About this WINE
Few views in Barolo can compete with the one from the terrace in front of the Marcarini winery in La Morra, encompassing most of the region’s communes and vineyards. Look to the east and the south, and you’ll see Barolo’s modest size cradled in the crescent of the Italian Alps. Its complex topography of rounded hills can be absorbed with one sweep of the eye.
It is fitting that Marcarini occupies this prime location; in many ways, the domaine represents both the region’s traditions and its future. Under the watchful eye of owner Manuel Marchetti, these wines are paradigms of traditional Barolo, with long fermentations and macerations, and ageing in ancient large botti. But, with his children Elisa and Andrea now playing an increasing role, the Barolo Classico is now offered as Commune di La Morra, with more wine from La Serra included. The famed Brunate also receives an extra year in bottle before release.
When asked to give his opinion on the 2018 vintage, Manuel was succinct: “Don’t believe the journalists!”. He believes this is a lovely vintage, with the detail of ’16 and the warmth of ’17. With all his vineyards in La Morra, there was no frost damage (barring a few vines at the bottom of the hill), nor mildew pressure, despite the wet spring. The berries were generous, and the wines are supple – accessible but still suave and complete. The most evident markers of the vintage are the open and supportive tannins. There is no toughness; these are among the silkiest tannins that Manuel has ever witnessed.
Located due south of Alba and the River Tanaro, Barolo is Piedmont's most famous wine DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), renowned for producing Italy's finest red wines from 100 percent Nebbiolo.
Its red wines were originally sweet, but in 1840 the then extant Italian monarchy, the House of Savoy, ordered them to be altered to a dry style. This project was realised by French oenologist Louis Oudart, whose experience with Pinot Noir had convinced him of Nebbiolo's potential. The Barolo appellation was formalised in 1966 at around 1,700 hectares – only a tenth of the size of Burgundy, but almost three times as big as neighbouring Barbaresco.
Upgraded to DOCG status in 1980, Barolo comprises two distinct soil types: the first is a Tortonian sandy marl that produces a more feminine style of wine and can be found in the villages of Barolo, La Morra, Cherasco, Verduno, Novello, Roddi and parts of Castiglione Falletto. The second is the older Helvetian sandstone clay that bestows the wines with a more muscular style. This can be found in Monforte d'Alba, Serralunga d'Alba, Diano d'Alba, Grinzane Cavour and the other parts of Castiglione Falletto. Made today from the Nebbiolo clones Lampia, Michet and Rosé, Barolo has an exceptional terroir with almost every village perched on its own hill. The climate is continental, with an extended summer and autumn enabling the fickle Nebbiolo to achieve perfect ripeness.
Inspired by the success of modernists such as Elio Altare, there has been pressure in recent years to reduce the ageing requirements for Barolo; this has mostly been driven by new producers to the region, often with no Piedmontese viticultural heritage and armed with their roto-fermenters and barriques, intent on making a fruitier, more modern style of wine.
This modern style arguably appeals more to the important American market and its scribes, but the traditionalists continue to argue in favour of making Barolo in the classic way. They make the wine in a mix of epoxy-lined cement or stainless-steel cuves, followed by extended ageing in 25-hectoliter Slavonian botte (barrels) to gently soften and integrate the tannins. However, even amongst the traditionalists there has been a move, since the mid-1990s, towards using physiologically (rather than polyphenolically) riper fruit, aided by global warming. Both modernist and traditional schools can produce exceptional or disappointing wines.
Barbera is planted extensively in Piedmont and south-west Lombardy and accounts for over 50% of the wine produced in the region. The majority is sold simply as Barbera del Piemonte, but the best wines are the DOCs, Barbera d'Alba and Barbera d'Asti. It ripens late (after Dolcetto but before Nebbiolo).
The wines are usually ruby red in colour with notably low levels of tannins. They have a pronounced acidity that can be accentuated by overproduction. Barbera wines range from light, tart mouthwashers through to powerful, intensely flavoured wines that require extended cellaring.