Piemonte is a special place. Truffles. Plin. Barolo. Barbaresco. A magical place where earth, wind and sun combine with the late fall nebbia to create wines resplendent with perfume, power and elegance.
For years the debate has raged in Piedmont and among the many aficionados of Barolo and Barbaresco. Should oak be present in the wines? What vessel should be used to aged Nebbiolo? Grande Botte? Barrique? Tonneaux? Some combination of the three? Protagonists of grande botte will be the first to exclaim that Barolo aged in barrique will not age well. With such a limited number of years behind us for which “modernistas” have produced wines in this style, I’m not sure how that claim can be verified. What I am sure of is that I have tasted examples of Barolo and Barbaresco that have been treated in many different ways. The stylistic differences are evident. However, I’ve not tasted a single wine that was raised in barrique that I thought was “DOA” because of the oak. On the contrary, I have tasted wines that were crafted in botte that were totally dead and wines from barrique that were lively. What does the fate of these wines come down to? One word: Balance. Without balance, no wine will age well. Not from anywhere in the world or born from any grape varietal. I’ve tasted enough wine to realize this with keen awareness and nothing; nothing I have encountered has done anything to change my perception. Quite simply, I have never tasted a wine that was unbalanced in it’s youth and watched it mature into an exemplary mature version of its type 20 years later. Never. So where does that leave us?
The subject of today’s article is a Barolo from La Morra that many would consider to be produced by a modernista. Indeed, the debate over how to properly apply oak to Barolo caused a rift between the Voerzio family resulting in the split that led to Gianni Voerzio creating his own wine. Today, he farms 14 hectares in La Morra and is an advocate of barrique.
The 1996 Gianni Voerzio Barolo La Serra is 21 years old. It is softer, smoother, and more supple than a newborn baby’s butt. Recently, after decanting the wine at home about 1 hour prior to dinner, we took the wine to a local Trattoria. An enormous sediment was removed from the bottle.
In the glass, you can see the advanced color of a 21 year old Nebbiolo. The center of the bowl is a ruby red that is turning to brick and burnt sienna out at the rim of the bowl. It’s exactly what you would expect. The aromas lift from the bowl. Cherry liquer, mushroom, roses, fennel and cured meat are all present. It’s complex and wonderful and adds a sensation of used wood as time passes. On the palate the wine is liquid velvet. Ripe cherry flavors are punctuated by sweet fennel, porcini and roasted coffee notes with hints of dried spices. It is smoooooooth on the palate from front to back with nary a rough edge in sight. The finish lasts for several minutes. My wife remarked “I can still taste that wine” after she had swallowed it a few moments before. I don’t think she’s ever made a comment like that about a wine. It is special indeed.
Is it a modern Barolo? A traditional Barolo? A blend of both styles? I’ve no clue. But it’s a Barolo and it was awesome. 97 points. Current releases are incredibly fairly priced at around $65.
Want to “try” and find this wine? Start here, with a link to the current release: Wine Searcher