Wine notes

Sunday 2 August 2009


The recent decision of Bruno GiacosA not to bottle any of his Barolo or Barbaresco of the 2006 vintage has caused quite a stir in Italy. After the announcement, the estate's English importer Armit was quick to point out that a stroke Giacosa suffered in the same year made it impossible for him to be in the vineyard or the cellar, suggesting his poor health was the main reason for the allegedly unusually low quality of the wines resulting in this financially tough decision.

This explanation did not go down well with some of Italy's most prominent wine critics, who argued that Giacosa's action not only tarnished the reputation of the 2006 vintage generally, but also openly suggested some connection with the recent departure of Dante Scaglione who had been Giacosa's winemaker and right hand for more than 16 years and was considered instrumental to the high quality of the wines.

While speculation circulated online, Giacosa denied that Scaglione's departure had anything to do with the decision, but refrained from shedding more light on whether the quality of the grapes or Scaglione's work had been the main reason for the declassification of the vintage.

With 2006 Barbaresco already released on the market, to be followed by 2006 Barolo next January, the situation has triggered a potentially damaging debate on the quality of the 2006 vintage, which was halted only after one of Italy's prominent wine critics, Franco Ziliani, asked Piemonte's most knowledgeable oenologist, Armando Cordero, for his opinion. While admitting he had not tasted Giacosa's 2006s, Cordero came out in favour of the vintage in general.

He has now been joined by the Consorzio of Barolo and Barbaresco, which has sent out a press statement maintaining that 'the 2006 vintage is a very good one, with some exceptional peaks'. To back up their assertion, they have issued the following vintage report:

In order to highlight the great value and quality of the 2006 vintage for both Barbaresco and Barolo, we hereby summarize the climatic conditions which characterized that year.

During 2005/2006 winter it snowed a lot, but springtime was not very rainy, thus causing some risks of water shortage. Rain luckily fell in the second half of June.
Even though the summer started with thunderstorms, it quickly turned to dry weather. Actually, July 2006 was one of the hottest Julys in history. Rainfall around mid-August refreshed the air, mitigating the pre-maturity in the development of grapes caused by the dry July.

The climatic trend in September - usually the crucial month for the final quality of the Nebbiolo grapes used to produce Barbaresco and Barolo - was very favourable: warm but rather windy during the day and fresh during the night. These conditions allowed the grapes to ripen correctly.
Even the rain that fell between 24 and 26 Sep did not create any problem to the quality of grapes. At the most it determined a short interruption in harvesting, which nevertheless ended up with general satisfaction. Therefore, 2006 vintage has been characterized by a standard rhythm, with harvesting of Nebbiolo grapes - healthy and of excellent quality - taking place between the end of September and the beginning of October.

As far as the wines are concerned, both Barbaresco and Barolo 2006 show great structure, full body and roundness. Even if young, both are elegant. The garnet colour is intense, in some cases still with ruby-red highlights. The perfume is full-bodied, with clear fruity hints and the first hints of spices. The taste is full and persistent.