Aged for 14 months in 50% in new oak, 50% one year old oak barrels and then for a further year in large casks, this is a masterclass in winemaking. The colour is dense and deep with captivating aromatics of deep, sweet fruit, toasted oak and hints of rose petal. The palate is full and rich with great structure but the fruit covers it brilliantly. The tannins are finely integrated and so well balanced that it is possible to drink it now with great pleasure. This is really very fine wine with great cellaring potential.
Piedmont is a powerhouse for quality wine in Italy, with a number of producers, traditional and forward-thinking, leading the charge. Both barolo and barbaresco have been transformed in the last thirty years, so that the old definitions no longer apply. Nebbiolo remains the noble grape but viticulture, vinification - and pricing - have changed irrevocably. Modern wines are elegant, rich and fruit-focused, with a fine veneer of new oak; even traditional wines are less woody and display sleeker tannins than in the days of yore, and the caricature of pruney, blood-coloured and astringent barolo, or of soft-centred and overstretched barbaresco is now consigned to history. The region delivers a multitude of wines from other grapes too, white, red, sweet and sparkling, and a near-unbroken run of good and great vintages since the mid-nineties have added to the appeal.
2003 - Italy
The scorching heat of July and August led to serious concerns over drought stress. Relief came from a cooler, moist September, which refreshed the vines and permitted the grapes to ripen well. Overall an historically early harvest and small in size too. In both Piemonte and Tuscany the wines show very deep colours, high alcohol and untypical ripeness. In Piemonte, moderate acidities suggest the wines may mature relatively early, however some growers consider 2003 to be even more significant than the previous hot year, 1997. Tuscany reported a mixed experience. Sangiovese does not like to be hurried and some Chiantis are hollow, lacking aromatic charm. Others, notably from the Rufina zone, fared very well. In the south of the region, in Montalcino and Montepulciano, powerful wines have been made and riservas will age very well. The conditions were most challenging for the Cabernets and the Merlots of the Maremma, where flavours are super-ripe to the point of jamminess.
The most noble of Piedmont's red grapes where it is used alone in the production of both barolo and barbaresco. A late ripening variety, it is prone to poor autumnal weather; but in the right conditions it soars to heights of complexity, offering both tannic structure and delicacy. When young it exhibits an array of aromas and flavours, with violets, plum and even tar present, and has the potential to age magnificently. Always notably crisp, usually high in alcohol, it needs sensitive handling to avoid astringency. For this reason it has rarely translated successfully to other growing regions.