Nebbiolo Prima Day 3: 2011 Barolo - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Nebbiolo Prima Day 3: 2011 Barolo

Alan Tardi, an American chef living in Piedmont and a longtime contributor to W&S, attended the 2015 Nebbiolo Prima in Alba, an annual five-day invitation-only tasting of recent releases of Barolo, Barbaresco and Roero wines. In the coming weeks, we’ll post his reports.

On Wednesday we dove into a deep sea of 2011 Barolos from Serralunga, Monforte and Castiglione Falletto: 110 wines to be precise.

The 2011 vintage appears to have been a vintner’s version of the Perfect Storm: the year was anomalous in many ways and potentially disastrous, but all the pieces fit together in the end. Following a cold winter, spring came early and decisively, with unusually high temperatures that spurred the vines into vegetation a good two weeks earlier than usual. Rainfall was moderately high but it politely held off during flowering. August was extremely hot during the day but always cooled off at night, refreshing the vines and capturing phenols in the ripening grapes.

Harvest took place quite early, beginning with white grape varieties in mid-August, followed in quick succession by dolcetto, then barbera, right up to the nebbiolo in mid- to late September. The grapes were healthy and sound, with good but not excessive sugar and lots of flavor components.

The vast majority of the wines in the tasting were nicely aromatic and well balanced, with a solid core of ripe-but-not-jammy fruit (and just the right amount of acidity to balance it) and very firm tannins that framed everything but did not really grab center stage until the end. Colors ranged from dark ruby to brick-red yet still transparent.

This consistent level of quality across the three adjacent towns allowed the special characteristics of each to come through: Castiglione Falletto, first in the lineup, displayed mature black cherry aromas with floral overtones (wildflowers, violet, lilac) and ripe black cherry fruit enclosed in a tight, leathery musculature.

You could immediately tell when Serralunga came up because the aromas were more muted and subdued, with a dense earthiness and gradual unveiling of flavor on the palate, while Monforte showed its typical aromas of small plums and roses, and juicy berry compote or the traditional grape must preserve called cugna which, besides concentrated grape, contains figs, hazelnuts and Madernassa pears.

Given the tightly knit structure and the many flavor components these wines display (plus those that are not immediately evident but seem to be stored away deep within), they should have a moderately long period of evolution and development ahead. Exactly how long remains to be seen. But with Barolo, watching a wine’s—and a vintage’s—evolution is part of the fun.

Silence in tasting session

This is a W&S web exclusive feature.

This is a W&S web exclusive. Get access to all of our feature stories by signing up today.