Yesterday a tasting of outstanding Baroli from Fontanafredda, one of the top producers in Piedmont.  While still unmistakably Nebbiolo in terms of character and tannin, I found the wines to be remarkably sleek, stylish and complex, capable of an easy 30 years in the cellar.  The estate is comprised of 305 acres, the largest property in the Langhe.  It was founded in 1888 when the first King of unified Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II, purchased the land.  In 1932 the estate was transferred to Monte dei Paschi di Siena, literally the world’s oldest commercial bank.  The bank retained ownership for 76 years until sold in 2008.  Current winemaker Danilo Drocco came on board in 1999.  Since that time he’s moved all the estate vineyards to sustainability through a “zero chemical” program using only natural methods for fertilization and pest control. 

In the winery Drocco is a firm believer in a short period of pre-fermentation maceration at warmer temperatures as well as an extended, as in very extended, skin contact after primary fermentation.  The former definitely enhances color set and adds aromatic complexity.  The latter practice is more than a bit of a surprise given Nebbiolo’s naturally tannic character.  But Danilo insists that some of the lots of young wine be allowed post fermentation skin contact for as long as 50 days!  Shocking and not exactly conventional wisdom but I have to say that it works after tasting the wines.  Here are my notes:

1. 2010 Pradalupo Roero Arneis DOCG 12.5% ABV $20 SRP
100% Arneis from vineyards in Monteu Roero, Vezza d’Alba and Monta d’Alba. 
Notes: ripe white tree fruits, white flowers, almond and wet stone.  Polished, elegant and delicious.  Enjoy now and over the next 3-5 years.

2. 2007 Serralunga d’Alba Barolo DOCG 13.5% ABV $20 SRP
Taken from a selection of different vineyards planted in the commune of Serralunga.
Notes: ripe red and black fruits with pronounced rose, anise, sandalwood and forest floor; a supple and youthful Barolo with lots of refined tannins.  20+ years.

Then a trio of single vineyard Baroli from the outstanding 1996 vintage. 

3. 1996 Vigna “La Rosa” Barolo DOCG 13.5% ABV $140.00 SRP
La Rosa is an eight hectare plot in the Serralunga commune.  Vine density is 4,600 per hectare planted at an elevation between 250-300 meters.  The soils are calcerous marl, clay and quartz sand. 
Notes: the “Chablis” of the 1996 trio.  Very lifted aromatics in the form of pronounced floral notes, tart red fruits and a chalky, dusty mineral quality.  The palate dominated by the same floral and chalky qualities.  Lots of finesse.  10-15 years.

4. 1996 Vigna “La Villa” Barolo DOCG 13.5% ABV $165.00 SRP
La Villa is located the commune of Barolo.   Vine density is 4,800 per hectare planted at an elevation between 320-370 meters.  The soils are limestone, potassium oxide, phosphor and copper. 
Notes: combines the best of “La Rosa” and “Lazzarito” in terms of lifted floral aromatics with dense, compact fruit qualities.  Lots of leather, brown spice, truffle/mushroom and wood notes as well.  Tannic but harmonious and impeccably balanced.  10-15 years.

5. 1996 Vigna “Lazzarito” Barolo DOCG 13.5% ABV $155 SRP
Lazzarito is a hillside vineyard located in Serralunga planted at 400 meters.  Vine density is 4,500 plants per hectare and the soils are calcerous/marine-based with marl. 
Notes: the most powerful and backward of the trio.  Very dense, concentrated dark fruits with notes of black tea, anise, dried flower, mushroom consommé and dark earth.  Still young and backwards on the palate (at 15 years!) and will easily age for another 20+ years.

Finally a trio of superb Riserva wines from 2000, 1997 and 1982.  Keeping with tradition, the Riservas are blends taken from multiple estate vineyard sources. 

6. 2000 Barolo Riserva DOCG 13.5% ABV $135 SRP

The 2000 vintage was outstanding for Barolo and Piedmont in general.
Notes: very rich, fullish and concentrated with dried flowers, dried black and red fruits and a pronounced dark earth quality.  Very savory, rich and tannic on the palate.  20+ years. 

7. 1997 Barolo Riserva DOCG 13.5% ABV $125 SRP
1997 was the most acclaimed, make that “over-acclaimed” vintage of the ‘90’s for Barolo.  It was a hot, relatively dry growing season and from the beginning the wines showed an almost California-like ripeness—not exactly typical for the wine.  Although still balanced and complex, the ’97 showed a great deal of evolution for its age.
Notes: very vinous and evolved with dried spice cake fruits, roasted nuts, potpourri and mushrooms.  Austere and very dry palate with a long, persistent finish.  10+ years.

8. 1982 Barolo Riserva DOCG 13.5% ABV $265 SRP

One of the most complex reds I’ve had in a long time.  Remarkably layered, multi-faceted and still so youthful; it’s hard to believe it’s 30 years old.
Notes: very Burgundian with dried red fruits, smoky tea/leaf, chamomile and dried herbs, black truffles, leather and dusty earth.  Seamless and ever-changing in the glass; like the rose window in a cathedral.