Barolo is a perfect marriage between a grape and a place. That’s how senior editor Bruce Sanderson described the distinct combination of Nebbiolo grown in Langhe in the northern Italian region of Piedmont. Add to that an ideal growing season in 2010 and you have a recipe for classic wines.
To prove his point, Wine Spectator brought together four top Barolo producers to taste their 2010s and explore the different styles and growing regions. “Nebbiolo, despite plantings elsewhere, only reaches its pinnacle in the Langhe,” Sanderson told the audience. The keys, he explained, are the hilly geology with varied soils of limestone, sand and clay, and how each producer has chosen specific vinification and aging techniques that show their sites at their best.
Pietro Ratti, whose father founded his namesake winery in 1965, poured the intensely flavored Renato Ratti Barolo Rocche dell' Annunziata 2010 (95 points, $108). Ratti shared photos of his modern winery and the poor soils of his vineyards—chalky white earth where Nebbiolo somehow thrives. “I say that Nebbiolo is the best grape in the world,” Ratti said with frank pride.
Elisa Scavino, who represented the fourth generation of her winemaking family, has worked in the vineyards and cellar since 2005 with her father, Enrico, learning from his 60 harvests. She offered the crowd a taste of the rich, brooding Paolo Scavino Barolo Bric dël Fiasc 2010 (97, $100). She recalled as a young girl working in the Bric dël Fiasc vineyard, which was the estate’s first single-cru bottling. “This is a wine that truly represents my family and our winery.”
Franco Conterno and his brothers, winemaker Giacomo and viticulturist Stefano, had big shoes to fill when their father Aldo Conterno died in 2012. He founded Poderi Aldo Conterno in Monforte d’Alba in 1961 and went on to become a Barolo legend. “We’re trying to continue what our father created,” Conterno said as he poured the harmonious yet still young Barolo Cicala 2010 (98, $150), from a site with a high percentage of clay in the soils. “2010 is one of the best vintages in the past 50 or 60 years,” he said.
Franco Massolino grew up in the family business, which his great-grandfather Giovanni started in 1896. Massolino was just a kid when he started working with his father in the vineyards, and today he and his brother Roberto share duties in the cellar. He poured the firm, smoky Massolino Barolo Margheria 2010 (96, $99). Nebbiolo, he told the audience, “reflects every small change in the soil.” To capture that unique quality, the winery ferments in concrete and, like many producers in the region, ages in large oak casks, “to respect the natural style of the wine.”
A bit of a charmer, Massolino hoped the audience enjoyed the wine. “If you don’t like it, I can tell you to shut up,” he said with a smile, followed by a cheer from the audience.
As Sanderson thanked the producers, he concluded, “Each of these wines really reflects where they came from.”
WineSpectator.com members: Learn more about the 2010 Barolo vintage in Bruce Sanderson's tasting report, "Pride of Piedmont."