At long last, our first shipment of 2010 Barolo has arrived. The vintage in Piedmont is a legend in the making by all accounts, and the wines that we have tasted in barrel and bottle have been stunning. It is a powerful vintage, but there is also such a classic, elegant, age-worthy character to the wines. The very first Barolo to arrive was Renato Corino's, who is making some of the most beautiful wines in La Morra.
I love the wines from this village, especially from Corino, Elio Altare, Marcarini and Renato Ratti. Among these, Altare is the "modernist" of the bunch, having been one of the early proponents of the use of barrique. It is one of Piedmont's great success stories, but even his wines possess such a classic character and are built for both youthful enjoyment and longer aging. I almost always think of Burgundy when I taste Altare's wines (he has stated that he treats the Nebbiolo much like Pinot Noir). Regardless of modern or traditional approaches, it is La Morra that is most often described with words like elegant and graceful among the most important Barolo communes.
What makes La Morra special (and it is special)? Robert Parker has called La Morra the "Pomerol" of Barolo, and this is the Barolo subzone that most frequently calls for comparisons to Burgundy. If you ever have visited this place, you know it is magical from the moment you get there. There is something about the people here, and the village gives you the sense that it is the heart of the Langhe. There is something unique about the land too. The soils are complex, consisting of mostly compact calcareous marl, which gives the wines a lush (but not necessarily powerful) and fragrant character. It is almost blue-tinted. By comparison, you will find looser, poorer soils and more sandstone in Serralunga to the east, tending to create more powerful wines.
What are the great vineyards of La Morra? There are (at least) two that make anybody's list, both of which date back at least to the 1400s. The Brunate cru sits on a south-facing hill that rises above Barolo. The wines from here are aromatic and floral, which is typical of La Morra, but not lacking in power most years. Le Rocche dell’Annunziata sits between between the hamlet of Annunziata and La Morra, with some chalky soils on its higher slopes. Wines from this cru are floral and berry dominated. It has been called the "Musigny" of Barolo. And then there is Arborina (or Arborine). Elio Altare's wine from this cru is legendary, and alone makes this vineyard worthy of inclusion on this list.
Back to Corino, one of the most respected growers in the region. He is deeply influenced by his older, famous neighbor, Elio Altare. In 2006, The Corino family split the estate between Renato and his brother, Giuilano. Renato kept his holdings in the Arborina and Rocche dell’Annunziata vineyards. Since then, and really over the past 20 years, Renato has been a leading figure in La Morra, admired for both his vineyard and cellar work. Of a younger generation, he is now a sort of successor to Elio's Altare's leadership in the area. His 2010 Barolo, noted below, is a wonderful example of the quality of his wines, and also a great introduction to La Morra Barolo.
Renato Corino Barolo La Morra 2010 - Accurately, Antonio Galloni describes Corino's 2010 Barolo as drop-dead gorgeous. This is sourced from top sites in La Morra, as well as a parcel in Baudana, in Serralunga, which no doubt gives this a little roundness. I had an opportunity to again taste this with friends last week, and it is such a great intersection of beauty and power at this price point. Classic tar and roses gives way to sweet cherries, and this is so, so complex and structured. Galloni correctly states that the wine "impresses for its energy, class and nuance, all of which are those of a wine that should sit higher up in the hierarchy." Yes, it arrived from Italy just last week, but it won't take long for this to evolve into a bottle of pure pleasure. Give it a year to come together, and then drink it over the next 15 years! Of course, I am always a fan of opening a bottle right away to see for yourself what you have. There is nothing more fun than experiencing a wine that evolves through the years.