Cantina Luigi Pira Releases an Impressive Barolo Cru Margheria 2017 to Defy the Challenges of the Vintage…

After a high quality 2015 vintage that produced ripe, well structured wines, the mesmerising 2016 vintage came along and took the global market for Barolo and Barbaresco by storm. Luscious, powerful and structured but with incredible balance, freshness and intensity, 2016 was certainly a vintage that was not going to be forgotten in a hurry.

With impossible expectations set for the 2017 Barolo releases, this hot, dry and much more challenging vintage was never going to be an easy sell to the mainstream collector market especially after so many customers had dug deep into their pockets to go long on the lauded 2016s. But great wineries are capable of producing accomplished wines even in the tricky vintages especially when the fruit comes from a high class vineyard site like the Cru Margheria in Serralunga.

Cantina Luigi Pira Barolo Margheria 2017, 14.5% Abv.

The Luigi Pira 2017 Barolo Cru Margheria is an exotically perfumed expression from this warmer, dryer vintage showing complex aromatics of purple flowers, violets, pink musk, hints of cherry cola, salty red liquorice, creme de cassis, tart blueberries and melted tar. The tannins are sweet and powdery, fine grained and mouth-coating, balanced by a wonderfully juicy, tangy tart red cherry acidity and a plush textured mineral grip. The 2017 is slightly more accessible and slimline than the block buster 2016 but no less seductive, elegant and alluring. Another very impressive and expressive Cru Barolo from Pira. Drink this now on release and over 10 to 12+ years.

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

Vietti’s New Release Langhe Nebbiolo Perbacco 2019 Augurs Well for the New Vintages of Barolo Coming Soon…

The 2019 Langhe Nebbiolo Perbacco might be an easy-drinking wine but it shows all the sophistication of Nebbiolo fruit that could easily pass for a village Barolo with grapes often sourced from Cru vineyards such as Fiasco, Bussia, Fossati, Bricco delle Viole and Ravera di Monteforte. Indeed, the name “Perbacco” as the story goes, translates into a somewhat entertaining “golly gosh” or “wow” because that was the reported reaction winemaker Luca Currado’s mother made when she first tasted the wine and was told it was not a Barolo!

The grapes for this wine are grown in various selected vineyards sites mostly in the Barolo area and a minor part in Barbaresco. The vineyard’s soils are made up of mostly marl (limestone in combination with clay) and the alcoholic fermentation generally lasts around three to four weeks at controlled temperatures (28°-32°) with the subsequent malolactic fermentation continuing in stainless steel tanks. Each parcel is processed and aged separately until the components are selected to be included for either the final blend of Perbacco or else left to age an extra two years longer to become DOCG Barolo Castiglione. Total ageing time for Perbacco wine components is approximately 16 to 18 months before bottling.

Vietti Perbacco Langhe Nebbiolo 2019, 14% Abv.

Deep, dark and richly coloured, there is every suggestion this is going to be a big old wine! On the nose, the Nebbiolo fruit delivers aromatic layers of ripe sweet red cherries, red liquorice, hints of crème de cassis together with sweet herbal notes of freshly chopped parsley. But it’s on the palate where the true power and pedigree of this wine is revealed, showcasing intense concentrated small berry fruits, delicious purity and intensity, compact concentrated tannin extract and plenty of textured glycerol mouthfeel laced with pithy cherry and peppery spice notes. With quality and intensity like this, you can easily see why the Langhe Nebbiolo denomination is one of the fastest growing wine categories in the entire Piedmont region. Drink now with some rich wintery cuisine or else bury in your cellar for 3 to 5+ more years before revisiting.

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

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)