MAJESTY DEFINED: BAROLO 2006
How do we know that Barolo is God’s favorite wine? Because at the end of every harvest, he rewards Barolo producers with the local Alba truffle, the most decadent and enthralling of foods known to man. The Alba truffle (Tuber Magnatum Pico) is an underground fungus that grows in and around Piemonte in northwest Italy, and, in many respects, is the gustatory equivalent of Barolo but in a solid form: rich tasting but meant to be a complement to a dish; seductively aromatic; and of course, expensive. Taking the cliché “what grows together goes together” to the highest of gastronomic heights, the marriage of Barolo and Alba truffle is arguably the holy grail of food and wine pairing. Together, the musky, earthy, and gamy bouquet of the truffle is overlayed with the penetrating rose petal, piquant cherry, and tar-like earth notes of the wine, with no one aroma or flavor overtaking the others (assuming a subtle hand in the kitchen and in the winery). This past November, I spent ten days in Italy, mostly in Piemonte, where I had the opportunity to taste freshly harvested truffles in a variety of dishes: cooked with eggs, generously shaved over pasta, over raw beef, atop braised Jerusalem artichokes, as well as draped over a beef filet in brown sauce. In most cases, I was fortunate enough to have a glass of Barolo 2006 in front of me, and in each instance, the pairing of Barolo and Alba truffle was a match made in heaven.
Having tasted a number of the 2006 Baroli in more controlled settings beyond the dinner table, the vintage, on a whole, is excellent, and the wines more than live up to the old adage “the king of wines and wine of kings.” Looking over my notes, the consistent themes are vigorous tannins, spicy red berry flavors (predominantly cherry and red raspberry), intense concentration, medium levels of acidity, and classic rose petal aromatics, in that order. In terms of mouthfeel, the 2006 Baroli tend to exhibit firm tannins, but they are not as formidably concentrated and structured as the 2004s, and are certainly less backward then the 2004s. In fact, for many producers the 2006s show more balance and are more approachable than their 2004s were at this stage. The Baroli 2006s also tend to show sweeter, riper, and more red fruited flavors than their 2005 counterparts. Overall, the 2006s should drink well young, but also age and improve through at least 2020. 2006 is essentially a classic vintage, in terms of structure and aromatic profile, but with just a bit more ripeness. Perhaps this is the new “classic”?
Top Barolo producers in 2006 include G.B. Burlotto, Aldo Conterno, Elio Grasso, and Renato Ratti. The following tasting notes feature the highlights of my Barolo 2006 tastings to date.
Abbona Marziano Barolo Pressenda 2006: Dark garnet. The Abbona Marziano Barolo Pressenda 2006 offers a complex and delicious perfume of roses, black cherries, cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, and anise. On the attack (the initial sip of wine passing through the lips onto the tongue), baked cherry pie flavors are garnished with the spice of warm earth. Concentrated and full-bodied, with ample acidity and a long finish that bodes well for long-term aging. 13.5% alc. Drink 2013-2030. (92 points)
G.B. Burlotto Barolo 2006: Deep garnet in color, the Burlotto Barolo 2006 exhibits juicy aromas of freshly pitted cherries and cranberries. The wine is quite dry, medium-bodied, and shows ample tannins. It is on the midpalate where the wine really begins to sing, showcasing concentrated flavors that call to mind mushrooms, spices, and red fruits. The finish is long and intense. 14% alc. Drink 2012-2022. (90+ points)
G.B. Burlotto Barolo Acclivi 2006: Dark ruby with an exceptional sheen, the Burlotto Acclivi 2006 displays scents of rose petals, violets, face powder, oak, and red berries. Painfully backward at this point, due to incredible levels of natural concentration and ripe tannin, the Acclivi is only hinting at what lurks below the surface. The concentrated, never-ending finish of the wine begs for decades of cellaring. Fine acidity from beginning to end. Not for the faint of heart or for those without patience, as this is a wine for the ages. 14% alc. Drink 2018-2040. (95+ points)
G.B. Burlotto Barolo Monvigliero 2006: Dark ruby. The effusively aromatic Burlotto Monvigliero 2006 shows seductive notes of cherries, leather, game, and crushed rocks. Silky soft in the mouth, the texture is nearly oily. A cornucopia of intensely rich flavors practically overwhelm the palate in a blitz of cherry, wild berry, game, mushroom, and rose petal. Despite packing such ripe flavor, the wine is fresh and vibrant. Simply legendary. It is particularly amazing is that this wine can be drunk with pleasure now and decades to come. 14% alc. Drink now-2030. (97+ points)
G.B. Burlotto Barolo Cannubi 2006: Red ruby. Attractive notes of leather, black olives, blackberries and black raspberries. On the palate, the Burlotto Cannubi 2006 shows tea-like tannins, with lots of grip on the tongue, black fruits, and a hint of ash on the long finish. Only 4,000 bottles produced. 14% alc. Drink 2012-2025. (95+ points)
Cascina Luisin Barolo Leon Serralunga 2006: Red-garnet. Aromas of rose petals, cherries, and earth. On the palate, spicy dark cherry flavors are intermingled with notes of iron. Very saturated and round. Profound. Drink now-2020. (92+ points)
Aldo Conterno Barolo 2006: Light ruby. Sweet aromas of cherry juice, violets, dark chocolate, and fruit drink powder are complemented by a high-toned and attractive counterpoint of tar. Compact and concentrated on the attack, with firm, round tannins. Elegant red berry and tea notes are subtle and dry on the midpalate. Medium-bodied and quite light on its feet, with a lingering, dry finish. Pairs well with mushroom risotto. 14.5% alc. Drink now-2014. (90 points)
Aldo Conterno Barolo Colonnello 2006: Pale garnet with a hint of violet. Attractive notes of stones, warm earth, and dried cherries on the nose. In the mouth, this is an exceedingly pure, unadulterated Barolo, with dark berry flavors and outstanding structure. Nearly full-bodied. 14.5% alc. Drink 2013-2050. (94+ points)
Aldo Conterno Barolo Cicala 2006: Light ruby. More floral than the Colonnello, the Cicala exhibits aromas of fresh roses and Bing cherries. In the mouth, this shows impeccable balance, excellent presence on the midpalate, and flavors of red berries. Soft and round on the finish. Already showing praiseworthy integration and depth, the medium-bodied Cicala 2006 will age and improve for decades. 14.5% alc. Drink 2016-2050. (97 points)
Aldo Conterno Barolo Romirasco 2006: Garnet color. Ripe red cherry aromas soar from the glass, and with just one whiff, you are under the spell of Romirasco! Upon the first sip, the luscious fruit flavors, gorgeous black spices, and sexy texture are so compelling that you immediately know you are tasting greatness in the glass. On the midpalate, the wine unfolds to reveal even greater layers of flavor and tension. This tension sustains itself for nearly one minute after swallowing the wine, after which the finish becomes elegant, almost graceful. Nearly full-bodied. A legendary wine. Romirasco is not a vineyard, but the proprietary name attached to a blend of Aldo Conterno vineyards, and in 2006, approximately 70% of the fruit came from the historic Gran Bussia site, with the remainder split evenly between the vineyards of Cicala and Colonnello. Although delicious now, this wine will need another ten years before it begins to blossom. 14.5% alc. Drink 2013-2060. (98+ points)
Cordero di Montezemolo Barolo Enrico 2006: From a two-hectare parcel on the Villero hillside (1,000 feet above sea level) in Castiglione Falleto. Medium ruby. Shows an attractive, nearly oily texture, with waxy cherry fruits. With aeration, notes of leather and eucalyptus emerge. Drink 2012-2020. (90+ points)
Cordero di Montezemolo Barolo Bricco Gattera 2006: Ruby. Gorgeous floral scents offer an alluring bouquet for the medium-bodied, well-balanced Bricco Gattera. The cherry and red raspberry flavors linger favorably on the extended finish. Needs time. Drink 2013-2025. (91+ points)
Cordero di Montezemolo Barolo Monfalletto 2006: Composed from a careful selection of top Monfalletto vineyards with vines aged between 20 and 40 years, sited between 800 to 1,000 feet above sea level. Pale ruby. Penetrating floral aromas are intermingled with scents suggestive of black cherries. Nearly full-bodied, the concentrated black cherry flavors are complemented by notes of anise, sandalwood, persimmon, and rhubarb. Impressive and delicious. Drink now-2020. (91+ points).
Luigi Einaudi Costa Grimaldi Barolo 2006: Dark ruby. Ripe black cherry and black raspberry fruits are showcased in this attractive, full-bodied wine that should be accessible fairly early. Drink 2012-2020. (92 points)
Luigi Einaudi Barolo Cannubi 2006: Dark ruby. Practically unyielding at this point, the Luigi Einaudi Cannubi 2006 is shut down and backward. That said, there is a solid dark fruit component beneath the layers of tannins and earth that merits a second look at this wine in a couple of years. Hold off for now, and drink 2016-2030. (91+ points)
Elio Grasso Gavarini Chiniera Barolo 2006: Medium ruby. Showcases a mesmerizing perfume of distilled roses. On the palate, the flavors call to mind cherries, raspberries, and leather. Rich, with a front-loaded, fruit-driven personality, and yet not over-extracted or one-dimensional in the least! An outstanding wine that is already quite accessible. 14% alc. Drink now-2025. (93 points)
Elio Grasso Ginestra Casa Matè Barolo 2006: Deep ruby. Spicy black cherry aromas and flavors abound, with exceptional grip on the tongue. Full-bodied and formidably structured, this is almost painfully tannic at this youthful juncture. The finish lasts for nearly a minute. If you are tempted to drink this young, pair it with wild boar (cinghiale), osso buco, or other high-protein dishes. A masterpiece from Elio Grasso and winemaker Piero Ballario. 14% alc. Drink 2013-2030. (96 points)
Massolino Barolo Serralunga d’Alba 2006: Translucent violet. Musky nose of potpourri, dried cranberries, and stewed cherries, with a trace of leather. Very dry in the mouth, with slightly abrasive tannins. Medium-bodied. More tannic than fruity. Good acidity. 14% alc. Drink now-2013. (86 points)
Mauro Molino Barolo 2006: Medium garnet-violet. On the nose, rose, cinnamon, iron, and minerals. An extremely well-priced example of the legendary 2006 vintage. Drink now-2018. (91+ points)
Parusso Barolo 2006: Garnet with a violet hue. Notes of dried red berries, potpourri, black pepper, and Asian black spices, with hints of raspberry and balsam wood. Medium-bodied, with high-toned cherry fruit and a trace of orange peel on the palate. Good balance between acidity and tannins. Robust, with a long finish. Needs time. Drink 2012-2016. (87 points)
Prunotto Barolo Bussia 2006: Deeply pitched red berry aromas are followed by a tannin-laden attack and serious depth of fruit on the palate. There is a lot lurking below the surface of this wine, it just needs time in the cellar to show it. 14% alc. Drink 2014-2030. (94 points)
Renato Ratti Barolo Marcenasco 2006: Ruby. Penetrating aromas reminiscent of flowers, raisins, and black fruits. Tannic on the attack, with rich soil tones compressed over brambly, wild berry flavors. Mildly tart, with a long, earthy finish. Drink 2013-2030. (92+ points)
Renato Ratti Barolo Conca 2006: Pale red ruby. Reticent on the nose, with subdued black cherry notes and a touch of dark earth. Super spicy on the palate, with black (92+ points)
Renato Ratti Barolo Rocche 2006: Blood garnet. Effusive notes of black cherries, Rugasa roses, rose water, and black spices. Fantastic grip on the palate, with spicy flavors and a touch of sandalwood. Full-bodied, but still with lots of verve. A legendary wine with the structure to age for decades. No heat on the palate despite the 14.5% alc. Drink 2014-2040. (95+ points)
Ricossa Barolo 2006: Light garnet, turning dark brick at the rim. The attractive gamy and rose petal aromas are succulent and savory. On the attack, there are flavors of wild red berries, cherries, rose petals, beef jus, and an inkling of truffle. Admirable tannic grip on the midpalate, which continues through the long, acid-driven finish. There is a bit of warmth on the backend, but it does not detract from the wine. Kudos to winemaker Gaitan Carron. 13.5% alc. Drink now-2016. (91+ points)
Rocche Dei Manzoni Barolo Vigna Cappella di S. Stefano 2006: Pale ruby. Concentrated cherry aromas lead to flavors of plums, earth, and oak in the mouth. Fiercely tannic at this point, with some nice spice notes on the finish. This will need time to integrate. 14.5% alc. Drink 2013-2020. (89+ points)