It was about this time last year we bumped into Giovanni Angeli, winemaker of one of Barolo’s top producers – Massolino. He was over in London to promote his latest 2015 releases. Despite the positivity surrounding the ‘15s, Giovanni just couldn’t contain his excitement about the vintage that was to follow.
At this time, the wines were still over a year away from being made available. Ever since, we have been waiting eagerly for the first Barolo 2016s to be released and to taste for the first time this hugely anticipated vintage. Fortunately, that time is finally upon us, with the first handful of releases being made available over the next few weeks.
I caught up again with Giovanni last week to find out exactly why the 2016 is so special and his thoughts on the wines now that they are in bottle.
Giovanni Angeli - Winemaker at Massolino
ambient conditions through the growing season
points behind the success of the 2016s lie
in the ambient weather conditions throughout the season, particularly
favourable for the Nebbiolo varietal, which has always been a rather sensitive grape
– hence why you see so little of it grown anywhere else in the world. Great
Nebbiolo requires a long extended growing season to enable its structural
tannins to really reach phenolic maturity and mellow out.
the varietal is distinct for its ethereal aromatic perfume and this only really
develops in the later part of the ripening period. Thirdly, the varietal is
very susceptible to mildew and can really suffer if the weather is too humid, but thankfully the ideal weather conditions held right through to harvest.
Longest Growing Season in Modern Times
one of the longest growing seasons in modern times. Giovanni explains that the
winter between 2015 and 2016 was in fact fairly short and relatively warm (the
second warmest in 59 years in Piedmont after the winter of 2006 and 2007). He
goes on to explain that this warm winter generates an early recovery of
vegetation growth, resulting in early budding. The spring was then pretty
regular – no frost but not too hot either - allowing the wines to operate
regularly in perfect health. The summer remained very regular, again not too
hot and not too dry, making the vegetative cycle long and slow enabling a build
up of complex flavours. Giovanni states that the growing cycle in 2016 was at
least 15 – 20 days longer than today’s average in Barolo, thanks to the early
start and relatively late harvest.
extraordinary is that this long vegetative cycle is something that is typically
diminishing with climate change. As outlined in Burgundy in an interview last
week with Benoit Stehly of Domaine Georges Lignier, the traditional notion that
vignerons pick 100 days after flowering is today outdated, with the veraison
period under a hotter climate getting shorter and shorter. Giovanni states the
same is happening in Barolo, but in 2016, there really were 100 day plus
between flowering and harvest.
September, the month that really dictates the final quality of the vintage, the
weather remained warm and steady but with big drops in temperature during the
night helping the grapes retain their acidity as the fruits gained great
complexity in flavor and outstanding phenolic ripeness. It was this moment in
September that Giovanni believes had the greatest impact in the wines final complexity.
“In that moment we have the synthesis of the flavours and the refining of the
Giovanni Angeli with Franco and Roberto Massolino
describes the wines as deep, powerful and rich, with a great bouquet with lots
of fruit aromas. The quality of the tannins are really outstanding; fine,
elegant and very complex and there is good acidity too, making the wines even
more drinkable and enjoyable. Giovanni goes on to compare the vintage in terms
of quality and style to the great 1996 vintage.
compare with the 2015s, he states “2015 is a really good vintage for us with
wines rich in aromas and with a great freshness, especially if you consider how
warm the vintage was. But in 2016 the wines have something more. They are more
concentrated with a great acidity. They have a juicy, crunchy fruit that makes
the wine easy to drink, enjoyable with a great freshness and length in the
mouth and a lovely quality of the tannins in terms of finesse.”
vintage where you find such phenolic ripeness, the wines are very approachable,
and can be enjoyed at a younger age than is normally typical of Barolo. At the
same time, the concentration, the good acidity and the finesse of the tannins
means that although you can drink and enjoy them now, the wines will see a
fantastic evolution over 25 – 35 years and probably longer!
for the first set of releases coming from the Barolo 2016 vintage over the next
few weeks. Huge thanks to Giovanni Angeli for his early insight into what is looking like a fantastic vintage.