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Average critic rating : 99.0 points
The 2004 Barolo Riserva Le Rocche del Falletto is off the charts. Sweet roses, menthol, tar, licorice and minerals come together in a sensual, elegant style that recalls Giacosa’s legendary 1989 Riserva Collina Rionda, a wine many observers (this one included) place at the top of the hierarchy of all-time legendary Barolos. Ripe, sensual, and utterly spellbinding, the 2004 Riserva Le Rocche del Falletto offers superb elegance and pedigree. At this stage the wine remains surprisingly accessible. Readers will want to taste the 2004 Rocche as soon as possible as it will almost certainly head for a long period of dormancy in the near future. This magical Barolo will likely merit a perfect score in the future. The 2004 Rocche is the last wine Giacosa and former longtime oenologist Dante Scaglione produced together from start to finish and it is an appropriate bookend to a wonderful partnership that yielded so many profound wines. Anticipated maturity: 2024-2044. Bruno Giacosa created quite a stir when he announced this spring that he would not bottle any of his 2006 Barolos and Barbarescos. While I wasn’t surprised he would pass on bottling a few wines – as early as spring 2007 Giacosa did not present the 2006 Barbaresco Santo Stefano and Barolo Croera in my annual barrel tastings – the decision to skip an entire vintage prompted a back and forth volley of polemics that is such an integral part of the Italian way of life. Clearly Giacosa had a difficult emotional relationship with these wines from the start, as they were made in the year he suffered a stroke and was absent from the winery for long periods of time. Perhaps Giacosa simply wanted to cancel the entire year from his memory. Or maybe it is a case where the vintage quality in Giacosa’s vineyards and later of the wines themselves in the cellar did not live up to his exacting standards. Given the emotional weight attached to this year I am not sure anyone – even Giacosa himself – will fully understand all of the circumstances behind the decision not to bottle the wines. After having tasted Giacosa’s 2006 Barolos and Barbarescos on numerous occasions I am convinced he has bottled lesser wines in the past. It is important to remember that virtually all of Piedmont’s top estates are essentially small, family-run wineries, and in that regard Giacosa is no exception. What seems pretty obvious at this point is that under normal circumstances without emotional duress, Giacosa and his team would have been better equipped to deal with the challenges of the harvest. Giacosa’s decision is more a reflection of the estate’s inability to deal with a difficult harvest (for understandable reasons) rather than a commentary on the intrinsic quality of the vintage itself. Giacosa may also have been prompted to skip an average year for his wines based on the exceptional juice he put into the bottle in the surrounding 2004, 2005 and 2007 vintages. Sadly, prices for the top bottles – the Red Label Barolo and Barbaresco Riservas in particular – continue to climb as collectors throughout the world recognize the quality of the wines. Still, at the risk of sounding out of touch with today’s economic environment, it is pretty clear that Giacosa’s finest wines remain relatively well-priced within the context of the world finest and most collectible wines. A recent bottle of the 1989 Barbaresco Riserva Santo Stefano stood shoulder to shoulder with the 1989 Haut-Brion and Rousseau’s 1990 Chambertin....in fact, it may have even surpassed those icons! Antonio Galloni, Wine Advocate # 185.
Bruno Giacosa: The Importance
Long recognised as one of the best producers of Barolo and Barbaresco, Bruno Giacosa’s wines represent a benchmark in quality, and, as Parker writes, “…his majestic Barolos and Barbarescos build a cultish legion of admirers that is equalled by just a small handful of producers around the world.”
Bruno Giacosa: The Insight
The philosophy of the winemaking at this estate combines huge respect for tradition, whilst making use of modern technology in order to obtain the best expression of each terroir, with the aim being to create wines which are extremely rich in flavour and elegant in style.
Wines from Bruno Giacosa are bottled under two separate labels. Those marked with ‘Azienda Agricola Falletto di Bruno Giacosa’ are wines made from the product of the estate’s vineyards. Under this label, the estate produces two Barbaresco’s, three Barolo’s, a Barbera d’Alba and a Dolcetto d’Alba. Wines are also bottled under the label ‘Casa Vinicola Bruno Giacosa’ and these are wines made from the old practice of purchasing in grapes, from highly trusted sources. Bruno Giacosa has in fact built a reputation for himself as an excellent selector of fruit. Under this label there is a Roero Arneis, an Extra-Brut Spumante, a Barbaresco, two Nebbiolo d’Alba’s, one Barbera d’Alba and two Dolcetto d’Alba’s.
The winemaking at this estate is highly complex, as a large range of wines are produced and Bruno insists that the fruit from each individual vineyard must be vinified separately so that they can perfectly express their terroir. Most of the wines produced from this estate’s vines are single vineyard, and in the best years, some of the wines are bottled under a red ‘Riserva’ label.
Of the 100 point 2004 Barolo Riserva Le Rocche del Falletto, Antonio Galloni writes that it is “simply as profound as wine can be. Period. Strikingly layered, perfumed and sensual to the core, the 2004 has it all… Mint, rose petal and melted road tar grace the exquisite finish. The level of intensity here is simply mind-blowing.” Meanwhile James Suckling writes in his 100 point review that the wine is “spellbinding” and “extraordinary”.
Robert Parker is also a huge fan of the wine produced by this estate, and describes that 1990 Barolo Riserva Falletto as “a reference point wine that readers won’t want to miss”. Although wine critics might sometimes disagree their assessments of various wines, one thing they certainly all agree on is the outstanding quality of the wine produced by Bruno Giacosa.
The biggest concern at this estate is quality, often to the sacrifice of profit. In 1991, 1992, 1994, 2002 and 2006, Giacosa chose to declassify all single vineyard Barolo’s and Barbaresco’s, putting those grapes in the non single vineyard wine, as he did not believe that the grapes were of sufficient quality to make the single vineyard wines.
Some of the best vintages at this estate have been 1996, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2011.
Bruno Giacosa: The Background
Bruno Giacosa began working in his family business at the age of 15, and is the third generation of his family to make wine in the region of Langhe. Although initially all the grapes used to make the wine were purchased from certain select vineyards and specially selected growers, by the late 1980’s Giacosa started acquiring vineyards in the communes of Serralunga d'Alba, La Morra, and Barbaresco. This estate now owns 22 hectares of vineyards in these regions. The Falletto vineyard in particular is renowned for its microclimate, encouraged by its amphitheatre like shape, and low yielding vines, and this is the vineyard from which the famous Barolo Falletto is made.
The estate is now run with increasing involvement and leadership from Bruno’s daughter Bruna.
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