Barolo 2016: A Modern Day Classic

Living just an hour drive from Piedmont, I spend a lot of time in the region, and travel there for days at a time at least nine or ten times a year. In the fall of 2019, I spent several days in Barolo dedicated to informally previewing a number of the already bottled 2016s that will be released later this year.

© Paolo Tenti | Maria Teresa Mascarello with Kerin O’Keefe in 2019

To say I was extremely impressed by the quality of the wines would be an understatement: these are some of the most magnificent young Barolos I’ve ever tried. But I was expecting nothing short of greatness based on the fantastic Barbaresco 2016s I reviewed earlier in 2019. Although it isn’t always the case that vintages will have the same results in Barolo and Barbaresco (as 2014 demonstrated), 2016 presented near perfect conditions for Nebbiolo in both denominations. It’s hands-down the greatest vintage I’ve ever tried so far in Barbaresco as my scores reflect: Out of 138 wines reviewed, I gave 99 of them 90 points and above, 38 of which received 95 points and higher:

Kerin O’Keefe Barbaresco 2016 reviews.

A classic, Old School vintage, 2016 had a cool, wet spring that delayed the vegetative cycle but thanks to the development stage the plants had already achieved, vines were spared damage by fungal diseases. The delay in the growing cycle continued throughout the summer as did cooler temperatures. 2016 had ample water reserves and no extreme heat spikes, a rarity in the area which has definitely been feeling the effects of climate change over the last two decades with overall hotter, drier summers that can negatively impact sensitive Nebbiolo. The summer extended well into September and Nebbiolo enjoyed ideal conditions that month and the first half of October that led to healthy grapes.

2016 was one of the longest and latest harvests in recent years.

© Kerin O’Keefe | Marta Rinaldi in 2019

“We started harvesting Nebbiolo on October 13,” Marta Rinaldi told me during my visit. Bottled at the end of August, by late September her Barolos were already showing beautifully. “2016 was a year for Nebbiolo,” confirmed Maria Teresa Mascarello, whose ‘16 is drop-dead gorgeous. “2016 is a happy combination of 2006 and 2008: it boasts the structure of ‘06 and the elegance of ‘08,” stated Enzo Brezza, whose perfumed 2016s are radiant, with captivating tension.

© Kerin O’Keefe | Enzo Brezza in 2019

The luminous 2016 Barolos are fresh, fragrant and loaded with finesse. They feature bright red berry fruit beautifully balanced by vibrant acidity and refined tannins. While site expression is often muffled in hot vintages, the different expressions of the various townships and vineyard areas come singing through on the 2016s.

The best 2016s are already dazzling, with remarkable depth and energy. They’ll be ready at the 10-15 year mark but they also possess incredibly age-worthy structures as well.

Stay tuned for my formal reviews based on blind tastings later this year, you will find them here: Kerin O’Keefe reviews of Barolo 2016.

For the previous vintage on the market check out my Barolo 2015 vintage report and my 300+ reviews.

 

 

Barolo 2016: un moderno Classico

Vivendo a solo un’ora di auto dal Piemonte, passo molto tempo nella regione e viaggio lì per giorni alla volta almeno nove o dieci volte l’anno. Nell’autunno del 2019, ho trascorso diversi giorni a Barolo dedicandomi all’anteprima informale di alcuni dei 2016 già imbottigliati che verranno rilasciati nel 2020.

© Paolo Tenti | Maria Teresa Mascarello with Kerin O’Keefe in 2019

Dire che sono rimasta estremamente colpita dalla qualità dei vini sarebbe un eufemismo: questi sono alcuni dei migliori Barolo giovani che io abbia mai provato. Ma mi aspettavo un’annata a dir poco eccezionale sulla base dei fantastici Barbaresco 2016 che ho recensito all’inizio del 2019. Anche se non sempre le annate hanno gli stessi risultati in Barolo e Barbaresco (come dimostrato dal 2014), il 2016 si è presentato in pressoché perfette condizioni per il Nebbiolo in entrambe le denominazioni. È senza dubbio la più grande annata che abbia mai provato finora a Barbaresco, come riflesso nei miei punteggi: su 138 vini recensiti, ho assegnato 99 di questi 90 punti e oltre, 38 dei quali hanno ricevuto 95 punti e più:

Recensioni di Kerin O’Keefe dei Barbaresco 2016.

Un’annata classica – “Vecchia Scuola” – il 2016 ha avuto una primavera fresca ed umida che ha ritardato il ciclo vegetativo ma grazie allo stadio di sviluppo che le piante avevano già raggiunto, alle viti sono stati risparmiati danni da malattie fungine. Il ritardo nel ciclo di crescita è continuato per tutta l’estate così come le temperature più fredde. Il 2016 ha avuto ampie riserve idriche e nessun picco di calore estremo, una rarità nell’area che ha sicuramente risentito degli effetti dei cambiamenti climatici negli ultimi due decenni con estati complessivamente più calde e asciutte che possono avere un impatto negativo sul Nebbiolo, vitigno particolarmente sensibile. L’estate si è prolungata fino a settembre e il Nebbiolo ha goduto delle condizioni ideali quel mese e la prima metà di ottobre che hanno portato a uve sane.

Il 2016 è stato uno dei raccolti più lunghi e più ritardati nei tempi recenti.

© Kerin O’Keefe | Marta Rinaldi nel 2019

“Abbiamo iniziato a raccogliere il Nebbiolo il 13 ottobre”, mi ha detto Marta Rinaldi durante la mia visita. Imbottigliati alla fine di agosto, a fine settembre i suoi Barolo stavano già mostrandosi meravigliosamente. “Il 2016 è stato un anno per il Nebbiolo”, ha confermato Maria Teresa Mascarello, il cui ’16 è magnifico. “Il 2016 è un felice connubio tra il 2006 e il 2008: vanta la struttura del ’06 e l’eleganza del ’08”, ha affermato Enzo Brezza, i cui profumati 2016 sono radiosi, con una tensione accattivante.

© Kerin O’Keefe | Enzo Brezza nel 2019

Molti tra i Barolo 2016 che ho assaggiato sono luminosi, freschi, fragranti e carichi di finezza. Sono caratterizzati da sentori di frutti a bacca rossa magnificamente bilanciati da acidità vibrante e tannini raffinati. Mentre l’espressione del terroir del sito è spesso ovattata nelle annate calde, le diverse espressioni dei vari comuni e vigne vengono raccontate in modo splendido nei Barolo 2016.

I migliori 2016 sono già piacevolissimi ora, con notevole profondità ed energia. Saranno pronti tra 10-15 anni, ma possiedono anche strutture che li renderanno molto longevi.

Le mie recensioni formali basate su degustazioni alla cieca le troverete su Wine Enthusiast qui: recensioni di Kerin O’Keefe sui Barolo 2016.

Per l’annata corrente ancora sul mercato qui trovate il mio Barolo 2015 vintage report e le mie 308 recensioni.

 

 

Italian wine reviews (tasted through October 2019)

Italian Editor Kerin O’Keefe reviews Italian wines for Wine Enthusiast since May 2013. Below you will find a recap of the reviews of the month with the score given by Kerin to each wine. You can find all the complete reviews in winemag.com

Qui di seguito trovate in anteprima i punteggi delle recensioni di Kerin.
Le recensioni complete poi saranno facilmente visionabili inserendo il nome del produttore o del vino su winemag.com

Check out my latest reviews: (170 wines) Prosecco Superiore, Barolo, Barbaresco and more

blind tasting Kerin O'Keefe

The Great Debate: To Decant or Not?

Forget about arguments for or against trendy topics like Natural Wines and the existence of terroir, because nothing causes more debate among lovers of fine wine than decanting. And most people have a love-hate relationship with those transparent glass containers.

© Paolo Tenti | Franco Biondi Santi

When it comes to decanting great Italian wines, I happily adhere to the ancient adage, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, which generally means forgoing the decanter. Case in point: on my recent rip to Piedmont to taste the latest vintages of Barolo, Barbaresco and Roero at the annual press tastings, followed by visits to producers who opened up numerous vintages – including a 1971 Barolo Monfalletto at Cordero Montezemolo and a 1978 Barolo Bussia at Giacomo Fenocchio – most winemakers shied away from decanting. Instead, they opened the bottles at the beginning of the visit to let the wines breathe before pouring. Local restaurants rarely recommended decanting either, not even for a 1997 Gigi Rosso Barolo Arione, which the beverage director opened as soon as we ordered and left it to breathe for an hour while sipped on a young white with our starters. All of the wines showed beautifully.

Read the article: The Great Debate: To Decant or Not?

Bartolo Mascarello

The classically crafted Barolos of Bartolo Mascarello are cult favorites of Barolophiles around the world.

Unlike many of today’s top Barolo producers – growers who started making their own wines in the late 1970’s and 1980’s – the Mascarello family have been making and bottling their own wines for generations.

© Paolo Tenti | Maria Teresa Mascarello

Maria Teresa Mascarello, who runs the firm today, learned to make wine from her father Bartolo, an iconic producer who died in 2005. Bartolo joined the firm in 1945 and learned winemaking from his father, Giulio, who in turn had been trained by his own father, Bartolomeo.

Read the article: Bartolo Mascarello

Barolo patriarch Bartolo Mascarello dies (by Paolo Tenti)

Italy’s Bartolo Mascarello – the patriarch of Barolo – died at his home in Barolo on Saturday at the age of 78.

A teenage partisan during the Second World War (he used to tell German wine lovers, ‘first you chased me, now you chase my wine’) he was dubbed ‘the Last of the Mohicans’ for his dogged refusal to let traditions die.

Deploring the shift from the traditional wooden botti to smaller, 225-litre barriques, he never accepted any method of making Barolo other than low yields, long maceration, big oak casks and minimum intervention in the cellar.

His dedication to the preservation of Barolo’s true character and above all its longevity, made him the patriarch of traditional Barolo and gained him an international cult following – with fans as diverse as the cellist and conductor Rostropovich, and the Queen of the Netherlands.

Mascarello spent most of his life tending four small vineyards in prime locations: Cannubi, San Lorenzo and Rué in Barolo, and Rocche in La Morra. He favoured the old-school practice of blending from those four plots, rejecting the modern style of single vineyard crus. He always argued, ‘We don’t even have a word for cru: we have to import it from France.’

Read the article: Barolo patriarch Bartolo Mascarello dies

Anti-Berlusconi label becomes collector’s item

A hand-painted Barolo label lampooning Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has become a collector’s item.

Bartolo Mascarello label: No Barrique No Berlusconi
Bartolo Mascarello label: No Barrique No Berlusconi

The label scandal which erupted in Italy during last year’s elections is continuing to draw wine aficionados to Piedmont in search of the rare bottles of ‘No Barrique, No Berlusconi’ Barolo.

Tourists and collectors are flocking into the area hoping to find bottles of the wine that caused at least one shop to be raided by the military for ‘displaying political propaganda in an unauthorised space’.

Read the article: Anti-Berlusconi label becomes collector’s item