2020 Barolo en Primeur Charity Auction


I am delighted to host the first ever Barolo en Primeur Charity Auction, being held simultaneously in New York City and Grinzane Cavour on October 30 at 12pm New York time and 6pm Piedmont time. This is a rare opportunity to acquire a barrel of 2020 Barolo while supporting your favorite charity. I have created an NFT for each barrel, which will remain with the winner of each lot. 

Barolo En Primeur is a charitable initiative being led by the Consorzio of Barolo, Barbaresco, Alba, Langhe and Dogliani and the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Cuneo (CRC), the foundation of the local bank in Cuneo, Italy’s 8th largest foundation, with assets of €1.6B. In 2020, the CRC acquired the Cascina Gustava through CRC Donare, its Piedmont-based charitable foundation with the goal of ensuring the vineyard would always remain sort of real-life laboratory for the students of Alba’s school of oenology. Gustava is located in Grinzane Cavour, right next to the castle, the former home of Camillo Benso di Cavour, Italy’s first prime minister.

That resulted in the creation of a charitable auction inspired by the Hospices de Beaune that the organizers hope will grow in the coming years. Donato Lanati, one of Italy’s most respected consulting oenologists, was brought on to oversee the wines, which are made at the Ascheri cellars in Bra. There are a total of 15 barrels of 2020 Barolo, two of them from historic old vine blocks. The auction will be hosted by Christie’s in Italy and yours truly in New York. Interested bidders can register here. The live-stream of the auction will be held at Il Gattopardo Restaurant, 13-15 West 54th Street, New York, NY 10019. To RSVP, please send us an email at events@vinous.com. Please note seating is extremely limited.

Cascina Gustava map, courtesy of Alessandro Masnaghetti. Used with permission. © 2021 Enogea, Alessandro Masnaghetti

Needless to say, I was very interested to taste the wines. With one or two exceptions, Grinzane does not have much of a track record for producing distinctive single-vineyard Barolos. Traditionally most of the fruit here has gone into blended Barolos. I was struck by how different the fifteen wines are. Then again, that is the magic of Nebbiolo, the ability to transmit the essence of place. The Barolos were all vinified in barrique, where they spent 10-15 days on the skins, with manual pumpovers and punchdowns. The malolactic fermentations were also done in barrel. Aging is projected to be approximately 24 months in wood, depending on the wine.

Tasting through the wines for Barolo En Primeur. 

My notes on the fifteen barrels in the auction follow. In keeping with the nature of this event as a charity auction, I have provided tasting notes, but no scores. Much of the attention is likely to center on the two old-vine lots (barrels 1&2), but shrewd interested bidders will also want to pay special attention to barrels 10 and 14, followed by barrels 9, 11 and 12.

For Vinous readers attending the New York City lunch on October 30, I look forward to seeing you there. I will be opening a few special bottles from my personal cellar to mark this very special occasion.

#1 Viti Storiche

The 2020 Barolo Gustava #1 Viti Storiche is one of two old-vine wines in this auction. It emerges from parcels that are 70-80 years of age. An attractive, mid-weight Barolo, it offers up crushed flowers, sweet red berry, mint, rose petal and lavender. This gracious, perfumed Barolo displays the classicism of Grinzane Cavour to great effect. Cedar, pine, mint and tobacco linger on the high-toned finish. 

#2 Viti Storiche

The 2020 Barolo Gustava #2 Viti Storiche shows the more virile side of this site in its darker fruit profile and power. There’s terrific depth and structure here. I expect the #2 is going to need some time in bottle to come around. The tannins are especially prominent at this stage.


The 2020 Barolo Gustava #3 is a very pretty, ethereal Barolo. Crushed flowers, white pepper, blood orange, spice and star anise all grace this wonderfully refined, silky Barolo. This weightless, understated Barolo is all class. It is one of the more light-bodied, understated wines in this collection.


From a southwest facing parcel, the 2020 Barolo Gustava #4 offers lovely depth and structure in a mid-weight style that is quite appealing. Sweet red cherry, tobacco, mint, cedar, dried flowers and orange peel open in the glass. This is going to need a few years in bottle to come together, as the tannins are incisive at this stage.


The 2020 Barolo Gustava #5 is a wine of precision, tension and energy. Like the #4, the #5 emerges from a southwestern parcel, but the impression is of a wine with real brightness and drive. Sweet red cherry, mint, cinnamon and rose petal all grace this classy, ethereal Grinzane Cavour Barolo.


The 2020 Barolo Gustava #6 is a hard, tannic Barolo that will need time to come together. I imagine it will always be a brute, its mid-weight structure notwithstanding. Today, it is the incisive tannins that dominate. This burly yet medium-bodied Barolo is a bruiser today.


From a south facing parcel, the 2020 Barolo Gustava #7 is a very pretty, silky, open-knit Barolo that will drink well with minimal cellaring. Crushed rose petal, spice, mint, blood orange, kirsch and a touch of oak all grace this attractive, expressive Barolo. Orange peel, rose petal and star anise add an exotic flair to the caressing finish. The #7 is ethereal and attractive from start to finish.


The 2020 Barolo Gustava #8 is also from a south-facing parcel. It shows a bit more depth and pliancy than the #7, while retaining the mid-weight style that is typical of all these wines. Dark red cherry/plum fruit, leather and spice, meld into a resonant finish supported by insistent yet well-integrated tannins.


The 2020 Barolo Gustava #9 is a powerful, impressively constituted young Barolo that marries finesse and elegance. There is quite a bit of tannin, but also the fruit and overall concentration of fruit to stand up to it. Dark cherry and plum notes fill out the layers in this deep, muscular Barolo. The #9 is one of the most complete wines in the range. 


The 2020 Barolo Gustava #10 is deep and powerful, with the fruit to stand up to its structure. Rose petal, licorice, tar, asphalt, plum and sweet red cherry give this wine a super-classic Barolo profile. This fleshy, super-expressive Barolo holds quite a bit of promise. There is real dimension here.


The 2020 Barolo Gustava #11 is going to need time to come around, as it is quite austere in the early going. Incisive tannins wrap around a core of red fruit, rose petal, lavender and mint.  I very much like the energy, tension and saline drive here. The #11 is beautifully done.


The 2020 Barolo Gustava #12 is one of the more overt wines in the range. Here the fruit is riper, leaning into more of the cooked end of the spectrum. Kirsch, rose petal and spice all open in the glass. There is terrific depth and density here to play off the penetrating aromatic presence of Nebbiolo.


The 2020 Barolo Gustava #13 is a powerful, austere wine. Cedar, tobacco, dried flowers, mint and licorice open with a bit of coaxing. This is an especially savory, earthy Barolo with good intensity and fruit that is pushed into the background. The tannins need time to soften.


The 2020 Barolo Gustava #14 is one of the standouts in this range. Deep and persistent, the #14 is all about balance. Dark red cherry and plum fruit and hints of rose petal give this silky, perfumed super-expressive Barolo tons of charm. A whole range of floral and spice notes round out the finish. There is lovely balance and harmony here.


The 2020 Barolo Gustava #15 is more ethereal and gracious than the other wines in this collection. Crushed rose petal, spice, sage, mint and blood orange are all nicely lifted in the glass. This is an especially aromatic light to medium-bodied style.

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