Barolo: The vintages and the wines

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Barolo

2004

Rating 4.5 stars
Drink 2014–2030
A wet spring, mild summer and balmy, dry September and early October produced beautifully ripe Nebbiolo. This yielded wines with excellent fruit and structure, accessible from the start. All wines tasted showed classic aromas (dried roses, tar, earth) and palate (earth tones starting to dominate black fruit), quite drinkable and fresh.
Barolos tasted: Aldo Conterno, Romirasco; Elio Grasso, Gavarini Chiniera; Giacomo Fenocchio, Bussia Riserva; Marcarini, Brunate; Massolino, Vigna Rionda; Oddero, Soprana Vigna Mondoca, Bussia; Prunotto, Bussia; Renato Ratti, Rocche

2001

Rating 4.5 stars
Drink 2014–2030
A sultry, dry August was balanced by early September rains and markedly lower temperatures, so by October the grapes were perfectly ripe and balanced.A ‘classic vintage’ as Gianluca Grasso says. All wines showed
black cherry fruit, with perfect acidity, depth, and complexity starting to develop.
Barolos tasted: Elio Grasso, Casa Maté, Ginestra; Oddero, Vigna Mondoca Soprana, Bussia; Pio Cesare; Renato Ratti, Rocche

1999

Rating 4 stars
Drink 2014–2025
Early September rain improved the maturity of the grapes, pushing them to full sugar and phenolic ripeness while maintaining acidity. Both wines tasted showed maturing aromas and flavours, with years to go. Pietro Ratti describes this vintage as ‘austere and classic, still severe and tight’ on the palate.
Barolos tasted: Aldo Conterno, Colonello; Renato Ratti, Rocche

1998

Rating 4.5 stars
Drink 2014–2025
Although overshadowed by the much-touted 1997 vintage, 1998 produced grapes of at least as high quality, and in the opinion of many growers, better balanced than the preceding year. These wines were less austere than 1999, fruitier and more immediately charming, still with years of development to go.
Barolos tasted: Oddero, Vigna Rionda; Renato Ratti, Rocche

1996

Rating 4 stars
Drink 2014–2030
The first of a run of fine harvests, stretching through to 1999. 1996 is seen by most growers as the most classic of these, and may also be the slowest maturing. Claudio Fenocchio says it’s ‘a vintage we’re all still waiting for; it’s not yet reached potential’. Right now: deep, earthy, complex nose, refined palate of black fruit, soft tannins.
Barolos tasted: Elio Grasso, Roncot; Giacomo Fenocchio, Villero; Marcarini, Brunate; Massolino, Vigna Rionda; Pio Cesare; Prunotto, Bussia

1990

Rating 4 stars
Drink 2014–2025
The third of another string of fine vintages – 1988, 1989 and 1990, all yielding wines remarkably similar in quality and character. These are Barolos of great personality that are thoroughly enjoyable now but in no way fully evolved. Barolos tasted: Giacomo Fenocchio, Bussia Riserva; Marcarini, Brunate; Renato Ratti, Marcenasco

1989

Rating 4.5 stars
Drink 2014–2025
Despite mixed weather from spring through autumn, the Nebbiolo was in good shape at harvest, though the crop was somewhat diminished. Powerful aromas of dried roses and tar – the classic array. The palates are also classic: profound, complex, polished and still quite young.
Barolos tasted: Massolino, Vigna Rionda; Pio Cesare; Prunotto; Renato Ratti, Conca

1985

Rating 4.5 stars
Drink 2014–2020
A fine summer and autumn, though some producers remember it as very hot. All agree that at harvest the Nebbiolo was splendid. Rich black cherry, tar, and tobacco elements from nose through palate and into the finish. Beppe Colla made this wine the old way: 50 days of fermentation in concrete, then into botti.
Barolo tasted: Prunotto, Bussia

1982

Rating 4 stars
Drink 2014–2020
Hot and mostly dry, this year was a foretaste of the climate change to come. It gave a large, healthy crop, though the unusual (at the time) persistent heat made problems for many growers. Another Beppe Colla wine: lovely Nebbiolo fruit, very fresh still; a fruit-and-spice box, structured and complex.
Barolo tasted: Prunotto, Bussia Riserva

1978

Rating 5 stars
Drink 2014–2020
Unquestionably a classic, pre- global warming growing season. A cool, rainy spring followed by a cooler than average summer, but capped by a glorious, warm autumn with great diurnal temperature variations. All showed big, funky, mushroom aromas, just turning to truffle; deep, mature, mushroom and mineral flavours; long earth and dried black fruit finishes, with lots of life in them yet.
Barolos tasted: Giacomo Fenocchio, Riserva; Marcarini, Brunate; Massolino, Riserva; Oddero; Pio Cesare; Prunotto, Bussia Riserva

1971

Rating 5 stars
Drink 2014
Freezing winter, late and wet spring, hail in May and June, hot, dry summer then perfect late September and October resulted in a small but superior harvest. The wines were balanced and elegant from the off, but reticent. This was gorgeous and mature, perfect, with fresh and mature fruit, fully evolved tannins, fine acidity: an elegant and complete wine – perhaps the finest here.
Barbaresco tasted: Prunotto Riserva

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