In 1996, the Boroli family reinvested their publishing business into the wine world. The third son, Achille, took over the trade. Another brother, an architect, designed the winery, reusing the oak barrel staves for the building’s exterior, and the flooring is from the beautiful ends of oak barrels. The older brother started Briko, the ski equipment company that sponsors Lindsey Vonn. And still the younger brother is a doctor. A successful family, no doubt. And yet, Achille took the time to collect me from the train station and later situate me at my next winery.
The farm I visited is situated in the heart of Barolo, just outside of Alba, where another popular food industry often fills the air with aroma of warm butter and melted chocolate. The headquarters of Ferrero Rocher calls Alba home, as does its subsidiary Nutella. The valley floor is planted with hazelnut trees. These wines are in good company, and let’s not forget the truffles that are sought out like rare gold deposits. In the hills of Castiglione Falletto, a mountain village with precarious streets and an imposing castle, the winery sits with a panoramic view of the valley. Most of the surrounding towns are mountain towns, built in ancient times for protection. The castles used lights to communicate with each other in times of invasion or for other necessities.
All Barolo cru vineyards face south, south-west, or south-east. In the case of this particular wine, the grape varietal is 100% Nebbiolo. The vines can be planted on northern exposures, and in some cases, especially in really hot summers,
your vintage might fare better from these cooler vantage points, but these vines don’t fall under the label of Barolo. They could only be labeled as Nebbiolo. This region reminds me of Burgundy in France, there the Pinot Noir grape is revered. Climate conditions are similar, too, as is the astute attention to tradition and vineyard sites. During my visit, the weather was misty rain to snow, with low clouds and pockets of fog. The soils are loamy chalk with veins of sand. One of the most important single cru vineyards, Villero, belongs to Boroli. Here they grow Nebbiolo, Barbara, and Chardonnay. The other vineyard of note, Cerequio, can be seen across the valley. Also called the “Langhe Riviera” because the snow melts here first with its ideal microclimate, plus its more sandy soils. The expression in the wine displays more, what I call “feminine finesse.” Integrated fruit, substantial tannic structure and a beautiful balance of austere Old World elegance. Boroli leases one hectacre of this cru vineyard, about 2.5 acres, so there is little room for error. Refined and almost stoic, this wine whispers, it doesn’t shout. These two vineyard expressions remind me, too, of some Oregon Pinot Noirs in their sense of style. The Villero comes off with more masculine pomp: earth, leather and mushroom.
Achille took me into the cellar to taste some of this year’s vintage. Barolo actually must age for two years in oak and a year in the bottle, so what we were discerning in this really young wine was whether it was clean or if it had obvious flaws. The 2012 Barolo was full of obvious tart red fruit, strawberry red in color with loads of fruit tannins hitting you in the front teeth. The wine of youth! Tons of acidity for good aging and some oak structure adding a tang of additional tannin. As this wine ages, these elements will mellow and mature into a rounder, less astringent wine, but it needs to be this way now to achieve those desired results when the wine is finally released. The single vineyard Cerequio from 2012 is destined to be a Riserva. This is decided at harvest, and will see even more time in oak and bottle. The fruit is already showing elegance with its toothy tannins. From the barrel the wine is very sound.
Boroli chooses not to use new oak. He’s not in the business of growing oak trees, but rather farming and producing fruit, that is grapes! Plus, a barrique, those barrels you see on sale at Loew’s for planting flowers in, actually cost $1000 when they are new. In these tough economic times, the additional expense can be too much for wineries. The barriques also impart a lot of that unwanted “oaky-ness” that exude that artificial layer of plush vanilla spice, that acts to cover up the inherent fruit that the wine is made from. The size of the barrique has a part in this , too, the smaller surface area has more contact with the wine, so the flavors become more profound. Boroli chooses tonneaux or botte-sized barrels for longer aging regimens. Usually four months in tonneaux and the rest in botte. Mostly French oak, but Austrian oak is being used, too.
In the tasting room, we opened a 2009 Quattro Fratelli Barbera. I actually reviewed this same wine and vintage in October for GoodTasteBook. Intense scarlet red in color with bursting blueberry and dried cherry, so the fruit is more approachable and easy-going. This is a wine that Boroli produces for quality and quantity, an excellent entry level wine to the Piedmont region that doesn’t overwhelm with acidity or austere fruit. It does have acidity, don’t get me wrong, but the kind that is generous and forgiving with lots of different foods. Tomato sauces and pastas, cioppino, game birds, spicy Brazilian steaks with chimmichuri sauce, even hearty pizza or tagliare would be worthy pairs for this wine. The acidity and tannic structure allow for good aging. I would be drinking this in four or five years with happy results. (Barbera is the grape varietal. It doesn’t have the strict rules of aging or vineyard sites as the Barolo. This is the region’s table wine. This wine sees 6 months in wood, 6 months in bottle.)
The 2008 Barolo already has a that orange tinge of age on the edges of the wine rim. Dark berries and plum mingle with ripe cherry fruit. Leather and earthy mushroom beckon under layers of tannic scaffolding and great acid structure. These are wines made for food! You want a bottle of this after a day spent in the field, your pant legs soaked from wet field grasses. Or if you are like me, after day of missing train connections and poor communication. You want to arrive in a mountain town, a stranger, and have warm plates of food set in front of you as another rain storm buffets the wide valley. This wine brings you in from out of the cold.
The sandy soils of the Cerequio vineyard give off a feminine allure to its wines. Dried rose petals and dried red berries, raspberry and strawberry, evolve in the mouth like elegant satin wrapped with vanilla in a cedar bureau. This was more than evident in the 2006 vintage. What a nice way to end a wonderful day, my first day in Italian wine country!