Barolo Super Crus
By Cesare Pillon
Which Barolo vineyards are the superior ones is not a modern discovery. The most important ones have been known since this wine was first made, in the nineteenth century, and yet the separate vinification of the grapes from those Crus only started after the Second World War, a century after they had been identified. What determined such a paradoxical delay? The collusion of various cultural and economic factors. The biggest hurdle was a widespread belief that Barolo could only express its personality through a cuvee made of grapes from different areas, getting a darker colour from one vineyard, more complex aromas from another, and more appealing aromas from a third still.
Valorizing the higher-quality vineyards
We must admit that was a valid formula, to which a vinegrower of value and rigour of Bartolo Mascarello, for example, remained faithful for the whole of his life. But in reality, the idea that you could make a Barolo with great character from some of those top-quality vineyards without the need to blend, evolved very slowly for a more concrete reason: wine production was in the hands of businessmen and industrialists who had no interest in valorizing the higher-quality vineyards, because that would have given the vinegrowers they bought grapes or wine from a bargaining power that they had no intention of giving them.
The importance of the claim and the commercial value
The tables only turned when journalists, followers of Luigi Veronelli (a tireless advocate of the concept of Cru), identified the aspirations of a new generation determined to stop handing over grapes in order to make and sell their own wines: those who owned a vineyard in one of the historic Crus, immediumtely understood the importance of being able to claim that privileged origin on the label and that it would give their wines a higher commercial value. It might not be politically correct to underline it, but it was precisely the discovery that a publically-recognized Barolo Cru justified a higher price that speeded up this change in direction: since then the many vineyards of excellence, in the 11 municipal areas where this wine is produced, have been discovered. Maybe too many.
181 Crus that cover DOCG area
On 30th September 2010, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Policy officially recognized the existence of 181 Crus, but not being able to call them by this name (the French own the copyright), nor by the name “sub-designation”, which would quite rightly cause an outrage, they defined them in strict “officialese” as “additional geographical mentions”. The additional geographical mentions should indicate the superior quality Barolos to the consumer. But as there are 181 of them, they practically cover the whole DOCG area. But how can you find your way through such a dense jungle? How can you find out what the authentic Crus are, the ones that produce excellent Barolos?
The Barolo Super Crus
To select the top 20, Italian Wine Chronicle adopted the same criteria used to classify Bordeaux vineyards in 1855: it identified them according to the historic price paid for the wines they produce. And to judge using incontestable data, we looked up the prices of Barolos auctioned in the past 12 years. There were plenty of surprises: first of all, from this study it emerged that there is only one Cru, Cannubi, that entirely belongs to the municipal area of Barolo. It is one of the oldest ones and since it is very large, it is subdivided into different sections: Cannubi Boschis, Cannubi Muscatel, Cannubi San Lorenzo, Cannubi Valletta. It was the Luciano Sandrone winery’s famous Cannubi Boschis that helped it into the selection of Italian Wine Chronicle.
The Brunate and Bussia Crus
Actually there are two very large Crus that trespass on the municipal area of Barolo, Brunate and Bussia, but they belong to another municipality: the former to La Morra, where Roberto Voerzio produces his Barolo Brunate, very sought-after at auction, while the latter is one of the prides of Monforte d’Alba, where there are the Aldo Conterno Estates, whose Barolo Gran Bussia regularly fetches the highest prices at auction.
The Monforte area and the Conterno Family
Strangely, Monfortino by the Giacomo Conterno winery doesn’t come from Monforte d’Alba; it would undoubtedly be a Premier Cru if a classification of single vineyard Barolos was carried out, because it fetches the most exorbitant prices at auction. It started with the 1912 vintage, probably made from grapes grown in the Monforte area, however since 1974 it has become a Cru made up of vineyards belonging to the Conterno family, the Cascina Francia in Serralunga d’Alba. In this municipality there are no less than five of the 20 Crus selected, and two of these, Vignarionda and Falletto, have been made famous all over the world by one of the most popular producers in the Langhe area, Bruno Giacosa, who is not only one of the top experts on the best-quality vineyards, but he has also always been an enterprising talent scout.
From Italian Wine Chronicle 1/2015. Read for free the magazine
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