2015 Barolo

2015 Barolo

 

BAROLO 2015 BEST VINTAGE SINCE 2010 – MAYBE BETTER   

-Nick Stock, Senior Editor - jamessuckling.com, January 2019

Our 2019 tasting year got off to a scorcher. From a blazing hot Melbourne, Australia, I jetted off to Hong Kong for a dazzling dinner with James and Marie in the new James Suckling Wine Central wine bar – a perfect place if you haven’t yet been to try some outstanding wines by the glass. 

From there, we all boarded the first long haul flight of 2019 to Milan Malpensa, where after a quick drive we arrived in Piedmont to taste more than 350 Barolo 2015’s.  

Could there be a better way to start the tasting year? 

Piedmont really turned it on for us with spectacular winter weather and warm hospitality. But as much as we expected the 2015 vintage to be a source of many great wines, we were mindful that the growing season mid-summer had been warm and dry. Would excessive ripeness compromise freshness and balance in the wines? We need not have worried.

We pulled into our hotel and tasting room on the slopes of La Morra above Cerequio on a perfectly clear, crisp day, and from the first tasting it became clear that this vintage delivered wines that fully encapsulate all that is great about nebbiolo.

The full capability of the nebbiolo grape’s expressive nature is alive in Barolo 2015 and it is a vintage to really celebrate. In general, the wines are exuberantly fragrant and show fresh clear fruit on the nose with abundant aromatic complexity. Structurally they are rich in ripe, fine and powerful tannins. They are toned, muscular and athletic, coupled with freshness, a keen sense of focus, great length, and an astute balance.  

These wines also have the great fortune of offering instant appeal as well as more in-depth attraction, which is the hallmark of a truly great vintage. These wines will satisfy both the experienced palate and educated connoisseur. They are also very expressive and show strong typicity by communes and also single vineyards. But if there was one attribute to single out, it is the way in which these wines combine power with elegance. They are thrilling to taste. 

 

Warm and dry season 

On average the ripening season was a warm and dry one with consistently hot temperatures in July that continued into a still warm August and a more moderate September which allowed the vines to settle. October delivered some much-needed rain to refresh the nebbiolo vines and grapes were harvested at optimal phenolic ripeness without hydric stress or excessive sugars. The harvest was later than many hot and dry vintages.

Stefano Gagliardo of Gianni Gagliardo attributes the freshness of the wines to the heavy snowfall in the previous winter filling the ground with moisture that helped the vines survive the warm, dry summer months. The light rain late in the growing season also helped. 

 “2007, 2009 and 2011 were all warmer than 2015,” says Luca Currado of Vietti. “2015 was a warm vintage but the wines have good acidity, they are very classic. Perhaps it is possible to compare it with 2001.”  

Gagliardo also agrees. “It is just a proper classic vintage. The wines are ripe. They have freshness, vibrant tannins, vitality and energy.”  

La Spinetta’s Giorgio Rivetti points to a high general standard and cites “sweet, refined and mature tannin” as the outstanding quality of the vintage. 

 

Two-thirds score 93 or above 

Both James and I agree with Rivetti and we discussed this high average standard of quality throughout the tasting, around 93 points in scoring terms. Two-thirds of all the wines in this report achieved a rating of 93 points or above. This includes a tiny smattering of 2013 Riserva and a few older references but the overwhelming majority of 2015 Barolo in this report send a strong message that this is a vintage to buy with confidence. 

To further grasp the greatness of the vintage, observe two of the master producers of the region, Bruno Giacosa and Giacomo Conterno, both offering a very strong statement of quality from 2015. Giacosa’s Falletto Barbaresco Rabajà 2015 is an essay in fragrant roses, marrying harmony and energy beautifully in this tiny production bottling. The Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto Vigna Le Rocche 2015 delivers incredible verticality, richness and power with superb length and persistence. James upgraded his score to 100 points from 99. This verticality is one of the key qualities seen in the 2015 wines. 

At Giacomo Conterno, Roberto Conterno showed several wines still maturing in large casks representing his collection of parcels of 2015 Barolo. The first vintage of the recently acquired Barolo Arione 2015 has a sultry feel and delivers both depth and approachability. The Cerretta 2015 has impeccable build and balance and delivers a deceptively powerful driving finish. The Francia 2015 sits stylistically between these other two with a latent depth and spectacularly ripe, sweet tannins. The bottled but not yet released Monfortino 2013 has the level of verticality, depth and length that makes this wine so famously revered. 

To the 2015 bottled wines. There are so many highlights in terms of individual wines spread across the region. We found that the higher elevation vineyard sites like Mosconi performed exceptionally well and made standout wines for several producers.

The 2015 Mosconi wines from Pio Cesare (first bottling), Chiara Boschis and Gianni Gagliardo (Stefano Gagliardo’s first bottling of just 900 bottles from this cru) are all exceptionally fragrant, detailed and expressive wines with a captivating blend of power and focus. 

 

The best Barolo vintage since 2010 

But the highest plaudits go to Cannubi, a cru that delivered many great 2015 Barolo wines. The E Pira Chiara Boschis Cannubi 2015 is an exceptional wine for the kaleidoscopic complexity and expansive array of nebbiolo characters it delivers, and really highlights the greatness of this site and the class of this producer. The Cannubi wines of Marchesi di Barolo, Giacomo Fenocchio, Damilano and Michele Chiarlo also all rated exceptionally well. 

Some of the best vineyards around Castiglione Falletto were not far behind. The Vietti  Rocche di Castiglione 2015 is one of the stars of the vintage, showing hauntingly complex, powerful and detailed style. Arnaldo Rivera’s Barolo Rocche di Castiglione 2015 is chiseled into a long, smooth and succulent shape with ultra-fine, beautifully crafted tannins. Boroli’s Villero 2015 is a regal and ultra-fragrant wine with elegance and freshness, yet so balanced it will age exceptionally well. The ‘monopole’ Ceretto Bricco Rocche 2015, which is nestled between the Rocche and Villero vineyards, shows an ethereal side with impressive depth and detail. 

Poderi Aldo Conterno was another highlight of the vintage. They delivered a trio of excellent 2015 wines. The Colonnello shows a heady mix of exuberance and class, while the Romirasco manages to deliver dense tannins with an appealing silky charm.

Giorgio Rivetti’s La Spinetta Barolo Vürsù Campè 2015 is a distinguished and distinctively blue-fruited style and one of the best he has made to date. Sandrone’s Barolo Le Vigne 2015 and Conterno-Fantino’s Barolo Ginestra Vigna Sorì Ginestra 2015 were two more highlights among a long list of riches in this exceptional vintage. 

You’ll find the tasting notes for 2015 Barolo awash with superlatives.

It’s a great year, clearly the best since 2010, perhaps better. Buy some and see for yourself.