As a member of the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), having taken a few classes and a certification (see footer), we are often offered instruction that include unique tasting experiences and lectures. In this class, my first and long overdue one on Barolo wines, we would be treated to a lecture from the president of NASA, Diego Meraviglia. We were also treated to a showcase of a new wine preservation system called WhyNot.
My own history tasting Barolo wasn’t too good. Ed invested in a few and at each tasting, as they aged 10 years or so, I wasn’t happy with the dark tannins and fruit. I knew the wine needed more time in our cellar – many at or past the 20-year mark – but wanted to understand more about the grape, so that my appreciation might help me at the next tasting. I pulled about six bottles from our cellar after this course, see my social media if you want to know which, and further down the road, how the tastings went. For now, let’s get started on what we learned.
A grape, Nebbiolo, that “feeds on fog”…a land, the Langhe, that is protected by the United Nations as a UNESCO world heritage site…a wine, BAROLO DOCG, that has a centuries old reputation for being “the king of wines & the wine of kings”…and a vintage, 2015, that is hailed as one of the best in the past decades.
According to James Suckling: “Two-thirds of the 350+ Barolo 2015s we tasted in this list scored 93 points or above, establishing this vintage as one of the best of the decade. You’ll find the tasting notes for 2015 Barolo awash with superlatives. It’s a great year, clearly the best since 2010, perhaps better. Buy some and see for yourself.”
BAROLO is not only known for its complexity, elegance and structure…but also for its world renowned reputation for cellaring potential. It is consistently one of the wines that holds its own on an open bottle for days and days, some would say, improving every 24 hours.
Before the class began the representatives from WhyNot Wine Saver did a short presentation. We learned that the unit’s use of nitrogen gas promises to keep a bottle of wine fresh for eleven months, important for a restaurant, wine bar or winery that serves pours and by the glass. The cork is removed with a special closed “changer” and a plug, in a “nitrogen-filled environment” is inserted. The bottle can then be put upside down into the WhyNot unit; the desired amount is dispensed in the glass through a “shooter” that keeps nitrogen from wine glass.
There was a lot to learn about Barolo. I have some photos here; if you want a closer look at each slide for a clearer lesson email me:
- Made from the Nebbiolo grape in Piemonte, aka Piedmont, Italy.
- “Nebbia” means fog and was given the root of the word Nebbiolo as it’s a late ripener and harvested in autumn, sometimes as late as October.
- Known to be difficult and stubborn to cultivate, medium-thick skinned, high in tannins and acidity so they have a long aging capability/need.
- It is known as the most ancient varietal in all of Italy, first documented in 1266.
- 93% of the vineyards are on hillsides, 70% red and 30% white.
- The center of the appellation is the town of Barolo.
- Barolo is considered the “big brother” to Barbaresco.
- The flavor of the wine depends on many things, including the terrain: Elveziano (Helvetian) wines are more robust, structured, high in tannins and longevity. The Tortoniano (Tortonian) produces a lighter, more elegant, fast maturation and less longevity. A true Barolo lover would know from which areas they prefer the flavor profile from, and purchase accordingly.
On the 2015s: We tasted a few of the new wines, opened up for at least an hour. I could tell the difference in aromas and flavors between the different terrains, and did appreciate both. Diego explained that the 2015s were going to be amazing in ten years as opposed to waiting 30-40 years. The weather in 2015 created less stress factors, fewer grapes, shorter vintage and less volume. This all contributed to giving the wines “great concentration, flavor and power.” Tannins and unripe flavors have been a common complaint of previous years, not for the 2015s. Diego also believes prices will stay low on the 2015s.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.