This week I met up with Giovanni Gaja to taste Gaja’s new 2012 Brunello di Montalcino. But discussions soon drifted to Barolo and Barbaresco and what we can expect from the upcoming 2014 vintage.
This chat raised a small perennial gripe I have… how Italian wineries, wine critics and wine consumers are very quick to talk down a vintage when it’s not necessarily a “blockbuster” or if it’s a cooler, fresher, more elegant, accessible vintage. You never hear the Bordelaise talk any vintage down, even when it’s a shocker like 2013.
But it’s the Burgundian’s who are very well versed in the professional art of describing a vintage without saying it’s great or poor. Instead they focus on the weather and how conditions affected the terroir and final wines’ expression. Vintage variation is celebrated. Perhaps this is a better model for Piedmont to follow?
Giovanni Gaja confirmed that 2014 was indeed a difficult vintage and required growers to manage their vineyards and cover crops very carefully in a challenging but potentially good quality year. The summer was wet, cool and cloudy, requiring countless hours in the vineyards. In some areas, like Barolo and Barbaresco, September sun ripened grapes fully.
So like all vintages, consumers should expect variable quality… everything from block busters from some of the top domaines to the occasional weedy dilute wine from lesser growers utilising lesser terroirs. Ultimately, there will be no substitute for tasting before buying. But still, there is no reason to write-off the whole vintage just because the upcoming 2015 is yet another 5 star stunner.
Tasting early release cuvees like Langhe Nebbiolo allows an early snapshot into the quality of fruit. Mauro Mascarello has been at the helm of his family’s estate for more than forty years, building up the winery’s reputation. Their flagship wine may be the fabled Barolo Monprivato, from a stunning south west facing vineyard in the village of Castiglione Falletto in the heart of Barolo, but they also make one of the most respected Langhe Nebbiolo wines in Piedmont.
Tasting Note: Crisp crystalline pale cherry red colour, this little Langhe has slightly subdued, delicate aromas to begin. Soft red plums, macerated cherries, earthy raisined strawberries, charcoal embers, blood oranges and dusty, granitic minerals. The palate is soft, harmonious and moderately fleshy, with a good glycerol mouthfeel freshened up with crisp, pithy acids that emphasise the wines dusty gravelly minerality and fine powdery, silty tannins. There is breadth, spice and warming earthy red summer fruit notes. Red cherries, spicy cranberries, orange peel and red plum skins. For just a modest classification, this Langhe Nebbiolo has lovely typicity and purity of fruit. Classic Nebbiolo that feels like it’s been gently extracted and the grapes not worked too hard. The wine finishes with pithy orange citrus, spicy red cherry, strawberry pips, and soft suave potpourri and liquorice stick complexity. Drink this wine from 2017 to 2024+.
(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)