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Raising the Bar at Oddero

More than a decade of fine-tuning is paying off with a fine range of 2010 Barolos
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Dec 2, 2013 3:40pm ET

Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson is blogging from Italy's Piedmont region, where he is visiting growers and tasting the new vintages that will be released in the United States in 2014.

My first stop in Piedmont was at Oddero (I last visited here in November 2010), where Maria Cristina and Isabella Oddero are at the helm, along with enologist Luca Veglio. This is a very traditional house, with firm, long-lived Barolos, an elegant Barbaresco from the Gallina cru in Neive, a fruity Langhe Nebbiolo and two Barberas, one from Alba and another from Asti.

Since Maria Cristina took over from her father in 1997, she has been observing the vineyards carefully and, along with moving toward organic farming, has changed some small details, both in the vines and in the cellar.

For example, with its southern exposure and sandy soils, Gallina is a warm site. More leaves are now left around the clusters to protect from the sun and harvesting is timed precisely to prevent overripe grapes. The Odderos have fine-tuned the timing of treatments and operations in all the vineyards.

In the cellar, there is less skin contact for the top Barolo crus Bussia Soprana Vigna Mondoca, Brunate and Vigna Rionda. They now macerate for 25 to 26 days instead of 30 days or longer. The team feels this results in better colors, more fruit and helps to retain the subtle aromas. Since 2009, there has been experimentation with submerging the cap for a gentle infusion rather than pumping over during the extraction.

The Nebbiolo never sees new oak, even in large cask. The only barriques you will find in the Oddero cellar are second use, up to six years old. These are for some of the Barbera harvest and the single-vineyard Nebbiolos. A six-month stint in the small barrels helps fix the color, allow for oxygen exchange and gives the young wines more contact with the lees, according to Isabella. They then age for 18 months (Barbaresco Gallina), 30 months (Barolo classico, Villero, Rocche and Brunate) and four years or more (Bussia Soprana Vigna Mondoca, Vigna Rionda) in 2,500- to 10,500-liter casks of Slavonian and Austrian oak.

With the 2010 Barolos, the Odderos feel they are finally achieving the results they want. "I like the vintage because we obtained what we began to think about at the beginning," said Isabella. "Our path is evident."

Indeed, the range shows fine potential, starting with a pretty cherry-, currant- and floral-scented Barbaresco Gallina 2011 from cask.

The classic Barolo is a blend of Nebbiolo from Bricco Chiesa around the winery, Capalot, also in La Morra, and Bricco Fiasco from Castiglione Falletto. Not yet bottled, it was austere, with sweet fruit and a juicy texture, a mix of elegance and power. The Barolo Villero, from tank, showed licorice, tar and submerged cherry notes, in a complex, spicy expression.

Oddero's Barolo Rocche di Castiglione was a high-wire act, very linear and fresh, with pointed tannins supporting cherry, licorice and tar flavors. The Brunate, on the other hand, was backward and monolithic, offering wild aromas of forest floor, herbs and macerated fruit. Both were also in tank for the bottling, which will take place the second week of December.

The Bussia Soprana Vigna Mondoca and Vigna Rionda spend additional time in cask and will probably be bottled at the end of 2014. Tasted from cask, the former showed great complexity, aromas and flavors of wild Mediterranean herbs, flowers, licorice and minerals matched to a dense frame. The latter delivered sweet fruit buried underneath loam, iron, licorice and mineral notes on a muscular profile.

These are perhaps the best Nebbiolos to date from this cellar. Fans of the traditional style of Barolo should take note.

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