Nebbiolo vintage comparison: 2015 vs 2016
It is always a treat when you have the opportunity to compare two excellent back to back vintages from a specific region. This was the case when I was invited to participate in the annual en Primeur tasting of all things Nebbiolo, ironically know as Nebbiolo Prima, in Piedmont Italy. The wines being showcased were the 2015 Barolos and 2016 Barbarescos.
Now, drinking young Nebbiolo is never easy because of the tannin and acidity factor. That said, the aforementioned wines were a lovely lot to evaluate due to the characteristics of their respective vintages.
2015 in Piedmont was a warm one, like most of Europe. The vintage started in February when mild weather helped to imbue the vineyards with melted snow water. This was followed by an early bud break and flowering. Rain arrived at the end of May and early June. After this, it was all about the heat. Temperatures hit 40 degrees celsius for much of the summer, which is 10 degrees above the average. The vineyards were able to cope with the heat thanks to the accumulated water from the beginning of the season. Harvest started early, in some cases 10 days, with grapes came into the wineries unblemished and very ripe. Stylistically, the wines are a softer (for Nebbiolo) bunch with lots of red cherry, cores of sweet fruit and alcohols ranging between 14 and 15 percent. Tannins are rounder and acidity tends to be less pronounced. All and all, a lovely vintage that will find gravitas with New World wine lovers or people looking to find their footing with Nebbiolo. The wines should age well also.
By contrast, 2016 is a more classic vintage. Vegetation did start early, but the ensuing spring was cool, so growth was slow. When summer arrived, it wasn’t as torrid as the previous edition; the most it ever reached was 35 degrees. The majority of the harvest happened in October and the long hang time created clean clusters of grapes. Alcohols are slightly lower that the 2015 but the wines possess wonderful aromas of red berries, flowers and earth. Acid and tannins are also firmer than in 2015. A vintage for the purists.
Over the next year or so, these wines will start to enter the Canadian marketplace. My advice is to stock up. Even though final prices haven’t been established yet, most will run between $50 and $100. Below is a selection of some of my favorites.
94 Marziano Abbona Barolo Ravera 2015
Beside being a top Barolo producer, Abbona also makes one of the finest Dolcettos you will ever taste. But I digress. This is an impressive and well-endowed Barolo featuring a cornucopia of damson plum, sweet cherry, raspberries, dried leaves, tar, cherry and anise. Impressive length and at least 20 years of life ahead.
93 Sarotto Roberto Barbaresco Gaia-Principe 2016
Cherry, spice, earth, floral, raspberry and cassis are all in play. The palate is concentrated and powerful with floral, vanilla and cocoa undertones. Made in an international style.
93 Renato Ratti Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata 2015
Lovely essence of Nebbiolo. A beguiling bouquet of morello cherry and flowers gives way to dark and red fruit on palate. Licorice and wet earth chime in on at the end. The aftertaste carries long.
92 Castello di Neive Barbaresco Santo Stefano Albesani 2016
A concentrated and rich offering chock full of plum, cherry, floral, spice, tara and cocoa. Long lasting finale with great definition. Top stuff!
92 Vietti Barolo Castiglione 2015
Vietti’s workhorse Barolo, year to year is always a top drop. Potent with a sweet core of fruit, there is depth and complexity to spare. It should age well for 10 to 15 years.
92 Socré Barbaresco 2016
My first experience with this producer did not disappoint! Super complex with a melange of cherry, smoke, plum, spice, floral, cocoa, red flowers and herbs. A prolonged aftertaste and great structure will ensure longevity.
92 Cascina Ballarin Barolo Bricco Rocca 2015
I had the opportunity to taste all of Ballarin’s 2015 Barolos and they are indeed an impressive lot! Fruit driven, dark cherry, plum, cassis, raspberry and flowers all play nicely together. Punchy and giving.
92 Cordero di Montezemolo Barolo 2015
Produced from grapes grown in the La Morra commune, this wine will find favour with new world palates with its sweet cherry, floral, chocolate and plum personality. Weighty, full and rich, there is considerable polish to this wine.
92 Cavallotto Tenuta Barolo Bricco Boschis 2015
Every vintage, this is always one of Barolo’s best. From Castiglione Falletto comes this full-bodied and elegant offering, featuring mint, cherry, raspberry, plum, baking spice, tobacco and flowers. A wine you need in your life!
92 Pira Luigi Margheria 2015
Always a top bottle of juice. Fruit-driven with a makeup of red fruit and spice, complemented by flowers, tobacco and earth. Balanced, lovely and complete. Drink over the next 15 to 20 years.
93 Le Strette Barolo Bergera-Pezzole 2015
Produced from grapes grown in the Novello commune and aged in small and large barrels, apportion of which are new. Full bodied with solid tannins. There is a cornucopia of cherry, blackcurrant, plum, vanilla, red flowers, smoke and tobacco. The palate reveals lots of sweet fruit and powerful finally. A 20 plus year wine.
91 Mauro Molino Barolo Conca 2015
I have always been a fan of this producer. This is a delicious drop which commences with candied raspberry and cherry, vanilla, spice and cola. The finale is based on chocolate and cola. Superb finish.
91 Pasquale Pelissero Barbaresco Cascina Crosa 2016
The new oak flavours of cocoa and vanilla merge with the dark cherry, earth, plum, licorice and rose. Full-bodied, expansive and persistent. Modern-style all the way.
91 Molino Barbaresco Teorema 2016
A classic interpretation of Nebbiolo. Forest floor, vanilla, cherry, dried tobacco and leather on the nose mesh with sweet fruit qualities on the taste buds. There is a long haunting dried fruit and leathery aftertaste.
91 Fontanafredda Barolo Serralunga D’Alba 2015
Crafted with accessibility in mind, this is a straight up Barolo with cherry, vanilla, undergrowth, spice and a mix of fresh and dry flowers. Medium plus body and perfect for short term cellaring. Five to seven years would be the ideal drinking window.
91 Paolo Manzone Barolo Meriame 2015
I discovered this wine/winery a decade ago and since then have become a fan. A cherry, plum, earth, coffee, cola, anise and floral personality. Complex with great intensity.
90 Armando Parusso Barolo 2015
Totally new school with heavy chocolate covered cherry aromas followed my plum, rose, and strawberry. It drips red fruit flavour on the palate and there is a grippy finale. Excellent length. Hold for a couple of years and drink until 2032. (ES)
90 Moccagatta Barbaresco Bric Balin 2016
Moccagatta is one of my favorite Barbaresco producers and they tend to make modern, clean style. Full bodied and aromatic with plum, dark cherry, cassis, fresh flowers and earth. The palate adds chocolate, spice and herbal elements. Excellent length with some punchy acidity.
90 Ascheri Barolo 2015
Ripe cherries, raisins, flowers and mild tar on the nose cherry. The palate is super ripe with cherry cola and round tannins. Excellent length. A solid value!
90 Fontanafredda Barolo 2015
One of the best value Barolo’s you will ever find and one which mandates a multiple bottle purchase for the cellar! Without a doubt it benefited from the warmth of the 2015 vintage. Medium plus body with cherry, floral, plum, tobacco, spice, cola and humus qualities. Excellent length. Drink over the next 5 to 7 years.
91 Oddero Poderi e Cantine Barolo Villero 2015
Plum, morello cherry, raspberry, vanilla, cola, baking spice and violets are found both on the nose and palate. The palate is sweet/ripe with a protracted smokey/graphite crescendo.
89 Aurelio Settimo Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata 2015
Classically styled, this Barolo features upfront cherry and raspberry followed by, undergrowth, flowers and truffle. Medium plus body a refined texture and great persistency.
89 Rizzi Barbaresco 2016
A four square Barbaresco with a fruit driven personality supported by some herbal elements and spice.
88 Castello di Verduno Barbaresco 2016
A pretty wine with red cherry, flowers, some dark fruit, spice and undertones of cocoa. Medium plus body and very good length.
88 Paitin Barbaresco Sori Paitin 2016
Always a solid offering! Cherry, fresh flowers, earth, cassis, raspberry and licorice flow out of the glass. There is very good length and a cocoa, spice tinged aftertaste.
88 Marchesi di Barolo Barolo 2015
A stalwart at most wine shops across Canada. Elegant and balanced with candied cherry, leather, raspberry, licorice and red flowers. Fine length.