed already with food, but likewise can clearly improve with age.  92

La Querciola “Costa di Rose,” Barolo:  Sweet and succulent, with lovely leathery accents and exemplary tannins that frame the wine without drying the finish.  92

Grimaldi Giacomo “Le Coste,” Barolo:  Smoky oak is prominent but nicely balanced in relation to the expressiveness and concentration of the fruit.  This shows a meaty, powerful character, with very subtle, nicely integrated oak.  92

Cavalier Bortolomeo di Borgogno Dario “Cannubi San Lorenzo,” Barolo:  Notes of very ripe plums with a spicy edge and hints of saddle leather are the principal attractions in this wine.  Already integrated and developed and quite complex, this may not get much better over time, but shows beautifully now.  92

Giuseppe Rinaldi “Cannubi San Lorenzo Ravera,” Barolo:  Pure and fresh, with precise flavors that are enlivened and lifted by acidity without seeming thin or tart.  92

Eredi Lodali “Lorens,” Roddi:  Sweet, soft and deliciously pure, this is one of the most overtly ripe and sexy wines in the entire lineup.  At this stage in its development it may not be the most complex, but it is absolutely among the most appealing, with open, tender fruit that swamps the acidity and tannin.  92

Molino Mauro “Vigna Gancia,” La Morra:  The principal attraction here is a lovely aromatic bouquet featuring ripe fruit scents intermingled with floral and spice notes, as well as a suggestion of fresh herbs.  Tannins firm the finish, but not until quite late in the sensory sequence.  92

Grasso Silvio “Bricco Luciani,” La Morra:  An exceptionally well made wine, this shows very appealing wood accents and polished tannins that are notable but never too prominent, allowing the sweet fruit and the spicy, smoky accent notes to hold sway.  92

Mario Gagliasso “Rocche dell’Annunziata,” La Morra:  Indisputably a top performer, this shows lovely spice and floral accents leading to a broad, soft palate, followed by a graceful finish that is gently firmed by fine-grained tannins.  92

Voerzio Gianni “La Serra,” La Morra:  Dark color and expressive, sweet fruit aromas lead into big, penetrating flavors and lots of substance and breadth on the palate.  92

Poderi Marcarini “La Serra,” La Morra:  This rather flashy wine shows lots of spicy, smoky oak in the aromas and again in the finish, but it isn’t overdone, as there’s more than enough sweet fruit to support the wood and tannins.  Certain to improve, this would be best held for another five years at least.  92

Michele Chiarlo “Cerequio,” La Morra:  Exceptionally appealing by dint of ripe, sweet fruit recalling both red and black cherries as well as plums, with structure lent by fine tannins that assert themselves very late in the finish.  92

Rivetto “Leon,” La Morra, Serralunga d’Alba:  A very impressive Barolo in a clearly modern style, this shows deep color and serious concentration.  Nice floral accents get it off to a good start, and the big, ripe flavors keep the tannin at bay.  92

Pecchenino “San Giuseppe,” Monforte d’Alba:  Fresh, juicy and straightforwardly delicious, with very pure, ripe, expressive fruit that proves enduringly appealing through an impressively persistent finish.  92

Conterno Franco “Bussia Munie,” Monforte d’Alba:  An open, fruity nose with accents of fresh flowers and spicy oak leads into sweet, soft flavors that are ultimately firmed by nicely measured acidity and tannin.  92

Poderi Aldo Conterno “Colonnello,” Monforte d’Alba:  Very pure and pretty, this shows open, sweet fruit on both the nose and palate, with minimal oak influence and very appealing proportions.  92

Parusso Armando di Parusso F.Lli “Bussia,” Monforte d’Alba:  An extremely flashy wine with great complexity and a lot of mushroomy earthiness, this shows an interesting traditional funkiness alongside a streak of modern oak.  92

Elio Grasso “Gavarini Chiniera,” Monforte d’Alba:  This very expressive wine leads with fruit on the nose but also shows some lovely floral accents.  The oak is subtle, as are the earthy undertones, with the core of fruit showing prominently throughout.  92

Parusso Armando di Parusso F.Illi ”Le Coste Mosconi,” Monforte d’Alba:  Beautiful sweet liqueur-like aromas suggest notes of cherries and plums, with good concentration and very little oak.  Lots of tannin here, but the fruit is easily up to the challenge of counterbalancing them.  92

Podere Rocche dei Manzoni “Vigna Capella di Santo Stefano,” Monforte d’Alba:  Dark and brooding, this is a powerful wine with big body and very deep flavors.  It will take a little time to unwind all that it holds in store, but make no mistake--this is a very serious wine that will not disappoint the patient.  92

Rivetto “Serralunga,” Serralunga d’Alba:  Big and plush and very sexy, with very ripe fruit aromas and subtle wood notes around the edges.  Fruit-driven in a juicy, modern, soft style, this is a clear winner.  92

Gemma “Colarej,” Serralunga d’Alba:  This shows plenty of wood-based spice notes on the nose and in the finish, but also plenty of sweet fruit to go with it.  Ripe, sweet fruit easily counters the oak and tannin, and the finish is symmetrical and very pleasant.  92

Alario Claudio “Sorano,” Serralunga d’Alba:  This shows lots of big, smoky oak on the nose, but there is also a lot of sweet fruit underneath.  Dark and concentrated, with very good depth of fruit and lots of stuffing, this is not the most subtle wine of the vintage, but is most definitely one of the most dramatic.  92

Ascheri “Sorano Coste & Bricco,” Serralunga d’Alba:  Sweet and soft and very pretty, with subtle oak and a restrained style that could well go overlooked in a big lineup of wines, this was nevertheless a top finisher by my lights.  92

Cascina Cucco “Cerrati Vigna Cucco,” Serralunga d’Alba:  Very nicely proportioned, this is a rather dark and muscular wine that nevertheless seems graceful due to its excellent balance and integration.  Oak is minimal, and the wine is very stylish for all of the flavor that it packs.  92

Gigi Rosso “Arione,” Serralunga d’Alba:  Ripe scents and flavors recall kirsch and dark plums, with a little mushroomy earthiness and plenty of ripe tannin in the finish to keep the ripeness of the fruit in check.  Very successful.  92

Germano Ettore “Ceretta,” Serralunga d’Alba:  Appealingly sweet and ripe but not at the cost of seeming obvious, this fruit-driven wine shows lots of character around the edges of all that fruit, with nice floral, herbal and spicy accents.  92

Abbona di Abbona Marziano “Terlo Ravera,” Novello:  Impressively dark color, with open, sweet fruit on both the nose and palate.  Pure flavors with a long, soft, integrated finish.  91

Elvio Cogno “Ravera,” Novello:  This wonderfully interesting, complex wine shows aromas of spiced nuts, dark cherries and garden herbs, with excellent integration and delicacy.  91

Marchesi di Barolo “Coste di Rose,” Barolo:  Deliciously pure, this shows real depth and power, but the wine’s impact is based much more on fruit than on wood.  91

Boroli “Cerequio,” Barolo:  This wine looked relatively advanced in development both in terms of color and aroma, but may still have some capacity for additional improvement.  An excellent example of the traditional style, it shows lovely raisiny/leathery complexities and very delicate flavor and texture.  91

Marchesi di Barolo “Sarmassa,” Barolo:  Impressively ripe and concentrated, this is a muscular wine in the modern mode that is just starting what promises to be a long developmental arc.  91

Virna Borgogno “Preda Sarmassa,” Barolo:  Sweaty, earthy, gamy aromas are striking and very appealing, at least for the moment, and there’s plenty of sweet fruit in the mix as well.  A fascinating wine for near-term consumption.  91

Agricola Gian Piero Marrone “Pichemej,” La Morra:  Complex aromas and soft, sweet initial flavors lead to a firm but balanced finish.  91

Ciabot Berton “Roggeri,” La Morra:  The aromas are expressive and interesting, followed by a sweet midpalate with delicate flavors.  Ripe tannin firms the finish without drying it.  91

Eraldo Viberti “Rocchettevino,” La Morra:  Some smoky, spicy aromatic notes get this off to a great start, followed by sweet fruit flavors and very nice, fine-grained tannins.  91

Bosco Agostino “La Serra,” La Morra:  This winning wine shows lots of soft, sweet fruit with very finely balanced tannin for structure.  The aromas and flavors aren’t terribly complex at this point, but the base material is excellent, and with some time for secondary aromas to develop, this will get even better.  91

Marengo Mario “Brunate” La Morra:  Broad flavors and texture are very appealing, with notable oak influence that is stylish and certainly not overdone.  91

Vietti “Brunate,” La Morra:  This wine needs a little time to pull together, as it is now rather oaky but also full of sweet fruit that will ultimately absorb the oak.  A sure bet for the patient buyer.  91

Gianni Gagliardo, “Serre,” La Morra, Barolo, Monforte d’Aba, Serralunga d’Alba:  Very expressive aromas of flowers and fresh plums and cherries are delightful, with juicy fruit that is nicely structured by balanced acidity and tannin.  91

Gianfranco Alessandria, “San Giovanni,” Monforte d’Alba:  Very impressive color is backed up by impressive depth of flavor.  This is no mere powerhouse, however, as the flavors are pure and precise.  91

Silvano Bolmida “Bussia,” Monforte d’Alba:  This shows the earthiness of a traditional-style Barolo alongside the oakiness of a modern rendition.  Interesting and quite complex, this is very well done.  91

Prunotto “Bussia,” Monforte d’Alba:  Sexy, sweetly fruity aromas are very appealing, followed by plush fruit and a soft finish.  91

Costa di Bussia “Costa di Bussia -- Tenuta Arnulfo,” Monforte d’Alba:  Sweet scents of vanilla and ripe cherries are alluring, with a nice spiciness accenting the ripe fruit.  91

Seghesio Fratelli “Vignetto La Villa,” Monforte d’Alba:  Deep, intense flavors show a lot of power, with good length and some subtle nascent complexities.  91

Pecchenino “Le Coste,” Monforte d’Alba:  Still relatively simple at this point in its development, this wine is nevertheless pure and very nicely balanced, with excellent potential for further development.  91

Palladino “Serralunga,” Serralunga d’Alba:  A relatively big wine, this shows ripe fruit recalling kirsch and dark plums, with very nice smoky, spicy accents.  91

Giovanni Rosso “Serralunga,” Serralunga d’Alba:  Not yet the most complex example, yet this is amply endowed and very well balanced between ripeness and freshness.  91

Schiavenza “Broglio,” Serralunga d’Alba:  Sweet and concentrated and serious, with Nicely balanced acidity and tannin.  91

Cascina Luisin “Leon,” Serralunga d’Alba:  A big wine showing lots of assertive but sweet fruit and plenty of acidity for balance, with relatively subtle wood.  91

Schiavenza “Prapò,” Serralunga d’Alba:  Toasty, spicy oak notes are quite appealing, with moderate body and nicely measured tannins.  91

2006 Barolos Scored at 90 Points:

Pira Chiara Boschis “Cannubi,” Barolo

Rinaldi Francesco e Figli “Le Brunate,”  Barolo, La Morra

G. D. Vajra “Bricco delle Viole,” Barolo

Grimaldi Bruna “Camilla,” Grinzane Cavour

Deltetto “Sistaglia,” La Morra, Monforte d’Alba

Andrea Oberto “Vigneto Rocche,” La Morra

Alessandria Fratelli “Monvigliero,” VerdunoOddero Poderi e Cantine “Rocche di Castiglione,” Castiglione Falletto

Pio Cesare, Serralunga d’Abba, Grinzane, la Morra, Castiglione Falletto, Novello

Josetta Saffirio “Persiera,” Monforte d’Alba

Cascina Ballarin “Bussia,” Monforte d’Alba

Grimaldi Bruna “Badarina,” Serralunga d’Alba

Barolo Riserva 2004

Virna Borgogno “Preda Sarmassa,” Barolo:  This stunning wine showed the most complex aromatics of any wine in the entire Nebbiolo Prima tastings, and then backed them up with fruit that was extremely sweet and abundant but nevertheless very delicate.  The finish is long, symmetrical and mineral.  Absolutely terrific.  96

Borgogno Giacomo & Figli,  Barolo:  Sweet and soft and immensely appealing, this is extremely complex and concentrated, but also fresh, with no hint of over-ripeness.  95

Boglietti Enzo, La Morra:  The very dark, concentrated, intense fruit in this wine is just starting to unwind, but is already extremely deep and persistent in flavor, with lovely accent notes of spices and smoke.  94

Bel Colle “Monvigliero,” Verduno:  Sweet and pure and utterly delicious, this wine shows gorgeous notes of cherry liqueur, flowers, carpaccio and spices.  The mouthfeel is quite soft, with extremely fine-grained tannins and ripe acidity lending focus to the wine without any drying or shrillness.  94

Rivetto, Serralunga d’Alba:  Still sweet and deep and very juicy and long despite all the time in oak, this is clearly a wine that was made from extraordinary raw material.  It has soaked up all of the oak that it was exposed to, and remains very fresh and vibrant and capable of years of additional development.  94

Barale F.Lli “Castellero,” Barolo:  Very complex in both aroma and flavor, this shows very impressive integration and complexity.  93

Germano Ettore “Lazzarito,” Serralunga d’Alba:  Still remarkably fresh and sweet despite all of the time spent in wood, this will continue to improve for years to come.  93

Borgogno Giacomo e Figli “Vigna Liste,” Barolo:  Very toasty, spicy and meaty, this is uncommonly complex even for a Riserva from a great vintage.  Not the biggest wine in the lineup, but among the most complex.  92

Cascina Ballarin “Bricco Rocca Riserva Tistot,” La Morra:  Very sexy stuff that holds up to all of the oak and which still seemed fresh even at the end of a long tasting in a room that had become overly warm.  Soft and deeply flavored, this is very silky in feel but also exemplary in its freshness.  92

Sobrero Francesco “Pernanno,” Castiglione Faletto:  Big, smoky barrique aromatics show lots of spice and toast, but there’s plenty of fruit underneath, as well as some very interesting complexities recalling truffles, leather and carpaccio.  92