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Traditional Barolo at Borgogno in Piemonte

IMG_0500After starting our northern Italian wine adventure in a Barbaresco, we went searching for the other famous Nebbiolo DOCG the next morning, that being of course Barolo.  Where Barbaresco is smaller, and the tiny villages are just that, there is actually a town of Barolo.  It’s quaint, with a traditional European feel and maybe a place we would like to stay when we visit in the future.  The town is surrounded by vineyards and wineries.  Our first stop is quite unusual here in that the winery is right in the middle of the town.

Borgogno has been making wine since the 1761, with two different families stewarding their craft here.  They use very traditional methods, crafting Barolo, Barolo Riserva and other traditional Piemonte

An in town cantina

An in town cantina

varietals.  Quality runs high, and they age their Barolo four years when the requirement is three.  Their Riservas see six years before release.  They are larger than Albino Rocca in Barbaresco (see that review here), producing about 200,000 bottles per year. Grapes are brought from the vineyard to the winery in town, and here the wine is made, aged and stored.  A very interesting part of the winery are the walls of bottles of Barolo that just sit in the cellar.  Some  are waiting for their

A wall of patiently waiting Barolo

A wall of patiently waiting Barolo

four or six years to come up.  Some are part of the Riserva reserves, as they pull a portion of each Riserva bottling and then hold it at least twenty additional years, at which point it is once again offered for sale.  You can buy the 1961 Riserva right now, for €610 a bottle.  You’d think this would be fraught with danger, and that much of the wine might not make it to the twenty year mark.  Yet they only lose about 1-2% along the way.  This stuff is built to last.

The cellars look, smell and feel old, which is mostly because they are.  In the floor was an opening leading to an old fermentation tank, no longer used.  Here the casks are bigger than at Albino Rocca, and there were 4,500 liter casks lining some of the walls.  Various casks

An exactly measured cask volume

An exactly measured cask volume

held slightly different volumes, and this was quite interesting, as the older barrels were measured to the liter.  These were measured so exactly due to the taxes, which were tied to volume.  Thus the subtle differences in cask volume translated into slightly different taxes on each one.  When it comes to tax you have to get it right.

Their largest barrel is 120 years old and holds 19, 220 liters. It is also made of chestnut and they still use it.  An almost 20,000 liter barrel is something to see.

The Nebbiolo grapes see up to a three month maceration.  Their first fermentation runs 12 -15 days and is kept at 28 degrees C.  Malolactic follows at

In front of a large barrel

In front of a large barrel

a maximum of 22 degrees C.  Both fermentations are executed in the concrete tanks.  The wines are stabilized at around 12 degrees C.  They are not filtered.

Our guide through the cellars of Borgogno was Andree, who really knew his stuff and was very informative.  After touring the cellars he also sent us up the glass elevator to the rooftop, for some spectacular views of the town and surrounding vineyards.  They were actually having a party there the next night, but unfortunately we could not stay.  Maybe next time.

Salami, cheese and wine

Salami, cheese and wine

Now it was time for the tasting, and Andree brought out some locally made salami and goat cheese.  The goat cheese comes from a hundred goat herd nearby.  Both were excellent.  The wine was pretty good too, and Andree kept pouring and opening well past what I would have expected.  Here they are:

2009 Barolo – this is a blend from five vineyards, and spends 4 years aging prior to release.  At 14.5% alcohol it has some backbone.  The color is a beautiful deep red, with just a touch of purple and bricking at the rims.  Dark fruit greets your nose, along with leather and some perfume notes beginning to emerge.  It’s medium+ bodied  and somewhat complex already despite it’s young age.  The tannins are still running high here, and it needs some time.

2007 Barolo Riserva – this spends six years aging before release.  It is darker red, with a deep ruby hue.  The color looks a lot like a good Napa Cabernet actually.  Lots of legs here, and the wine is more elegant and integrated, with a beautiful texture.  This is full bodied, silky but still a bit tannic.  It should be wonderful in about three years (it basically almost is now).  Perfume notes, cherry and floral elements bring a classic Barolo profile.  Really nice.

2005 Barolo Riserva – very similar color to the 2007, but this is clearly more integrated and ready to drink now.  There are perfumed aromas with tobacco and flowers.  Huge legs, integrated tannins and a velvety finish all add up to a pretty excellent bottle of wine.

2003 Barolo Riserva – the 2003 season saw temperatures in excess of 40C for a time, and the harvest

2003 Riserva

2003 Riserva

came early.  The resulting wine is big, tannic still and more acidic.  There is almost none of the perfume or tar and roses quality you would expect.  This is more rustic and backward.  It still needs some time and will basically last forever.  I would say try it in another ten years.  They’ll be releasing some of the 2003 around 2023, and that might be about right.

1998 Barolo Riserva – yes, Andree just kept on opening bottles, and I was really hoping he’d get all the way to 1961, but that would be silly.  To be honest at this point I was feeling guilty and actually asked him to stop opening bottles.  He thought I was silly.  This wine is special, and is classic Barolo.  Perfumed, with nuances of leather, tobacco and tar it is velvety yet powerful.  Words like smooth and silky come to mind.  It is wonderfully complex.

Some very old Barolo

Some very old Barolo

They have a range of other wines as well, including Barberas, Dolcettos and an

View from the Borgogno rooftop

View from the Borgogno rooftop

unusual Riesling called Era Ora, which means “the right time”.  From young vines planted near the coast this is refreshing, with just hints of the traditional petroleum aromas you would get in a mature Riesling.

This is a place of Barolo however, and the ones we tasted were excellent.  Our thanks to Andree for a most enjoyable visit.  Borgogno is worth your time if you are in the area, and the wines are certainly worthy of your consideration as well

A votre sante!

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