Barolo & Barbaresco New Releases and Life in the Langhe Hills

By John Szabo MS

Nebbiolo Prima: the back room full of bottles. ©John Szabo

Each January in the town of Alba, Piedmont, one of the year’s most anticipated tastings take place: Nebbiolo Prima. This is the annual press tasting organized and hosted by the Albeisa Association, which features the latest releases of nebbiolo, one of Italy’s finest red grapes, specifically from the appellations (Denominazione di Origine Controllatta e Granatita, or DOCG) of Barolo, Barabaresco and Roero. Albeisa is a union of producers who make and bottle wines in the uniquely-shaped Albeisa bottle. Created by artisans in the 1700s but reborn by group of 16 producers in the Alba area a half century ago in 1973, this bottle is as distinctive as the bottles of Burgundy or Bordeaux, and contain some of Italy’s finest wines.

Albeisa bottle in production. Courtesy of

Nebbiolo Prima marks the debut of the latest vintages to market, and in the case of the 2023 edition, this means Barolo from the 2019 vintage and Barolo Riserva from 2017, Barbaresco 2020 and Barbaresco Riserva 2018, and Roero 2020 and Roero Riserva 2019.

Thirty-six journalists from around the world gathered to taste more than 300 wines over four days. All wines were served blind with producer names concealed; only vintage, appellation, commune and cru (or MGAs in Italian parlance, the classified vineyards known as Menzione Geografica Aggiuntiva – “Additional Geographic Mentions”) were listed.

In the wine trade and beyond, nebbiolo elicits considerable excitement. It’s widely considered Italy’s finest red variety and is the sole grape responsible for the wines of Barolo and Barbaresco DOCGs, two of the nation’s most sought after, ageworthy and collectible wines. But unlike other great red varieties such as cabernet sauvignon or pinot noir, nebbiolo has rarely travelled successfully outside of its native Piedmont. It’s a curious feature of the grape that it really only gives its finest expression in this corner of northwestern Italy, in the Langhe hills and around Alba, Alto (Upper) Piedmont near the Swiss border, and next door in the Valtellina region in neighboring Lombardy. It’s a grape of mesmerizing aromatic complexity, full of fresh red fruit and roses, turning and tar, truffles and medicinal herbs as it ages. And its fierce acids and tannins and power driven by generous alcohol in the +/-14% range allow it to age gracefully, as bottles a half century and older have shown.

Yet despite its long history in the region and its inherent quality, nebbiolo has only cemented its place as the Italian “King of Wines and Wine of Kings” in barely the last generation and a half. “Dolcetto [another local red variety], was much more valuable than nebbiolo as late as the late-1970s-early 1980s”, Aldo Vaira of G.D. Vajra in the commune of Barolo tells me. “The farmers had more dolcetto than blood in their veins.”

Much earlier ripening than nebbiolo, dolcetto was far more regular and consistent in the days before climate warming, and thus favoured by farmers. It’s also softer and fruitier by nature – dolcetto literally means “little sweet one”- and is ready to drink much earlier, another reason for its popularity among locals. Clever farmers, Vajra continues, used to dump less valuable nebbiolo at the bottom of harvest containers and fill them with dolcetto on top before bringing them to wineries to be weighed and to get paid for their premium dolcetto grapes. It’s not that nebbiolo couldn’t produce dazzling wines, it did then as it does now, as some historic documents, and even bottles, clearly establish. It’s just that very few producers knew how to grow and make it consistently well. Most farms prior to the 1960s were run by sharecroppers for whom volume and reliability were prime motivators.

Travelling through the communes that make up the Barolo and Barbaresco appellations today, the prosperity of the region is manifest. Beautifully restored castles and cascine, stone country houses, dot the vine-covered landscape, many providing five-star lodgings or housing three-star restaurants. Land prices, especially for vineyards in prized crus, have soared to dizzying heights.

But just a half century ago things were very different. Work was scarce. Lucky locals took the train to Turin daily for their job at the Fiat car factory or in construction, or with even more luck, to the Ferrero chocolate factory in Alba. Running water was virtually non-existent; for most the only source was from wells. Land up on the hills was practically worthless compared to property down by the Tanaro River and its various tributaries, where water could be accessed with ease. 

The just under eight-hectare property that Vajra took over from his parents in late 1960s, for example, included 0.3ha of vineyards and half a hectare of farmland next to the river. “I could have bought 4 hectares of Fossati and Cerequio [two of Barolo’s famous crus] for the equivalent of my half hectare by the river”, Vaira reflects somewhat ruefully, knowing that land in those vineyards today would sell for upwards of a million euros per hectare.

La Morra. ©John Szabo

A combination of factors came together to reverse the vinous fortunes of the Langhe hills: much better farming techniques and a revolution in the cellars in the 1980s, a warming climate and an international boom in premium Italian wines, among others. The production of Barolo has increased by nearly one million bottles between 2015 and 2021 to almost 15 million bottles, Barbaresco by about half a million to just over 5.1m bottles, and demand remains high.

Large Italian wine groups have found it near impossible to gain any significant foothold in the region, and properties remain small, mostly family affairs, tenaciously holding on to their precious vineyard holdings. The vast majority – 262 out of Barolo’s 351 producers – make less than thirty thousand bottles annually. Only two make more than 1m. Similarly in Barbaresco, 171 out of 204 producers also make less than thirty thousand bottles, with 123 making less than 10,000.

Vineyards, the crus or MGAs in both Barolo and Barbaresco are frequently shared between many growers as they are in Burgundy. Making it an engaging exercise to compare the crus produced different estates. Barolo counts 170 officially recognized MGAs, plus the 11 Communal MGAs, one for each of the communes within the appellation, the Burgundian equivalent of a village-classified wine, and just over 2200 hectares in total as of 2021. Smaller Barbaresco has 66 single vineyard MGAs and three communal mentions on just over 800ha.

2019 Vintage Barolo: Structured Wines For Collecting & Long Term Ageing

(But Not All)

Much of the excitement surrounding Nebbiolo Prima 2023 edition centered around the 2019 vintage, one that has been hotly anticipated. During estate visits prior to the start of the event, Tiziana Settimo of Aurelio Settimo summed it up simply: “In 2019 we will release a Rocche Riserva. This says it all about the vintage. It was really exceptional”. It’s a reference to Settimo’s top cru, Rocche dell’Annuziata in the commune of La Morra, the Riserva version of which is only produced in top vintages.

2018/2019 winter precipitation restored desperately needed water in the soils, in short supply since the torrid 2017 vintage. The summer was hot but excessively so, with warm days but crucially cool nights yielding a unique combination of ripeness and freshness, and firm structure.

There were concerns early on about excessive tannins that would make for hard, unyielding wines. Martina Fiorino of Bruna Grimaldi in Grinzane Cavour recalls the perfectly taut, small, thick-skinned berries as they entered the winery after harvest. “We were a little scared at first that the wines would be too tannic because of these small berries. And they were at first. But then they transformed in the cellar.”

Compared to the 2018s, the 2019s are clearly more concentrated, more tannic, more powerful. Most need another five-six years in the cellar at least to start to show their best. “It’s incredible how lifted this vintage is”, enthuses Francesca Vaira of G.D. Vajra, Aldo’s daughter, “especially after 2018, with beautiful freshness and aromatics”. She, like many others, describes 2019 as a “traditional” vintage, though credits better vineyard management and better understanding of tannin extraction – reducing maceration time on the skins, for example, for the general lack of greenness and hardness in the wines.

There’s no doubt that the best among these wines will age comfortably in the 2040s, and few should be touched before about 2027.

A Word of Caution

On the negative side, a surprising number of wines still showed technical faults, in particular volatile acids and even some brettanomyces (barnyard, band-aid). The revolution that swept through the region’s cellars starting in the 1980s, which saw dirty cellars cleaned up and especially dirty old wooden casks replaced, has not touched every corner of the region. Excessively oaky wines were happily rare, though a few still show over-enthusiastic new wood flavour.

Nor did all communes and all crus perform equally well, with notable variation and some disappointing surprises. Unlike 2016, when it was challenging to make a bad wine, 2019 clearly required both the right site and farming techniques, and also a savvy guiding hand in the cellar. Some areas seemed to be more prone to yield wines with slightly raisined flavours, albeit not as pronounced as in the 2017 vintage when freshness was at a premium.

Out of the over 300 Barolos and Barbarescos tasted at Nebbiolo Prima, almost one-third failed to achieve a score of over 90 points, the minimum threshold for me that wines should reach in these price categories. In other words, it’s not a vintage to buy blindly. But at the top, there are some truly thrilling wines.

Top Communes & Crus

Tasting at Nebbiolo Prima. ©John Szabo

Of the larger communes in Barolo, Monforte d’Alba and Serralunga were the most uniformly impressive as a whole. Both usually produce some of the sturdiest and backwards Barolos in youth, though here I found remarkable balance and poise. La Morra produced some exceptional wines, if more variable, as did Castiglione Falletto. The Barolo commune itself, often one of my favorites for its finessed and elegant wines, was largely, and surprisingly, underwhelming, the least successful village I’d say in general in 2019, including the Cannubi cru, which didn’t quite reach the heights it is normally capable of.

Top (consistent) Barolo MGAs: Monvigliero, Arborina, Brunate, La Serra, Rocche dell’Annunziata Cerretta, Prapò. Bussia, one of the larger MGAs and thus usually quite variable, was as a group, perhaps the strongest cru with multiple impressive wines to recommend.

As for the 20-odd 2017 Barolo Riservas offered for tasting, alcohol was a problem across the board, very high and resulting in hot wines. Some were also clearly raisined with hard tannins that will likely never soften. For the most part, these will be wines to drink over the mid-term, with few that I’d recommend cellaring long term.

Barbaresco and 2020 Vintage

2020 is clearly another strong vintage for nebbiolo, yielding both aromatically finessed and well-structured wines in Barbaresco that should age extremely well. Some have even compared it to the magnificent 2016 vintage. Quality in any case is consistently high, with few missed wines. High ripeness was balanced by succulent acids and finessed tannins. The top wines should prove very ageworthy. I look forward to tasting the Barolos next year for the complete picture.

Top (most consistent) Barbaresco crus: Rabajà, Basarin, Serraboella, Pajoré, Roncaglie.

Special Nebbiolo Prima Buyer’s Guide 2023

Note: all wines reviewed below were tasted blind at Nebbiolo Prima in January 2023 in Alba. Only wines rated 94 or higher have been included, with a few select 93-point wines. All reviews will be posted on by the end of February. Reviews from cask sample (wines that have not yet been bottled) are indicated, and the rating could change for the finished product.

Wines are listed under their commune of production.

Barbaresco 2020:

Wines from the Communes of Alba & Barbaresco          

95 Cortese Giuseppe 2020 Barbaresco Rabajà DOCG 2020, Barbaresco

Quality nose; complexity is evident straight off. This moves beyond the fruit spectrum into sweet and resinous herbal-spice, earth and stone, primeval. The palate delivers a raft of flavour and high volume, not to mention structure and, with abundant, well-crafted tannins and comfortably ripe tannins providing the architecture. There’s an extra gear here, another level of class. Best from 2027-2040 – this has stuffing. Tasted January 2023.

94 Chiarlo Michele 2020 Barbaresco Faset DOCG 2020, Barbaresco

Pungent, aromatic off the top with both ripe fruit and high quality oak noted, a clean and polished, modern style. The palate shows very solid structure and plenty of concentration – an ambitious wine from a good cru to be sure, with excellent length. Give this 3-4 years for integration, or hold into the late ’30s – there’s depth and genuine stuffing here. Tasted January 2023.

94 Cascina Luisin 2020 Barbaresco Rabaja-bas DOCG 2020, Barbaresco

Another classy nose, complex and complete with a range of fruits and florals and resinous herbs, ripe but sensibly so. I love the silky-firm palate, the fine-grained, refined tannins, the succulent acids. Lots of finesse and sophistication, and great cru to be sure, classic Barbaresco. Tasted January 2023.

94 Poderi Colla 2020 Barbaresco Roncaglie DOCG, Barbaresco

Stones and wood lead with other non-fruit character in this cru Roncaglie, tightly wound and very youthful. The palate offers a broad wash of flavour and evident density and concentration, a big step-up from the mean, auguring well for future development. Tannins are well-managed, ripe and refined, though abundant, while length and depth and overall complexity are excellent. Shows a more complex, herbal and wild profile than the mean. Best 2025-2035. Tasted January 2023.

93 Giordano Luigi Giuseppe Barbaresco Asili DOCG 2020, Barbaresco

Pale-medium garnet. Nicely perfumed, elegant aromatics, pretty red fruits and florals. The palate is ultra-silky and supple, a very finessed style, with fine volume and concentration on a well-balanced frame. Length and depth are excellent. A fine Barbaresco to be sure, toute en finesse, and enjoyable even now in youth, though best after 2025 or hold into the mid-’30s . Tasted January 2023.

93 Musso di Musso Emanuele Barbaresco Pora DOCG 2020, Barbaresco Voluminous nose with appealing sweet herb and candied red fruit, strawberry, red cherry, ripe and verging on raisined. The palate is full, richly flavoured, with more of that lightly desiccated fruit leading, while tannins are long-chained, ripe and thick-velvet like. Good to very good length. Good substance here. Best from 2025. Tasted January 2023.

93 Cortese Giuseppe Barbaresco DOCG 2020, Barbaresco Medium sustained red. Lifted, floral, very pretty aromatics, with a wide range of red fruit and sweet flowers, roses and carnations, inviting and attractive. The palate is silky-firm, sapid, succulent and saliva-inducing in a style I appreciate. The finish lingers admirably. A classic, elegant Barbaresco for enjoying from 2024-2034. Tasted January 2023.


95 Cascina Luisin Barbaresco Basarin Vecchie Viti DOCG 2020, Neive

Pretty, perfumed, complete nose. Light, high-quality oak notes. Beautiful palate, so silky, fresh, succulent, beautifully balanced, sleek and effortless, with excellent length. Here’s a wine with an extra gear, and extra measure of class and complexity. Although attractive now, this should really sing from 2025-2035. Tasted January 2023.

94 Adriano Marco e Vittorio Barbaresco Basarin DOCG 2020, Neive

(Cask Sample) Sweet, polished, oak-inflected, pretty nose with plenty of red fruit following up alongside an impressive range of non-fruit. The palate is properly succulent and juicy, open knit even if well structured, with the class of a top cru. Crafted in a classic Barbaresco idiom, where finesse meets underlying power. Length is excellent. Tasted January 2023.

94 Albino Rocca Barbaresco Cotta’ DOCG 2020, Neive

Nicely lifted and finessed, with an appealing minty-herbal note joining perfectly ripe and fresh delicate red fruit. The palate is composed and medium-full bodied, with plenty of extract and refined, silky tannins. A superior cru to be sure, one of balance and refinement allied to power, subtle and underlying. Tasted January 2023.

94 Poderi e Cantine Oddero Barbaresco Gallina DOCG 2020, Neive

Exotic and appealing with curry spice, and shaved dark chocolate, red and even some black cherry fruit. The palate shows depth and concentration above the mean, richness and intensity. Length is likewise excellent. A top cru, best 2026-2040 – this has stuffing and legs. Tasted January 2023.

93 Fontanabianca Barbaresco Serraboella DOCG 2020, Neive Fine volume on the nose, composed and classy, still youthful of course and a long way from prime enjoyment. A mix of fresh red fruit and mixed herbs, savoury and sweet, join on the palate, succulent, balanced and juicy. Tannins are fine and refined. This is classy wine from a great vineyard site, competently and respectfully produced. Best 2025-2035. Tasted January 2023.


94 Bosio Family Estates Belcolle Barbaresco Pajorè DOCG 2020, Treiso

Lovely, elegant nose; fresh red fruit, spice, integrated wood; poise and sophistication, so inviting. The palate is equally impressive, balanced and fresh, lively and succulent, sapid and intensely flavoured. I love wines of this type of balance, well made. Tasted January 2023.

94 Nada Giuseppe Barbaresco Casot DOCG 2020, Treiso

Nice perfume here, voluminous and complete, red fruit, spice and herbs, no obvious oak influence, and complexity is high. The palate is lovely and juicy, succulent, balanced, with fine tannins, refined and elegant, with open-knit texture, taut and lively. Very good to excellent length and depth. Accomplished. Tasted January 2023.

94 Nada Giuseppe Barbaresco Marcarini DOCG 2020, Treiso

Dark cherry fruit and spice lead, attractive and inviting, stony, reserved and minerally. Full and fleshy, intensely structured on the palate, with obvious depth and concentration. There’s so much going on here, impressive complexity and structure. Best from 2026-2040 – stuffing to age. Tasted January 2023.

94 Molino Barbaresco Teorema DOCG 2020, Treiso

(Cask Sample) Intense, black cherry purée – impressively voluminous and concentrated on the nose, equally so on the palate, with a wash of fruit, integrated oak, abundant, furry-velvety tannins and long finish. I like the substance and concentration. Best after 2025 – this should age comfortably into the late ’30s as well. Tasted January 2023.

94 Piazzo comm. Armando di Piazzo Marina 2020 Barbaresco Pajorè DOCG, Treiso

Piedmont A curious mix of red fruit, lifted wood spice, very ripe, verging on raisined, yet the class and finesse of the cru comes through. There’s loads of sapidity and depth on offer – this is serious wine that should continue to improve over the next 4-6 years, or hold into the late-’30s. Impressive. Tasted January 2023.

93 Cascina Alberta Barbaresco Giacone DOCG 2020, Treiso

A deeper, and more stony, reductive expression, tight and unyielding for now, though the palate delivers impressive depth and concentration, also complexity, with loads of spice and dark cherry fruit flavours. Lots of substance augurs well for future development. Not familiar with this cru but seems worth a look. Tasted January 2023.

93 Ca’ Del Baio di Grasso Giulio Barbaresco Vallegrande DOCG 2020, Treiso

Fine nose, spiced cherry; juicy, succulent palate, lots of fleshy black cherry fruit, ripe, furry tannins, very good to excellent length. Lots of substance here. Solid, well-made. Tasted January 2023.

  2018 Barbaresco Riserva    

95 Giacosa Fratelli Barbaresco Riserva Basarin Vigna Gianmate’ DOCG 2018, Neive

Stony-reductive, minerally cru, still tightly wound, fleshy and ample, loads of depth and complexity, and sapidity. A superior site. Rest 3-5 years in the cellar for the wood to integrate and tannins subside. Quality. Tasted January 2023.

94 Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Gresy Barbaresco Camp Gros Martinenga Riserva DOCG 2018, Barbaresco

Some fantasy here: fresh, ripe red fruit, minimal oak but good development, silky-firm palate with abundant tannins to be sure, but this is a classy vineyard no doubt, with ample sapidity and excellent length. Classy, sophisticated, still 4-6 years away from prime. Tasted January 2023.

94 Socré Barbaresco Roncaglie Riserva DOCG 2018, Barbaresco

The wooly, reductive style, orange peel, wet wool, spiced red and black cherry fruit. Fullish, fleshy, succulent, mouthfilling, long finish. Plenty of genuine depth and substance, stuffing to age. Best 2026-2040. Tasted January 2023.

94 Briccogrilli Battaglio Barbaresco Serragrilli Riserva DOCG 2018, Neive

(Cask Sample) Nice depth and amplitude here , earthy and fruity, spicy-savoury and leathery – there’s much going on. The palate shows sleek balance, plenty of depth and concentration and tannic structure without exaggeration. Silky, taut and fine-grained tannins, superior length. Classy, sophisticated, complex. Best 2026- 2038. Tasted January 2023.

  Barolo 2019                         

Various Communes

94 Pio Cesare Barolo “Pio” DOCG 2019

A more classic, old school style Barolo with large old cask influence, and a wide range of red fruit and balsamic, resinous herbs. The palate is very comfortably balanced, fleshy and juicy with high volume, mouthfilling, with very good length and depth. A classic for the vintage, representing the ripeness plus power plus balance. Tasted January 2023.


95 Alessandria Fratelli Barolo Monvigliero DOCG 2019, Verduno

Lovely, pretty perfume off the top here in this elegant example of Monvigliero, also voluminous and well-balanced on the palate. There’s a finesse and sophistication that puts this wine well above the mean, also refined, firm but pliable texture and perfectly ripe tannins. Terrific wine, best 2026-2040. Tasted January 2023.

94 Bosio Family Estates Barolo Monvigliero DOCG 2019, Verduno

Classy, perfumed nose here, elegant and sophisticated, with an enticing mix of fruit and herbal-spice; wood is not a significant influence. The palate is sleek and refined, with depth and complexity well above the mean – genuine substance – while tannins are abundant but refined and length is excellent. Classy wine, best from 2027-2040. Tasted January 2023.

94 Castello di Verduno Barolo Monvigliero DOCG 2019, Verduno

Elegant aromatics lead off the top, perfumed in the classic register, with refined tannins and excellent length – I love the finesse on offer, and the sapidity – underlying saline profile. Classy. Tasted January 2023.

  La Morra          

96 Burzi Alberto Barolo La Serra DOCG 2019 La Morra, Piedmont

Classy, complete aromatics. Finessed and fruity, herbal-spicy, showing high quality oak influence integrated into the ensemble. The palate is sleek and refined, toute en finesse, a style I love. Tannins are fully ripe and powdery, gently grippy in a sophisticated way, and length and depth are excellent. Grand cru. Tasted January 2023.

95 Marengo Mario di Marengo Marco Barolo Brunate DOCG 2019, La Morra

Classy, superior wine off the top; the nose delivers an ambitious blend of fruit, mostly red and very ripe but still fresh, high quality oak influence, just a touch of sweet spice, and fragrant herbs and flowers in a complex ensemble. The palate is fleshy and full, mouthfilling, with abundant, thick velvety tannins and excellent depth and length. Top notch, structured and ageworthy Brunate, best 2027-2040+. Tasted January 2023.

95 Vietti Barolo Brunate DOCG 2019, La Morra, Piedmont

Superripe, into the blue fruit spectrum, I’d put this on the more modern side of Barolo wine, but engaging and ambitious to be sure. Blueberry/Ribeena flavours lead, wood is integrated and not a significant impact, and tannins are sleek, abundant but ripe and velvety. Depth and concentration are genuine.  Tasted January 2023.

95 Rocche Costamagna Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata DOCG 2019, La Morra, Piedmont

Fine perfume here, mint and red fruit, classic nebbiolo, lifted, floral. Deliciously elegant and refined palate, succulent, fined grained, finessed. Lots of pleasure up front in a classic La Morra style, though perhaps more accessible than typical Rocche. Very good length. Best 2027-2040+.  Tasted January 2023.

95 Molino Mauro Barolo Conca DOCG 2019, La Morra

Lots of high quality wood noted off the top, with a touch of melted butter and coconut, but clean and not pleasant. The palate shows considerable depth and intensity, also structure – it’s a wine that needs significant cellar time to come into balance. All the pieces are in place to become a modern classic with wide appeal. Tasted January 2023.

95 Aurelio Settimo Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata DOCG 2019, La Morra

Lifted, red fruit driven, fully ripe but not raisined. Lots of depth and succulence on the palate – this is a fine vineyard with concentration and depth to be sure. Needs significant cellar time for those tannins to integrate – huge structure, but within the Rocche style. Best 2027-2040+. Tasted January 2023.

94 Curto Marco Barolo Arborina “La Foia” DOCG 2019, La Morra

Ripe, modern, intensely perfumed and deeply concentrated, this wine is clearly above the mean in terms of complexity and class, lightly desiccated. The palate is rich and fulsome, tannins abundant but silky and refined, and length and depth excellent. Fine wine, best from 2027-2040+. Tasted January 2023.

94 Bovio Gianfranco di Bovio Alessandra Barolo Arborina DOCG 2019, La Morra, Piedmont

Open and enticingly perfumed; sleek and elegant on the palate, fine grained tannins and succulent acids combine for structure in the refined La Morra/Arborina fashion. Very good length and depth. Terrific wine, best 2027-2040. Tasted January 2023.

94 Enzo Boglietti Barolo Brunate DOCG 2019, La Morra

Open, complex, on the more oxidative, old school side of the spectrum, classically proportioned with impressive depth and length, clear and genuine concentration, and excellent flavour development. I like the ease and balance on offer in a serious and sophisticated wine. Best from 2027-2040+. Tasted January 2023.

94 Alessandria Marilena Barolo Capalot DOCG 2019, La Morra

Refined and elegant aromatics lead off the top; complex and varied, all in proportion. The palate shows equally good balance on a firm and classical tannic frame, and there appears to be sufficient fruit to ensure future integration. Be sure to give this cellar time, at least 4-6 years. Will be fine. Tasted January 2023.

94 Pietro Rinaldi Barolo DOCG 2019, La Morra

Clean, classic, perfumed and inviting; high quality wood influence, gentle and delicate, all red fruit and florals. Palate is sleek and refined, a classic finessed La Morra expression with lots of character and depth. This is cru-worthy, above the mean by a good margin. Tasted January 2023.


93 Abrigo F.lli Barolo Ravera DOCG 2019, Novello

Open and oxidative perfume, old school, leathery, though with plenty of ripe red fruit, strawberry purée with cacao dust. The palate is sleek and succulent, with lovely, sapid acids and balanced tannins. This works well. Tasted January 2023.

93 Vitivinicola Cagliero Barolo Ravera DOCG 2019, Novello

Pretty, perfumed, ripe but not over, slipping into blue but holding red fruit. Wood is well integrated. Palate sleek and succulent, with refined tannins, more in line with the Ravera I know, balanced and composed. Successful and well-made wine with an extra dash of class. Tasted January 2023.

  Serralunga d’Alba          

96 Giovanni Rosso Barolo Cerretta DOCG 2019, Serralunga d’Alba

Open and on the oxi side, penetrating, perfumed, offering attractive ripe strawberry and red cherry fruit, herbal-spice and old wood. The palate is sleek and juicy, fresh, well balanced, with ripe tannins, succulent acids and terrific length. A very classy and sophisticated, polished and authentic wine. Top class. Tasted January 2023.

96 Vico Luigi Barolo Prapò DOCG 2019, Serralunga d’Alba, Piedmont

A more polished and modern take on Barolo, clean and inviting, penetrating and perfumed. The palate is a wash of fruit – there’s loads of depth and extract here – while tannins are abundant but ripe and velvety, and acids comfortably ripe as well. Excellent length. Top notch, best from 2028. Tasted January 2023.

95 Germano Ettore di Germano Sergio Barolo Cerretta DOCG 2019, Serralunga d’Alba

Hairspray reduction leads on this wooly and wild Cerretta, marly and stony, fruit-shy at least for now, though high complexity is already evident. The palate is classy and complete, lively, full of tension and energy with vibrant acids and relatively fine-grained, balanced tannins. This should emerge as a classic after 2027 or so, or hold late into the ’30s and beyond. Tasted January 2023.

94 Garesio Barolo Cerretta DOCG 2019, Serralunga d’Alba

Relatively open and aromatic with fresh wood evident off the top, sweet baking spice, alongside balsamic, dried mint, sweet and resinous herbal character, classy, complex. Sleek and polished palate with abundant but ripe tannins and succulent acids – nice balance and impressive depth here. Best after 2027. Tasted January 2023.

94 De Simone Roberto Barolo del Comune di Serralunga d’Alba DOCG 2019, Serralunga d’Alba

Attractive and engaging straight off; sweet strawberry mingles with fresh herb, sweet and savoury; wood is not a significant influence. The palate is juicy and sleek, with fine and refined tannins and succulent acids; impressively lingering finish. Classy and sophisticated, and won’t need decades; try after 2027.Tasted January 2023.

94 Brovia Barolo Brea Vigna Ca’Mia DOCG 2019, Serralunga d’Alba

More of a modern sheen here, with a touch of fresh wood and resinous herbs, ripe red and some black fruit. Juicy, sleek palate, balanced, elegant for Serralunga to be sure, refined. Great length. Best from 2027-2040+. Tasted January 2023.

94 Batasiolo Barolo Briccolina DOCG 2019, Serralunga d’Alba

Lots of volume on the nose, earthy, herbal, spicy, high complexity, old wood-inflected. The palate is solidly built on abundant tannins matched by juicy acids, full bodied and intensely flavoured. Excellent length. Lovely wine, best from 2028 or hold long term. Tasted January 2023.

94 Giovanni Rosso Barolo del Comune di Serralunga d’Alba DOCG 2019

Forward and oak-inflected, with sweet, very ripe fruit, red and black cherry-raspberry dominated. Fullish, broad and powerful on the palate, succulent, with genuine concentration and depth; tannins are ripe and velvety, acids ripe and balanced; excellent length overall. Classy, balanced, best from 2028-2040+. Tasted January 2023.

94 Manzone Gian Paolo Barolo Meriame DOCG 2019, Serralunga d’Alba

Intense aromatics, herbal-spicy, spiced red cherry compote and raspberry purée. The palate is a wash of flavour, with lost of fruit intensity and extract and succulent acids. Tannins are abundant but ripe and should meld into the ensemble in time. Best after 2029. Tasted January 2023.

94 Vico Luigi Barolo del Comune di Serralunga d’Alba DOCG 2019

Polished, ripe, modern, clean and inviting. Abundant extract and tannins give this excellent structure and depth, not to mention complexity a substantial and impressive wine to be sure. Best after 2028. Tasted January 2023.

94 Davide Avide Fregonese Barolo Prapò DOCG 2019, Serralunga d’Alba

Clean, fruity-spicy, attractive. Concentrated on the palate, juicy, plump, with solid depth and length. Balanced, well-made, accomplished. Won’t need decades in the cellar. Best 2027-2038. Tasted January 2023.

94 Le Cecche Barolo Sorano DOCG 2019, Serralunga d’Alba

Open, medicinal-herbal, stony-marly, with spiced red fruit – complexity is high. The palate is firm and taut – there’s nothing soft and easy about this, a highly mineral-stony expression. Length and depth are also impressive. Classy, well-balanced. Best 2028-2040+. Tasted January 2023.


95 Fratelli Serio e Battista Borgogno Barolo Cannubi DOCG 2019, Barolo

Ripe and sweet-smelling, fruity and resinous, a nice mix of classic elements in the Cannubi style, complex. Fleshy, ripe and silky on the palate, with very good extract and flavour concentration, and length. Classy and sophisticated, best from 2027. Tasted January 2023.

95 E.Pira & Figli Barolo Cannubi DOCG 2019, Barolo

Good aromatic volume here, mixing red fruit and resinous herbal spice. The palate is fleshy, juicy, with refined tannins and succulent acids, nicely balanced and elegant. Length is excellent. Best 2028 on. Tasted January 2023.

95 Brezza Giacomo e Figli dal 1885 Barolo Sarmassa DOCG 2019, Barolo

Fine perfume here, open and complex with the right mix of fruits and florals, herbs and spices, with no obtrusive wood influence. The palate is sleek and composed, firmly structured but ripe and not overly astringent, acids are fresh and the finish is long. A solid Sarmassa, a half dozen years from prime enjoyment I’d say at least, but will make a grand bottle. Tasted January 2023.

94 G.D. Vajra di Vaira Aldo Barolo Bricco delle Viole DOCG 2019, Barolo

Pretty, perfumed, with plenty of sweet strawberry fruit and fresh minty-herbal spice, inviting, attractive. The palate is sleek and slick, anchored on succulent acids, while tannins are fine and ripe, almost silky. This should provide pleasure over the mid-term – no need for decades in the cellar but no rush, either. Classy. Tasted January 2023.

94 Giacomo Fenocchio Barolo Castellero DOCG 2019, Barolo

Appealingly perfumed and fragrant, herbal-minty and red fruit-dominated in the classic register, with succulent, raw silk-textured palate. Tannins are relatively fine and refined and length and depth are solid. Best from 2027-2037.  Tasted January 2023.

93 Cantine dei Marchesi di Barolo Barolo del Comune di Barolo DOCG 2019

Attractive perfume, fruity-floral in the varietal register, ripe but still fresh, with silky-firm tannins and very good length. I like the finesse and composure on offer, even if it’s not a wine of massive complexity or longevity. Enjoy 2027-2035 or so. Tasted January 2023.

93 Vite Colte Barolo del Comune di Barolo “Essenze” DOCG 2019, Barolo

A fine example here, perfumed, fruity but balanced by resinous herbs and earth, very gently on the reductive side. The palate is voluminous, mouthfilling and satisfying, with quite fine tannins and very good length. Composed, balanced, Best 2027-2035. Tasted January 2023.

  Castiglione Falletto

95 Bava Barolo Scarrone DOCG 2019, Castiglione Falletto

Clearly ripe, a more open expression with fruit verging into purée and compote, red and blue, forward for the vintage to be sure. The palate is succulent and juicy, with a lick of oak spice that should integrate in time, 3-5 years, I like the balance and drinkability, and the evident depth and concentration. Tasted January 2023.

95 Giacomo Fenocchio Barolo Villero DOCG 2019, Castiglione Falletto

Lovely aromatics, reserved but highly promising, with a fine mix of the necessary, red fruit, floral, herbals and medicinals. Tannins are fine but firm on the palate, furry and grippy, but there’s sufficient fruit extract to envision full future integration. Length and depth are very good to excellent. Stately. Tasted January 2023.

95 Sordo Giovanni Barolo Monprivato DOCG 2019, Castiglione Falletto

Rather backwards on the nose, this is clearly very far from prime enjoyment. Citrus peel and red fruit aromatics join with resinous herbs; no wood influence is noted. The palate is a serious wash of flavour, mouthfilling, silky-firm, balanced, poised, composed. Length is excellent. A fine Monprivato, best from 2029-2045+. Tasted January 2023.

95 Bovio Gianfranco di Bovio Alessandra Barolo Parussi DOCG 2019, Castiglione Falletto

Contained, composed, showing underlying class and complexity for future evolution. The palate is gorgeous, silky-firm, with succulent, comfortable acids and refined tannins, a very elegant and sophisticated Parussi to be sure, best from 2028-2040+ – this has genuine substance and extract, but also brilliant balance. Tasted January 2023.

94 Rosoretto Barolo Parussi DOCG 2019, Castiglione Falletto

Ripe and concentrated, red and black fruit-inflected Parussi, a top site to be sure, performing well in the 2019 vintage. Tannins are comfortably ripe if abundant, and depth and length impressive. Best from 2028-2040+. Tasted January 2023.

94 Poderi e Cantine Oddero Barolo Villero DOCG 2019, Castiglione Falletto

Deep, rich and ripe on the nose, with strawberry-raspberry-red currant purée, and no obvious wood influence; complexity is very good to excellent. The palate shows fine balance, succulent acids and fine-firm tannins, with very good length. Balanced, composed, classy. Best from 2029-2045+. Tasted January 2023.

  Monforte d’Alba        

96 Cascina Adelaide Barolo Bussia DOCG 2019, Monforte d’Alba

Beautifully ripe and fragrant nose, with perfectly pitched red fruit, strawberry and raspberry, fully integrated oak and a range of sweet herbs and flowers. Succulent and balanced on the palate, with well matched tannins and acids, full phenolic ripeness, structured without being hard. Excellent length, too. Best from 20208-2040+. Tasted January 2023.

96 Conterno Fantino Barolo Vigna Sori’ Ginestra DOCG 2019, Monforte d’Alba

Forward, modern, wood-inflected, appealing, high quality oak spice meets beautifully ripe red fruit. The palate is broad and supple, fleshy, highly concentrated, phenolically ripe. Alcohol is high but melds with the ensemble. Excellent length. Top notch, best from 2028.  Tasted January 2023.

95 Rinaldi Giuseppe Barolo Bussia DOCG 2019, Monforte d’Alba

This shows a touch of raisined fruit character, dried red currants and cherries, alongside fresh resinous herbs, complexity is high. The palate is equally impressive, fleshy, juicy, firm but not hard, with high intensity and concentration. Length is excellent, too. Fine wine, best from 2028-2040. Tasted January 2023.

95 Conterno Fantino Barolo Castelletto Vigna Pressenda DOCG 2019, Monforte d’Alba

Big volume nose, dark, ripe fruit, sweet oak spice, high quality, mentholated character. Full-bodied, fleshy, concentrated palate – loads of substance here and depth, and excellent length. Modern classic. Tasted January 2023. 94 Cascina Sot di Sanso Maurizio 2019 Barolo del Comune di Monforte d’Alba DOCG 2019 Monforte d’Alba Beautifully perfumed, very much in the classic register, floral, strawberry, clean and fragrant. Firm and balanced, with abundant but ripe tannins, comfortable acids, nicely pitched overall. Quality wine. Tasted January 2023.

94 Anna Maria Abbona Barolo Bricco San Pietro DOCG 2019, Monforte d’Alba

Clean, with a sheen of oak dust, ripe red and black fruit, fresh. Lively juicy, succulent acids, fine grained tannins – a Barolo of elegance and refinement. Best 2027-2037. Lovely. Tasted January 2023.

94 Costa di Bussia Tenuta Arnulfo Barolo Bussia DOCG 2019, Monforte d’Alba

Open, lifted and fruity, with a dash of vanilla-oak spice in a more modern expression. Juicy, succulent palate with relatively silky tannins and balanced acids – I like the finesse on offer. Will make a fine wine in 4-5 years, or hold into the late-’30s. Tasted January 2023.

94 Agricola Gian Piero Marrone Barolo Bussia DOCG 2019, Monforte d’Alba

Pale garnet colour, with oxidative aromatics to match, dried red fruit, red currants, dried roses and carnations, a classical style. Juicy-fine palate with deceptive substance and depth – the length is also excellent. A fine old school but clean and engaging Barolo. Tasted January 2023.

94 Podere Ruggeri Corsini Barolo Bussia DOCG 2019, Monforte d’Alba

Open and mentholated, appealingly balsamic, with red fruit underlying; complexity is high. Juicy, finessed and refined palate; long finish. Fine wine, I like the style. Tasted January 2023.

94 Poderi Luigi Einaudi Barolo Bussia DOCG 2019, Monforte d’Alba

Clean and wood inflected, immediately engaging and attractive, balanced but highly structured. This has stuffing and tannins in spades, a long way from prime, but fruit extract is likewise sufficient to see it through. Best after 2029. Tasted January 2023.

94 Diego Conterno Barolo Le Coste di Monforte DOCG 2019, Monforte d’Alba

Open, ripe, sweet fruit perfume, high-quality oak spice; lots of appeal here. The palate is nonetheless highly structured, with abundant but ripe tannins and firm-fresh acids. Very good length. Substantial wine, best from 2028 – this should also age well into the late-’30s. Tasted January 2023.

  Barolo Riserva 2017

95 Brezza Giacomo e Figli dal 1885 Barolo Sarmassa Riserva DOCG 2017, Barolo

Open, sweet smelling nose, lots of fruit, clean and inviting, ripe but not raisined, complex. The palate shows fine balance, firmly structured to be sure, but with sufficient fruit extract to counter. Length and depth are very good, finishing on alcoholic heat. Tasted January 2023.

95 Germano Ettore di Germano Sergio Barolo Lazzarito Riserva DOCG 2017, Serralunga d’Alba

On the reductive side, wooly, stony, flinty, high complexity but not an easy wine. Lots of depth and substance on the palate, well-managed tannins, long finish. One of the more successful 2017 Riservas. This should drink from about 2028-2039 or so. Tasted January 2023.

95 Rocche Costamagna Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata Riserva DOCG 2017, La Morra

(Cask sample) Better poise and balance than the mean for 2017, this Rocche delivers attractive perfume, engaging spice and herbs, sweet red fruit only lightly desiccated, more taut than most. I like the silky texture on the palate the fine-grained if abundant tannins, the long finish. Top notch for the vintage. Tasted January 2023.

95 Costa di Bussia Tenuta Arnulfo Barolo Bussia Riserva DOCG 2017, Monforte d’Alba

Fine, polished aromatics here, new oak noted but integrated, while fruit remains unusually fresh and intact in this torrid vintage. Tannins are equally well-managed, ripe not stressed, while acid are balanced. Alcohol is expectedly high, but works in here better than the mean. Long finish. Quality wine. Tasted January 2023.

94 Ettore Fontana Barolo Bussia Riserva DOCG 2017, Monforte d’Alba

Forward, very ripe sweet fruit, integrated, polished modern wood influence slipping into the blue spectrum with a touch of lactic; overall this works well. Tannins are supple and sweet, acids balanced, and length and depth very good to excellent. A highly successful 2017 Riserva, best from 2027. Tasted January 2023.

That’s all for this report. See you around the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS