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The Great 2010 Vintage from Barolo, Volume Two
By Michael Franz
Jul 29, 2014
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As I noted in my previous column, the 2010 vintage wines from Barolo are the most complete and compelling group of wines that I’ve ever tasted from this region.  Indeed, the vintage produced so many extraordinary wines that I was forced to split my recommendations, with the earlier column featuring wines from the villages of Novello, Verduno, Castiglione Falletto, and Monforte D’Alba.  Amazing as those wines were, the top performers from Serralunga, Barolo and La Morra profiled here were even stronger on average, so feast your eyes on the recommendations that follow.

By way of background, all of the wines reviewed below were tasted and scored under strict blind conditions in Alba in May (at Nebbiolo Prima, which may well be the world’s finest event for the debut of new releases).  Any reference to the producer that you may find within a review was added during the past week, when I expanded my tasting notes into publishable reviews.  After an initial tasting to determine the top wines presented during each of the five days at Nebbiolo Prima, I then re-taste all of them in a different order to assure that they were scored properly--and I do this before I pick up sheets identifying the producer of any wine.

You may experience some confusion when looking at the producer name that begins each entry on account of the fact that some prefer to lead with a family name, whereas others start with a given name, as is customary in English-speaking countries.  Figuring that producers should be allowed to call themselves whatever they wish, I’ve rendered almost every producer name exactly as it was designated by the organizers of Nebbiolo Prima.  You’ll find that search engines are perfectly capable of leading you to the producer regardless of the order in which the name is rendered, so this is a minor point that I note only because some of the producer names look jarringly odd to readers from English speaking countries.

All of these wines will be released into commercial channels soon, if indeed they haven’t already been released.  However, it is still too early to determine average pricing for any particular national market like the USA, and prices vary so widely across countries that any guessing on my part would do more harm than good.  Wine reviews are ordered from top to bottom by score, with alphabetical ordering used for entries concluding with the same scores.  One last thing:  Each entry begins with the producer’s name, followed by the village or “comune” from which the grapes were sourced, followed (within quotation marks) by the vineyard designation or any proprietary name attached to the wine by its producer:

Vietti, La Morra, “Brunate”:  Everybody loves Vietti’s wines, so I don’t pride myself in coming up with anything newsworthy by identifying this wine’s greatness, but let me say this:  Brunate 2010 from Vietti is one of the most charming, almost “hypnotic” wines that I’ve ever tasted.  Both of those terms show up in my raw note from a blind tasting experience in May 2014, along with “charismatic,” and this was probably the most extraordinarily beautiful of all the 2010 Barolo wines that I tasted over the course of five days.  The remarkable thing is that the wine is very deep and long in flavor, yet never seems to assert itself.  Moreover, it is simultaneously layered and seamless, which is an uncanny effect in combination, since those two characteristics almost always cut in opposite directions.  Oak is notable but perfectly balanced, and the wine’s weight and fruit are likewise perfect foils for its acidity and tannin.  This is a marvel of intricacy, but also a whole that is greater than the sum of its extraordinary parts.  Simply perfect.  100

Vietti, Serralunga, “Lazzarito”:  This is among the three or four best Barolo wines from 2010 that I’ve tasted, and its superb quality was instantly obvious.  With that said, however, there’s nothing obvious about the wine, which is the key to understanding the distinctiveness of its character.  It is nowhere as pushy or made-up as the most aggressive wines from Serralunga in 2010, yet its complex, highly alluring aromas and layered, deeply satisfying flavors could hardly be more apparent.  The fruit is exceedingly open and pure, yet the overall impression is at least as savory as it is fruity, and the wine is flawlessly proportionate in its structural components and perfectly balanced in the prominence of its different scents and flavors.  In sum:  A wine of breathtaking beauty.  99

Gagliasso Mario, La Morra, “Rocche dell Annunziata”:  This producer’s 2008 “Torriglione” was among the most wildly earthy and exciting Barolo wines of that vintage, yet I was forced to give it a relatively modest score of 93 on account of it being somewhat “iffy” due to a whiff of volatile acidity and some indications of premature development.  By contrast, this 2010 from the great La Morra cru of Rocche dell Annunziata has all the complexity and excitement value of that 2008--but without the warning signs.  Frankly, given the fact that the producer isn’t world-famous, I’ve got my doubts that other reviewers will give this wine the score that it truly merits.  The color is extraordinary and the bouquet is huge and extremely engaging, with an earthiness that never quite turns “dirty” or “animal” in character.  The flavors are comparably compelling, with virtually perfect balance between fruity elements and leathery, savory ones.  The tannins are evident but not obtrusive, and the wine is sexy even in its structural impression, with a very persistent finish.  My raw note from when I tasted this blind in Italy is full of enthusiastic expletives, and I’m dying to taste it again.  By the way, the 2010 “Torriglione” (94) is also a dynamite wine with great complexity and character.   98

Marchesi di Barolo, Barolo, “Sarmassa”:  This is a stunningly impressive wine.  On one hand, it is sweet and open and generously flavored, yet it is also massively structured, with a boatload of tannin and lots of fresh acidity.  Uncanny it its ability to seem at once elegant and intense, this poised-but-powerful wine is an obvious star in a historically great vintage, and its greatness is made obvious by its exceedingly persistent and proportional finish.  97

Mauro Veglio, La Morra, “Rocche dell Annunziata”:
  Mauro Veglio generally believes that Rocche dell Annunziata is his best site, and it turned out a killer wine in 2010.  It shows terrific pigment concentration and is quite generously ripe.  Although it is a wine of great power and persistence, it also shows extraordinary class and complexity.  With lots of little nuances and plenty of fine-grained tannin, there’s a lot going on here, but everything is driven by deliciously sweet, dark-toned fruit that just won’t quit.  This is always a pretty expensive wine, but also one of the safest purchases you could make because of its type:  A rare wine that will be balanced and delicious regardless of when you drink it over the course of two decades.  97

Virna Borgogno, Barolo, “Cannubi Boschis”:  This wine is an object lesson in the greatness of the 2010 vintage.  The growing season seems to have been particularly outstanding in the villages of Serralunga and Barolo, and this wickedly good bottling from the cru of Cannubi Boschis shows fabulously expressive aromas with suggestions of leather, spices, incense and wild mushrooms.  The flavors are equally engaging, with fruity and savory notes that are perfectly symmetrical.  In structural terms, there’s no astringency, no heat and no harshness…just an incredibly smooth ride, though the wine certainly does not lack grip.  Brilliant.  97

Ascheri, La Morra, “Ascheri”:  This wine wasn’t among the darkest or most concentrated of the many terrific Barolo bottlings that I tasted from the 2010 vintage in May of 2014, but it was definitely among the most intricate and interesting.  The aromas are particularly wonderful, showing floral, spicy, leathery, musky scents that are so alluring that they provide a very satisfying experience before one even tastes the wine.  However, tasting only confirms the excellence presaged by the aromas, as this is packed with a mélange of compelling flavors.  96

Germano Angelo, Barolo, “Rué”:  I loved the 2008s made by this producer, and this wine offers further proof that the wines remain absurdly under-appreciated.  Traditional in style, with virtually no suggestion of flavoring from oak, this is marvelously complex despite the absence of any overlay of wood-based notes.  Succulent, sweet and savory, it is intricate and layered and very deeply flavored.  The wines are very difficult to find in the USA (virtually impossible outside of California), but the family has a small wine shop in the village of Barolo.  96

Marcarini, La Morra, “Brunate”:  This exemplary producer turned out a fabulous Brunate from the 2010 vintage in Barolo.  Always masculine and rather brooding in its youth, the 2010 nevertheless already shows hints of the leather and cocoa powder notes it tends to display in its maturity, along with a suggestion of truffles and spices.  Built for the long haul, this would best be stored for at least five years, but it will likely develop in a positive direction for a full two decades.  96

Virna Borgogno, Barolo, “Sarmassa”:  An exceedingly intricate wine, this shows wonderfully expressive aromas and flavors of spices, woodsmoke and saddle leather, with terrific balance between these savory accents and a core of ripe fruit.  Even the fruit element in the wine is complex, in the sense that it shows pure facets as well as a very slight stewed character.  Beautiful.  96

Cascina Adelaide, Barolo, “Cannubi”:  This is the best young wine I’ve ever tasted from Cascina Adelaide, and I’ve tasted quite a few of them.  The signature note of oak is definitely present in the wine’s bouquet and there’s a hint of wood tannins in the finish, but the wonderful fruit of the vintage refuses to be pushed from center stage.  Sweet but also pure and poised, this is a very striking wine, with leather and toast working beautifully as accent notes.  At once supple and taut, this may tighten up for a few years, but it was showing a lot of immediate appeal in May of 2014, though capacity for a decade of further development is undoubtedly present also.  95

Germano Ettore, Serralunga:  2010 was clearly a great year for this producer, as this blended wine from the commune of Serralunga is slightly sexier than the terrific cru from Cerretta, which is likewise extremely showy.  It shows a very ripe fruit profile and just the faintest suggestion of heat in the finish, but the apparent gamble of picking late certainly paid off.  Very generous and deep in flavor, with quite rounded texture for a young Nebbiolo, this is a sexpot of a wine that may or may not age well, but is totally irresistible in its youth.  So, 95 points for a village wine?  Believe it, and buy it too, as this will be one of the best bargains in this rightly lauded vintage.  95

Marchesi Di Barolo, Barolo, “Cannubi”:  Packed with power and braced with plenty of wood, this is an impressive and assertive wine, yet also one that shows real finesse.  Dark and dense, it still seems more generous than brooding or backward, and the sweet purity of the fruit is what leaves that lasting impression.  Showing both dark and red fruit tones, this is complex and interesting, but that doesn’t change the fact that it also shows kick-down-the-door intensity of flavor.  95

Palladino, Serralunga “Parafada”:  I have never visited this producer nor met anyone associated with the company, and consequently have no particular opinion of anything associated with it.  I note that merely to emphasize how deeply impressed I was with all three of the 2010 Barolo bottlings that I tasted blind in May of 2014.  The straight, non-cru-designated Del Comune di Serralunga D’Alba bottling is terrific; the single-site “Ornato” is even better, and this wine from Parafada is downright sensational.  Very dark and impressive in appearance, it shows very deep aromas and wonderfully assertive fruit that pushes any wood influence very far offstage.  There’s just a faint whiff of heat in the finish, but I couldn’t bring myself to fault the wine on this count after multiple tastes.  In style, this is a bit of an outlier for the vintage, being more ripe and powerful and intense than most of the top wines of the year, but it is eye-poppingly impressive.  95

Renato Ratti, La Morra, “Marcenasco”:  This is the best rendition of the “Marcenasco” bottling from Pietro Ratti that I’ve ever tasted, and I’ve been following this house’s wines closely for years.  This features an arresting and distinctive menthol scent in the bouquet, but the freshness and energy of the fruit notes keep this in balance as an accent rather than a distraction.  The wine shows very good richness and depth of flavor, yet fine-grained tannins keep it from seeming heavy or overly aggressive.  This combination of power and elegance is very interesting, and the wine continues to show new facets and layers as it opens with aeration.  For reasons unknown to me, Ratti’s top wine from the La Morra cru of Rocche dell’ Annunziata wasn’t shown in the Nebbiolo Prima tastings, and one can only wonder how spectacular that wine must be in light of the striking success of this entry-level “Marcenasco.”  95

Bocchino Eugenio, Del Comune di La Morra:  This is a very unusual but clearly delightful wine from a producer that is largely new to my experience.  Quite dark in color, with lovely aromas of ripe fruit, it shows very distinctive flavors recalling red cherries and raspberries.  These fruit flavors are very penetrating and insistent, staving off the wine’s tannins to create a very long finish.  These aftertaste notes include some interesting savory nuances, making for a very interesting sensory impression.  An outstanding village wine, and a producer to watch.  94

Camparo, La Morra, “Boiolo”:  Very dark and concentrated, with exceptional muscularity, this is an impressive wine that didn’t get that way on account of a heavy overlay of oak.  Rather, the raw materials from the vineyard are what lend the prodigious strength to the finished wine, which doesn’t show much “treble” in the mix but really pounds out the bass notes.  This will become more complex and interesting once tertiary aromas and flavors develop with age, so keep this for at least five years despite its immediate appeal.  94

Cascina Del Monasterio, “Bricco Luciani”:  A complex wine with lots of little intricacies on both the nose and palate, this nevertheless is most impressive for the sheer punch packed by its fruit.  A light aromatic note of cola is quite distinctive and appealing, and though the fruit is quite ripe, there’s no hint of any stewed character, but rather an overall impression of purity despite the wine’s apparent power.  Oak impressions are very restrained, and in the end, this is all about delicious, perfectly ripened fruit.  94

Germano Ettore, Serralunga “Cerretta”:  A wonderfully show, sexy wine from Serralunga, this shows wonderful notes of cola and savory spices, with sweet fruit that pushes any wood notes so far into the background as to render them almost indiscernible.  A very wise rendering of the materials offered by a great vintage, this seems to have been picked at just the right time and then minimally manipulated to let the gorgeous fruit shine from center stage.  As an aside, the Serralunga “Prapo” bottling from 2010 is also very promising, though it was rather closed on the palate and finish when tasted in May, 2014.  94

Sylla Sebaste, Barolo, “Bussia”:  I have no track record with this producer, whose wines don’t seem very widely available from what I can gather, but the manifest fact is that this is a terrific wine.  Absolutely gorgeous in aromatic terms, it shows some toast and vanilla notes that suggest the presence of new wood in the winemaking regimen.  However, the integration of these elements with the sweet fruit is so good that only a dogmatic traditionalist could fault the wine.  I’m officially intrigued, and will be learning more about this winery in short order.  94

Sordo Giovanni, Serralunga “Gabutti”:  This is the best wine that I can ever recall tasting from this producer, showing wonderful scents of woodsmoke and spices and compelling savory flavors that provide interesting accents to the core of sweet fruit.  Despite being very flavorful and alluring on account of its sweet-seeming fruit, this is really only medium-bodied, enhancing its impression of elegance.  93

Virna Borgogno, Del Comune di Barolo:  Virna Borgogno has been working very close to the peak of the Barolo quality pyramid in recent vintages, so it comes as only a slight surprise that even the straight village wine from 2010 shows such striking excellence.  The aromas are floral, balsamic and leathery as well as fruity, and the fruit shows both red and black tones.  The tannins are very abundant but also quite fine-grained, so this will likely be enjoyable fairly soon but also last for a decade.  93

Other Excellent Performers from Serralunga, Barolo and La Morra:

Each of the following wines earned a score of either 93 or 92 in my blind tastings during May of 2014.  I recommend all of them enthusiastically; in no case do my raw notes indicate any concern regarding a flaw.  I also tasted plenty of very showy wines that do not appear below on account of hints of over-ripeness, volatile acidity, or other potential problems, and all of them are excluded.  The sheer number of outstanding 2010 wines from Barolo is all that prevents me from providing full reviews of these “merely” excellent ones, which you could purchase with confidence.  Each entry begins with the producer’s name, followed by the commune from which the wine was sourced, followed by any cru designation or proprietary name attached to the wine.  Ordering is alphabetical:

--Andrea Oberto, La Morra, “Rocche dell Annunziata”
--Ascheri, Serralunga, “Coste & Bricco”
--Bric Cenciurio, Barolo, “Coste di Rose”
--Cavalier Bartolomeo, Barolo, “San Lorenzo”
--Ellena Giuseppe, La Morra
--Fontanafredda, Serralunga, “Vigna la Rosa”
--Gabutti Di Boasso Franco, Serralunga, “Margheria”
--Gigi Rosso, Serralunga, “Arione”
--Grimaldi Giacomo, Barolo, “Le Coste”
--Malvirà, La Morra
--Marcarini, La Morra, “La Serra”
--Marchesi di Barolo, Del Comune di Barolo
--Michele Chiarlo, La Morra, “Cerequio”
--Monfalletto – Cordero di Montezemolo, La Morra, “Monfalletto”
--Oddero, La Morra, “Brunate”
--Palladino, Del Comune di Serralunga D’Alba
--Palladino, Serralunga, “Ornato”
--Paolo Manzone, Del Comune di Serralunga D’Alba
--Pio Cesare, Serralunga, “Ornato”
--Pira Luigi, Serralunga, “Margheria”
--Rinaldi, Francesco & Figli, Barolo, Brunate
--Rivetto Dal 1902, Del Comune di Serralunga D’Alba
--Rocche Costamagna, La Morra, “Rocche dell Annunziata”
--Serradenari, La Morra, “La Tartufaia”
--Silvio Grasso, La Morra, “Bricco Luciani”
--Stroppiana Oreste, La Morra, “San Giacomo”
--Le Strette, Barolo, “Bergeisa”

*     *     *

Questions or comments?  Write to me at michael@franzwine.com

To see Vol. I and the recommendations of 2010s from Novello, Verduno, Castiglione Falletto, and Monforte D’Alba, just click on my name below the WRO Blog space on the Home page, which will take you to an archive of previously published columns...