Monday, July 29, 2013

Barolo (2)

Today is spent in the village of Barolo, where I visit three cellar doors, very close to each other. The first is an appointment with the irrepressible Chiara Boschis, who took over the leader-less E. Pira e  Figli in 1990. She became the trailblazer for female winemakers in this traditional area of wine. She also adopted the modernist approach. The 2011 Barbera d'Alba is nothing out of the ordinary. The wine has some complexity, but not a great mouthfeel (90 points). But it is a different story with the Barolos. The 2009 Barolo Cannubi comes from Piedmont's most famous vineyard, shared between quite a few producers. The soil of this vineyard is quite sandy. The wine sees only 30% new oak, and is matured in mostly large barrels. As a result, not surprisingly, cherry flavours dominate. There are also violets and rose petals. The wine is creamy, with very fine and silky tannins.  This is a thoroughly modern wine, which can be drunk young, but will age very gracefully as well (96 points). The 2009 Barolo Via Nuova is a blended Barolo from Barolo, Monforte and Serralunga. This wine is darker than the Cannubi, still elegant and balanced, with good length (93 points). A new addition is the 2009 Barolo Mosconi. It is not easy to get access to more high quality vineyards and often takes a decade of building relationships and talking. This vineyard in Monforte is now shared with Domenico Clerico and Giovanni Rocca. The wine has quite straight forward plum flavours, there is espresso and meat as well.Firm tannins anchor the structure of this promising and approachable wine (95 points). Finally, I tasted the Barolo Cannubi from 2005. It was very similar to the 2009, even more elegant at 8 years, with a silky finish (96 points). Chiara Boschis is thoroughly engaging and a great talent for Barolo.

On to something totally different. The next winery is Bartolo Mascarello. Until his death in 2005, Bartolo Mascarello was a towering figure in Piedmontese winemaking. Since then, his daughter Maria Teresa has continued to make the wines in exactly the same style. The winery has access to the amazing vineyards of Cannubi, San Lorenzo, Rue and Rocche, but only makes one blended Barolo from these sites. Maceration is for more than 30 days. At first, I am tasting the 2010 Barbera d'Alba, which is a bit thin on the palate (88 points). The 2010 Freisa is an old, almost forgotten grape. I must say, it is an acquired taste. The wine has a slight fizz and is quite rustic (85 points). The 2010 Langhe Nebbiolo is more agreeable. The cherry flavours are fresh and lead to an acidic and dry finish (90 points). Then to the main game. The 2009 Barolo Mascarello has only medium weight, but it is a harmonious wine with soft tannins, which is the result of very long hang-time (92 points). In comparison, the 2008 Barolo shows much more intense fruit, with aromatic depth and a long dry finish (94 points). Bartolo used to draw his own labels. My favorite: No Barrique, No Berlusconi. What a hoot!

The third visit was to Guiseppe Rinaldi. This is another traditionalist.I tasted the 2009 and 2010 Barolos from barrel. His philosophy is peculiar. His two Barolos, the Brunate-Le Coste, and Cannubi-Ravera, are blended wines, mixing different soil types together. The 2010 Brunate-Le Coste is quite dark and a bit rough. This is a powerful wine (91 points). The 2010 Cannubi-Ravera shows also big fruit, but the mouthfeel is not great. The grapes don't seem to be totally ripe and the astringent tannins are a bit green (89 points). The 2009 version has quite big fruit as well, and is tannic, but a more forward drinking style than the Brunate (91 points). The 2009 Brunate-Le Coste is the pick of these four.It is quite floral, with strawberry flavours and good length, supported by firm tannins (94 points).

Overall, this was a most interesting day with very contrasting wine styles. The Chiara Boschis wines deliver great drinkability and elegance, without compromising longevity. The 2008 Mascarello showed how a profound Barolo is made, whereas the Rinaldi wines lacked some refinement, in my opinion.    

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