Barolo 2011: Vintage Report

Early spring 2011 was especially warm, causing flowering to occur about a month earlier than usual. By summer things cooled off, but the whole year was dry, which did not let up with the cooler temperatures. In August a heat wave caused sugar levels to rise, but overall the time between flowering and harvest was normal and tannins achieved good levels of ripeness. This all leads to plenty of sweet ripe fruit, but without the heavy or uneven nature of 2009. Most wines from good producers are seductive and delicious; those from top single-vineyard sites even manage to be rather serious too. On the whole, these are wines to pop the cork and enjoy while you wait for your 2010s to be ready.

“The 2011 Barolos continue to surprise. Radiant, open and already quite expressive, the 2011s show terrific potential.” – Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media

The Vintage

So much to love, no need to wait. The 2010 vintage was a tough act to follow. Widely hailed as being a must-have vintage, there were many consumers who had barely even heard of Piedmont who started buying Barolo. Those who buy regularly from the region stuffed their cellars as full as they would go, fearful that supplies would run out and they would miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own a piece of vinous history. Nothing to complain about here, the wines genuinely were great and the campaign was a great success. But after all this excitement (not to mention the recent Brunello 2010 frenzy) – does anyone have any energy left to get excited about Barolo 2011?

If you don’t, not to worry – just sitting up and paying attention will do just fine. There are some really truly delicious wines out there. Are there any 100-pointers? Maybe not. But not every night is a 100-point wine night, and you do need something to drink in between. Generally fleshy and forward with soft tannins, these are wines for the medium term rather than for long ageing, and many of the more entry level multi-vineyard blends can be approached on release. Barolo was not traditionally a joyful wine - without extensive ageing, the wines were austere and fiercely tannic. Modern winemaking has made it possible to enjoy Barolo younger, but in vintages like 2010 there was still a need to wait for things to soften and round out.

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