Exploring the Incredible 2016 Barolo Wines from Cantina Luigi Pira…

Admittedly, I love Barolo and drink a lot of all the top producer’s wines at any chance I get, but I have to be honest that while I’d heard a little bit about the Luigi Pira wines, I had never tasted any. So what a way to acquaint oneself with a new Barolo producer’s wines than to taste their blockbuster 2016s!

Founded by the Pira family in 1950, this Serralunga estate consists of 12 hectares of vineyards at 300 metres above sea level with winemaking duties overseen by Giampaolo Pira. Vigna Marenca and Vigna Margheria are reputed to be some of the best vineyards in the township of Serralunga and this estate produces single vineyard Baroli from plots owned in all of these crus (which can be seen from the azienda’s terrace). In the 1950s the grapes were initially sold off. In the subsequent years, small quantities of Barolo started to be bottled at the estate.

In 1993 the Baroli Margheria and Marenca were produced followed by Barolo Vigna Rionda in 1997. The wines from these three crus are typical of the great terroir of Serralunga displaying great minerality, intensity and power. Barolo Margheria, made from 50-year-old vines, is the most classical. Barolo Marenca and Barolo Vigna Rionda are structured and complex, with a lot of muscle and age ability. But tasting all these crus for the first time was certainly an exciting exercise.

Luigi Pira Serralunga Barolo 2016, 14.5% Abv.

The Luigi Pira 2016 Barolo Serralunga is another fabulously dense and sweetly fruited Nebbiolo that has just the most seductive aromatics of dried rose petals, violets, potpourri, orange peel, tea tree oil, tart red cherries and an exotic licorice and wild herb botanical top note. The palate is cool, plush and powerful with fleshy layers of red and black cherry, char grilled herbs, dried ginger and plenty of dried thyme and sage. True to the iconic 2016 vintage, this wine combines classical Serralunga structure and power with a beautiful fruit opulence and concentration. Deliciously accessible and fresh, this is another Barolo beauty from the vintage.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Luigi Pira Margheria Barolo 2016, 14.5% Abv.

The Luigi Pira 2016 Barolo Margheria is an exotic, complex expression of the vintage with the most intricate aromatics of pressed purple flowers, pink musk , cherry cola, licorice and tar, dried rose petals and the most personality filled botanical, herbal vermouth spice nuances. The tannins are powerful and grainy coating the mouth with a fabulously plush mineral grip. On the palate there are hints of saline cassis, black cherry and bramble berry spice with a long, liquid mineral stony finish. This possess all the power and structure to last a very long time in the cellar. Something very serious but also very magical from a fantastic Barolo vintage. (7,000 bottles produced.)

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Luigi Pira Marenca Barolo 2016, 14.5% Abv.

With one of the only other Marenca Crus produced going into the Gaja Sperss Barolo cuvee, you know this is a very special site. So with Sperss 2016 garnering a perfect 100 points from the Wine Advocate, you would expect this wine to also show something extra special sharing the same terroir. This Marenca is almost like a subtle blend of the Pira Margheria and the Pira Serralunga Barolo wines with rich, plump, bold dark berry nuances, pink musk, charcoal embers, licorice and potpourri spice but also notes of freshly tilled earth, crushed gravel, iron and blood together with a fabulous dried herb and wood spice melange. The palate is deceptively generous and cool with seductively textured layers of blue and black berry fruits, cassis, black currant, purple rock candy, graphite and the most suave fleshy plump tannins I have tasted on a Nebbiolo in a long time. This really is classy and classical, yet supremely ripe, intense and just drop dead gorgeous. A very fine effort from Pira!

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Another Beautifully Classical Barolo Release from Poderi e Cantine Oddero and the Iconic 2016 Vintage…

Poderi e Cantine Oddero was established in the late 18th century by the Oddero family, who have lived in La Morra since the first half of that century. In the 1890s, Giovanni Battista Oddero began vinifying grapes, which lead to the winery’s establishment. Later, his sons, Lorenzo and Luigi followed in his footsteps. It was the first Giacomo Oddero, who started selling wine in bottles. However, it was the second Giacomo Oddero, who renovated the ancient farm and began elevating the quality and prestige of the region’s wine. Today, his legacy lives on through his daughter, Mariacristina, and his grandchildren, Isabella and Pietro, who represent the seventh generation of vinicultural tradition.

Located in Santa Maria, La Morra, the raised vineyards are naturally terraced and overlook the Langhe hills. With a total of 35 hectares, they cultivate some of Piemonte’s most renowned wines through the use of traditional knowledge paired with modern production techniques. 16.5 hectares are cultivated to produce Nebbiolo for Barolo and Barbaresco. Several of those vineyards are codified “Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntive”, meaning they are prized for Nebbiolo cultivation, under the new Production Regulations (Disciplinari di Produzione) for Barolo and Barbaresco.

Oddero Barolo 2016 DOCG, 14% Abv.

Another fabulous Barolo blend from the exceptional 2016 vintage made from fruit harvested from three sites, namely Bricco Chiesa and Capalot both in La Morra, and Fiasco in Castiglione Falletto. Like all great Barolo, there is a beautifully classical balance between cool, delicate red cherry fruits notes, dried herbs, potpourri, red liquorice, smoky graphite minerality and hints of fennel seeds and dried aniseed root. The palate is taut, linear and pure with a subtle weight of red and black cherry stone fruits, hints of bramble berry and sundried cranberries with a fabulously fine grained chalky tannin finish that boasts notes of red cherries, juniper and hints of blood orange citrus zest. A structured and finely delineated wine with wonderful balance and intensity married with classical restraint that offers excellent value for money. Plenty of youthful mineral grip at the moment but you can certainly drink this now after decanting or cellar comfortably for 3 to 5 years before tucking in.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Bold and the Beautiful – Tasting the New Paolo Conterno Barolo Cru Ginestra 2015…

It all started way back in 1886, when Paolo Conterno founded the Casa della Ginestra winery dedicated to the production of Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto wines. A hard worker with a mind of great intuition, he devoted the most favourable parts of the Ginestra hillside to the growing of the best grapes, subdividing them by type, exposure and terrain.

He also had the foresight to predict a growing demand from a market of educated connoisseurs for superior quality red wines, leading to him selling his own wines in wooden casks produced in his own cellar. Succeeded by his son Carlo and his wife Giuseppina, the winery was subsequently run by Paolo and Caterina Conterno and now today by their son, Giorgio Conterno. As in the past, each generation has made its own individual contribution both in the winery and also in the vineyards.

Their 10 hectares of calcareous-clayey loam is favourably situated at an altitude of between 300 and 350 metres on slopes of up to 38 degrees, prevalently exposed to the south and in part to the south east. The Ginestra Cru in Monforte d’Alba is today one of the most important vineyards in Barolo producing iconic age worthy Nebbiolo red wines.

Paolo Conterno Barolo Cru Ginestra 2015, 15 Abv., Piedmont

2015 was a warm and opulent vintage in Barolo producing wines with great breadth, depth, power and concentration. The aromatics on this Ginestra are bold and punchy with layer upon layer of salty red liquorice, sun dried red cherries, pink musk and aniseed root nuances. The palate is ultra compact and powerful, almost muscular with a real intensity of sweet mineral tannins, raisined cranberries, stewed wild strawberries and a subtle, savoury, earthy, creamy textured finish. A very confident, ripe Nebbiolo expression from one of Barolo’s great Cru terroirs. Should drink well in its youth and also perform over the long term.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting the G.D.Vajra Bricco delle Viole Barolo DOCG 2012 with Giuseppe Vajra… 

The Barolo and Barbaresco appellations of Piedmont are riding high on the world stage. Ever since the block-buster 2010 vintage took the region truly mainstream and global, it seems many of the top producers can do no wrong. This week I met up with Giuseppe Vajra to taste the current release 2012 ahead of the imminent 2013 launch.


Bricco delle Viole is a beautiful south-facing promontory in Barolo. Embraced by the Alpine range on the west, at about 400 meters above sea level, it enjoys favourable thermic variations that develop an elegant, perfumed, crystalline style of Barolo and certainly make it one of my favourite sites in most vintages. 


G.D.Vajra Bricco delle Viole Barolo DOCG 2012, 14 Abv. 

The 2012 Barolo Bricco Delle Viole is a dark dense broody wine with perhaps more regional weight of fruit than is typical for this site which normally resembles an ethereal, crystalline red Burgundy. The bouquet is a little fuller and riper with a definite gravitas. The aromatics point to liquorice, tar, musk, rose petals, black cherries and strawberry confit. While the core of fruit is dense and dark, the palate displays a most attractive plush sweet cherry fruit concentration, juicy fresh vibrant acids and fine grained, soft mineral tannins. 2012 is a more tricky vintage in Piedmont but you would be wrong to assume that this means the wines aren’t every bit as drinkable as 2010, 11 or 13. Crack your case now and drink over 8 to 15 years. 

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 


The Changing Face of Prunotto, the Antinori Piedmont Gem in Barolo…

Prunotto has always been the one Antinori single estate that has continued to baffle me. After producing iconic wines in the 60’s and 70’s, and then many gems in the 80’s under Beppe Colla, the fortunes of the winery seemed to wane in the 90’s and early 2000’s. But I recently attended a fascinating retrospective tasting at the 2 Michelin star Greenhouse restaurant with their commercial manager, Emanuel Baldi, to taste some very impressive wines.


After a few glasses of the lovely Tenuta Montenisa Franciacorta Cuvee Royale from Antinori (91+/100 GS) to freshen the palate, we dived straight into their reds.


The Marchesi Antinori family first began its collaboration with the Prunotto Company, at first handling distribution, in 1989, and later, in 1994, when the Colla brothers retired, became directly involved in the production, attempting to maintain the excellent level of quality which Alfredo Prunotto had always insisted upon.


Prunotto Barbera d’Alba Pian Romualdo 2011, 14 Abv.

Opulent and vibrant, showing sweet cherry and strawberry fruits, liquorice, and earthy aniseed root. There is a beautiful fragrance too, with resounding rose petal, potpourri, and wood smoke complexity. The palate is elegant with suave powdery tannins, bright acids and a long black cherry, graphite and cherry pip finish. 

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 


Prunotto Barolo Bussia 2011, 13.5 Abv.

An impressively taught, lifted, fragrant intensity with a pretty perfume of rose petals, red cherry skins, and tart red plum. Plenty of liquorice, aniseed, and dusty, earthy red cherry mixed with smokey charcoal embers. The palate is cool, linear and focused with classic notes of cherry cola, sweet strawberry confit, exotic opulence and a seductive dried guava fruit complexity. Pristine freshness, vibrant acids and a saline cassis, fennel seed and liquorice finish. 

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 
Prunotto Barolo Riserva Vigna Colonnello 2010, 14 Abv. 

A highly anticipated wine from this epic vintage, the palate shows sweet cherry liquor, strawberry purée, plum jus, and pithy frais de bois. There is a tantalising sweet / Sour tart cherry note, fine linear acids with intense fruit concentration. Plenty of elegance with power and depth of fruit. 30% stems kept macerating for 2 weeks adds a sweet, sappy, pithy, tart red cherry character and creamy mineral tannins on a chiselled finish. Class and power abound. 

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Prunotto Barolo Bussia 2005, 14 Abv. 

The 2005 Bussia is a gorgeous, opulent wine interwoven with scents of dried mint leaf, wood spices and dusty minerals that complement a generous core of fruit. The high quality French oak is beautifully integrated and the wine possesses exceptional overall balance, with a round, concentrated, harmonious finish. Plenty of textural flesh and depth of fruit with a saline, pithy, sweet tannined finish. Very nice.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Towards the end of the evening, we were treated to a few bottles of older Prunotto Bussia Barolo. The 1989 was perhaps not the best condition bottle (89+/100) and the 1982 sadly had a hint of cork taint. But it was the glorious 1986 from magnum that stole the show! A tremendous wine drinking very well indeed.


Prunotto Barolo Bussia 1986 (Magnum)

Complex aromatics emerge with hints of cherry, leather, tar, salty liquorice and a vital fruit balance. Plenty of cured meats and smokey spice, peach tea, herbs, and potpourri fragrance. Creamy fruit opulence gives way to layers of complex earthy spice. Sweetly concentrated, fresh, youthful and opulent, this is a very fine complex classical Barolo example at 31 years old. So vibrant, balanced and succulent. Wow! 

(Safari Wine Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Clearly, Antinori are proud of the illustrious Prunotto past, but also now seem primed to redouble their efforts to make this estate every bit as grand and quality focused as Tignanello, Guado al Tasso or Solaia. Definitely wines to watch! 

The Slendour of 2 Michelin stars…

Giuseppe Mascarello Langhe Nebbiolo 2014 ~ A Snapshot Into the 2014 Barolo Vintage…

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)

Giuseppe Rinaldi Rosae Vini Rosso 2014 ~ Tasting Barolo’s Burgundy Roots…

It’s not a secret that Giuseppe Rinaldi is one of my favourite producers in Piedmont. Making an attractive and distinctive Barolo style, Beppe Rinaldi and his daughter Marta, have focused on retaining the traditions of the past while embracing the excellence and purity of modern Barolo. 


But this modest wine from the Rinaldi range is a first for me. Vino Rosso Rosae 2014 is made from the Ruche variety, supposedly a grape originating in Burgundy, a region very close to Beppe’s own heart. 


Tasting Note: Beautifully bright ruby red with crystal purity. There are multiple complex aromatic layers of spicy, pithy, peppery red fruits, stalk sap, gun smoke, graphite, and red apple skin spice. Such purity and minerality, the palate is elegant and sweet fruited with subtle, classical tart red cherry, raisined cranberries and spicy red plums with sappy, peppery tannins. There is vibrancy and intensity with a lovely natural feel to the wine that finishes with an animated, salty red liquorice and rustic aniseed twist. 

(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Guiseppe Rinaldi Langhe Nebbiolo 2013 ~ A Harbinger to a Great Barolo Vintage…

Guiseppe Rinaldi’s history goes back five generations to the late 19th century, when his family and so many others sold the fruit of their vineyards to the Falletti family. The first Rinaldi winery, still running today under Luciano Rinaldi, was acquired in 1870 from the Falletti’s estate manager, and in the 1920s Giuseppe Rinaldi, grandfather of the current owner, established his own estate with vineyards in Barolo’s best sites… Cannubi, Brunate, Le Coste, and Ravera.


Giuseppe’s son Battista later took over the winery and developed their cellar techniques in order to refine wine quality further. When he passed away in 1992 his son, also named Giuseppe, left his career as a vet to carry on the family work in the winery. 


When I visited the winery last year in 2015, Beppe’s daughter Marta kindly hosted us and presented all the estates current releases. The winery just oozes character, the best of everything that’s traditional and authentic about Barolo, one of the greatest appellations in the world.

The rustic Rinaldi tasting room

Tasting Note: This sexy wine displays a beautiful blood red ruby colour. The name on the label elicits numerous emotions but also an expectation of traditional classism and an element of rusticity. The nose is very expressive with red cherry fruits, sweet black plum, earthy forest floor, dusty chalk and a pronounced truffle oil and earthy beetroot complexity. The palate is sleek, vibrant, energetic with wonderfully fleshy, trufflely, red forest berry fruits. There are layers of gravelly minerality, graphite and dry aniseed root nuanced powdery tannins and hints of salty red liquorice. An extra accessibility with exceptional depth of fruit gives drinkers a suggestion of things to come with Beppe’s Barolo 2013s. A wonderful vintage that can’t be far behind 2010 in stature. Drink now to 2024+ (Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 


Antichi Poderi dei Marchesi di Barolo Barolo 1971 ~ A fine birthday birth year bottle…

The historic Marchesi di Barolo cellars are located in the town of Barolo, in the building overlooking the famous Castle of the Marquis Falletti. It is here that more than 200 years ago the estate’s story began.


Beginning precisely in 1807, in Paris, when the Marquis of Barolo Carlo Tancredi Falletti married Juliette Colbert de Maulévrier, a French noblewoman and the great granddaughter of the Sun King’s well-known Minister of Finance.

Juliette saw the great potential of the wine made in Barolo that, after fermentation and long aging in wood, would reveal all the qualities typical of the soil and of the Nebbiolo grape, with its power, richness, spice and mineral austerity.


Today the Abbona Family continues the work that began more than two centuries ago producing traditional, high quality wines meant for ageing. While not considered an icon estate in Piedmont terms, it is a universally famous winery with good stocks of older bottles still fairly plentiful on the broking market.


Tasting Note: A fine bright rim of garnet red. Nose is beautifully classical showing coffee bean, burnt orange peel, red cherry skins, peppercorns and pot pourri spice. Lovely raw meat savoury notes of blood and iron. Palate is polished and silky, with tannins showing a hint of spicy bite but are generally sweet, suave and resolved. Dipping my nose back into my Zalto glass reveals more gun powder and smokey gravelly notes. The palate continues to sweeten up the more time the wine sits in the glass. I’m looking for that tantalising moment when the wine blossoms, peaks, then starts to recede and fade as it inevitably will. This wine is a tertiary treasure trove of evolving aromas and flavours. Intriguing macadamia nut spice and red cherry notes lead the wine to a savoury, elegant mineral laden grippy finish. A snap shot of history….and my vintage of course. (Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Fine Wine Friday… at Chez Bruce

A thoroughly enjoyable gathering of wine friends today at restaurant Chez Bruce in Wandsworth, London, with a super selection of Autumnal dishes cooked by chef Bruce Poole. 


Fine wine is of course not made to be tasted, but drunk, and preferably enjoyed with great food. Our first course, Tagliatelle with braised duck paired beautifully with an impressive Gaja Barbaresco Sori San Lorenzo 1986 (94+/100) and a mature but impressive Carretta Barolo Cannubi Riserva Speciale 1971 (93+/100).


The Carretta 1971 showed alluring notes of blood oranges soaked in cognac, with hints of stewed winter fruits, sour plums, orange rind, and barley sugar. Very sweet and plump, the tannins were powdery and the structure seamless and lengthy. Evolved seductive wine showing plenty of tertiary, foresty complexity. 


Next blind pair was very intriguing, matched with venison medallions served with a mini shoulder pasty. Beautiful dish, delicious wines. First up, a Chateau Lynch Bages 1970 Pauillac brought along by Neal Martin. This was a rich, earthy wine with lipstick and leather, black berries, licorice, burnt sugar, sweet meat juices and a slightly rustic grainy elegance. (92/100). 


The second wine of the pairing was another Bordeaux, a Chateau Haut Bailly 1970 Pessac-Leognan. A touch stinky to start, this wine opened up beautifully to reveal classic cedary spice, earthy gravelly forest fruits, bloody irony complexity and precise, linear acids. Very pretty, regal wine. (93+/100). 


Other notable wines on this Fine Wine Friday included a tantalising Francois Mikulski Meursault 1er Cru Genevrieres 2013 (95/100), Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz 1995 (92+/100), Bodegas Protos Gran Reserva 1964 Ribera del Duero (89/100) and a Joseph Leitz Riesling Beerenauslese 1997 (91+/100).


Many thanks to the wonderful Chez Bruce staff who helped make the day so enjoyable.