Piedmontese Vintage Report 1998-2016
Tuesday, April 16, 2019 in News
Ned Goodwin MW shares his insights and overviews of Piedmont vintages from 1998 onwards. Ned’s vintage report is Langton’s buying guide to Piedmontese vintages of Barolo, Barbaresco, Langhe Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and more.
An overlooked vintage that has the skeletal structure and depth of fruit of, say, 2001, 2004, 2006 and at better addresses, 2008: all classics. A slow burner should one avoid the modernist (aka Parkerised) barrique-accented wines.
Drink or hold.
A riper year, without being excessively so. A very good vintage yielding wines of richer and darker fruit allusions, albeit, plenty of freshness and fibre of tannin.
Drink or hold.
A hot, dry year (not as hot as 2003, though!) rendering forward, round and very plush wines that have hit their straps. What they lack in complexity they make up for with their immediacy of pleasure.
An outstanding year having produced wines of structural mettle, an uncanny freshness and poised degrees of fruit ripeness.
Classic. Drink or hold.
Like most of Europe’s viticultural regions, this was a washout. Hail throughout much of Barolo and bucketing rain during harvest across the region at large meant that most producers failed to produce their top wines. Giacomo Conterno was the exception. Unaffected by hail, the grapes hung on the vines to dry through until late October when they were picked to produce an imperious Riserva Monfortino, arguably the greatest of all the region’s wines.
One of the hottest and driest vintages ever recorded, with the many wines desiccated and now, after more than a decade in bottle, a victim of thick ‘hot skin’ tannins imparting an overall sense of dryness and lack of vitality. Cooler sites benefitted.
A stellar year and a voluminous one, yielding wines of a darker fruited composure, vibrant acidity and strapping tannins. Balance is the vintage’s postcode.
Drink or hold.
Quality was dependent on whether a producer picked before or after the rains that fell during harvest. There were good wines made, but most are pallid, of the red fruit spectrum, very lively and best drunk young.
Another classic, although one boasting wines of an elegant red fruited accent, rather than darker brooding tones. The acidity is vibrant and the tannins, structural enforcers of the long road ahead.
An acclaimed vintage by the American press, with wines from Barbaresco faring better than those of Barolo. Here, heat stress shut down many vines. The result was wines with high alcohols, green tannins and lack of freshness.
A classic vintage for those wines hailing from vineyards that survived the battering of summer storms, following a cool, wet Spring and late fruit set. Barolo, particularly those from la Morra, are exceptional.
Another scathingly hot year, with tales of uneven bunch ripeness, even on the same vine. This made it necessary to pick across multiple micro-harvests in order to craft the best wines. Otherwise, the resultant wines are either over-ripe or too often, sweet and sour reflecting a mix of ‘green’ and extremely ripe fruit.
A cool spring segued to an attenuated cool growing season devoid of weather issues. In essence, impeccable! The ensuing wines are of a crunchy red fruited vitality marked by noble, compressed tannins (that expand sinuously with air). Showy while young, the 2010s are shutting down, demanding patience.
Another very hot year, albeit, while alcohols press toward - and sometimes exceed - 15% it is a vintage that produced ripe, relatively round and dutifully fresh wines in the context, due to the saviour of cool nights. ‘Restaurant friendly’ wines to enjoy on the earlier side.
A conundrum. An inclement July and throbbing heat during August was followed by a cooler end to the month, slowing down ripening. This erratic weather was preceded by retarded bud break due to a very wet winter and cool spring. The result is a set of transparent, spritely wines, scented of vivid red fruit rather than dark. Overall, light wines reminiscent of Pinot Noir.
Drink or hold at the top level.
A superlative vintage akin to 2010, with a waterlogged winter and spring ensuring delayed flowering and plenty of water to tide over a long, dry summer. The summer was punctuated by cool nights, resulting in excellent acid retention and a harvest. The fruit, impeccably ripe; the tannins shapely and tight-knit.
A warm May set the tone for even ripening and early bud-bust. Then came Mother Nature’s wrath: rain and hail during July. For those growers who remained patient through an Indian summer, however, there were many good results: mid-weighted wines of a fresh, lighter and highly savoury disposition. Drink or hold.
A warm to very warm year with plenty of overt wines offset by those whose vineyard management and judicious touch in the winery exploited the reserves of water (following a frigid, wet winter) to harvest grapes with freshness intact. This said, acids tend to be on the lower side; tannins nicely tuned; the fruit à point.
Overall, a good to very good year. Hold.
Ideal harvest conditions for Nebbiolo saw the vintage rival 2015 for sheer ripeness albeit, with brighter acidity, more finessed tannins and an indelible floral perfume that marks the better producer’s wines.
A stellar year. Stay tuned.