Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson is blogging on his recent trip to Italy's Piedmont region, where he visited growers and tasted the new vintages that will be released in the United States in 2014.
Roberto Voerzio, 61, has come a long way since beginning with 5 acres of vineyards in 1987. Now joined by his 35-year-old son Davide, Voerzio currently cultivates nearly 52 acres of vines, almost all located in La Morra. More than half, 30 acres, is Nebbiolo in top crus: Brunate, Cerequio, Fossati, Case Nere, Rocche, Sarmassa, La Serra and Torriglione.
For Voerzio padre e figlio, the key to quality lies in the vineyards. "We believe it's the best way to improve quality without touching the wine in the cellar," said Davide. "We want to show off our terroirs and the different vintages. The more you touch the wines in the cellar, the more the wines taste the same," he said.
The Voerzio philosophy is simple: Invest in great vineyards, focus on viticulture and respect the wines. These have been the guiding principles for 25 years.
The vineyards are high density for the region, with 3,200 vines per acre compared with the traditional 1,200 to 1,600 vines per acre. Yields are kept low, averaging about 3.3 pounds per vine. The low yields allow Voerzio to harvest from 10 to 20 days earlier than most growers, depending on the vintage.
In the cellar, fermentation takes place with indigenous yeast in stainless steel tanks, with one or two daily pump-overs. Macerations range from 10 to 25 days, after which the wines are pressed. No press wine is used for the Barolos, only for the Langhe Nebbiolo.
All the wines are put into barrels, a mix of barriques, tonneaux and botti (large oak casks), with the exception of Dolcetto, which is aged in tank.
The Barolos see one year in botti and used barriques, then an additional year in barriques only, with up to 30 percent new oak. They are bottled unfined and unfiltered and age another eight months in bottle before release.
The Sarmassa and Torriglione are aged entirely in barriques, 70 percent older oak and 30 percent new, because they are smaller parcels. Voerzio's Merlot and Barbera d'Alba Pozzo Riserva spend two years in barriques (also 70/30 mix) and eight months in bottle.
Despite the concentration resulting from low yields, Voerzio's 2010 Barolos are very elegant. "We think it's a great, great vintage," declared Davide. "It's like 2004, but more elegant, more juicy."
The Barolo La Serra 2010, from high on the slope of La Morra, is a cooler, windy site, with poor, stony soils. It tastes of chocolate, tobacco, cherry, very elegant, firm, linear and fresh, echoing cherry and tobacco on the long finish.
By contrast, Brunate and Cerequio are lower in elevation, lying below La Serra. The former 2010 is rich, boasting a cherry note backed by fleshy, muscular tannins, yet there was still elegance, the assertive grip defining the long finish. The latter offers perfumed, floral, cherry, raspberry and tobacco flavors, fine richness and an almost creamy texture.
Barolo Rocche 2010 comes from a south-facing parcel, boasting earth and tobacco notes. Less fruity, its savory elements are matched to a muscular frame, dense tannins, yet remaining fresh, with elevated acidity and a very long, tensile finish.
Torriglione 2010 was formerly labeled Rocche de l'Annunziata Torriglione. It's full of sweet fruit, cherry, menthol and eucalyptus flavors. Rich, powerful, elegant and supple, it finishes very long and firm.
Voerzio's Sarmassa di Barolo 2010 exudes bright cherry and raspberry confit notes on a rich, round profile, with well-integrated tannins, all balanced and long.