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A “surprising” vintage, the 2021 of Barolo, which, with most of the Nebbiolo grapes in the cellar, but still in the midst of the harvest, literally collects the fruits of a year battered by climatic extremes. First the spring frosts, which fortunately have not affected a flowering yet in the early stages, then the rains in June, finally the total summer drought: difficulties in the midst of which the vine has been able to juggle, giving the eight historic producers gathered in the Deditus Association (Azelia, Cordero di Montezemolo, Michele Chiarlo, Pio Cesare, Poderi Gianni Gagliardo, Poderi Luigi Einaudi, Prunotto and Sandrone Luciano), in fact, a surprising year. The data on the technological and phenological maturity of the grapes say so, as well as the phytosanitary health of the grapes, in addition, of course, to the expert eye of the winemakers, gathered today in the round table dedicated to the harvest of Nebbiolo da Barolo, from which it emerged, again once, the ability of the vine to know how to adapt to adversity, but also the importance of not hastening the judgment on a harvest that only now, with the grapes in the cellar, can you try to decipher.

To talk about an exceptional vintage, it is still early, but the richness, the complexity, the concentrations of berries a little smaller and less generous than the average, combined with the acidity resulting from the thermal changes of the last few weeks, really give us hope. Of course, the intrinsic resilience of the vine is not enough – in particular of Nebbiolo, which in the end came out great from a summer so dry, but never excessively hot, which is why it may be hasty to count 2021 among the “hot” vintages. tout court – to make a great Barolo, because without the right interventions in the vineyard, which have become increasingly difficult to predict, the results do not come by themselves. The great challenge for 2021 will be to find, in so much concentration and power, the elegance that is the stylistic signature of Barolo in recent decades. In the Langa, in general, there is a cautious optimism, which from the vineyard “infects” cellars and tasting rooms, which in the summer have returned to welcome hordes of Barolo lovers, from Northern Italy, Europe and, finally, from the United States .

Introduced by the president of the Deditus Association, Gianni Gagliardo, the producers take stock of a harvest that is still in full swing, hazarding a first judgment on the last vintage of Barolo. “For us it was a particular harvest – tells Cesare Benvenuto (Pio Cesare) – the first without Pio, therefore more demanding than any other year to better oil the mechanisms. In general, it was a dry year, with no rain in the summer but with almost never excessively high temperatures. We were able to face it positively, managing the vegetation and thus protecting the grapes from the sun’s radiation. The main objective is always to help the plant prevent water stress, starting from the soil, with green manure. The white grapes – Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc – gave us musts very rich in sugar while maintaining excellent acidity, which is fundamental for our style. We are still in the midst of the Nebbiolo harvest, which began on 7 October, we have reached perfect maturity, phenological and technological, but there are still 7 full days of work left. The quality is excellent, also thanks to the summer thinning, but we must not rush the judgments “, concludes Cesare Benvenuto.

Stefano Gagliardo (Poderi Gianni Gagliardo) too it is “in the middle of the harvest, today it is harvested in Monforte, there are still seven parcels to take to the cellar, we are roughly halfway through. Everyone talks about drought, but in reality it has not created problems, the plants have come to an end with no shortcomings, they are reaching the end of the cycle now, so, even if there is no rain, there have been no problems, if not in terms of berries a little ‘smaller and higher concentrations. We can try to imagine that Barolo 2021 will be of a certain importance and structure, it will be interesting to see what happens in the cellar. Today in Barolo we are looking for elegance, transparency with respect to the territory, cleanliness, so it will be important to look for elegance from a harvest that is powerful in itself. The Barolo to come – underlines Stefano Gagliardo – I have the impression that it will be very “tasty”, between salinity and concentrations. For Barolo it is a good time, also thanks to the interest of young consumers, a sign that it is no longer the dusty wine it was years ago. We talk to curious, informal young people, and this is very nice, because beyond appearances they aim at content and want to know ”.

Taking stock of the Sandrone Luciano cellar is Luca Sandrone, where the harvest is still a little behind: “At the moment we only harvested the Cannubi and Villero vineyards, we are at the beginning, but I can say that the grapes are perfectly responding to expectations. The element that characterized the vintage was undoubtedly the drought, but the rainfall was very different between Barolo, Barbaresco and Roero: Barolo was the driest. The luck is that Nebbiolo has a very limited water requirement, and the vine in general tolerates drought very well. The element that could create problems is the temperature, which however has never been too high, with periods of heat never too long. The result is that, with rare exceptions (the youngest vines in the bricchi, ed), Nebbiolo has overcome these critical issues without major problems. In Barbaresco and Roereo the rainfall was greater, so that, apart from the hailstorms, things went even better. The data of the phenolic and technological maturities are excellent, the grapes are very beautiful, but I trust in this week of good weather, with great temperature changes, for a “maturation” of the grapes still to be harvested, which could be the icing on the cake of the maturation of Nebbiolo. Barolo 2021 – predicts Luca Sandrone – it is surprising for “balance”, in a year of extreme events ”.

“We are also at the end of the harvest of our Nebbioli – says Elena Cordero, at the helm of the Cordero di Montezemolo – and the situation is similar to that of our neighbors. The drought was felt, but not suffered. Compared to what happened in the Roero, we saved ourselves from the hail, which arrived in mid-July. If anything, we suffered from the late frost at the end of March, which hit some vines that had already sprouted. The plants, however, have developed with a certain tranquility. The heat of June led to excellent ripening, until the harvest began in September. In the summer, beyond the vineyard, there was a great revival of wine tourism, first from Northern Italy, Switzerland and Germany, then from the rest of Europe, with Americans who, in recent weeks, are returning to visit the Langhe. Another relevant aspect, especially on weekends, is that of many groups of friends, often very large, who want to get together around a bottle of wine in the company. A word to define Barolo 2021 – adds Elena Cordero – it is “balance”, even though it was not an easy year “.

Among the rows of Prunotto, to sum up what we have seen so far, is Gianluca Torrengo, the company’s winemaker. “If you can express it in two adjectives, it was an” exciting “year, between the extremes of the frost in April and the storms in June, up to the dry phase of August, in which Nebbiolo was able to mature and live and bear fruit , and “surprising”, because the grapes, from Moscato to Nebbiolo, have goodness and beauty far beyond expectations and expectations, even visually, beyond the analytical data. Nature has given us a nice surprise, but the vine has always adapted and adapted to changes, which man, with his choices, has obviously helped. However, we are more and more last-minute winegrowers, because with the risk of making rash decisions, the management of the plant becomes more and more a matter of details and continuous precautions. The plant, at the root level, is strong, and knows how to overcome the ups and downs of the climate, which in the end of the last decade has given us exceptional harvests. We have such rich grapes – concludes Gianluca Torrengo – that they could give us a very long-lived vintage ”.

Also from Azelia, as he says Lorenzo Scavino, who leads the company with his father Luigi, the harvest is at the halfway point: “We will finish next week. We are enormously happy, 2021 will be remembered for the lack of rainfall, but our vines, being so old (from 65 years up for the most part), do not suffer from drought, thanks to very deep roots, so much so that even today the leaves they are green, and this is a good sign, it means that the vines are fine. Whether it’s a hot or cold year, the difference is small, in depth. The yields are lower, because the berries are less juicy, but the skins are thick, and yet the cool nights ensured a certain acidity. Another positive note, the health of the grapes, thanks to the absence of rain: we have magnificent bunches, and a selection in the vineyard reduced to a minimum. It is too early to say, but it is a year that will give us great satisfaction, as always when the vine “suffers” slightly. Balance, balance and complexity – adds Lorenzo Scavino – are the watchwords of Barolo 2021, which will give us structured wines with great extraction “

“To what has already been said so far, which I find almost completely in agreement, I can only add – He says Stefano Chiarlo of Michele Chiarlo – that the interaction of the winegrower has changed, we first of all tried to protect the grapes in the best possible way in the period of August, even if the hot period lasted much longer than usual. To retain freshness, acidity and elegance, we have borrowed typical practices of vineyard management in Southern Italy, working the soil a lot and limiting leaf removal. In the end, it was a vintage to put your signature on, with the temperature ranges of the past few weeks really being the icing on the cake. Certainly, no one would ever have imagined a year like this in spring. In one definition, it is a year of personality and harmony “, concludes Michele Chiarlo.

Finally, from Poderi Einaudi, the words of Matteo Sardagna Einaudi. “We are also halfway through the harvest, and here in Dogliani there has been even more drought. All in all, we cannot say “global warming is alive”, but the grapes are beautiful and healthy, and the harvest times are decidedly average, with a few more days to leave the grapes on the vine. The rains of the last two weeks have lent a hand, restored a certain freshness, even if not to the Dolcetto that we have already collected. A dry year, yes, but also a frozen one, and in any case, apart from the younger vines, Nebbiolo is confirmed as a vine that does not suffer from drought, also thanks to the accumulations of snow in winter. This 2021 year of Barolo is a complete year, it has depth, richness, elegance, I expect vibrant wines, or at least I hope so “.

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Marco Ribaudo

Marco Ribaudo

For the love of food and wine! Marco Ribaudo, Certified Sommelier, with 25 years in the food and beverage industry now invites you to join him in his latest adventure, the opening of la Cucina del Vino to share his culture and passion for creating unforgettable memories around the table.

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