Following on from a heatwave vintage in 2018, 2019 sees Piedmont is at its classical best with elegant tannins and superb aromatic reds. Tasting them in bottle, it’s clear there is huge potential for this vintage and the wines will be very long lived.
THE BIG PICTURE
Piedmont is riding the crest of a wave with energetic young growers producing a range of fabulous wines that combine modern winemaking techniques and technology along with the ancestral knowledge of crafting fine Barolo and Langhe wines. 2019 shows Nebbiolo at its finest, there’s an intense purity of fruit which, coupled with a hands-of approach to winemaking, gives a real sense of place. We have been incredibly impressed during our tastings: village Barolos show the complexity that can be achieved by blending vineyard parcels to create a harmony of rich fruit; whilst the single vineyard bottlings are powerful and deserve long ageing. Though Piedmont is famed for long lived Nebbiolo, the region also produces several wine styles for early drinking which are delicious in their own right. Look out for Langhe Nebbiolo and Barbera – these are an excellent introduction to the region.
The Barolos and Barbarescos of 2019 show all the hallmarks of an excellent vintage – highly structured, there is no shortage of acidity or tannin giving the wines a clear framework to age, born of a long growing season. In comparison to the 2018 vintage where opulence was on display with ripe flashy wines, our growers reported that the 2019s were a little more reticent through winter but as of March, when we tasted, are starting to show their true potential. They show bright, fresh red fruit flavours mingled with spice and umami depth whilst the tannins harmoniously bind to the fruit core. Given time to age and relax, the tannins will continue to melt and make for delicious drinking. Vittore Alessandria of Fratelli Alessandria was delighted with the vintage and describes the wines as having a spicy elegance that will be best enjoyed 8 to 15 years from 2019. It is hard to disagree, when tasting there are layers of complexity and nuance to the 2019 Barolos that will unfurl over the coming decade.
The preceding winter was cold with ample snow fall followed by rain in February giving vines time to rest and replenish water reserves, after the heat spikes of 2018. Budburst was early in March, leading to frost fears but thankfully those fears were not realised and the threat to the buds passed without major incidence. Early growth usually results in a September harvest but a cool spring slowed proceedings, lowering potential yields by disrupting flowering. A pleasant summer followed with a single heat spike during the last two weeks of June. More moderate temperatures in July and August were interspersed with patches of welcome rain to ensure the vines did not enter into hydric stress, key for ripening to continue. Although hail did strike in La Morra on September 5th, damage was minimal and growers were happy with the lack of disease pressure during the season. Harvest took place at the beginning of October, a rarity over the past decade where intense heat has provoked earlier starts. The later harvest has imbibed the magic of a long growing season, building complexity whilst retaining bright fruit and freshness, clear to see now they are in bottle.
“…Barolo bounces back with a stellar vintage in 2019 that could very well represent the beginning of a new cycle of strong, outstanding years for this historic appellation. The 2019s are potent, tightly wound wines that will thrill readers who appreciate the nuance, subtlety and structure of Nebbiolo.” Antonio Galloni, vinous.com/articles/2019-barolo-back-ontrack-jan-2023