It’s been an exceptional start to the 21st century for Piedmont’s Barolo producers. Michael Garner picks top wines to try, from some of the best Barolo vintages of the past decade. See them here…

By the turn of this millennium, Barolo’s golden age was underway. From the second half of the 1990s, a span of successful vintages leading up until the most recent in bottle, 2010, was interrupted by only two consecutive harvests – 2002 and 2003 – which were sub-standard; the rest are classified in varying degrees between good and outstanding.

This is hardly typical: even as recently as the 1980s, an average of three or four good years per decade at best was the norm. With no historical precedent for such a favourable run, clearly some sort of explanation becomes necessary.

Changes in the field

Climate change is certainly a factor. Whether higher temperatures in recent years can be attributed to global warming or the cyclical nature of weather patterns remains uncertain. However, growers agree that the warmer weather has been a bonus as the Nebbiolo grape typically ripens in mid-October, and historically even later. A more considered explanation points to a much improved approach to viticulture, particularly throughout the 1990s, from which growers are reaping the benefit. Better clonal selection; treating each vine individually rather than systematically; a general shift from the use of chemical treatments and fertilisers to more environmentally friendly farming methods; and finally widespread use of bunch thinning have combined with dramatic effect.

Vietti, Lazzarito 2010

It’s been an exceptional start to the 21st century for Piedmont’s Barolo producers. Michael Garner picks top wines to try,…

Points 96

Roberto Voerzio, Brunate 2009

Lovely freshness with aromas of black cherry, earth and clove. Plush upfront fruit with fresh acidity and finely grained tannins.…

Points 96

Massolino, Vigna Rionda 2008

Fresh still with herbal-toned, ripe fruit aromas. Juicy fruit on the palate with developing notes of chocolate and spice. Excellent…

Points 96

E Pira and Figli, Cannubi 2006

Aromas of raspberry and mushroom with hints of seasoned wood, liquorice and spice. Glorious, scented palate with fresh acidity and…

Points 98

Giuseppe Rinaldi, Brunate 2005

Lovely broad, spicy fruit aromas with notes of seasoned leather and clove. Massive sweet, rich palate and fine tannins. Ethereal…

Points 98