Thursday, November 20, 2008
A Guide to the Best Crus of Barolo
(Photo) La Serra, one of Barolo's best crus, located in the commune of La Morra. (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Many wine lovers know about Barolo, but few truly understand the variety of styles of this regal Piemontese red. Produced entirely from Nebbiolo, Barolo is a classic example of a wine that expresses the local terroir. There are eleven towns in the Barolo zone (just south of the city of Alba) where this wine can be produced; the most important are Barolo itself, La Morra, Castiglione Falletto, Monforte d’Alba and Serralunga d’Alba.
There are two major different types of soils that run througout this area and this variation explains a great deal about the aromas as well as tannins in a particular bottle of Barolo. Two very diverse styles emerge from Serralunga d’Alba and La Morra, for example. The soils in the former are quite old and thin, resulting in wines that have big tannins while the Barolos from La Morra are more elegant, as the soils there are younger and more fertile, resulting in wines that have less powerful tannins. Examples of Barolo from La Morra as well as Barolo itself tend to be more floral and are suppler upon release, while those from Serralunga, Monforte and Castiglione Falletto tend to need more time in the bottle.
As some producers make Barolos from vineyards in different communes, it is important to know the most famous cru and where they are located. This is especially important in an outstanding year such as 2004, which resulted in some of the most brilliant bottlings of Barolo seen in some time. The 2004 growing season was cool, ensuring a not-too-early harvest, meaning grapes would acquire complex aromatics as well as excellent natural acidity. In a great year such as 2004, terroir is more evident than in a torridly hot year such as 2003, where the alcohol is too high and the aromas not as floral.
Here is a brief list of some of the most famous cru of Barolo, arranged by commune. I have tasted wines from these vineyards for years and it bears repeating that the wines from 2004 are amazing. I have put together a special 2004 Barolo guide with reviews of more than 125 of these wines, which is available for a reasonable price of $10. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will let you know how to receive this guide.
La Serra – Literally, “the greenhouse,” this is an excellent cru that is quintessential La Morra with charming floral aromatics and supple tannins. Several great local estates make a Barolo from La Serra, including Roberto Voerzio, Gianni Voerzio (both in a more modern style) along with Marcarini, a traditionally styled Barolo producer.
Brunate – Located right next to La Serra, Brunate is arguably the most sought after cru in La Morra. The wines are quite aromatic and floral, but tend to be a bit more full-bodied than its neighbor. Elio Altare, Marcarini and Roberto Voerzio from La Morra produce a Brunate Barolo as does Vietti from Castiglione Falletto.
Rocche dell’Annunziata – Beautifully situated vineyard near the base of La Morra town, this is treasured for its beautiful floral aromatics (roses) and attractive cherry fruit notes. Several La Morra producers such as Rocche Costamagna, Revello, Roberto Voerzio (known as Rocche dell’Annunziata Torriglione) and Mauro Veglio produce a Barolo from this cru as does Paolo Scavino.
Cerequio – This cru is shared with the commune of Barolo. Historically, this was rated as one of the finest Barolo cru over 100 years ago. A bit more powerful than the typical La Morra cru, the best examples are from Roberto Voerzio, Michele Chiarlo and Contratto.
Conca – This is a beautiful amphiteater vineyard with outstanding exposure. The best examples are from Renato Ratti, Mauro Molino and Revello.
Cannubi – This is arguably the most famous cru of all; it is certainly one of the largest at over 70 acres. As Cannubi has several subsections, such as Boschis, San Lorenzo and Muscatel, this figure is not written in stone. What makes Cannubi so special is that both older and newer soils exist here; thus the Barolos from Cannubi have beautiful floral notes but are more tannic than bottlings from other Barolo cru. Famous examples of Barolo from Cannubi include those of Francesco Rinaldi, Michele Chiarlo, Luigi Einaudi, Marchesi di Barolo and Sandrone.
Sarmassa – Located just northwest of Cannubi, Sarmassa borders with Cerequio. Excellent quality with lovely perfumed aromatics. Best examples include those from Giacomo Brezza, Roberto Voerzio, Marchesi di Barolo and Bergadano.
Bricco Boschis – This vineyard is owned by Cavallotto and is the source for several bottlings of Barolo, including the sublime Vigna San Giuseppe, which is one of the most graceful bottlings of Barolo produced by any estate. Superb exposition.
Rocche – Not to be confused with Rocche dell’Annunziata of La Morra, the Rocche vineyard in Castglione Falletto is the source of the finest Barolo produced most vintages at Vietti. Oddero and Brovia also produce excellent Barolo from this cru.
Bussia – This is one of the best known of all Barolo cru and it represents a variety of producers and styles. There are actually two different Bussia: Bussia Soprana (upper) and Bussia Sottana (lower). Some producers make a more elegant style, such as Sergio Barale and Cascina Ballarin, while others - most famously - Aldo Conterno, craft a more intense wine.
Romirasco – This vineyard shares part of its border with Bussia Soprana, but its most famous distinction is that it is the primary source for the great bottling, Gran Bussia of Aldo Conterno. In a year such as 2004, the Romirasco on its own displays all the greatness of a Monforte Barolo with its intensity of fruit, powerful tannins and beautiful structure.
Ginestra – Typical Monforte wines with great weight and tannins. Best examples are from Elio Grasso (Casa Maté) and Domenico Clerico.
Lazzarito – Gorgeous views of the towers of Serralunga from this ampitheater vineyard. Long-lived, spicy wines that age beautifully. Fontanafredda produces an excellent version; this wine is the last of their cru Barolo to be released each vintage. Vietti also produces a powerful Barolo from this site as does Ettore Germano. Angelo Gaja has a vineyard on this hillside planted to Nebbiolo which he uses for his Langhe Nebbiolo called Sperrs.
Prapo – Also known as Pra di Po. Made famous by Ceretto and their classic, terroir-driven wine from this site. Also a gorgeous bottling from Ettore Germano with beautiful currant fruit and notes of Asian spice. Very long-lived wines, as is typical from Serralunga.
Ceretta – Beautiful vineyard that is vastly underrated. Classic Serralunga bottlings (terroir-driven) from such producers as Giovanni Rosso and Ettore Germano that offer lots of red cherry and red pepper notes.
Margheria – Serralunga has many crus that are not as famous as they should be and Margheria is one of them. Beautiful wines with notes of tobacco and cumin with a typical local terroir profile from producers such as Massolino and Luigi Pira.
Falletto – Gorgeous vineyard with very steep, south and southwest facing vines. This is the site of the best Barolos from Bruno Giacosa.
Ornato – Located next to Falletto, this is the cru belonging to Pio Cesare. Classic Serralunga style with firm tannins and notes of tar.
La Rosa – Pretty ampitheater vineyard at the Fontanafredda estate. This Barolo is less tannic and more approachable upon release than their bottling from Lazzarito.
Sorano – Small vineyard on the way up to the town of Serralunga. The wines here go to Ascheri and are quite elegant. The best part of the vineyard go into the winery’s “Sorano Coste e Bricco” Barolo, which is quite finesseful.