Barolo 2018: A Burgundian vintage

Sebastian Payne MW in the cellars at Ciabot Berton with brother and sister Marco and Paola Oberto
Sebastian Payne MW in the cellars at Ciabot Berton with brother and sister Marco and Paola Oberto

Sebastian assesses the 2018 vintage of Barolo wines and reflects on the development of wines from previous years.

Italian terroir

Sarah’s ‘Simple guide to Barolo’ states that Barolo has long been compared to Burgundy. Just like Burgundy, its complex terroir of small, highly prized parcels of land creates wines that reflect localised changes in aspect, soil composition and microclimate.  Adjacent vineyards sometimes produce noticeably diverse flavours.  Indeed, often two wines from the same vineyard but made by different people will not taste alike, because the two growers have different aims and methods.

the patchwork plots of Barolo vines
The patchwork plots of Barolo vines

Nebbiolo’s tannins

But Barolo’s grape, nebbiolo, though as perfumed as Burgundy’s pinot noir, has markedly firmer tannins.  What the locals and wine buffs call ‘classic’ vintages usually benefit greatly and demand at least seven to eight years’ ageing, often longer to show their best qualities.

2016 Barolos will take a decade to unravel. 2013s have barely reached their best.  2010s are starting to soar, but some 1996s are still austere.

Nebbiolo grapes ready to harvested at Ciabot Berton
Nebbiolo grapes ready to be harvested at Ciabot Berton

A fragrant vintage: 2018

Imagine my delight (my patience has lessened as I age) when I found in most of my favourite Barolo cellars last autumn, that 2018 Barolos smelt wonderfully fragrant already with gentle approachable texture on the palate, meaning that I will not have to wait long to enjoy them.  My notes on several of the wines include the word ‘Burgundian’.

It was a compliment.  Wine drinking is all about sensory pleasure.  The wines Sarah selected offer just that, and you won’t have to wait a decade as many have perfume on release.

Browse our en primeur offer of 2018 Barolos

Read Sarah Knowles MW’s guide to Barolo


Sebastian Payne MW

Society Buyer

Sebastian Payne MW

Sebastian, our longest serving wine buyer, joined The Wine Society in 1973. He served as Chief Wine Buyer from 1985–2012.

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