2013 Barolo: Sublime Finesse & Elegance
BY ANTONIO GALLONI | FEBRUARY 10,
In 2013, a cool growing season and late harvest produced gorgeous Barolos with striking aromatics, silky tannins, sculpted, vibrant fruit and mid-weight structures. Readers will find a number of thrilling, utterly captivating wines that speak to the pedigree and class that are the signatures of the best Barolo vintages.
The 2013 Growing
The 2013 growing season will be remembered for many things,
including a very wet spring that required swift intervention in the vineyards
to stave off peronospera, a disease that is not usually so devastating at this
time of the year. Producers who treated their vineyards saved their crop, those
who could not or did not, suffered severe losses. Because the ground was wet,
spraying had to be done manually, rather than by tractor, a painstaking job
that not all producers were able or willing to undertake. To be fair,
peronospera is very rarely so severe at this time of the year, but producers
who did not treat were hit hard. Many growers told me the number of treatments
was double that of a normal year and clearly some producers were less willing
to intervene than others for philosophical reasons.
Fortunately conditions improved into the summer, with warm, but not excessively hot, temperatures that allowed the crop to ripen gradually. Perhaps most
importantly, the last phase of ripening saw healthy diurnal shifts between
daytime highs and evening lows, one of the most critical components for the
development of aromatics and color in Nebbiolo. The late harvest also allowed
the tannins to ripen fully, always a challenge with Nebbiolo. There was some
rain during harvest, which is most likely the reason some growers spoke of
grapes with thin skins that required delicate extractions. On the other hand,
some growers opted to give their 2013s more time in barrel because of the
wines’ imposing tannins.
A view of Castiglione
Falletto from Rocche di Castiglione
The 2013 Barolos in
The 2013 Barolos generally possess striking aromatics, silky
tannins that are the result of a long growing season, sculpted, vibrant fruit
and mid-weight structures. When the 2013s were younger, I thought they would
turn out along the lines of the 2010s, but over the last year in particular,
many 2013s have acquired a level of textural finesse and grace that is truly
remarkable. In many cases, the 2013s remind me of the 2008s, but with more
depth, better balance and more consistency. If that sounds appealing, well, it
is. Overall, the 2013s are Barolos that speak to finesse above all else. These
are wines that will hold considerable appeal to readers who enjoy classically
built wines. The 2013s have a good bit of supporting structure, but not the
explosiveness or austerity found in vintages such as 2006 or 2010. I don’t
think the 2013 quite reaches the sheer thrill factor of 2010, but it comes very
The Barolo town center
Show Me The Money!!
In the 1996 film, Jerry
Maguire, NFL player Rod Tidwell (played by Cuba Gooding, Jr.) shouts out the
phrase that would become iconic at his agent Jerry Maguire (played by Tom
Cruise). This is how things are playing out in Piedmont.
Broker: I have a client who is interested in buying your
Owner: Thank you, but I am not interested.
Broker: I understand. But if you were to sell, what would be
Owner: (Blurts out a number that is double the high end of
Broker: Here’s a check.
The biggest story in Piedmont continues to be the sale of
Vietti and a continuous steam of rumors about other estates that are said to be
close to being sold. I have been, and continue to be critical of the Vietti
sale to American businessman Kyle Krause, not because the estate was sold, but
more because of how and why that sale happened. It is one thing if a group like
LVMH, Artemis or Roederer were to buy an estate in Piedmont. All three have a
long-term track record of success, demonstrated long-term commitment to the
business and a deep bench of talented professionals. Sadly, Vietti is now in
the hands of a family that has none of the above. As long as Luca and Elena
Currado are around, I think Vietti will be fine. After that, all bets are off.
Piedmont is not Bordeaux, where consumers often buy brands.
In Piedmont, consumers buy a story, and that story almost always involves a
family and a connection to the land. In that regard, Piedmont is quite similar
to Burgundy. There are a handful of top estates in Burgundy that are owned by
large groups; Domaine de L’Arlot, Domaine de L’Eugénie and Domaine de la Vougeraie all
come to mind. These estates all produce consistently outstanding wines. And yet
I know of no Burgundy collector – rightly or wrongly – who would place any of
them on the same level as Mugnier, Rousseau, Dujac, Roumier and countless other
domaines that are family owned and operated.
Why Today is a Great
Time to Be Buying Piedmont Wines
It is no secret that Bordeaux drives the fine wine market
globally. That region’s long-established markets and commercial infrastructure,
along with so many properties that offer high quality and production, are
unequalled anywhere else. More recently, Burgundy prices have exploded as
consumers and collectors pay just as much, if not more, attention to scarcity.
With this backdrop, interest in Piedmont wines has surged massively over the
last 10-15 years. When I started Piedmont
Report in 2004, there was not a
single Barolo or Barbaresco that could not be sourced and purchased in volume.
How things have changed since then.
There is no question that much of the demand for Piedmont
wines has grown as quality has improved markedly. Among other things, today’s
wines are easier to drink and enjoy than the wines of the previous generation,
which means a larger number of consumers is trying and discovering the wines
than ever before.
But there is more to it than that. Bordeaux went through
four vintages in which market interest was limited (2011-2014), while Burgundy
saw sharply reduced yields during the same period (and again in 2016). All of
that led the trade, especially the big players, to seek alternatives to offer
consumers with Old World palates. Piedmont was a logical choice, especially
with the exceptional 2010 Barolo vintage.
Last year, an interesting thing happened. Bordeaux had a
strong vintage with normal production. And the interest in Piedmont wines? It
dropped sharply. Today, the market
dynamic is this: Bordeaux has two strong back-to-back vintages (2015, 2016)
that are likely to capture considerable interest from the market. In 2015,
Burgundy has its first vintage with normal production levels since 2009.
Against this backdrop, the 2013, 2015 and 2016 vintages are all strong in
Barolo, while 2014 will offer a handful of exceptional wines. The annual
production of Barolo is around 12 million bottles, and while only a small
percentage of that production is going to appeal to Vinous readers, I believe
that confluence of several strong Barolo vintages and considerable market
interest elsewhere will make it difficult for all but a few producers and the
trade to raise prices meaningfully. The large supply of Barolo that will appear
over the next few years is likely to create a fabulous opportunities for savvy
consumers to build good collections for the future.
Historical records at
Cordero di Montezemolo go back over 100 years
As I have written before,
2014 is a vintage with sharply reduced yields and at least a few truly
thrilling wines at the top end. It is a vintage of high-acid, vibrant wines
that make me wish I had tasted some of the Barolos of the 1960s and 1970s when
they were young wines. The biggest issue with the 2014s is that the vintage
might never recover from its poor reputation with the public, much of which
producers themselves created with their early comments on the year. But in some
spots, 2014 is an exceptional vintage for Nebbiolo, a late-ripening grape that
was able to take full advantage of the glorious Indian summer conditions that
year. The 2015s I have tasted so far
point to a radiant vintage with considerable potential. I have not tasted the 2016s yet, but spent enough time in the
region in the days and weeks leading up to harvest to be optimistic.
I tasted all of these wines in November 2016, with follow up
tastings in my office in December 2016. As always, my winter Barolo article
focuses on wines that were bottled during the summer of 2016. I will publish a
second set of reviews covering wines that are bottled later this fall.
You Might Also
Barolo Part 2 – The Late Releases, Antonio Galloni, November 2016
Barbaresco: Worlds Apart, Antonio Galloni,
Eating & Drinking in Piedmont: 2016 Edition,
Antonio Galloni, October 2016
La Festa del Barolo 2016, Antonio Galloni,
2005 Barolo: A Dark Horse Emerges, Antonio
Galloni, July 2016
A Look Back at the 2004 & 2005 Barbarescos,
Antonio Galloni, June 2016
2012 Barolo: Grace Under Pressure, Antonio
Galloni, March 2016
2011 Barolo, Part 2 - Late Releases, Antonio
Galloni, December 2015
2012 & 2013 Barbaresco – A Study in Contrasts,
Antonio Galloni, December 2015