Some thoughts on 2018 Barolos. What are yours?

I read this forum a lot but I don't spend much time writing on it so I thought to start doing it by sharing some thoughts I had, after my recent Barolo visit, regarding the infamous 2018 vintage. I will probably make a blog post in the next few days but I thought it was a good idea to discuss and check what you guys think about it.

2018 is not a great vintage. The wines are not powerful or structured, elegant or refined; they are ready to drink.

Overall we can consider it a balanced vintage where the producers' choices are extremely evident. What in similar vintages, like 2012, was a problem (many boring wines out there) in 2018 is a blessing because the quality of the region went drastically up. Even mainstream producers, that were considered in the past too big for quality, are now making wines capable of sharing the gospel with the small old-schoolers like the great Sarmassa from Marchesi di Barolo and the apocalyptic-first-vintage-masterpiece Rocche di Castiglione from Ceretto.

The aftermath of the torrid 2017 and the heavy and constant rain in May forced winemakers to make choices that led to different views of the vintage: Federico Scarzello sees similarities with the 2014, Nicola Oberto (Trediberri) with the 2012, Andrea Marchetti (Marcarini) with the 2006, Alex Sanchez (Brovia) with the 2008 and Fabio Alessandria (G.B. Burlotto) thinks of it as a new type of vintage that will eventually start a modern style of drinkable Nebbiolos. Turns out that their wines smell and taste like those vintages; that’s why judging 2018 is so difficult and somehow misleading.

This vintage rewarded the producers who worked less in the winery and more in the vineyard leading to expressive wines: Diego Morra’s Monvigliero and Castello di Perno’s Castelletto are the best wines made, so far, by those estates because the cru’s character is stronger than their previous vintages.
The market approach was what tore down the vintage; producers should have dropped prices and filled the restaurants leaving the collectors with a 2019’s fever. Clearly that didn’t happen (financial problems or greed?) and the attention went toward scores that destroyed many great wines. One in particular has been so unfairly judged that I felt the need to write a tasting note and give it my own score.

2018 Villero, Brovia (tasted 18th May at the estate)
Pale ruby with a dark rim. Ripe strawberry and dark cherry. Fresh ground beef and cloves. You can feel the warmth of the alcohol on the nose but on the palate the wine is balanced with velvety tannins and a medium plus finish. The character of Villero is here: meaty, warm, ripe but also fresh, modern, approachable. Simply great. Drink slightly chilled. 96/100

Again, this is just my opinion and needs to be compared with your own experience. Have you drank any Barolo 2018? What do you think of it?
 

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I read this forum a lot but I don't spend much time writing on it so I thought to start doing it by sharing some thoughts I had, after my recent Barolo visit, regarding the infamous 2018 vintage. I will probably make a blog post in the next few days but I thought it was a good idea to discuss and check what you guys think about it.

2018 is not a great vintage. The wines are not powerful or structured, elegant or refined; they are ready to drink.

Overall we can consider it a balanced vintage where the producers' choices are extremely evident. What in similar vintages, like 2012, was a problem (many boring wines out there) in 2018 is a blessing because the quality of the region went drastically up. Even mainstream producers, that were considered in the past too big for quality, are now making wines capable of sharing the gospel with the small old-schoolers like the great Sarmassa from Marchesi di Barolo and the apocalyptic-first-vintage-masterpiece Rocche di Castiglione from Ceretto.

The aftermath of the torrid 2017 and the heavy and constant rain in May forced winemakers to make choices that led to different views of the vintage: Federico Scarzello sees similarities with the 2014, Nicola Oberto (Trediberri) with the 2012, Andrea Marchetti (Marcarini) with the 2006, Alex Sanchez (Brovia) with the 2008 and Fabio Alessandria (G.B. Burlotto) thinks of it as a new type of vintage that will eventually start a modern style of drinkable Nebbiolos. Turns out that their wines smell and taste like those vintages; that’s why judging 2018 is so difficult and somehow misleading.

This vintage rewarded the producers who worked less in the winery and more in the vineyard leading to expressive wines: Diego Morra’s Monvigliero and Castello di Perno’s Castelletto are the best wines made, so far, by those estates because the cru’s character is stronger than their previous vintages.
The market approach was what tore down the vintage; producers should have dropped prices and filled the restaurants leaving the collectors with a 2019’s fever. Clearly that didn’t happen (financial problems or greed?) and the attention went toward scores that destroyed many great wines. One in particular has been so unfairly judged that I felt the need to write a tasting note and give it my own score.

2018 Villero, Brovia (tasted 18th May at the estate)
Pale ruby with a dark rim. Ripe strawberry and dark cherry. Fresh ground beef and cloves. You can feel the warmth of the alcohol on the nose but on the palate the wine is balanced with velvety tannins and a medium plus finish. The character of Villero is here: meaty, warm, ripe but also fresh, modern, approachable. Simply great. Drink slightly chilled. 96/100

Again, this is just my opinion and needs to be compared with your own experience. Have you drank any Barolo 2018? What do you think of it?
Lovely post Nelson. I thought the 2018s I tasted at Nebbiolo Day were drinking very well. Agree not a great vintage but wines I want to drink. I thought the 3 Brovia crus were the highlight of the tasting and tasting them together was both a treat and a learning experience. The Villero my favourite of the 3. Here are my notes;

Brovia rocche do castiglione 2018 Barolo - dark cherry fruit. Very together wine. Total harmony. You can almost feel the sandy soil in the soft tannins.

Brovia Villero 2018 Barolo - sweet cherries, violets, liquorice and dried flowers. Delicious soft tannins. What a wine.

Brea Vigna Ca’ Mia 2018 Barolo - more spice, a hotter (like chilli heat rather than heat heat!) more intense wine. Lots of bloody, irony meat to this. Fantastic wine that makes you ponder how on earth it can taste like this.

For what it’s worth, I think the blended Barolos from 2018 are probably where the smart money is. Many of the ones I tasted are drinking so well already. The only 2018 I have bought so far is Bruna Grimaldi’s Camilla, a joyful wine, and at £135/6 not a purchase you will regret.

Have to say, however, that the LN from 2019 and 2020 I have tasted have already averted my attention to the future. These look like a pair of monumental vintages. Lots to look forward to!
 
Hi Simon,
I'm so glad we share the same view on Brovia. I have to be honest though; when I tasted Brovia's wines at Nebbiolo Day I liked them but only now I realised how consistent they are on this vintage. I was too blown away that day on Castello di Perno's Castelletto 2018 which I thought was the top wine of the show.

2019 is going to be a great vintage but everyone is betting their money on 2021. Even if I've tasted something from the barrels I can't really say as they are still quite raw (I don't trust all those critics that taste barrels, that's an oenologist thing in my opinion). On 2020 I've got mixed opinions from winemakers: in some cases producer thinks is going to be a quality trilogy (19, 20, 21) while others think that is going to be a 2018 replica.

I think that if I have to drink generally a 2018 I really like the wines from the commune of La Morra which are usually the lighter ones. I drank a commune Barolo from Crissante (50 euros at the restaurant) that was absolutely great.

Hopefully we will catch up drinking some 18 Barolos!
 
Hi Simon,
I'm so glad we share the same view on Brovia. I have to be honest though; when I tasted Brovia's wines at Nebbiolo Day I liked them but only now I realised how consistent they are on this vintage. I was too blown away that day on Castello di Perno's Castelletto 2018 which I thought was the top wine of the show.

2019 is going to be a great vintage but everyone is betting their money on 2021. Even if I've tasted something from the barrels I can't really say as they are still quite raw (I don't trust all those critics that taste barrels, that's an oenologist thing in my opinion). On 2020 I've got mixed opinions from winemakers: in some cases producer thinks is going to be a quality trilogy (19, 20, 21) while others think that is going to be a 2018 replica.

I think that if I have to drink generally a 2018 I really like the wines from the commune of La Morra which are usually the lighter ones. I drank a commune Barolo from Crissante (50 euros at the restaurant) that was absolutely great.

Hopefully we will catch up drinking some 18 Barolos!
Interesting feedback re the 21’s, sounds like we are in for a treat. Hold onto your hats re pricing in the next few years I’d imagine.

I really liked the Perno 17’s at Nebbiolo Day but I didn’t get to taste the ‘18. It must have been finished by the time I got there.
 
Thank you for your considered thoughts, Nelson. I have not tasted many ‘18s yet (in fact only those at your Castelletto masterclass) but hope to visit the region shortly (perhaps as early as June) to get a fuller read. As we have discussed before, I think we have quite an aligned view on this vintage.

I’ve copied below the thoughts that I posted in my masterclass report (18 Casteletto)


Some provisional thoughts on the 2018 vintage as a whole
This was my first tasting of ‘18 Barolos (although I have had some Langhe Nebbiolo) and I did have a degree of trepidation. Having read quite widely, talked to several people who have tasted widely, and now tried a few myself, my conclusion is that Galloni has got it wrong on this one. As a generalisation, these might not be long lived wines but they are enjoyable and energetic. A restaurant vintage in the best possible way - accessible but for once without coming from a “hot” vintage. The character seems to be one of juicy, cool, fruit and a certain restraint without austerity. Will I be buying like I did in ‘13 and ‘16? No I won’t. Will I buy some good wines to enjoy in the near term? Absolutely. I certainly expect they will suit my palate better than many ‘17s.”

Not bought anything yet (Burlotto reservation aside), but looking to scoop up some Fratelli Alessandria and Giacomo Fenocchio at a minimum - and definitely some Castello di Perno if available over here.
 
Agree 100%

The general problem of balanced vintages is that they are indeed more "boring" than minor ones (like 14 or 17). At the end seeing the development of some of the 2017s you can tell that this lower shelf-life wines are there for us mainly to be enjoyed.

Burlotto Acclivi 2018 is surely on the Top 10 best of the vintage.
 
I certainly think so, Tom. The best vintages tend to shut down harder and faster, although I do find a window of enjoyment on release (sometimes as little as a year for the more structured vintages).

That said, for me, there is a lot of pleasure to be found in good/classical vintage Barolo at ages that would traditionally be considered rather young - such as 04/06/08 which are, to me, drinking well at the mid level even with tertiary development left to come.

The warmer vintages (11/15) tend to be quite approachable- but it is for this reason I am quite interested in the ‘18s - accessibility but with a cool fruit character sounds a winning combination to me for the near term.
 
I'm quite fond of the 2018s. They certainly have a place in my cellar, which is pretty light on Piemonte, and I view it as a useful vintage.

I spent a few days in Piemonte at the end of August last year and tasted quite a lot of 2018s. Not restricting ourselves to Barolo, we visited Vietti, Sandrone, Renato Corino, Giacosa, La Ca'Nova, Luigi Pira, Einaudi, Cavallotto, Grasso and probably some others I can't remember from this bar in Heathrow! I was gutted to have to fly home and miss the Burlotto visit.

Of course, 2019 is looking terrific and I've been hugely impressed by what I've seen thus far. At the same time, I find 2018 to be a significant step up from 2017 and the wines hold quite a lot of interest of their own. Whilst 2017s are, for me, charming, forward and easy to appreciate - I frame them as 'gateway Nebbiolo' - the 2018 vintage has greater volume and mid-palate 'heft'. They feel less immediate and generous than the sun-kissed 2017s but the structure is far from forbidding. Galloni gives the vintage a shoeing that I just do not understand.

Grasso's 2018s, for instance, are seriously impressive although Gianluca's volumes were decimated.

I'm buying a few 2018s for mid-term drinking whilst my 2016s rest and will be diving into 2019 with enthusiasm - just bought a couple of cases of LCN's Montefico which was my pick from the cellar and intend to grab some Barbaresco normale for relatively early drinking.

Do note, I'm also buying most of the above commercially, so have an interest, albeit very few for UK sales.
 
Thanks for the report, sounds quite encouraging.

I haven't bought much as went a bit ballistic on '16. Apart from a successful entry in the TWS burlottery, went for some Massolino as they didn't make any single vineyards so £160/6 seemed a good value way of getting some pretty high end fruit.

Tempted by the Brovia crus - reading this forum continues to be a disaster for my finances
 
I wonder if Barolo has something in common with red burgundy, where if one wishes to take earlyish pleasure one will generally have far more fun with unfancied vintages?
That certainly is my view, Thom. Of course, I'm of the age where I'm not looking for wines to cellar for a decade or two. (That being said, Barolo and Barbaresco are made in styles today that generally can be approached young, at least for my tannin-tolerant palate.)
 
I'm quite fond of the 2018s. They certainly have a place in my cellar, which is pretty light on Piemonte, and I view it as a useful vintage.

I spent a few days in Piemonte at the end of August last year and tasted quite a lot of 2018s. Not restricting ourselves to Barolo, we visited Vietti, Sandrone, Renato Corino, Giacosa, La Ca'Nova, Luigi Pira, Einaudi, Cavallotto, Grasso and probably some others I can't remember from this bar in Heathrow! I was gutted to have to fly home and miss the Burlotto visit.

Of course, 2019 is looking terrific and I've been hugely impressed by what I've seen thus far. At the same time, I find 2018 to be a significant step up from 2017 and the wines hold quite a lot of interest of their own. Whilst 2017s are, for me, charming, forward and easy to appreciate - I frame them as 'gateway Nebbiolo' - the 2018 vintage has greater volume and mid-palate 'heft'. They feel less immediate and generous than the sun-kissed 2017s but the structure is far from forbidding. Galloni gives the vintage a shoeing that I just do not understand.

Grasso's 2018s, for instance, are seriously impressive although Gianluca's volumes were decimated.

I'm buying a few 2018s for mid-term drinking whilst my 2016s rest and will be diving into 2019 with enthusiasm - just bought a couple of cases of LCN's Montefico which was my pick from the cellar and intend to grab some Barbaresco normale for relatively early drinking.

Do note, I'm also buying most of the above commercially, so have an interest, albeit very few for UK sales.

Hi Matthew,
there are indeed certain producers that no matter what will always come up with amazing wines: Burlotto, Vietti, Giacomo Conterno, Brovia.

The main difference is that 2017 is a vintage that is slightly opening up now; most times when you are drinking 18 and 17 together you can see that the latter always takes a lot of time to open up but in my opinion as a "vintage character" is more defined especially with producers that uses small oak barrels (Mauro Veglio, Chiara Boschis, Scavino, Sandrone). On the question of the mid-palate/weight depends all on the basic style of the village. Serralunga kept a bit of power for sure while most wines from La Morra are delicious Pinot Noirs at this point.

If you have the opportunity try some Crissante 2018 commune wines and let me know!
 
Thanks for the report, sounds quite encouraging.

I haven't bought much as went a bit ballistic on '16. Apart from a successful entry in the TWS burlottery, went for some Massolino as they didn't make any single vineyards so £160/6 seemed a good value way of getting some pretty high end fruit.

Tempted by the Brovia crus - reading this forum continues to be a disaster for my finances

Hi Max, thank you for taking the time to read it,
You mentioned my main point. VALUE.

Unfortunately I think we missed the possibility of a great vintage at low prices. We know that Barolo is more similar to Burgundy when it comes to properties but could have been a great opportunity for producer to sell the wines at a lower price especially to those who supported their work for a long time (especially restaurants).

Is a bit sad that at the end critics are literally deciding for them but Galloni makes a strong point when he says that Barolo producers dont drink other wines and I think was the most important true point that he made.
 
That certainly is my view, Thom. Of course, I'm of the age where I'm not looking for wines to cellar for a decade or two. (That being said, Barolo and Barbaresco are made in styles today that generally can be approached young, at least for my tannin-tolerant palate.)

Hi Claude,
buy as many wines from La Morra as possible then (I put Crissante here because I really liked it).

Just to add one quick thing. It is true that Barolo is moving towards a different style nowadays and I think that the rising of Gian Luca Colombo and its "neoclassical" style is giving the region a new sort of main style after years of polarisation of traditionalists vs modernists.

Is incredible also how the modern school (and I think of Mauro Veglio and Silvano Bolmida) are making some of the best wines of the region just by understanding how to retain the small oak while maintaining the style of the crus.

Truly great stuff.
 
@Nelson Pari tha k you for starting this thread and sharing your thoughts.

My impression from Nebbiolo Day is that it is a heterogeneous vintage yet some producers made truly lovely examples such as Marcarini, Diego Conterno, Vietti, Brovia, Guilia Negri to name a few. I think it really depends upon the style you like. I tend to prefer soulful terroir expressive wines were they have not been made with a heavy hand in the cellar. Also those who did not make crus such as Trediberri and Produttori del Barbaresco made some lovely wines.

In 2018 I've bought Vietti Masseria Roncaglie (loved this at Nebbiolo Day), Cesare Bussolo Fossati and may add some of the inexpensive commune wines which I have tasted and enjoyed.
 
@Nelson Pari tha k you for starting this thread and sharing your thoughts.

My impression from Nebbiolo Day is that it is a heterogeneous vintage yet some producers made truly lovely examples such as Marcarini, Diego Conterno, Vietti, Brovia, Guilia Negri to name a few. I think it really depends upon the style you like. I tend to prefer soulful terroir expressive wines were they have not been made with a heavy hand in the cellar. Also those who did not make crus such as Trediberri and Produttori del Barbaresco made some lovely wines.

In 2018 I've bought Vietti Masseria Roncaglie (loved this at Nebbiolo Day), Cesare Bussolo Fossati and may add some of the inexpensive commune wines which I have tasted and enjoyed.

There are indeed some lovely wines out there for sure. I'm glad you mentioned Cesare Bussolo, I need actually to go and meet him this year as we're good friends. I think is bringing forward Voerzio's job in an impeccable way.
 
It's all moot for me as like Claude above, I don't need to be buying wines needing two decades of aging. I'll likely buy the odd bottle here and there but may look to shift to bottles of Langhe Nebbiolo and such for more youthful drinking. I haven't tried any '18s yet and the '19 Nebbiolos are already supplanting them in my market.
 
A dead bottle of normale 1968 today from Marchesi Di Barolo was followed by a fairly decent one of the same. Wine, eh?

To be honest better not to know how those wines were made. Just to give an idea drinkable water arrived in La Morra in 1961 (they used to go up and down the river to get it every single day) and toilets were in 1965 a small booth for at least 15/20 people each and they used a rope as toilet paper...

Maybe Marchesi was having a different life but still it was a really tough life back then even if you were the richest man in Piedmont.
 
It's all moot for me as like Claude above, I don't need to be buying wines needing two decades of aging. I'll likely buy the odd bottle here and there but may look to shift to bottles of Langhe Nebbiolo and such for more youthful drinking. I haven't tried any '18s yet and the '19 Nebbiolos are already supplanting them in my market.

And also there are many villages (Roddi is the first that came to mind) that were originally in the Barolo map that they didn't get to it (for incredible stories btw) so you will find plenty of Langhe Nebbiolo made by actual crus. The one that I mention a lot is Gian Luca Colombo's one which is basically the hill next to Monvigliero. Is a bloody deal.
 
To be honest better not to know how those wines were made. Just to give an idea drinkable water arrived in La Morra in 1961 (they used to go up and down the river to get it every single day) and toilets were in 1965 a small booth for at least 15/20 people each and they used a rope as toilet paper...

Maybe Marchesi was having a different life but still it was a really tough life back then even if you were the richest man in Piedmont.
Thank you for the insight, Nelson, and reminding us to appreciate what we have.

Giving someone enough rope to hang themselves now sounds like lavatorial protocol.
 
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