Oddero, DOCG Barolo, Piemonte, Italy, 2009
Grown on south-facing slope on calcareous marls to the south-west of Alba. Nebbiolo buds early and ripens late, it has a thin, hence modest wine hue, yet strong skin. The best wines need ten years to show at their best.
DOCG ageing regs:
- for a normale like this wine, minimum 38 months, of which minimum 18 in wood, in traditional botti (typically Slavonian oak), 10-150hl, to avoid adding even more tannins to the wine and minimise oak character.
- for a riserva, minimum 62 months, of which minimum 18 in wood.
Barolo, 2 styles, and a hybrid
- traditional – on the nose, potentially very complex, often shorthanded to tar and roses, but also damson, mulberry, dried fruits, violets, herbs, dark chocolate, and with increasing age leather, hummus, tobacco, mushroom and truffle; on the palate high acidity, high alcohol and very high tannins, which in the best wines are silky/velvety. The high level of tannins is necessary to facilitate the long ageing necessary for Barolos, protecting the wine by binding with oxygen molecules. Vinification includes open-top fermentors, relatively long maceration times, with long ageing to soften and integrate tannins, needing 10 years to show their best.
- more modern – an earlier, after about 4 years, drinking style, more international, fruitier, less austere, some using rotofermenters* and barriques, often with obvious new French oak, with an oaky-vanilla note.
- hybrid – some traditionalists use a more modern approach in the winery, e.g. gentler extraction through shorter pre-ferment maceration, tannins are alcohol soluble – so lower fermentation temperature, shorter fermentation time, and shorter post-ferment maceration on the skins, fermentation in stainless steel vats, use of rotofermenters (Viberti for example); and their Barolos are a compromise between the two styles.
*Rotofermenters are engineered on cement mixer lines, rotate one way and the skins and must are mixed, rotate the other and the contents are emptied to some other vessel. It is effective at extracting colour from thin-skinned varieties like pinot noir too, but great skill is needed in its operation, to avoid over-extraction.
DOCG Barolo can be declasssified to DOC Langhe Nebbiolo, for reasons of quality or to improve cash flow.
This wine: varietal nebbiolo, natural cork closure, 14.5% abv, Waitrose, £24
WSET style tasting note
Appearance: clear and bright, pale intensity garnet, showing tears and an orange/brown hue at the rim.
Nose: clean on the nose, medium (+) intensity, developing, with aromas of slightly lifted stewed red cherry, black cherry, tea rose, a sweet floral note, a fleeting whiff of violets, liquorice and smoke.
Palate: a dry wine, high acidity, high drying tannins, medium (+) alcohol, medium (+) body, medium (+) intensity, with flavours of preserved red cherry, black cherry, black berry boiled sweets, and sweet liquorice. A medium (+) length with a clean highly tannin red berried finish.
Quality: a good quality wine, with the sum of acidity and tannins (with high acidity emphasizing the tannins), which remain to be resolved somewhat, a match for the alcohol. Together with high acidity and tannin levels, the orange/brown hint at the rim is conclusive for nebbiolo. A wine showing some complexity and development, with tertiary liquorice and smoky notes, with good intensity yet modest flavour concentration, which follow through to the medium (+) length.
Readiness for drinking/potential for ageing: ready to drink now, this wine definitely has a structure for ageing, and tannins will benefit from this, but flavour concentration and length suggest that fruit will fade before tannins resolve substantially further, leading to an estimate of development and improvement over 3-5 years.