Having recently returned from Barolo where I blind-tasted over 300 of the just released 2012s, it’s time to weigh in on the vintage, which will be hitting the US market over the next few months. Even though 2012 isn’t a great vintage, a number of producers produced very good, balanced Barolos. Most don’t have age-worthy structures, offering instead early appeal, but the best will offer fine drinking over the next decade or longer.
Due to the erratic growing season, the 2012 Barolos don’t have the full-bodied structures of recent vintages. However, generally speaking they do boast succulent fruit, refined tannins, fresh acidity and balance. They also demonstrate a welcome return to more restrained alcohol levels: 14 and 14.5% compared to the hefty 15% avb commonly found on 2011 Barolo labels (and to a lesser extent the 2009s). While they are already accessible, top 2012 Barolos should age well to the ten-year mark or a little longer.
If you’re into Italian wine, chances are you’ve already discovered Barolo, Italy’s most celebrated red wine along with its neighbor Barbaresco and its Tuscan rival, Brunello.
But there’s one little-known Barolo village that all lovers of Italian wine should keep an eye out for: Verduno.
Made entirely with native grape Nebbiolo, Barolo can be made in eleven separate villages. The wine’s namesake township of Barolo, as well as Castiglione Falletto and Serralunga are entirely located in the denomination’s boundaries, while Monforte d’Alba and La Morra both have substantial vineyard holdings in the growing area. The villages of Novello, Verduno, Grinzane Cavour, Roddi, Diano d’Aba and Cherasco have varying amounts of acreage in the growing zone, but of these six minor villages, Verduno is the rising star.
Thanks to a string of outstanding vintages over the last two decades, Italy’s most celebrated wine regions are on a roll.
Even though years like 1964, 1971 and 1978 are legendary in Piedmont, and 1955, 1970 and 1975 evoke similar feelings in Tuscany, stellar vintages used to be few and far between. But toward the late 1990s, things began to change. Better vineyard management — better clones, lower yields and gentler/fewer chemical treatments — coupled with drier, warmer growing seasons throughout the peninsula have regularly produced wines that can age gracefully for decades.
Producers point out that until the mid-1990s, they used to have two, occasionally three, outstanding vintages every decade. The other years were mediocre, if not downright dismal. Now, it’s the opposite. Each of the last few decades have boasted seven or eight very good to outstanding vintages.
Here’s a summary of Italy’s most collectible wines, and some of the greatest vintages of the past two decades.
Kerin conosce molto bene il vino italiano, lo ha ampiamente dimostrato con precedenti pubblicazioni come “Franco Biondi Santi. Il Gentleman del Brunello” (Veronelli Editore, 2004) da lei tradotto l’anno successivo e per il quale ha ricevuto il “Gourmand Wine Books Award”, e “Brunello di Montalcino” (UC Press, 2012), ma soprattutto con i numerosissimi articoli dedicati alle aziende, ai vini, ai territori del Bel Paese su riviste prestigiose come The World Of Fine Wine e Decanter. Da maggio 2013 è Italian Editor della rivista Wine Enthusiast.
Barolo and Barbaresco è un gran bel volume, oltre 300 pagine, corredate di bellissime foto rigorosamente in bianco e nero a firma Paolo Tenti, che illustrano la storia e le caratteristiche dei territori dove nascono questi due grandi vini a base nebbiolo. Il cuore del libro, ovviamente, è rappresentato dall’incontro con i principali produttori delle due denominazioni, accompagnato dalle degustazioni di diverse annate dei loro vini.
O’Keefe is a Bostonian wine journalist and author (published books include Franco Biondi Santi: The Gentleman of Brunello and Brunello di Montalcino) residing in Lugano, Switzerland (and therefore within easy driving-distance of Alba) with her husband, Paolo Tenti. She is responsible for numerous articles in magazines like this one and Decanter and is presently working for the American publication Wine Enthusiast as well.
A number of her articles have been on the subject of Barolo and/or Barbaresco, and she has spent years tasting the stuff (a happy fate, you might think; but that would be to underestimate the palate-coating, tannin-accumulating effect of Nebbiolo, which can turn the prospect of a 100+ lineup of individually excellent Barolo samples into a living nightmare). So, she is eminently qualified for the authorship of such a tome…
…Indeed, it’s a very useful tome to have to hand: measured, informative and very readable. I thoroughly recommend it.
The best wine writers are willing to offend if it means telling the truth. That’s easier said than done. When a writer publishes an article or a book that is likely to offend the producers that he or she covers, that can make future work more difficult. Doors close. Phone calls or emails are not returned.
Fortunately for us, Kerin O’Keefe is willing to offend if she has to. That’s not her mission. As the Italian Editor for Wine Enthusiast magazine, she has delineated her values. If producers don’t agree, she doesn’t allow that to alter her writing.
Her 2012 book Brunello di Montalcino staked out clear lines in the growing debate over a region’s sense of place. Her newest book, Barolo and Barbaresco: The King and Queen of Italian Wine, offers a similarly valuable perspective on a wine region’s evolution.
I would have welcomed O’Keefe’s profiles when I started my Barolo Odyssey.
Her accurate profiles of producers I know make me want to explore producers profiled that I have not encountered. The strength of this book is that it gives a detailed coherent account of the present and immediate past of Barolo and Barbaresco. This is a complicated story that O’Keefe has researched very effectively as a professional journalist. …This is a well-told, unique story of two of the greatest of wines anywhere.
Barolo and Barbaresco: The King and Queen of Italian Wine by Kerin O’Keefe (University of California Press, £25) had me reaching for words such as “definitive” and even “magisterial”. Don’t let those rather pompous words put you off – it’s a good read, too.
The University of California Press has just published Kerin O’Keefe’s Barolo and Barbaresco: The King and Queen of Italian Wines (346 pp, maps, photos, index: $39.95). I’ve been wanting to announce this ever since, over a year ago, I read the manuscript for the Press and enthusiastically recommended publication: To my mind, this is the most important book on these two great wines yet published.
The great wines of Italy’s Piedmont have become important enough that it’s surprising a book like Kerin O’Keefe’s “Barolo and Barbaresco” (UC Press; 360 pages; $39.95) hasn’t appeared before.
But O’Keefe, Italian editor for Wine Enthusiast magazine, delivers an essential resource, with an invaluable level of both narrative and detail.
O’Keefe covers most major producers and a good number of minor ones, and offers some long-needed organization of the Langhe’s geography — important, given that Barolo is an area due for serious scholarship on its terroir.