A difficulty during this trip was getting a clear steer on the past five years though we kept asking. Not so much a case of PR soundbites, but genuinely different takes from different people. The last unanimous declaration, at least of the negative variety, was the woebegotten 2002.
2015 was universally agreed bella annata, as it clearly is for the whole of Italy with the exception of Puglia, where 50°C was hit in summer. Such was the gossip from the recent Merano Wine Festival, where the whole of Italy seems to shoehorn itself into the Kurhaus to show its wares to the paying public. The July heat ‘killed the bugs’ (Vajra). Nadia Curto remarked on an early harvest, all over by 1st October. ‘It came in at 15% and we’re trying to get it down to 14.99 for the label so it doesn’t scare the horses’ (Gianmarco Ghisolfi). ‘Amazing but will be very approachable’ (Pietro Colla). ‘Fantastic balance, but it may be a bit psychological as expectation is high’ (Matteo Ascheri) ‘Very pleased’ (Marta Rinaldi who flagged up the difference between night and day temperatures, and the acidity that add acidity and finesse to the kind of ripeness encountered in the hotter 2011s).
A cautious ‘wait and see ‘ from Fabio Alessandria who opines that there is less colour than in 2014 but that ‘quality, for sure is good.’
2014, beset by a very poor, cold summer, hail and problems with waterlogging was uniformly ‘difficult’ and ‘challenging’ but by nobody’s reckoning disastrous, because though the crop was very short, a fine September ripened the nebbiolo, so quality looks good and there were certainly some very attractive wines. The earlier-picked dolcetto fared less well. The only variety to emerge unscathed in terms of yield was moscato. Colla lost 50% of their crop, with dolcetto being the main victim, and so did Rinaldi with nebbiolo.
2013 was described, helpfully, at Colla as a ‘very Piemontese vintage’. More specifically, it was a cool year, harvested late following a late Spring floraison. Yieds were pretty average, low for dolcetto and it was a great barbera year by all accounts. . ‘A very good,balanced vintage, neither too hot nor too cold – ‘normal’ ie classic Barolo similar to 2008 or 2010’ (Bruna Grimaldi).
‘Nervosa - pasta wine’ (Enzo Bezza, but of barbera to be fair)
2012 was a ‘very balanced vintage, less warm than 2011 and a lot more finesse, especially in Barolo’ (Elena Mascarello).
And ‘more delicate and feminine’ (Colla again). Echoed by Marta Rinaldi ‘very feminine, good acidity, less body’. ‘Very balanced’ (Enzo Brezza) ‘Warmer than ’13, very hot in August, and cooler and wetter in September’ (Bruna Grimaldi)
2011 was the hot one with a big crop, though ranting alcohol levels were a problem for some producers. Lots of ‘hell’ and wind (Bolmida). Nadia Curto remembered how cold the winter was, which saw temperatures plunge to minus 20C and the wines freeze solid. There was a lot of snow which served to be a lifesaver when the hot summer set in, thanks to retained moisture in the soil. Enzo Brezza called it a ‘killer’ of typically 15% volumes, which you ‘needed an arms licence to sell’ !
Note that what happens in Barolo does not follow in Barbaresco, barely a couple of miles to the north and east of its border. More on that story from Aldo Vacca here!
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