My recent week in Italy has been one of the most enjoyable and exciting trips to Piedmont I can remember having. My schedule was fuller than ever before, including 20 of the region's top producers and upcoming stars. There were as many new faces to meet as old and plenty of wine to discover.
At a time when Italy is in the doldrums, Piedmont seems to be positively buzzing. Not only is demand and quality of wine sky-high, but also the region is teaming with budding young winemakers. What a difference to 30 years ago when Barolo was being given away for free with more sought-after bottles of Dolcetto. I was there to taste the vintage on everyone's lips, 2010. I will spare the meteorological report, we have had quite enough of "weather" in the UK already this year, but in short 2010 was a very late vintage characterised by a late, poor flowering with resulting low yields; a cool and wet start to the summer; a return to good weather in September with big day night temperature differences that built freshness and aroma in the grapes; culminating with fine October weather in the run up to and during harvest at the end of the month. The wines are crisp and offer a refined intensity. The tannins are evident but distinctly sweet, smooth and weave deftly through the fruit. They give the initial impression of a gentle austerity which precedes long, floral and fruity notes. These are hallmarks of great Nebbiolo.
There is a deep concentration in the wines but they remain streamlined, restrained and alpine-pure. As impressive as they are to taste however, to get the most out of drinking them will require great patience. A benchmark vintage for laying down. I tasted with the good and the great: amongst many others the three Gs - Conterno, Mascarello and Rinaldi; Altare; Clerico; Giacosa; Vietti; Voerzio and Scavino just to name drop a little. Brovia and Elio Grasso were two firsts for me that greatly impressed. However the 2010 range that I kept comparing everything back to was Azelia. This is an estate that has been making bigger strides in quality than any other over the last few years. Their 2010s are simply brilliant and among the vintage's very best wines.
Giles Burke-Gaffney, Buying Director