As of this writing, Italy has sadly already overtaken China with more recorded deaths from the Covid-19, while in many parts of the world including here in Metro Manila, people are under lockdown, quarantined, and restricted to their homes for health preservation reasons. Everything may seem gloomy now, but as Wuhan, China has proven, there will be light at the end of the tunnel for the Italians, and the rest of the world undergoing this pandemic.
On a brighter note, this year’s newly released 2016 vintage of Barolo, one of Italy’s proudest wines, was tasting great almost across-the-board at Nebbiolo Prima, and it could be an iconic vintage in the making — a small but still good cheerful spot for the beleaguered Italians. See below the conclusion of my Nebbiolo Prima 2020 series, ending with the beloved Barolo from 2016 vintage and the Barolo Riserva from 2014 vintage.
BAROLO DOCG PARTICULARS
For the 2016 vintage, total production of Barolo was around 14 million bottles from its 2,091 hectares of vineyards. For Barolo DOCG, a minimum of 38 months of aging, of which a minimum of 18 months should be in a barrel, are required before the earliest commercial release, and this is basically pegged at Jan. 1 on the 4th year from vintage. Barolo is therefore aged a year longer than Barbaresco (38 months vs 26 months) and spends twice as much time in the barrel also against Barbaresco (18 months vs nine months) before its commercial release. For Barolo Riserva DOCG, a minimum of 62 months, of which a minimum of 18 months should be in the barrel, are required before the earliest commercial release, which is Jan. 1 of the 6th year from vintage — also a year longer than their Barbaresco Riserva counterpart.
THE 2016 VINTAGE
The year 2016 can be described as a very long vintage which started as early as January and finished with the late harvesting of Nebbiolo grapes in mid-October. There were some concerns about the low temperature or the “late cold” that caused some delay in the resumption of the vegetative cycle of the vines. But the low temperature and the rains in the spring provided the soil with the right amount of water reservoir for the physiological development of the Nebbiolo.
Despite the delayed vegetative process, consensus among producers was that ripening was achieved for the Nebbiolo grapes. The high temperature in August and September helped immensely the phenolic components of the grapes. Baume count, though, was not as high as previous year, which would also mean slightly lesser alcohol level for the wines.
BACK TO BACK WINNERS
The 2016 vintage came on the heels of the excellent 2015 vintage, another exceptional Barolo year, but of different charm. Having blind-tasted 192 Barolos from this vintage, I found most of the wines were quite balanced, with acids and tannins both in check. Many of the wines were also surprisingly approachable despite Barolo’s notoriety for being too harsh to drink young. Of the 192 Barolos tasted, I gave 86 or 44.8% of them 90 points or above. Some of my highest scored Barolos also came from this batch. The Barolo 2016 is one vintage to stock up on, and with high production and availability, we should be able to get our hands on these Barolos here in the Philippines. As for Barolo Riserva 2014, we only had five wines blind-tasted, to which I gave two, or 40%, 90 points or above. Last year, in the same Nebbiolo Prima, there were 32 Barolo Riserva 2013 wines for review.
Please note these wines were tasted blind, and each wine was tasted for only a few minutes, given the huge quantity being tasted at any given morning during the entire Nebbiolo Prima event. Also understand that judgment on these wines was purely based on my personal biases and experience drinking, appreciating, and enjoying wines.
Best Barolo DOCG 2016
My top 86 wines from this lot of 192 wines are the following:
1. Gagliasso Mario Barolo 2016: 96 points “red cherries, jammy, vanilla, soft, plummy, super delectable, ripe, luscious and lengthy”
2-7.All with 95 points: Alessandro Rivetto Barolo 2016: “strawberry jam on the nose, a true fruit bomb, very pure, luscious fruits, good acid backbone, succulent and long ”
Bruna Grimaldi ‘Bricco Ambrogio’ Barolo 2016: “tangy, fragrant, ripe berries, alluring nose, persistent flavors, captivating from first whiff to finish”
Cagliero Barolo 2016: “subtle nose, but continues to evolve in the glass, strawberries, fresh and juicy, seamless pleasure”
Dosio ‘Serradenari’ Barolo 2016: “cherries, alluring nose, supple texture, sweet tannins, flinty at the end ”
Fracassi Umberto Barolo 2016: “sweet oak, caramel, maraschino cherries, round and juicy, sweet and ripe all the way”
8. Sansilvestro Barolo 2016: 94 points “leathery, earthy, more complex, blueberries, bitter-sweet tannins, lingering delicious berry taste”
9-14. All with 93 points: Aurelio Settimo ‘Rocche dell’Annunziata’ Barolo 2016; Garesio Barolo 2016; Giacomo Grimaldi ‘Ravera’ Barolo 2016; Giovanni Rosso ‘Serra’ Barolo 2016; La Carlina Barolo 2016; Roberto Sarotto Barolo 2016
15-26. All with 92 points: Abrigo Fratelli Barolo 2016; Boasso Franco ‘Margheria’ Barolo 2016; Cascina Ballarin ‘Bussia’ Barolo 2016; Cordero di Montezemolo Barolo 2016; Franco Conterno Barolo 2016; Gian Luca Colombo Vini Barolo 2016; Le Strette Barolo 2016; Mauro Molino Barolo 2016; Rizieri Barolo 2016; Sobrero Francesco ‘Parussi’ Barolo 2016; Tenuta Cucco Barolo 2016; Veglio Luigi E Massimo Barolo 2016
27-45. All with 91 points: Aurelio Settimo Barolo 2016; Barale Fratelli Barolo 2016; Bovio ‘Gattera’ Barolo 2016; Broccardo ‘Bricco San Pietro’ Barolo 2016; Casetta F. Lli Barolo 2016; Conterno Fantino Barolo 2016; Figli Luigi Oddero Barolo 2016; Fontana Livia Barolo 2016; Fontanafredda ‘Serralunga’ Barolo 2016; Le Ginestre Barolo 2016; M. Marengo Barolo 2016; Morra Diego ‘Monvigliero’ Barolo 2016; Palladino Barolo 2016; Pelassa Barolo 2016; Pira Luigi Barolo 2016; Rinaldi Francesco & Figli ‘Cannubi’ Barolo 2016; Rinaldi Francesco & Figli Barolo 2016; Rocche dei Manzoni Barolo 2016; Sobrero Francesco ‘Ciabot Tanasio’ Barolo 2016
46-86. All with 90 points: Abbona Marziano Barolo 2016; Alessandria Fratelli Barolo 2016; Alessandria Gianfranco Barolo 2016; Angela Negro Barolo 2016; Batasiolo Barolo 2016; Boroli ‘Brunella’ Barolo 2016; Boroli ‘Villero’ Barolo 2016; Bricco Maiolica Barolo 2016; Broccardo ‘I Tre Pais’ Barolo 2016; Bruna Grimaldi ‘Badarina’ Barolo 2016; Burlotto Barolo 2016; Carlo Revello & Figli Barolo 2016; Cascina Adelaide Barolo 2016; Diego Conterno Barolo 2016; Diego Pressenda Barolo 2016; Dosio Barolo 2016; E. Pira E Figli ‘Mosconi’ Barolo 2016; Fenocchio Giacomo Barolo 2016; Francone Barolo 2016; Giacomo Grimaldi ‘Sottocastello di Novello’ Barolo 2016; La Bioca Barolo 2016; La Fusina Barolo 2016; Lodali Barolo 2016; Mauro Veglio Barolo 2016; Monchiero F. Lli ‘Castiglione Falletto’ Barolo 2016; Monchiero F. Lli ‘Rocche di Castiglione’ Barolo 2016; Palladino Barolo 2016; Pecchenino Barolo 2016; Podere Ruggeri Corsini ‘Bricco San Pietro’ Barolo 2016; Podere Ruggeri Corsini ‘Bussia Corsini’ Barolo 2016; Poderi Marcarini Barolo 2016; Reva Barolo 2016; Reverdito Michele Barolo 2016; Roccheviberti Barolo 2016; Silvano Bolmida Barolo 2016; Simone Scaletta Viticoltore Barolo 2016; Tenuta L’Illuminata Barolo 2016; Vajra ‘Baudana’ Barolo 2016; Vico Luigi Barolo 2016; Voerzio Martini Barolo 2016
Please be aware that some brands have been cited more than once, and that is why the “Cru Village” name is attached to the Barolo brand if the cru is included, to show the different labels of the same Barolo producer. From my top 86, Bruna Grimaldi, Dosio, Aurelio Settimo, Giacomo Grimaldi, Sobrero Francesco, Broccardo, Rinaldi Francesco & Figli, and Boroli all appeared twice with different versions of their Barolo 2016. While many new Barolo brands made my list this year, some familiar names with same high scores from last year’s Barolo 2015 vintage review were again included, including Dosio, Boroli, Morra Diego, and Riziera to name a few.
Best Barolo Riserva DOCG 2014
My top two of 90 points score and over from a tiny group of five wines:
1. Lo Zoccolaio Barolo Riserva 2014: 95 points “Very vibrant, cherry notes, silky on the palate, flavorful, soft tannins, long and delectable finish”
2. Gigi Rosso Barolo Riserva 2014: 90 points
Last year, Gigi Rosso Barolo Riserva 2013 also made my list.
The author is a member of the UK-based Circle of Wine Writers (CWW). For comments, inquiries, wine event coverage, wine consultancy and other wine related concerns, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.