Barbaresco 2001: An Overview of Current Releases

By Antonio Galloni

The cover story for Issue 1 is the 2001 vintage in Barbaresco. For this report, I spent ten days in October in Barbaresco tasting mostly current releases. I also wanted to get an update on the 2002 and 2003 vintages. I arrived in mid-October, as the Nebbiolo harvest was in its final days. Without exception, every producer I spoke to was enthusiastic about the potential of the 2004 vintage. The growing season had started a bit late due to unusually cold weather in the spring, which continued into the summer. The critical month of September was characterized by near-perfect weather for Nebbiolo, with warm days, cool nights, and the right amount of rain. Along with high quality, quantity was very abundant in 2004. Many quality-minded producers told me they green harvested two and in some cases, three times to make sure the plants were not overloaded with grapes, which would have prevented the grapes from ripening fully. As I visited various estates, I was accompanied by the sweet ethereal perfume of fermenting Nebbiolo. It will be fascinating to follow these wines over the next few years.

The 2004 vintage offers a stark contrast to the two preceding vintages, which can only be described as problematic, if for two very different reasons. The excessive heat of 2003 resulted in very ripe, alcoholic, and hot wines. Barbera looks to be the most successful varietal of the vintage. In 2002, many vineyards fell prey to peronospora. In addition, the summer was very wet and cool and producers had trouble achieving full ripeness in the grapes. Several prestigious Barolo zones were devastated by hail, most notably in Barolo and La Morra. In Barbaresco there was no such damage but the wines remain modest, with muted aromatics and inexpressive palates. A few producers did a severe selection of fruit and will release their single vineyard selections, but most estates will release a single wine, and some will not release any Barbaresco at all.

The 2001 vintage caps off a remarkable string of excellent vintages for the region, starting with 1996. It is a year that had ideal weather conditions for Nebbiolo, of alternating warm days and cool nights. The vintage is described by many as a classic vintage, whose wines have noticeable structure and aging potential. What I noticed most was the immediately captivating and intense aromatic profiles that many wines display. The wines also have a tremendous amount of delineation and nuance in the flavors, as well as a certain freshness that gives the wines balance. While I tried to cover as many estates as possible, there will always be wineries I missed. I hope to get to those producers in future editions of Piedmont Report. In some cases, I had the opportunity to taste older releases, and I include those notes where I think they may be of some value. Lastly, a few of the tasting notes in this report come from recent tastings at my home.