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Vintage Report: Barolo 2009

Tom Maresca was roundly disappointed by this 2009 tasting, citing the winemakers' failure to address how difficult the vintage was as one reason for this 'dismal' showing.

‘Few 2009s justified optimism about their longevity, and most producers spoke of 2009 as a vintage for near-term drinking’

The 2009 vintage of Barolo will confront consumers with some harsh truths and some harsh wines. I tasted well over 200 examples of Barolo 2009 at Nebbiolo Prima in Alba in May. The majority of wines on offer over the five days of the event not only lacked classic Nebbiolo colour but showed almost no Nebbiolo aromas nor flavours.

I love Barolo, and I respect and admire many of its producers for their dedication and the clarity of their vision. Yet, I have to say that in this vintage the performance of many of them wasn’t simply lacking, it was dismal.

Of course there were exceptions: several producers – Giacomo Fenocchio, Aldo Conterno, Prunotto, for some – turned out quite drinkable Barolo. A few – notably Pio Cesare and Massolino-Vigna Rionda – even have faith in their wine’s ageing potential. That opinion was frequently echoed by merchants and buyers, who tasted a selection of these wines a week earlier than journalists, and with the producers (not blind). But to my palate – and in the opinion of many journalists I spoke to – most Barolo-makers seem to have severely underestimated the difficulty of this vintage. Few 2009s justified optimism about their longevity, and most producers spoke of 2009 as a vintage for near-term drinking.

Giacomo Conterno, of the Aldo Conterno winery in the commune of Monforte, was one of the more outspoken producers. He said: ‘2009 was a winegrower’s vintage. At the end of August, some [Nebbiolo] vines were already almost ripe, and some were completely unripe – almost 30 days’ difference between them. What you did about that determined what kind of wine you made.’ The usually upbeat Consorzio assessment of the harvest this year is very guarded:

‘The 2009 vintage will also be remembered for its irregular ripening pattern… In terms of technological maturation, the vintage can be placed between the 2003 and 2007… With regard to the phenolic maturation… the data found in the grapes were comparable to the 2003… in this vintage results were not always improved by delaying the harvest.’


Written by Tom Maresca

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