What about that cheap wine in Europe?

In New York we have a lot of European visitors. Some of them complain about our prices. Not: "Oh, I can get this same wine back home for 30% less," which would sometimes be true (though often not). Rather, it’s more of a blanket statement like: "At home wines cost just 5 or 6 euros.” I happen to be in Europe for a few weeks so I decided to investigate. You may remember Turin, a very sophisticated city in Northern Italy, from the Winter Olympics a few years back. But it’s more important to us a center for the wine trade just a few miles from the Langhe, one of the world's greatest wine regions and home, not only of (expensive, age-worthy) Barolo and Barbaresco, but also of more humble ... Read More »

Brezza’s Barolo

“Brezza remains one of Piedmont’s great undiscovered gems. The estate’s Barolos, made in a rigorously traditional style, show tons of vintage and vineyard character in the classic, mid-weight style that is the signature of traditionally- made Barolos.” –Antonio Galloni If Brezza remains undiscovered, it's in part because until the middle part of the last decade the wines did not live up to their potential. But then the current owner, Enzo, took over and guess where he learned to make wine? Across the street with his cousin Bartolo Mascarello!  Located in the center of the village of Barolo, since their founding in 1885 Brezza has owned and operated their winery and vineyards ... Read More »

Barbaresco & Barolo: What’s the Difference?

They are both made 100% from Nebbiolo grown in the Langhe. But Barolo and Barbaresco are clearly not the same wine. What's the difference? The easy answer is the legal one: Barolo and Barbaresco are two different DOCs. They are located in slightly different parts of the Langhe (see the map below). There are slightly different rules that they have to follow -- for example Barolos have to be aged for 38 months, of which at least 18 months are in barrel, while Barbaresco only requires 26 months, of which 9 must be in barrel. Barolos have to hit 13% alcohol and Barbarescos only 12.5%   I guess that sort of thing is great to know for your WSET exam, but it doesn't get you into the heart and soul ... Read More »

Brovia’s Barolo — Not so Normale?

Single vineyard vs Blended wines in Barolo Most of Barolo's top wines these days are made from single vineyards. We love this micro-terroir focus, but it is actually a fairly modern trend. Traditional Barolo is a blend from a number of different vineyard sites—each contributing different elements—to make sure that the final wine has a "completeness" to it. Of today's top Barolos, only Bartolo Mascarello is still made in this way. The result is that many wine drinkers, even some Barolo lovers, think of the term “normale,” often used to refer to a winery’s non-vineyard-designate Barolo, as almost a pejorative. But in the case of many of our favorite producers, like Brovia, the ... Read More »

Produttori del Barbaresco 2013–Better than 2010 Barbaresco?

Three years ago we offered the Produttori del Barbaresco 2010 to our newsletter friends and suggested buying it by the case: an under-$35 wine that is delicious to drink on release but that just gets better and better for year or even decades. And we took our own advice–but even at that, we didn't buy enough. Don't you wish you still had cases of the 2010 lying around now? We do! But with the release of the 2013s, nature has given us another chance. Vintages this great usually come only once in every generation or so. But this time, they're only three years apart. As Jancis Robinson puts it (in her clinical British prose), "The prognosis is for a vintage similar in quality to the ... Read More »

Now entering Piedmont’s Golden Age… for drinking!

The dark age of Piedmont was the early 1990s. Fresh off the twin victories of 1989 and 1990, things just seemed to fall apart. The 91s and 92s completely sucked. The 93s were drinkable, but not great. The 1994s were worse. The 1995s were actually considered good, but only because the Piedmontese were dying to have something to celebrate. Then suddenly, everything changed. 1996 was a great Piedmont vintage. And since then every vintage has been either good or great, with the sole exceptions of 2002 and 2003. It’s not just Mother Nature that’s been kind. Producers have been steadily upping their game as well. Farming improved dramatically. Green harvests were introduced. Sorters were ... Read More »

Vintages and Barbaresco

I’ve recently been drinking a fair bit of Barbaresco and thinking about vintages. I’ve noticed how much this region of Piedmont can teach us about vintages and what they mean. Here are five lessons: It used to be about heat. Now it’s about cold. In the not so old days, the bad vintages were the ones where it was too cold to ripen grapes. Now, with global warming and better farming, the problem is the opposite, and the “bad” vintages are the ones where the grapes get too ripe. In the 1990s, the warmest vintages were hailed as the greatest ones. In the 2000s, warm vintages like 2003 and 2009 were considered bad. Funnily, it took U.S. commentators a few years to figure out that ... Read More »