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The 2013 Barolos
By Ed McCarthy
Feb 20, 2018
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A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to taste 15 Barolos from the 2013 vintage.  The year delivered a cool growing season in the Langhe area of Piedmont (Langhe is the region around the town of Alba where all the Barolo vineyards are located).  It was a late harvest, but with a sunny, temperate September and early October, allowing the grapes to be picked in mid-October, which is always good for the very late ripening Nebbiolo variety (Barolo is always 100 percent Nebbiolo, by law).  I'll relay some comments from three leading wine experts, and then offer my opinion, followed by reviews of the 15 Barolos. 

Antonio Galloni, publisher of the online newsletter Vinous, and a renowned Piedmontese wine expert, states that 2013 Barolos have, “Finesse and elegance…striking aromas, silky tannins, vibrant fruit, and mid-weight structure…they capture the essence of site.”  In other words, the 2013 Barolos properly reflect their particular vineyard sites from which they grow; for example, a Serralunga Barolo tastes like a Serralunga Barolo.  For Galloni, 2013 is “a great vintage.”

Stephen Brook, noted British wine writer, reported in Decanter magazine on the 2013 Barolos:  The 2013s have “very good overall quality…less grip than the 2010” but “fresher than the 2011 and more structure than the 2012….  They are marked more by their perfume and finesse than power.”  Brook pointed out that Barolos, because of the fact that vineyards are grown in so many very different areas in the region, always show more diversity than other wine regions.  Brook particularly liked the Barolos of Serralunga, Castiglione Falletto, and Verduno.   The little-known Verduno region has been benefiting from global warming.  Previously thought too cool to produce great Barolos, their wines of the past two decades have been better than ever.

Jancis Robinson, in Jancis Robinson.com, states that, “The 2013 Barolo has turned out to be a classic in the making.  Loaded with firm but tactile and wonderfully textured tannins and at times super fresh due to the high acidity, the wines have an elegance that defies their estimated 14.5% alcohol.”  She echoes Brook’s opinion that Serralunga, Castiglione Falletto, and Verduno produced exceptional Barolos.

I agree with most of the opinions of Galloni, Brook, and Robinson, but I lean most towards Brook’s overall assessment, specifically, that 2013 is a very good vintage rather than a “great” or “classic” vintage.  Overall, I would give 2013 a 94 or 95 rating.  It does not have the power, firmness, or majesty of the truly great Barolo vintages, such as 2010, 2001, or 1996--all worthy of a 98 rating.  Valter Fissore, the well-respected owner-winemaker of Elvio Cogno Barolo, compares the 2013 vintage to 1999, in that both had similar structure, “less austere than the 2010s.”

The 2013s are in good company, similar in quality to the 2006, 2004, and 1999 Barolos, all of which I rated a 94 or 95.  Yes, the 2013s are more approachable than the majestic 2010s, and will be ready to drink sooner. In fact, a few of them, as you will see in my notes below, can be enjoyed even now.  But I still believe that they have enough firm structure to age and mature for 20 years or more.  Of course all Barolos are quite tannic and acidic when young, and need ageing to mature.

We had a number of very good Barolos in the tasting.  Some of the stars were missing, such as Giacomo Conterno, Bartolo Mascarello, Giuseppe Mascarello, and Bruno Giacosa (who recently passed away), but we tasted enough very fine Barolos to make an assessment of the vintage.  The Barolos are listed in the order in which they were served:

Ceretto, Alesandro Ceretto, Winemaker:
2013 Barolo Bricco Rocche (Castiglione Falletto)
For Alessandro, his 2013 Barolos are his best since the 1990s.  In fact, the elegant 2013 is Ceretto’s kind of vintage because he has perfected the elegant, lighter-bodied style over the years.  Even the Bricco Rocche, arguably his best vineyard (in addition to his powerful Prapò), although concentrated with lots of depth, is drinking beautifully right now.  93

Brovia, Alex Sanchez, Winemaker
2013 Barolo Rocche (Castiglione Falletto)
Brovia has always made traditionally styled wine, and its 2013 reflects its style.  It is presently dark in color, with aromas of tar, with velvety tannins, ripe, dark fruit and earthy flavors.  And yet, a rather gentle Barolo, considering its typical, powerful style.  91

Roagna, Luca Roagna, Winemaker
2012 Barolo Pira, Vecchie Viti (Castiglione Falletto)
Although Roagna is mainly a respected Barbaresco producer known for its great-value wines, it does own this gem of a Barolo vineyard in Castiglione Falletto, where its youngest vines were planted in 1937!  Luca Roagna presented his 2012 because his 2013 had not been bottled yet.  I thought that Roagna might be handicapped by presenting a 2012 (generally rated a lighter, average vintage) along with the 14 2013s, but I was wrong.  This traditionally made Barolo has glorious concentration, and a fruity, very long finish.  Although a 2012, it definitely needs time to mature.  Imported  by Polaner Selections.  Roagna makes only 2,000 bottles of this wine annually.  A winery to watch!  94

Cordero di Montezemolo, Alberto Cordero di Mntezemelo, Winemaker
2013 Barolo Enrico VI (Castiglione Falletto)
Most of Cordero di Montezemolo’s vineyards are in La Morra, but arguably his best one, Enrico VI, is in the hillsides of Castiglione Falletto.  This 2013 has a deep color, and is a full-bodied, robust Barolo for the vintage--the opposite of the winery’s softer, gentler La Morra Barolos.  It’s destined to have a long life ahead of it.  92

Poderi Colla, Pietro Colla, Winemaker
2013 Barolo Bussia Dardi le Rose (Monforte d’Alba)
The late Bartolo Mascarello used to call himself, “The Last of the Mohicans,” but that title can now go to Beppe Colla, who turns 88 this year.  Beppe is truly the last of the Old Guard Barolistas (although Beppe Rinaldi and Mauro Mascarello, both younger, are still around).  The traditional Poderi Colla’s wines are now made by Beppe Colla’s nephew, Pietro Colla.  The hamlet of Dardi is located next to the Bussia Soprana vineyard in Monforte.  The wine has velvety tannins with dark, concentrated fruit.  It’s a fleshy, traditional Barolo.  Give it time.  92

E. Pira, Chiara Boschis, Winemaker
2013 Barolo Via Nuova (Barolo)
The delightful Chiara Boschis is part of the family that owns the old, traditional Borgogno Winery.  In 1990, she took over the old E. Pira farm and winery, and has made decidedly different wines than Borgogno, more approachable, with upfront fruit.  Although the town of Barolo is the winery’s location, Chiara actually uses six vineyard sites for her Via Nuova, including Barolo, Serralunga and Monforte.  Her 2013 Via Nuova is a lovely Barolo, intense, with very fine balance, and it will be long-lived.  It has brightness, richness, and great depth.  It is the best of the modern-style Barolos at the tasting. It can be enjoyed now. Chiara has a small operation, making only 2,000 cases of Barolo annually.  A winery to seek out!  94

Luciano Sandrone, Luciano Sandrone/Barbara Sandrone, Winemakers
2013 Barolo Le Vigne (Barolo)
Luciano Sandrone is still the winemaker, but his daughter Barbara, who speaks excellent English, is the spokesperson and the heir apparent.  Their Le Vigne wine is made from a blend of four different vineyards in various locations.  It is well balanced, still very young, rich in fruit but quite tannic, and needs time.  93

Francesco Rinaldi, Paola Rinaldi, Winemaker
2013 Barolo Brunate (La Morra/Barolo )
The Brunate vineyard is mainly in La Morra, although some of it overlaps into neighboring Barolo.  The winery itself is in Barolo.  I called Beppe Colla the last of the Mohicans, but 90-year old Luciano Rinadi is even older.  Although nominally the head of the estate, the winery is now run by Luciano’s niece, Paola, with help from her sister, Piera.  The Francesco Rinaldi Barolos have changed from a very traditional style to a somewhat more delicate, lighter style under the reign of Paola Rinaldi.  The wines are still quite tannic, with classic Nebbiolo flavors of tar, underbrush, and tart strawberries, but they have more finesse than before--for me, an improvement.  And this Brunate still needs time to develop.  91

Giuseppe Rinaldi, Marta and Carlotta Rinaldi, Winemakers
2013 Barolo Brunate (La Morra/Barolo )
Giuseppe (Beppe) Rinakdi is the genius of Barolo.  A great philosopher and intelligent man, he can talk to you for hours about Barolo and many other topics. Beppe has turned over the reins of running the winery to his two daughters, Marta and her younger sister, Carlotta.  He remains as “consultant,” but I am sure he has a lot to say about the making of his superlative Barolos. This is the third year in a row (2010, 2012, 2013; I missed the 2011) that I have found Giuseppe Rinaldi’s Barolo the best of this tasting.  It is classic old style, lots of tannin and acidity, but perfectly integrated.  It has a wonderful Nebbiolo aroma, with depth and concentration, and is full of energy.  It was harvested in November, the only one in the group to harvest that late.  You can drink it even now, but I would wait for many years.  95

Azelia, Lorenzo Scavino, Winemaker
2013 Barolo Margheria (Serralunga)
Azelia’s winery is located in Castiglioe Falletto, just off the main road.  Its Margheria Vineyard is a classic Serralunga Barolo, a powerful, very tannic wine.  Lively, with lots of depth.  I would give it several years to start maturing.  91

Massolino, Franco Massolino, Winemaker
2013 Barolo Margheria (Serralunga)
Yes, the same vineyard as Azelia’s but two very different wines.  Again, a classic Serralunga Barolo, but this one is richly fruity, and therefore more approachable. Lots of tannin and acidity for sure, but fleshy and rich.  Interestingly, my companion preferred the Azelia, but I lean towards the Massolino.  92

Fratelli Alessandria, Vittore Alessandria, Winemaker
2013 Barolo Monvigliero (Verduno)
The Monvigliero vineyard is being recognized as one of the greatest vineyards in the region.  Its wines are elegant and well-balanced, made in a lighter style.  Some refer to the vineyard’s wines as Burgundian.  90

G.B. Burlotto, Fabio Alessandria, Winemaker
2013 Barolo Monvigliero (Verduno)
Yes, the two Alessandrias are cousins, and friendly rivals.  Thanks to the new recognition of the Monvigliero vineyard, Burlotto and the entire village of Verduno are getting more attention than ever.  Burlotto’s wine has a lovely, classic aroma, is very harmonious and silky, a lighter-styled gem.  93

Elvio Cogno,Valter Fissore, Winemaker
2013 Barolo Ravera, Bricco Pernice (Novello)
Novello, in the southern part of the Barolo region, is another commune getting more recognition thanks to the emergence of the Ravera vineyard.   Cogno’s wine is a winner.  It has a lovely, deep aroma (a trademark of great Barolos), deep, intense Nebbiolo flavors, and a long finish.  It was harvested October 15th.  It is quite tannic, and will live for decades.  94

Vietti, Luca Currado, Winemaker
2013 Barolo Ravera (Novello)
I was quite surprised when Luca Currado acquired a parcel of Ravera vineyard, because Vietti has so many good vineyards, such as Rocche, Villero Riserva, and Lazzarito.  But when I tasted Vietti’s outstanding 2010 Ravera a few years ago, I understood the reason.  Vietti’s 2013 Ravera is also sensational; it is a really powerful Barolo, very tannic now, that should be gorgeous with another 10 years of maturing.  It has grip, concentration, and ripeness, with depth and a savory minerality.  94

Yes, the 2013 Barolos are very good indeed, wines to buy.  So many really fine wines, led in this tasting by Giuseppe Rinaldi, Vietti, and Elvio Cogno, and--in the elegant style--Chiara Boschis’ E. Pira Via Nuova, Ceretto, and Burlotto (the last three for drinking now, the first three to put down for keeping).  If you love Barolo, I suggest you buy some 2013 now before the prices go up.  And don’t forget Roagna’s amazing Pira “Old Vines” Barolo!