Barolo DOCg’s Bright Young Things
One of Italy’s most revered wine regions, Barolo has its well-established roster of iconic producers. Collectors clamour for the wines of Giacomo Conterno, Bartolo Mascarello, Giuseppe Rinaldi, Vietti, et al. I’ll admit that I savour every precious drop of these that I am lucky enough to find in my glass. Just as satisfying though is discovering under-the-radar, up-and-coming wineries.
My hunting ground includes Piedmont’s Nebbiolo Prima. Organized for journalists around the world to showcase new releases, the tastings are conducted blind which serves to erase any biases. Attending year after year also helps track the progress of promising new producers.
Below are five names to watch with an energy and enthusiasm that shines through in their wine along with a recommendation from the superb 2016 vintage.
Located within the commune of La Morra, the Serradenari cru boasts the highest vineyards of Barolo. Giulia Negri says her family has been growing grapes here from the end of the 19th century. She was in her early 20s when she crafted her first wine in 2013 and has since taken charge of the entire estate. Negri transitioned away from the barriques she inherited and now uses large Slavonian oak casks for ageing Nebbiolo. Inspired by her travels to Burgundy, she also produces Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from vines her father planted on cool, north-facing vineyards.
Barolo DOCG 2016 Marassio
Reaching 530 metres above sea level, Marassio is the highest part of the Serradenari cru. Planted in 2004, this is only the second vintage that Giulia has vinified it separately. Mineral-driven, linear and tight, it builds in power and slowly exudes cinnamon, rose and forest earth.
The Réva label was recently created by Czech businessman Miro Lekes. Besides vineyards surrounding the cellar in Monteforte d’Alba, it includes prime parcels in the Cannubi cru of Barolo, Ravera in Novello and Lazzarito in Serralunga d’Alba. Most significantly, Lekes has assembled a “young, extremely passionate and competent team” according to renowned oenologist Gian Luca Colombo who has essentially been given carte blanche to run the property like he owns it. The winery’s restaurant FRE is also worth a visit whenever you can get to region.
Barolo DOCG Cannubi 2016
Currently dominated by an oak sheen, this need some time to integrate. It is the pristine fruit underneath that gives plenty of promise. Notes of mint overlay cherry and sweet earth. Bright, energetic acidity and impressive length seal the deal.
Alberto Burzi calls himself “a new generation winemaker with old vineyards”. He and his sister Caterina, who manages sales and marketing, inherited seven hectares in the commune of La Morra. While the Burzis’ grandparents sold grapes to the local cooperative, Alberto studied winemaking and released the first wine under his own label in 2012. “I spent a lot of time in the vineyard with my grandmother,” he remembers fondly. Pursuing viticulture and winemaking was simply a natural progression. He is deeply in tune with his diverse vineyards and applies a delicate touch to bring out the personality of each.
Barolo DOCG Capalot Vecchie Viti 2016
This hails from a single vineyard planted in the 1940s. Fragrant white pepper, violet and strawberry greet the nose. Equally pretty and expressive on the palate, which is fresh, fine boned and beautifully textured.
Diego Conterno co-founded the Conterno-Fantino estate with his cousins Claudio and Guido Fantino in 1982. Almost 20 years later, he branched off to create his own label, keeping a precious two hectares of vines in the Ginestra cru that he had inherited from his father and buying another five in the southern reaches of Monforte d’Alba. “He liked the view,” jokes Diego’s son Stefano who now runs the property with his father. Since 2010, the family works with local superstar oenologist Gian Luca Colombo. There is a terrific mix here of youthful energy with traditional roots. Besides Barolo, look out for the delightful Nascetta as well.
Barolo DOCG del Comune di Monforte d’Alba 2016
Crafted from two parcels within Ginestra – Pajana and Ciabot – this demonstrates the floral character of the cru. Heady thyme and rosemary blossom repeat on the palate. Rather trim yet sinewy and strikingly precise.
Az. Agr. Luigi Vico
If first impressions are anything to go by, Luigi Vico is definitely one to watch. His Prapo’ was one of my standout sips from Serralunga d’Alba. Vico is an accountant and has always lived in Torino. However, like Alberto Burzi, he had fond memories of summer vacations working in his grandparents’ vineyards. “As soon as I had the opportunity, I decided to return,” he recounts. This came about when a long-term rental contract with another producer came to an end. Vico’s first vintage was 2016; to help him craft the Barolo, he hired his friend and neighbour, oenologist Davide Rosso of Giovanni Rosso.
Barolo DOCG Prapo’ 2016
This has gumption – and real staying power. Rosehip and redcurrants are coated with balsamic herbs. Ripe and warm but also vertical with sandy tannins that stick to the palate.