Barolo 2016 Top Picks at Nebbiolo Prima
“Of my 30 years making Barolo, 2016 is one of the best,” proclaimed Vietti’s Luca Currado when I spoke to him in January of 2019. At the time, he was actually presenting the highly anticipated 2015 vintage. Like many of his colleagues, he had a hard time containing his excitement for the subsequent year.
To see if 2016 lived up to the hype, I returned to Alba in January of this year for Piedmont’s Nebbiolo Prima event. It’s no easy task sipping and spitting one nascent Barolo after another – those tannins build up quickly. Nevertheless, excellent wines always stand out and the rewards were plentiful.
The long growing season was one of the crucial elements to 2016. Mild weather in January and February provoked an early start. However, average – rather than hot – temperatures resulted in slow, leisurely growth. The summer was spared excessive heat spikes and September was marked by cool temperatures at night. “We had warmth at the right time, cold at the right time and rain at the right time,” sums up Luca Sarotto from Fratelli Serio & Battista Borgogno. Harvest lasted well into October.
Conditions were essentially ideal for Nebbiolo. A late-ripening grape, it needs time for its commanding tannins to achieve full ripeness and for the development of complex aromas and flavours. The hallmark of 2016 is indeed extraordinary and intriguing fragrance. Yet the wines don’t give away everything all at once. Equally, the tannins are ripe but firm and provide structure for long ageing. And, as an added bonus, alcohol levels are kept in check. The vintage demonstrates a true alliance of elegance and power.
A great vintage can be defined by high quality throughout all pockets of a region. Barolo boasts 11 communes and while there were successes in each, some were more consistent than others. As difficult as Serralunga d’Alba can be to taste in its youth, this village shone, though many of the wines are still iron-fisted. Castiglione Falletto produced some of the most powerfully elegant or elegantly powerful wines. Conversely, quality in La Morra was spotty. In this large commune with many producers, a number of wines failed to excite, lacking the depth and energy of this stellar vintage.
Following are five of my top wines based on blind tastings. It is important to note that not all of the region’s producers participate in Nebbiolo Prima, nor did I try the entire range from those that did. Finally, the samples included a mix of finished wines and cask samples. I prefer to pass judgement on the latter when they are actually in bottle. All of this means that there is still plenty to look forward to from this promising vintage.
Vajra Barolo DOCG Bricco delle Viole (Barolo)
Gorgeously scented! Rose and raspberry mingle with mint and white pepper. Mid-weight and buoyant with loads of flavour concentration. Feels ready to go but those fine tannins sneak up and promise another 10 to 15 years.
Cavallotto Barolo DOCG Bricco Boschis (Castiglione Falletto)
Fragrant forest floor and wildflowers introduce this lovely Barolo. The palate is savoury rather than fruity and needs some time to fully express itself. Elegantly but firmly structured with a lingering finish.
Casa E. Di Mirafiore Barolo DOCG Lazzarito (Serralunga d’Alba)
Currently rather backward and austere, this could do with a few years in the bottle. Yet its breed is already apparent. Focused, pure and sappy with a hint of strawberry showing up on the finish.
Palladino Barolo DOCG Ornato (Serralunga d’Alba)
A dark, earthy expression with tangy red fruit and balsamic notes buried underneath. Strong, confident tannins are at the fore though there is enough stuffing to pad these out. For the long haul.
Comm. G.B. Burlotto Barolo DOCG Acclivi (Verduno)
Crafted from a blend of crus in the commune of Verduno, Burlotto’s Acclivi demonstrates meticulous precision and a wondrously fluid texture. Spearmint, violets and faint cedary nuances complement a succulent core of summer berries.
It is difficult to constrain myself to just five picks, so following are another five contenders:
- Vietti Barolo DOCG Ravera
- Brovia Barolo DOCG Brea, Vigna Cà Mia
- Belcolle Barolo DOCG Monvigliero
- Paolo Manzone DOCG Meriame
- M. Marengo DOCG Brunate