Last Tuesday in the private dining room at Zucca I joined a small selection of merchants/brokers to taste through twenty 2008 Barolos (is it supposed to be Baroli?) hosted by my “Barolo Guru”. I had been looking forward to this for some time. I am lucky to drink and buy a lot of great Barolo, and given the age-ability of the wine I am trying to buy as much as possible now whilst it still offers great value, but this was especially exciting as it was a vertical of several producers. As a bit of a precursor; the vintage had a reputation as a good but not great vintage, more delicate and classical than 2006, less flashy and more genuine than 2007. As ever the proof would be in the tasting. we tasted in flights of two or three wines, moving loosely from Barolo/La Morra to Castiglione Fallettto to Monforte and then Serralunga, but in places this changed to keep producers wines together.
So, to the tasting, and up first was Marcarini, a producer who’s wines I follow personally. I have had great wines from the 1970’s, especially Brunate ’70 which is a gem, they appeared to lose their way in the 90’s like quite a few producers but since 2004 they have been on great form.

1) Barolo La Serra, Marcarini – Very fresh, good very light red colour, raspberry and black pepper on the nose, floral, good structure, ripe and good tannins, lively, pretty and impressive. A good start and the sort of style I expected. 17 out of 20 (2014-2024)

2) Barolo Brunate, Marcarini – A little darker than La Serra as expected, a little closed on the nose, on the palate more masculine and savoury that La Serra, a sleeper, I like this, very Brunate, more muscular, good ripe, big tannins. 16.5-17.5 out of 20 (2016-2038)

The next producer – Francesco Rinaldi – is another that I have stared to follow having tasted the 2006’s, there is no relation to Guiseppe (wines 6 & 7). Great to be able to compare so many Brunate’s, a site I follow closely.

3) Barolo Brunate, Francesco Rinaldi – A pale but true colour, hint of brown, leather, spice, slightly oxidative style, malty and balsamic on the nose then the fruit comes through, complex and easy to misjudge, not for the Barolo newcomer, I’ll buy this. 17-18 out of 20 (2015-2030)

Next reducer is Marengo, not one I know well, more modern in approach.

4) Barolo Brunate, Marengo – Lush, easy fruit, quite high toned, smooth clean finish, not my style but a good wine, a little too polished. 16-16.5 out of 20 (2014-2028)

Vietti are a big name in Barolo, they make good Barbera too. They are very good at ripe fruit but the approach to new oak is not to my style, I was looking forward to being proved wrong.

5) Barolo Brunate, Vietti – Focussed but slightly dump on the nose, classy nose, high toned and a little too polished, big but ripe tannins, for those that like this style this is impressive. 16-17 out of 20 (2016-2026)

Giuseppe Rinaldi is a legend in Barolo, and amongst the top three producers in my book, he is relatively little known outside the region and hardcore fans as he produces so little and like the great Burgundians the wines are snapped up by fans and disappear to be drunk by Barolo lovers later in life. He is very traditional in approach, old oak etc and also a believer in blending. Both wines he makes are a blend of two vineyards to get balance. This is a different approach from other ultra-traditional producers like Bartolo Mascarello (all vineyards into one wine) and Giacomo Conterno (2 single vineyard wines). Buy whatever you can find. So the wines…

6) Barolo Brunate Le Coste, Giuseppe Rinaldi – An instant step up in quality, brine and blackberry, bacon, liquorice, richness but so much fruit density, stunning frankly. Very true to the house style and proves this is a very fine vintage. 18-19 out of 20 (2018-2040)

7) Barolo Brunate Cannubi San Lorenzo, Giuseppe Rinaldi – more red fruited than the Brunate, sweet leather, good tannin but love the acidity, freshness and lift, serious quality. 18-18.5 out of 20 (2016-2034)

Brezza was next, not a producer I know well. You see their Barbera around a fair bit…

8) Barolo Bricco Sarmassa, Brezza – Really unfortunate to come between G.Rinaldi and Bartolo Mascarello, even so it showed well if not excitingly, very well made, integrated and balanced. 16-17 out of 20 (2014-2024)

Little needs be said about Bartolo Mascarello that hasn’t been said before. Ultra-traditional, all vineyards blended to make one Barolo, very old oak. Maria Teresa now runs the show and arguably makes even better wines than her father. The results since 2004 or may be 2005 are great, superb.

9) Barolo, Bartolo Mascarello – On balance this probably just pipped the whole tasting for its seamless elegance and balance, feminine red fruit but lots of structure under it too, you could drink it now the balance is so good. 18-19.25 out of 20 (2016-2038)

Brovia have some how stayed a little under the radar. I always buy the Villero as it is arguably their best all round wine. I was delighted to get to taste the two below though because they show how well this house portrays the terroir. We are in Castiglione Fallettto now.

10) Barolo Rocche, Brovia – In its savoury nature there was a cord of connection between this and the Brunate from F.Rinaldi. It is for those that like fruit which is combined with earthy notes. A strange combination of brine notes and almost anchovy aroma was delicious to me. 17-18.25 out of 20 (2013-2032)

11) Barolo Ca’ Mia, Brovia – Red black fruit is a contrast to the Rocche, this is more lush, sweeter fruited, couldn’t be more interesting as a pair, more obviously appreciable may be, great stuff. 17 out of 20 (2013-2028)

The next wine was from Roberto Conterno of Giacomo Conterno and was a wine I took along purely for interest. Cerretta is a new holding for Roberto. From 1978-2007 Cascina Francia (bought in 1974) was the vineyard all their wines came from. This new acquisition which went through in June 2008 will see a Barolo in time, almost certainly from 2010. In the meantime the 2008 and 2009 will be released as Langhe Nebbiolo – 2008 after 2 years in Botti and 2009 after 3 years, ultimatley the Barolo will have 4 years as Cascina Francia does.

12) Langhe Nebbiolo Cerretta, Giacomo Conterno – I have tasted this several times and it always reminds me of Volnay as a “Barolo” very feminine but with structure, it will be a fascinating wine to follow. 17-17.5 out of (2014- 2024)

Elio Grasso is a more modern producer and not one I know well, I was excited to taste thought as I have seen good reviews. I struggled with them and would like to re-assess at some stage.

13) Barolo Gavarini Vigna Chiniera, Elio Grasso – The fruit was lifted and clear to see it just didn’t make me think of Barolo and/or Nebbiolo at all, good wine but…. “16” out of 20 (2013-2027)

14) Barolo Ginestra Casa Mate, Elio Grasso – My note simply says “a bit blunt, not great”, may be I need to re-taste but I didn’t really see what the game was here. “15-16” out of 20 (2014-2024)

These were to be the very first Clerico wines I have tried, I tasted with an open mind as I have read good things of the estate but not of the 2008’s from them.

15) Barolo Pajana, Domenico Clerico – The inital aroma was of violets but then there was a thinness on the palate, I found the wines, stripped and clumsy, like it had had the fruit taken away and too much extraction put in its place, disappointing. 13-14 out of 20 (2013-2020)

16) Barolo Ciabot mentin Ginestra, Domenico Clerico – Much better than the Pajana, decent if a little dried out by oak, strange lack of balance but at least it was Barolo. 15-16 out of 20 (2014-2014)

Fratelli Alessandria are based in Verduno (very north of Barolo as a whole region) and have holdings in the town’s top Nebbiolo vineyard Monvigliero. I had not tasted any of their wines before.

17) Barolo Monvigliero, Fretti Alesandria – Arguably the most interesting of all the wines on show in that the style was very unique. A very old style of wine, a dash sherried and oxidative but in a good way. An almond and medicinal note on the nose, this is Barolo for those that love Islay Whisky (I do), fascinating, I might just have to buy a 6pack. 16-17.25 out of 20 (2013-2021)

Guido Porro is a producer I have a tiny bit of experience with, two bottles worth in fact. I bought a case of each of the two vineyards below but from the very different 2006 vintage. He is making a very pure and traditional clean style of Barolo with very fine aromatics and at a rather “bonkersly” low price!

18) Barolo Lazzariasco, Guido Porro – This is a very aromatic, lifted red and black fruited style, there is very good definition and focus, a good structure and much complexity…impressive, the character is similar to the 2006 (a good thing) but the structure a little more finessed (that’s just the vintage). 17 out of 20 (2016-2030)

19) Barolo Santa Caterina, Guido Porro – Good again, a little more subdued than the Lazzariasco but as with that wine the DNA was the same as the 2006 I tried recently. 16.5 out of 20 (2014- 2030)

We had just two more wines sadly the Massolino was corked, you could kind of see a nice structure through it but nothing more, a shame. The very last wine was from Cappellano – a very very top producer who is totally uncompromising in when he releases his wines and also in the fact that he does not let his wine get reviewed/scored at all.

20) Barolo Margheria, Massolino (corked)

21) Barolo Pie Rupestris 2007, Cappellano – Very very impressive for having the fruit and full lushness of character that you get from 2007 but also a genuine structure and age-ablilty that make this a very classy wine. I had the 2004 of this recently and it was very classical but closed down, this is a producer to follow when you can find the wines. 17.5-18.25 out of 20 (2014-2030)

Overall impressions of 2008 and where it “fits”:
I was very impressed by the wines, particularly the traditional ones, this is my preference but also I think this approach worked best with the vintage. There is a delicacy to these wines but many are also keepers, I think the run of vintages below are all worth buying (I have/will be) as they will be fascinating to watch over the next 20-30 years. Whether 2009 manages to include itself in this run will be interesting as it is reputed to be of less interest if very good for Barbera, we will see this time next year. 2010 however is thought to be of potentially legendary quality…very exciting. My personal ranking of the last five vintages is below from my varied experience of each vintage.

2004 – 19 – classic balanced, legendary potential.

2005 – 16-18 mixed with some very fine wines, very good in Barbaresco I hear.

2006 – 17.5-18.5 – very fine, masculine, balance the key.

2007 – 16-17.5 – showy and more forward, enjoyable if not profound.

2008 – 17-18 – very under-rated and like 06 very true if feminine to 06’s masculine style.

A great tasting!