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Influential Barolo Producers You Need To Know

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I’ve been traveling to the Barolo production zone since 2000, usually twice a year (except for 2020) and I’ve met dozens of producers and have tasted more than 2000 examples of Barolo over the past two decades.

I visited the area in mid-June, seeing old friends again and meeting a few new ones, as I was able to taste numerous examples of the current releases of Barolo from the 2018 vintage (a very impressive year that has been unfairly criticized by some) as well as a mid-size sampling of riserva offerings from the classic 2016 vintage.

Having tried so many Barolos over the past two decades, and having written many articles about the land, the producers and the wines, I’ve come to learn that there are numerous ways to discuss this great wine. For this article, I’d like to write about some of the most influential producers of Barolo.

Now in many instances, these are also among the best producers of Barolo, in the opinion of myself and many others. I’ve written about the best producers of Barolo in the past, but I thought it was time to talk about the most important producers of this wine in terms of their effect in the marketplace. Who makes Barolo that people want ever year? Who crafts Barolo from specific vineyards that are in demand?

So, without further ado, here are twelve of the most influential Barolo producers. There are others, so don’t be alarmed if your favorite isn’t listed. This is based on what I have witnessed with these wines in terms of quality, stylistic craftsmanship, critical praise and consumer demand, as well as a few other more subtle topics.

Vietti (Castiglione Falletto) - Luca Currado learned well from his father Alfredo, who produced glorious examples of Barolo for several decades, including one of the first single vineyard examples, Rocche (now known as Rocche di Castiglione) in 1961. Today, Currado produces one of the most accomplished portfolios of Barolo from any local producer, including eight single vineyard wines, one of which, Villero, is a riserva, produced only in the finest years. Each of these displays their sense of place very well, and Currado fashions each wine to fit its terroir; as Brunate in La Morra has softer, more gentle tannins than Lazzarito in Serralunga, he ages the former for a slightly longer time in a combination of small and large wood; for the Ravera, which has become one of the most sensual of his Barolos, aging is only in large oak casks.

Currado has continued to add new vineyards to his lineup, and produced his first Cerequio (La Morra) and Monvigliero (Verduno) from the 2018 vintage. Both wines are outstanding and have excellent structure for at least 15 years of cellaring. While it’s difficult to select the finest Barolo at Vietti, the Rocche di Castiglione is always a gorgeous wine that has become a classic of Castiglione terroir. Perhaps even more impressive is the Castiglione Barolo, a blend of fruit from several of the forementioned sites; this is both a very well made Barolo, as well as an excellent value. We need more examples of Barolo such as this. Luca Currado and his wife Elena Penna continue to produce harmonious examples of Barolo that the public wants. Complimenti!

Cavallotto (Castiglione Falletto) - Cavallotto has become synonymous with Bricco Boschis, the Castiglione Falletto vineyard where their winery is located. If traditional Barolo is what you seek, you need to search no further than the Bricco Boschis Barolo produced every vintage at Cavalotto. My notes on the recently released 2018 are typical of this wine each vintage; “beautiful complexity, outstanding varietal purity, perfectly integrated wood notes, excellent overall harmony.”

The Bricco Boschis Riserva San Giuseppe takes things up a notch of two, as far as richness on the palate and a greater aromatic profile, with a very long finish. The current release is from the classic 2016 vintage (truly one of the two or three Barolo best vintages from the past two decades), and as you would imagine, this is a superb bottle of wine. In my opinion, the Cavallotto Bricco Boschis Riserva San Giuseppe is one of the ten best examples of Barolo, year in and year out.

Massolino (Serralunga d’Alba) - Here is a traditional producer that has been at the top of their game for many years. Brothers Franco and Roberto Massolino produce harmonious single vineyard Barolo from three vineyards in Serralunga d’Alba, and one in Castiglione Falletto (Parusso). The wines are true to their origins, with the Parussi displaying more red fruit and rounder tannins than the Parafada or Margheria from Serralunga. Then you have the Vigna Rionda riserva, a classic Serralunga Barolo that is structured for the long haul with its firm tannins and dense mid-palate (from time to time, Massolino also releases this wine ten years after the vintage; this is often a superb wine). For continuing their philosophy of producing traditionally-aged Barolos (years ago they did make one barrique-aged Barolo to please consumers that were looking for that style, but no more), as well as for their consistent quality, Massolino is one of the most influential producers of Barolo.

Pio Cesare (Alba) - When you’ve been around since 1881, you’ve learned a few things about Barolo. That’s the situation with the Pio Cesare winery in Alba, one of the oldest established wineries still in existence today. The Barolo classico is just that, a classically styled Barolo meant to improve for anywhere from 10 years in a lighter vintage up to 20-30 years in a classic vintage such as 2010, 2013 or 2016. The most famous Barolo produced at Pio Cesare is Ornato, from the ideally situated vineyard in Serralunga d’Alba. The wine displays morel cherry and black fruit aromas and flavors, along with a note of orange peel and offers more pronounced sense of place than the classic Barolo; here is a wine that in the best vintages drinks well at 25-30 years. In 2015, the winery produced their Mosconi Barolo from the vineyard in Monforte d’Alba; this too, has been impressive and quite stylish.

Sadly, Pio Boffa, who managed the winery for more than two decades and helped make Pio Cesare a household name for consumers looking for classically proportioned Barolo, passed away in 2021. His daughter Federica and her cousin Cesare Benvenuto are now in charge, and after having visited them recently in Alba, I can safely say that the Pio Cesare legacy is in great hands.

Elio Grasso (Monforte d’Alba) - When I first visited this winery, a local producer told me, “you must visit Elio Grasso and taste his wines to understand the story of Barolo.” As I discovered on that first visit and every succeeding one since, that producer’s statement was not an exaggeration. For decades, Grasso produced two impressive traditional Barolos from his estate vineyards in Monforte d’Alba: Gavarini Chiniera and Ginestra Casa Maté before turning over winemaking duties to his son Gianluca; both wines display the rich tannins and deep structure that this commune is known for. Gianluca has added a third Barolo, a riserva known as Rüncot, that is a more modern-styled wine, aged in barriques, as opposed to the other two wines that are matured in botti grandi. Consistency, terroir and tradition are the keys to success at Elio Grasso, making this one of the most important producers in the Barolo zone.

Elvio Cogno (Novello) - I have included Elvio Cogno among this group, thanks to the remarkable work of proprietor/winemaker Valter Fissore with his various Barolo from the Ravera MGA , where his winery is situated. Ravera is near the southwestern reaches of the Barolo zone in a microclimate that is open to the winds and cool breezes coming from the nearby Cottian Alps. Twenty years ago, the Barolos from Ravera tended to be a bit austere; these were wines that needed a decade to come around. But now with the warmer temperatures of the last several years, the style of the wines have changed, and are now among the most supple of all Barolos.

This has led to Ravera becoming an in-demand MGA over the past decade, as first-rate produces such as Vietti and Paolo Scavino now own land here. The Cogno wines are all recommended, especially the classic Ravera, as well as the Cascina Nuova, a less intense, more approachable Barolo at a young age, while the Ravera Riserva Vigna Elena, named for the daughter of Valter and his wife Nadia Cogno, is a treasure; made entirely from the rosé clone of Nebbiolo, this is a floral, beautifully harmonious wine of impressive richness and velvety tannins. The newly released 2016 is outstanding, and among the finest Fissore has ever produced; this should drink well for at least 20 years.

Bartolo Mascarello (Barolo) - For much of the second half of the 20th century, the incomporable Bartolo Mascarello produced what many consider the classic Barolo. He was a traditionalist in every manner, selecting his fruit from four separate vineyards (three in the commune of Barolo, one from La Morra) and maturing this Barolo - he produced only one each vintage - in grandi botti. This was respect for the historic wines of the area, as he considered barriques as something of an invasion of classic Barolo.

Mascarello passed away in 1995; his daughter Maria Teresa succeed him as winemaker and has continued her father’s philosophy in every way possible. The Bartolo Macarello Barolo is a rich, highly complex wine that ideally represents not only Barolo typicity, with its combination of perfectly ripe fruit and a finish displaying distinct spice and balsamic notes, but is also a tribute and reflection of the history of Barolo, when the finest wines offered a balance and complexity that could only be found in a wine made from various sites, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

If you are passionate about Barolo that can age for decades, all the while displaying the classic traditions of this territory, you must try the Bartolo Mascarello Barolo.

Ratti (Annunziata, La Morra) - Renato Ratti produced his first Barolo in 1965; this was his Barolo classico today known as Marcensaco. In the early 1970s, he added two single vineyard Barolo: Rocche dell’Annunziata and Conca. Ratti passed away in 1988, and was succeeded by his son Pietro, who today manages the winery. These three examples of Barolo the elder Ratti produced are still made today; these are crafted in various manners; as the Marcenasco is aged solely in large casks, while the single vineyards are matured in a combination of small and large oak. A new single vineyard Barolo from the Serradenari MGA, 500 meters above sea level, has been produced from the 2019 vintage, and will be released in 2023. The Rocche dell’Annunziata from the iconic vineyard in Annunziata, is elegantly styled, while the Conca from the eponymous vineyard just below the winery, is slightly stronger; both wines are highly recommended. Given the remarkable consistency for more than 50 years, and for producing excellent Barolo at very reasonable prices, Ratti is one of the most influential of all Barolo producers.

Paolo Scavino (Castiglione Falletto) - Enrico Scavino and his two daughters, Elisa and Enrica manage the winemaking here; this is a true family affair. They produce several single vineyard Barolos, the most famous being Bric dël Fiasc from the Fiasco vineyard in Castiglione Falletto, and a riserva bottling from Rocche dell’ Annunziata. In general, the Scavino Barolos - there are offerings from several communes including Roddi, Novello and Verduno - display excellent ripeness, with distinct spice and firm tannins; these are usually at their best anywhere from 12-15 years after the vintage, while the Rocche dell’Annunziata riserva is meant for the long haul; the newly released 2016 should peak in 20-25 years (or perhaps longer). The wines are honest, as they reflect their terroir quite well, and they are always quite harmonious. Paolo Scavino has become an in-demand Barolo producer each vintage.

Poderi Aldo Conterno (Monforte d’Alba) - Aldo Conterno started his own winery in 1969, after leaving the Giacomo Conterno winery as he had differences with his brother Giovanni regarding specific Barolo production methods. Conterno passed away in 2012, having established a remarkable history of producing three separate single vineyards Barolos from the Bussia MGA. Today, his sons Franco, Stefano and Giacomo continue to craft terroir-driven wines that are often stunning. There are four separate Barolos from Bussia in most years: one labeled Bussia, with the other three being from single vineyards owned by the winery within the Bussia MGA: Colonello, Romirasco and Cicala. Each of these wines is matured in large casks and beautifully reflect their source; there is outstanding complexity with the single vineyard wines, as well as round, elegantly styled tannins.

The signature Barolo produced here is the Gran Bussia, a blend of these three vineyards that is produced only in the finest vintages; the latest release, the 2013, is only the 20th release of this wine since 1970. This wine is simply sensational and represents everything a great Barolo is about, from its superb aromatics of morel cherry fruit and spicy aromatics, to its powerful depth of fruit, all the way through to its impeccable finish with very good acidity and silky tannins. The 2013 Gran Bussia is among the top five Barolos of the decade of the 2010s that I have tasted, and is a remarkable bottle of wine by anyone’s standards. If you want to experience the soul of Barolo, you must try an Aldo Conterno Barolo.

Bruno Giacosa (Serralunga d’Alba) - Although the Bruno Giacosa winery and cellars are located in the town of Neive in the Barbaresco zone (and their best versions of Barbaresco are stunning), I have listed Serralunga d’Alba as their location, as this is where their amazing examples of Barolo are sourced from, at the Falletto estate, which is situated adjacent to the Ornato vineyard. This is clearly one of the high-rent districts of Barolo, and Giacosa was able to purchase the Falletto vineyard in 1980. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Bruno Giacosa style of Barolo is traditional, as the wines are matured solely in grandi botti (French oak, not Slavonian) for at least 30 months for the white label Falletto Barolo, and 32 months for the Barolo Falletto Vigna Le Rocche Riserva. While the former is an excellent wine that displays deep structure and an austere quality that demands at least a decade of aging, the latter is clearly one of the finest of all Barolo; it is one of the longest-lived (35-40 years is not unusual) as well as being one of the most complex, refined and ethereral. Expect to pay at least $400 (and probably more) if you can even find a bottle.

Sadly, Bruno Giacosa passed away in 2018; today his daughter Bruna, a dynamic individual, manages the estate, and has continued the remarkable dedication of her father that has resulted in many of Barolo’s greatest wines.

Roberto Voerzio (La Morra) - Roberto Voerzio produced his first examples of Barolo under his own label in 1986, and soon after was receiving tremendous praise; he was among the very first producers to receive a 100-point rating from one of the major international critics for his wines. There were several reasons for that, perhaps the most important being the intensity of his various Barolo; Voerzio trims yields in his vineyards as much as 30% below the maximum amount allowed by the disciplinare, which results in powerful, deeply structured wines that have outstanding cellar potential.

The ripe fruit in his finest Barolos from several of the top sites in La Morra (Cerequio, La Serra, Rocche dell’Annunziata) is evident and has led many to label Voerzio as a modernist, especially given his cellar practices of maturing the wines in barriques. Yet over the years, he has added large casks as well, and most of the barriques he uses are not new, so his wines have become less identified as modern; Voerzio’s winemaking is a blend of traditional practices (20-25 days of fermentation) and a more modern style (barriques); combine the rigorous work in the vineyards with his cellar routines, and you have some of the most remarkable examples of Barolo found anywhere, wines that stand the test of time, and are often sensational after 20-25 years. All of this has made Roberto Voerzio a living legend in Barolo.

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