Piedmont Report: Checking in on the 2001 Baroli
I first reviewed the 2001 Baroli in my journal, Piedmont Report in late 2006. The 2001s
have always held special meaning on a personal level because it was one of the
first vintages I followed literally from the time the fruit was picked until
the wines went into bottle. It was illuminating to go back to the 2001s and see
how things were shaping up. I tasted most of these wines during a trip to
Piedmont in November 2011, and followed up with subsequent tastings from my
cellar in New York.
Overall, I am quite pleased with the way the 2001s are developing.
Of course there are surprises, both positive and negative. But one thing that
can be stated unequivocally is that the wines are maturing evenly and with a
sense of proportion, something that was not at all the case when I tasted
through the 2000s a year before.
From the outset, it was clear 2001 was a vintage of
medium-weight Baroli, and that is certainly the case today. Although the 2001s
are aging well, this is not a vintage of heroic, epic wines that are going to
last 50 years. Readers who appreciate very long-lived Baroli will have to look
to vintages such as 1996 and 1999 for that style of wine. Speaking of 1999,
which I consider one of the most underrated Barolo vintages ever, in 2006 I
wrote: “Compared to the larger-scaled
1999s, the 2001s feature finer and more elegant tannins. They are wines of
greater finesse and today my impression is that they will reach maturity sooner
than the 1999s.” I feel the same way today. While the 2001s may not be the
most long-lived of Baroli in broad terms, I did run into quite a few wines that
are completely shut down right now. It is always difficult to assess vintages,
but I did sense a number of wines are going through a period of stubborness,
which is not at all out of character for Nebbiolo. On a parallel note, I recently
tasted a number of 1997 Baroli that were absolutely singing, and 1997 was a
very hot year where the concern was ageability! My notes and drinking windows should
be taken as a guide, but as always the best palate is yours. My own view is
increasingly to focus on producer over vintage.
Early morning dew in Serralunga
Problem With Cork
I would be remiss if I didn’t address cork. At virtually
every estate I visited I ran into wines with slight cork defects. In many cases
the flaws were small, but I have known these wines intimately since they were
born, and honestly my expectation is that bottles be fully representative. It
is hard to know the exact percentage of flawed bottles I encountered, as wines
were opened and decanted ahead of time at a number of estates. Suffice it to
say the overall percentage of cork taint I ran into was in the high single
digits, which is to say far, far greater than is acceptable.