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Barolo's Stunning 2010 Vintage
By Ed McCarthy
Mar 3, 2015
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By now, the word is out. Barolo wines are extraordinary in 2010.  I confirmed this with a recent tasting in the Festa del Barolo event featuring 15 outstanding Barolos, and with other 2010 Barolos I have tasted.  Wine writer Antonio Galloni, sponsor of the event--which took place at The Four Seasons Restaurant in New York--stated that this tasting was probably the greatest collection of Barolo producers and their top Barolos ever on one stage, and he was probably right.

The 2010 vintage in the Barolo region was cool and late-ripening--always good, as the best vintages in Barolo are usually the cooler ones. For example, I much prefer the fresh, cool-vintage 2008 Barolos to the warmer 2007s and 2009s.  The harvest in 2010 took place in mid to-late October, late compared to recent warmer vintages with early September harvests.  Nebbiolo, a very-late maturing variety, seems to perform at its best in late-ripening vintages for Barolo and Barbaresco, both 100 percent Nebbiolo wines.

The 2010 Barolos I have tasted are pure and fresh, with lots of tannin (but not hard tannins).  The wines are very aromatic, with great depth, concentration, and richness.  Like many great Barolo vintages, the wines were made from small berries--which explains their concentration.  Galloni, a wine writer specializing in Piedmontese wines, states “2010 is the greatest young Barolo vintage I have tasted in the 18 years of visiting the region.”  It is clearly the finest vintage of its decade--although 2001, 2004, 2006, and 2008 were all very good vintages.

I rank 2010 with 1999, 1996, and 1989 as the best four Barolo vintages I have tasted in the past 26 years--bearing in mind that the 2010s are only four years old now.  If pressed, I would say that only the 1996 Barolos, still not at their peak--with the best ones still needing a few more years of aging--can compare in greatness to the more approachable 2010s.  Because of changes in vinification, such as shorter fermentation times, modern Barolos don’t need decades to mature.  For example, you can enjoy 2008 Barolos now; I don’t hesitate to order them when I see 2008s on restaurant wine lists.  Both the 1999s and especially the austere 1996s needed 15 years or more to become enjoyable.  The 1989s finally are ready to drink now, but still have a long future.

The 15 2010 Barolos I tasted at the recent Festa del Barolo event are the following  (with the Barolo vineyard location in parentheses):

Ceretto Barolo Bricco Roche (Castiglione Falletto)
Cordero di Montezemolo Enrico VI (Castiglione Falletto)
E. Pira-Chiara Boschis Barolo Via Nuova (Barolo village)
Elio Altare Barolo Arborina (La Morra)
Elvio Cogno Barolo Bricco Pernice (Ravera, Novello)
Burlotto Barolo Vigneti Monvigliero (Verduno)
G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole (Barolo village)
Giacomo Conterno Barolo Ceretta, magnum (Serralunga d’Alba)
Giusppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate (Barolo village)
La Spinetta-Rivetti Barolo Campé (Grinzane Cavour)
Sandrone Barolo Le Vigne (Barolo village)
Massolino Barolo Riserva Vigna Rionda (Serralunga d’Alba)
Paolo Scavino Riserva Rocche dell’Annunziata (La Morra)
Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Cicala (Monforte d’Alba)
Vietti Barolo Ravera (Ravera, Novello)

Although these 15 Barolo producers are clearly among the best, I must note that a few great producers were not included, such as Bartolo Mascarello, Giuseppe Mascarello, Bruno Giacosa, Cappellano, and Gaja (his two mainly Nebbiolo wines from Serralunga and La Morra are not technically “Barolo” because they contain about 6 percent Barbera).  In some cases, these producers were not ready to present their 2010 Barolos.  The superb producer, Cappellano, never takes part in tastings.

I will comment here on some of my favorite 2010 producers’ Barolos from the Festa del Barolo tasting, plus a few producers’ Barolos not present at the tasting.

The two-most renowned traditional Barolos in the 2010 Festa del Barolo line-up were Giacomo Conterno and Giuseppe Rinaldi.  Both of these producers showed outstanding 2010s, as expected, but I would give the edge to Giuseppe Rinaldi at this tasting.  Rinaldi’s was the Barolo everyone clamored for at the luncheon that followed, and it quickly disappeared.  Beppe Rinaldi’s 2010 Brunate (with 15 percent of his Le Coste vineyard included) just jumps out of the glass.  It is extremely aromatic, with high acidity, and exhibits delicious Nebbiolo fruit.  It was the wine of the tasting for me.  Beppe Rinaldi’s daughter, Marta, who represented the winery, is playing a greater role in the winemaking, and is the heir apparent here, with Beppe still chief winemaker.

Giacomo Conterno introduced its first Barolo from its newly acquired vineyard in Serralunga, Ceretta, with a magnum of the 2010.  It is beautiful, quite approachable, but at this point does not reach the heights of G. Conterno’s well-established vineyard, Cascina Francia, also in Serralunga, that Giovanni Conterno purchased in 1974.  The late Giovanni Conterno, who passed away in 2004, is the man who established the winery as arguably Barolo’s finest.    Giacomo Conterno’s Riserva, Monfortino (made from selected grapes of Cascina Francia but aged longer), is one of the greatest red wines in the world, and is priced accordingly (the latest release, 2006 Monfortino, has an average U.S. retail price of $627, the most expensive new-release Barolo in the region, by far). Giovanni’s son, Roberto, who worked the vineyards with his father since 1988, has continued nobly, as all recent vintages of Giocomo Conterno’s wines can attest.

Vietti’s 2010 Ravera (from the village of Novello), was a star in the tasting as well.  Luca Currado succeeded his ailing father, Alfredo Currado, one of the giants in Barolo, as winemaker in 1998 (Alfredo passed away in 2010).  Luca, a humble man, made a very moving speech at the Festa tasting, admitting that he tried too hard to establish himself when he first took over, and made mistakes--a reference to his use of French barriques in aging his wines.  Luca made the 2010 Vietti Ravera with no barriques, aging the wine in large, old oak barrels (called botte).  The 2010 Vietti Ravera has dynamite aromatics and great structure.  It’s a 40-year old keeper for sure, but can be enjoyed even now.  Antonio Galloni believes that the Vietti 2010 Ravera is Luca Currado’s finest Barolo, and I agree that it is outstanding, although I might give an edge to the Vietti 2007 old-vine Villero Riserva (from Castiglione Falletto), named 2015 Red Wine of the Year by Gambero Rosso, a prestigious Italian Wine Guide.  At any rate, Vietti is “hot,” and it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy than Luca Currado.

Other standouts: the Cordero di Montezemolo Enrico VI.  I have always enjoyed the elegant style of this producer, but the 2010 Enrico VI from the Villero vineyard is for me the finest wine I have ever tasted from Montezemolo, combining finesse with power. 

Chiara Boschis, one of the most renowned women winemakers in Barolo, has made one of her finest wines with the 2010 Via Nova, a blend of several parcels made by this skilled winemaker. Chiara ages her wines half in large casks, and half in barriques (but just 30 percent new).

Elvio Cogno, a top traditional winemaker, now has his son-in-law Valter Fissore making his wines.  Valter has been doing an excellent job, and his 2010 Barolo Bricco Pernice from the little-known Ravera vineyard in Novello might be his finest yet.  Along with Vietti’s 2010 Ravera, this Barolo vineyard will now be receiving the attention it deserves.

Another great surprise for me was Burlotto’s 2010 Barolo, Vigneto Monvigliero, from another little-known Barolo village, Verduno.  I knew Burlotto was a solid, traditional winemaker, and yet his Vigneto Monvigliero--from a well-respected but not well-known vineyard, stopped me in my tracks.  If you love the Nebbiolo grape, you will love this Barolo, redolent of all the wondrous perfumes of Nebbiolo.

More highlights for me:  Giorgio Rivetti’s La Spinetta, perhaps better-known for his Barbarescos, has made a lovely, delicately perfumed Barolo from the hamlet of Grinzane Cavour; Luciano Sandrone, always a solid perfomer, made one of his greatest Barolos ever with his 2010 Barolo Le Vigne; and Franco Massolino, becoming better and better with each vintage, has produced an explosive Barolo from the great Vigna Rionda vineyard in Serralunga, a vineyard made famous by the master, Bruno Giacosa.

Younger brother Aldo Conterno parted with Giovanni Conterno in 1969 and started his own winery. His three sons took over the winemaking in the ‘90s, and for a while the winery lost its way.  It always has had great vineyards surrounding its magnificent winery in Monforte d’Alba.  Aldo passed away in 2012, but his sons are now making great Barolos, in a firmly traditional style.  Aldo Conterno’s 2010 Barolo Cicala is one of its best Barolos ever, not quite ready to drink yet, but will be very long-lived.

I have not had the opportunity to try Bartolo Mascarello’s 2010 Barolo yet; it will be difficult to find and expensive.  I hear that it is sensational, one of its best yet.  The late Bartolo’s daughter, Maria-Theresa Mascarello, has definitely established herself as one of Barolo’s great traditional winemakers.

Random notes:  It’s so good to see Beppe and Tino Colla’s winery, Poderi Colla, doing so well.  Beppe Colla, now 84 and one of the true living legends of Barolo and Barbaresco along with Bruno Giacosa, is still consulting at Poderi Colla, officially owned by his much younger brother Tino and Beppe’s daughter, Federica.  Beppe purchased Prunotto Winery in 1956 and put that great winery on the map.  Poderi Colla’a traditionally-made 2010 Dardi Le Rose Bussia from Monforte d’Alba is solid and well-structured.  It just needs time to open up. I’ve been sitting with it all day, writing this column.  A keeper, for sure.

Five other recommended 2010 Barolos:  Cappellano (not available yet, but Cappellano Barolos are good in average vintages; his Barolo should be off-the-charts in 2010); Paolo Scavino; Ceretto; Marcarini; and Ghisolfi.

As you can see, I’m excited about the 2010 Barolos.  If you are a Barolo lover as well, I recommend that you buy some of the wines I have mentioned fairly soon.  The smaller wineries (which most of them are) will not be around too long, with the current increased interest in Barolo.  Many are still surprisingly affordable ($45 to $60 retail); the big names, of course, are over $100.  But they will last for a lifetime.