Checking in on Piedmont’s 2000 Vintage
By Antonio Galloni
Piedmont’s 2000 vintage attracted considerable attention early on. I was living in Italy at the time and visiting the region frequently. I still remember the buzz the vintage was generating, even before the wines had been bottled. I began tasting the wines from barrel around 2002. At that time the wines were already open, radiant, and frankly delicious. It was clearly an anomalous vintage. Personally, I had always preferred the 1999s to the 2000s and dedicated an early issue of The Piedmont Report to that vintage. But there was no denying 2000 was a very consistent year across the board, even if it lacked the visceral thrill of a truly great Piedmontese vintage. Over the years I have been surprised to see some wines evolve faster than expected. This series of tastings provided a great opportunity to get a broad and deep look at the 2000s. Unless noted otherwise, I tasted most of these wines from producers’ cellars in November 2010. I then re-tasted a number of wines from my cellar in January and February 2011. A handful of wines were tasted from magnum, where that was the only format available. I have noted all wines tasted from larger formats.
The 2000 vintage was defined by very hot, dry weather during the entire year, leading up to the harvest, which was also carried out under warmer than usual temperatures. A hot summer is not necessarily a bad thing for Nebbiolo, which can be a tricky grape to ripen. But, as the old saying goes, it is the last month of the growing season that makes the harvest. For Nebbiolo in particular, the last month is critical as the grape needs the influence of cool nights to develop its aromatic profile and color. In a perfect world, cool September nights extend the growing season into October which also allows for full phenolic ripeness of the seeds and stems. In 2000 that was not the case. The grapes ripened quickly, especially at the end of the season, when sugars climbed rapidly. The harvest took place under calm circumstances, with no rain but under high temperatures. Growers talked about harvesting in shorts and t-shirts.
I found a number of wines with aromas and flavors that are already quite forward. The wines have enough density of fruit to hang on for some time, but they won’t improve. Part of the issue comes to a central question; what exactly defines a great Piedmont vintage? Most Piedmont lovers have a preference for ‘classic’ years,’ which usually means colder vintages that yielded firm, structured wines, such as 1978, 1996, 1989 and in more recent times 1999 and 2001. As great as the best wines are from those years, there can be no denying that the best examples from warmer, atypical years such as 1985 and 1990, have also aged quite well. The problem with the 2000s is that most of them aren’t going to even be around at age 20-25. As time passes, it becomes clearer that 2000 is not a great vintage, ‘classic’ or otherwise. It is a good to excellent vintage with a handful of overachievers. The vast majority of the wines need to be enjoyed over the next few years.