Cavallotto: The Barolo Riservas

During a recent visit to the estate, brothers Alfio and Giuseppe Cavallotto surprised me with not one, but two vertical tastings of their Barolo Riservas, Vignolo and Bricco Boschis Vigna San Giuseppe.  This was a great opportunity to taste both wines side by side and compare vineyard and vintage characteristics.  The Vignolo is typically the more feminine of the two wines.   Explains Alfio Cavallotto “The soils at Vignolo are deep, and they retain water very well.  This means that in hot vintages such as 1997 an 2000, the vines don’t go into stress and the wines remain quite fresh”  I find the Vignolo often has a very aromatic profile and flavors of small red fruits such as raspberries, although that varies from vintage to vintage.”  San Giuseppe is decidedly the more masculine and muscular wine.  “At San Giuseppe we have soils that begin to resemble those of Serralunga.  The wines are usually more complex, structured and higher in alcohol, with flavors of spices and dark fruit,” says Cavallotto.

Both wines are made in an identical fashion.  Fermentation takes places in rotary fermenters and maceration lasts about 25 days.  The wines are aged in large Slavonian oak barrels of various sizes for four to five years and in the bottle for an additional year.  The Cavallotto Barolos tend to be rather dense and chewy, as would be expected from traditionally made wines, and will benefit from a few hours in a decanter prior to serving.  All wines were tasted blind.

1999 Cavallotto Barolo Riserva Vignolo—Rich dark ruby.  A classic Barolo, with aromas of wet earth, spices and oak that are followed by flavors of dense dark rich fruit.  Finishes very long.  Still quite youthful and exuberant, this wine will almost surely improve with age.  90 points/drink after 2009, 12/04

1998 Cavallotto Barolo Riserva Vignolo—Medium ruby color.  The nose is very floral, with notes of spices, minerals, cocoa, and anise. Relatively soft and generous with plenty of supple red fruit and crushed raspberry flavors with a long and delicate finish.  A gorgeous combination of beautiful round fruit and structure.  92 points/drink after 2008, 12/04

1997 Cavallotto Barolo Riserva Vignolo—Saturated ruby.  Delicate and perfumed nose of spices, cocoa, cherries in liqueur and menthol, with flavors of sweet, concentrated yet well-focused fruit, finishing with good acidity. A nicely balanced wine to enjoy now and a superb effort for the vintage. 91 points/drink now-, 12/04

1996 Cavallotto Barolo Riserva Vignolo—Rich dark ruby.  The nose is slightly evolved in character and shows notes of spices, anise and wet earth.  The palate is well endowed with plenty of sweet dark fruit flavors and generous thrust.  This is a wine of beautiful structure.  90 points/drink after 2006, 12/04

1999 Cavallotto Barolo Riserva Bricco Boschis Vigna San Giuseppe—Medium ruby.  Highly aromatic nose, showing spices, minerals and very ripe fruit, with flavors of dark stewed fruits, this is a wine of excellent length with plenty of sustain on the palate. Still very much in its youth.  91+ points/drink after 2011, 12/04

1998 Cavallotto Barolo Riserva  Bricco Boschis Vigna San Giuseppe—Rich dark ruby.  Huge, penetrating, and complex nose redolent of wet earth, spices, menthol and tar. The palate is massive and packed with rich dark stewed fruit and mineral flavors, finishing with superb length.  This is a Barolo of great proportion that is delicate and masculine at the same time.  With some air, this is drinking well right now, although additional bottle age will only add complexity.  92 points/drink after 2008, 12/04

1997 Cavallotto Barolo Riserva Bricco Boschis Vigna San Giuseppe—Rich ruby. Shows notes of anise, menthol, and tar on the nose which leads to a lush yet balanced palate of dense ripe dark fruit and spices. Absolutely gorgeous-combines the richness of the vintage with classic structure, and good freshness on the finish.  Very complete for the vintage and hard to resist now.  92 points/drink after 2007, 12/04

1996 Cavallotto Barolo Riserva  Bricco Boschis Vigna San Giuseppe—Rich saturated ruby.  Huge brooding nose of tar, smoke, leather, licorice and wet earth.  Dense and austere, this wine is packed with backward sensations of dark fruits on a very sustained palate, finishing with superb freshness.  A real beauty.  Note:  A second bottle seemed to be at an awkward “in between” stage as the wine is settling into maturity, so I would wait a few years before opening.  91 points/drink after 2008, 12/04

These 1989 and 1990 Barolos are a reminder of why we go to the trouble of finding and aging the area’s best wines….

1990 Cavallotto Barolo Riserva Bricco Boschis Vigna San Giuseppe—Burnished dark ruby.  This is classic Barolo at its best, showing telltale notes of roses, mint, tar and licorice on the nose.  Comes across as incredibly youthful and finishes with tremendous freshness for the vintage, I thought this was the 1989.  93 points/drink now-, 12/04

1989 Cavallotto Barolo Riserva Bricco Boschis Vigna San Giuseppe—More evolved on the nose than the 1990, yet still fresh, with notes of flowers, violets, licorice, tar and cocoa.  Richer and fatter on the palate than the 1990, with massive structure and length on the palate.  Immensely enjoyable.  93 points/drink now-, 12/04

—Antonio Galloni