2011 — Another fine vintage for Barolo?
“Equally diverse are the opinions on which previous vintage the 2011 most resembles, a telltale sign of how irregular the weather has been. Talk of climate change has become a permanent fixture in the Langhe hills. I initially thought 2011 may have some kinship with the equally hot 2009, but the wines I have tasted so far were less marked by heat than many of the 2009s. Extreme heat is often translated into burning alcohol and jammy or stewed fruit (one reason I am always suspicious when people rave about the ‘typical’ aromas of dried fruit in young Barolo).
“After the phenomenally successful 2010 vintage in Barolo, which led to a complete sell-out judging from the empty cellars in the region, although there is still a little 2009 hanging around, all eyes are on the 2011. After 2003, 2007 and 2009 it is the fourth of what will be a total of five very hot vintages in a period of only 10 years. Within the region the vintage is not unanimously talked up and, depending whom you speak to and whose wine you taste, its potential ranges from merely good to excellent – a strong indication of the fact that site specifics, or terroir, played a decisive role in 2011.
“Another one whose 2011s defy the stereotype of a hot and alcoholic vintage is Valter Fissore, who, together with his wife, runs the Elvio Cogno estate in Novello. Although a robust, bullish yet jovial man himself, his wines are typified by an elegance which seems to betray a love for Burgundy. ‘I prefer 2011 to 2009 because the tannins are finer and fresher. Perhaps it is comparable to 1989’, Fissore told me. ‘It was a little hot, but Ravera [one of the estate’s vineyards] almost always gives better results in hot years.’ Here the vines are planted at a cool 380 m (1,247 ft). For five years he has been practising an organic approach in the vineyards, resulting in less compacted soil which absorbed the little rain that fell in 2011 immediately, before the rain had the chance to run off the steep slope. Although Fissore’s 2011s seem more hedonistic and a little more opulent than the 2010s, they are characterised by tangy succulent fruit and elegant palate weight, the signature Elvio Cogno style, which Fissore managed to maintain convincingly in this vintage.”
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