I haven't been blogging for a while. I got bogged down tasting 1999 Barolos and Barbarescos as well as hundreds of samples of other Piedmont wines for my pending report on the region.
The 1999s were for a small retrospective tasting for the magazine. All I can say now is that the Barbarescos, for the most part, seem to be falling apart, and the Barolos are going to need drinking in a year or two. It's not the outstanding year that some thought. I am slightly disappointed. I haven't completely decided yet, but I am most likely downgrading the vintage rating.
There are some exceptions, as always. The most obvious are the wines of Barolo master Roberto Voerzio. The guy is a genius for making dense, layered yet balanced great Nebbiolos, even in less-than-perfect years.
I spent a morning in the vineyards last week with him driving around in his Land Rover as well as trekking through some of the best vine land below the hilltop village of La Morra. What he gets out of his nearly 30 acres is mind-blowing. But this is only after spending hundreds of man-hours during the summer meticulously tending his vines with his son Davide and a handful of workers. Roberto and his son have some of the greatest names in vineyards in the region—Brunate, La Serra, Capalot, Sarmassa and Cerequio.
The big difference is that he leaves a tiny amount of grapes on his vines, usually just four or five grape clusters. And each cluster is about one-third to half the normal size of his neighbors'. He goes through and cuts the bottom part of each grape cluster in August, leaving the top to ripen to the best level possible.
In the end, he leaves about 600 grams of grapes per vine. Many of his neighbors leave four to six times that amount on their vines. Roberto's vineyards almost look like they only have the secondary generation growth on the vine compared to others.
"The amazing thing about Nebbiolo is that it can produce very good reds even if the crop levels are so very high," he said as we walked in the bright, hot morning sun of Cerequio.
Barolo producer Roberto Voerzio and James Suckling explore one of Voerzio's vineyards.
It is pretty hard to believe when you see it right in front of you. Voerzio's vines look like they have almost already been picked while some of the over cropped ones have 10 to 14 bunches. Some of the huge Nebbiolo bunches weighed a few pounds alone. Roberto only makes about 18,000 to 24,000 bottles of Barolo with his nearly 30 acres of vineyards. Others would make three or four times that with 30 acres.
Of course a lot of this is a question of economics. Roberto sells his single-vineyard Barolos for hundreds of dollars, and most other Barolo producers sell theirs for a fraction of the price. I am just happy that there are enough people in the world to support his dedication and passion for Barolo through paying such high prices. He's a special man making special wines.
Craig Phillips — Pasadena, CA — August 28, 2009 8:47pm ET
James Suckling — — August 29, 2009 3:34am ET
Shannon Perdue — Central TX, USA — August 29, 2009 9:37am ET
Johnny Espinoza Esquivel — Wine World — August 29, 2009 5:52pm ET
Brian Buzzini — NorCal — August 30, 2009 1:23am ET
Ralph Michels — The Netherlands — August 30, 2009 9:05am ET
James Suckling — — August 30, 2009 12:12pm ET
Franco Ziliani — Italy — August 31, 2009 7:51am ET
Ralph Michels — The Netherlands — August 31, 2009 2:09pm ET
Franco Ziliani — Italy — September 1, 2009 2:04am ET
Tony Wood — Brighton U.K. — September 1, 2009 3:28pm ET
Markus Jelitto — Geneva, Switzerland — September 2, 2009 10:05am ET
Nick Gangas — Chicago — September 9, 2009 10:58pm ET
Eric Munson — New Yiork — September 16, 2009 4:53pm ET
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