Barolo 2010 Vintage Guide

Quality is the watchword for Barolo 2010, Ian D’Agata finds the vintage already displaying real density of textures and vibrant acidities.

At a glance

Classic, balanced wines from a relatively cool growing season and late harvests. Probably the best long-term potential of wines from 2009–2012

Once in a while, a vintage that is truly special appears to come knocking on the doors of wine lovers everywhere. Rarer, but even better, are those occasions when wine lovers are confronted with an embarassment of riches: such is the case with the 2010 Barolo vintage.

In 2010, the cool growing season and late harvest reminded me of vintages from the 1970s or early 1980s. Spring and summer were generally cool and rainy, delaying budbreak and ensuring a long, late growing season. August was characterised by foggy but warm weather (canopy management was particularly important to prevent stagnant humidity), followed by a September and October that were mostly dry.

Slow, even ripening and lack of excessive heat explains wines characterised by real density of texture and vibrant acidities. In some instances, because of the low crops of grapes the vines were carrying, some producers even harvested earlier than usual.

What the merchants say

‘A great year? Maybe yes, but I think we need more time to assess how the 2010 Barolos develop’ Bruno Besa, Astrum Wine Cellars

‘2010 is the defining vintage for the region’ Hew Blair, Justerini & Brooks

Barolo 2010 vintage

Credit: Maggie Nelson

The better wines are characterised by good depth, precision, complexity and energy. However, since 2010 was not an especially hot year, cooler sites or those located at higher altitudes (or with overly high crop levels) experienced ripening difficulties and a few wines seem lean. When tasting the new wines last year I found them to be very classic, high-acid wines that were not especially fat or opulent; but their make-up has changed considerably over the past 8 to 10 months.

While once very youthfully austere, many 2010 Barolos are now surprisingly approachable, some almost too fat and alcoholic. In fact, Savio Daniele of the up-and-coming Le Strette estate in Novello remarked: ‘We are surprised by how forward some of the 2010 Barolos are turning out to be.’ In this light, be forewarned that the best 2010 Barolos were usually made from grapes grown in the most prestigious vineyard sites, so wines from lesser sites suffer in comparison to those made from the likes of Brunate or Prapò.

However, most of the 2010 Barolos will prove very ageworthy thanks to sound acidities; all should further gain in texture with age. Luca Currado of Vietti put it succinctly: ‘Quality in 2010 is all about location, location and location: it’s 80% terroir, 10% the work of man and 10% luck.’ Last but not least, though you will read otherwise elsewhere, I do not believe one commune outperformed the others, and the same was true of the 30 or so winemakers I talked to recently: some liked La Morra’s wines, others Serralunga’s, still others Castiglione Falletto’s.
Barolo 2010 vintage

Paola Scavino harvest in Barolo

Overall, I believe that 2010 was slightly overrated by some critics, who often taste too early when the wines really aren’t developed. That said, the 2010 Barolos are generally very good to outstanding. Most will never reach the lofty quality levels of the five stellar Barolo vintages of the past 50 to 60 years (1961, 1971, 1978, 1982 and 1989), but many will be memorable wines.

In fact, 2010 is the best Barolo vintage of the 21st century to date (along with 2001), and will go down in the books as one of Barolo’s better vintages. Last but not least, the fact Bruno Giacosa chose to declassify his wines and not bottle any 2010s is not a comment on the vintage’s quality but rather of problems at the winery linked to his poor health and temporary absence, problems that have since been resolved. His 2011s, for example, promise to be outstanding.

What the producers say

‘Modern-day, excellent Barolo: ageworthy, but many are readier to drink sooner than originally thought’
Federico Scarzello of Giorgio Scarzello and also president of the Enoteca Regionale del Barolo

‘2010 is a classic, exciting Barolo vintage; one of the finest. It is rare, in that the wines have almost perfect balance. Still young, they show somewhat linear structures but have real complexity, depth and and harmony’ Elisa Scavino, Paolo Scavino

‘2010 is a gift of nature and these are Barolos that warm our hearts! They offer a glimpse of both
the past and future of Barolo’ Aldo Vajra, GD Vajra

‘The wines are luminous, rich, savoury: I especially like their high acidity’ Marta Rinaldi, Giuseppe Rinaldi

‘The 2010 Barolos are complex wines that won’t be approachable soon, as the tannins will need time to come around’ Mariacristina Oddero, Oddero

‘2010 is an outstanding Barolo vintage, with wines of rare power and refinement that
will age splendidly’ Alessandro Ceretto, Ceretto


You may also like:

Barolo 2010 panel tasting results