Allegrini 2018

Barolo 2021? A surprising vintage, a triumph of Nebbiolo’s resilience

In the middle of the harvest, in the cellar of the producers of the Deditus Association, beautiful, healthy and balanced grapes, with concentrations and acidity

2021 is a “surprising” vintage for Barolo, which, with most of the Nebbiolo grapes in the cellar, but still in the middle of the harvest, literally collects the fruits of a year charaterized by climatic extremes. First of all the spring frosts, which fortunately have not affected a flowering in the early stage, then the rains in June, and finally the total summer drought: difficulties in the midst in which the vine has been able to maneuver, giving to the eight historic producers reunited in the Deditus Assocation (Azelia, Cordero di Montezemolo, Michele Chiarlo, Pio Cesare, Poderi Gianni Gagliardo, Poderi Luigi Einaudi, Prunotto e Sandrone Luciano), an amazing year. As showing the data of the technological and phenological maturity of the grapes, as well as the phytosanitary health of the grapes, in addition to the expert eye of the winemakers, reunited in the round table dedicated to the Nebbiolo of Barolo haverst, from which emerged, once again, the ability of the vine to know how to adapt to adversity, but also the importance of not rushing the judgment on a haverst that only now, with the grapes in the cellar, can be tried to decipher.
It is early to speak about an exceptional vintage, but richness, complexity, concentrations of berries a little smaller than the average, combined with the acidity resulting from the thermal changes of the last few weeks, really bode well. The intrinsic resilience of the vine is not enough – in particular Nebbiolo, which in the end came out great from such a dry summer, but never excessively hot, the reason 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 challenge for 2021 will be to find, in so much concentration and power, the elegance that is the stylistic signature of Barolo in the last decades. In the Langa, in general, there is an optimism, which from the vineyard “infects” cellars and tasting rooms, which in the summer have returned to welcome many 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 make the point of a harvest that is still in full swing, giving a first judgment on the last vintage of Barolo. “For us it was a particular harvest – says Cesare Benvenuto (Pio Cesare) – the first without Pio, therefore more challenging than any other year to set mechanisms in motion. In general, it was a dry year, with no rain in the summer but almost never excessively high temperatures. We were able to face it positively, managing the vegetation and 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. White grapes - Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc – they gave us musts very rich in sugar while maintaining excellent acidity, which is essential for our style. We are still in the middle 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. QUI
Stefano Gagliardo (Poderi Gianni Gagliardo) is “in the midst of the harvest, today it is gathered in Monforte, there are still seven parcels left 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 despite the lack of rains, 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 that come – underlines Stefano Gagliardo – I have the impression that it will be very “tasty” between slinity and concentrations. This is a good time for Barolo, 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 guys and this is very nice, because beyond appearence they focus on contents and they eager to know”.
To take stock of the cellar of Sandrone Luciano, is Luca Sandrone, where the haverst is still a little behind: “at the moment we only havested 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 that are never too long. The result is that, with rear exceptions (the younger vines), nebbiolo has overcome these obstacles without major problems. In Barbaresco and Roero 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, vut I trust in this week of good weather, with great temperature changes, for a “maturation” of the grapes still to be havested, which could be the icing on the cake of the maturation of Nebbiolo. Barolo 2021 – predicts Luca Sandrone – 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 our neighbors. The drought was felt, but not made suffer. Compared to what happened in the Roero, we saved from the hail, which arrived in mid-July. We suffered the late frost at the end of March, which hit some vines that had already sprouted. The plants, however, have developed with a cetain 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 Northrn 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 gather around a bottle of wine in the company. A word to define Barolo 2021 - adds Elena Cordero - is “balance”, despite the fact that it was not an easy vintage”.
Among the rows of Prunotto, to talk is Gianluca Torrengo, the wine maker of the company. “If it can be expressed 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 give fruit, and “surprising”, because the grapes, from Moscato to Nebbiolo, have goodness and beauty beyond expectations, even visually, beyond the analytical data. Nature has given us a nice surprise, but the vine has always adepted 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, managing the plant become more matter of details and continuous precautions. The plant, at the root level, is strong, and knows how to overcome the sudden changes and whims of the climate, which in the end has given us exceptional harvests in the last decade. We have such rich grapes – concludes Gianluca Torrengo – that they could give us a very long year”.
Also at Azelia, as told Lorenzo Scavino, who led the company with his father Luigi, the haverst is almost over: “we will finish next week. We are extremely happy, 2021 will be remembered for the lack of rainfall, but our vines, being so old (aged 65 and over for the most part), they not suffer from drought, thanks to very deep roots, so much so that even today the leaves are green, and this is a good sign, it means that the vines are doing well. Whether it is a hot or cold year, the difference is small, in depth. The yelds are lower, because the berries are less juicy, but the skins are thick, and nevertheless the cool nights guaranteed a certain acidity. Another positive note, the health of the grapes, thanks to the absence of rain: we have magnificient bunches, and a selection in the vineyard reduced to minimum. It is too earky to say, but it is a year that will give us great satisftaction, as always when the vine “suffers” slightly. Balance and complexity - adds Lorenzo Scavino - are the whatchwords of Barolo 2021, which will give us structured wines with a great extraction”.
“to what has already been said, which I find completely in agreement, I can only add - says Stefano Chialro of Michele Chiarlo - that the interaction of the winemaker has changed, we have tried first of all to protect the grapes in the best possible way in the period of august, even if the period of heat 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 year to put your signature on, with the temperature ranges of the last few weeks really being the cherry on the cake. Certainly, in spring no one would have ever imagined a vintage like this. In one definition, it is a year of personality and harmony”, concludes Michele Merlo.
Finally, from Poderi Einaudi, the words of Matteo Sardagna Einaudi. “We are also halway through the harvest, and here in Dogliani there has been even more drought. All in all, we cannot say “viva global warming”, but the grapes are beautiful and healthy, and harvest time are decidedly average, with a few days left to leave the grapes on the vine. The rains of thr 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 of Barolo is a complete vintage, it has depth, richness, elegance, I expect vibrant wines, or at least I hope so”.

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