Line of bottles

Piedmont 2013 – Ten years on

13 March 2023

Mark Dearing

Freshly returned from the first of our two annual tours around Piedmont to assess the 2019 Barolo and Barbaresco vintages, we decided to make a concerted effort to also taste an array of 2013s at ten years old. Common knowledge dictates that the best wines from these two mighty denominations require a decade to reveal their magic, and while there is flex in this from producer to producer, it remains a good rule of thumb.

Coincidentally, producers this year seemed relatively open to making vintage comparisons (a first!), with many independently citing 2013 as the vintage best equipped to show how the 2019s will look like at aged ten, with perhaps an extra kick of inner sweetness to the fruit and polish to the tannins in 2019.

In 2017, I wrote that “though constantly on the move, we could not escape the feeling of eager anticipation and excitement in the region – there is certainly something in the air.”  We described the 2013s as being “beautifully styled and restrained, with fresh acidities and sweet tannins [that are nowhere near] as daunting as other ‘old-school’ greats like 2010 and 2006 […] Although present, the concentrated, crystalline fruit flavours ensure that they are not overly marked, and the long slow ripening period with wide diurnal swings allowed them to ripen until sweet and finely etched, without holding too much power and austerity.”

Both of those sentiments ring as true today as they did then. The best 2013s generally still have a youthfulness to the fruit and firm, refreshing acid levels which seem more apparent in fact than the tannins. Bottles drunk at home in London and in Italy show that at the entry to mid-tier there is lots of pleasure to be had now, provided one has the patience to allow the wines to develop slowly in the glass. 2013 is not a vintage that we would recommend decanting. A Monvigliero from Fratelli Alessandria and Pira from Roagna (to cite two excellent examples) displayed all the haunting, heady perfumes that one wants from great Nebbiolo. Though both wines will benefit from further cellaring, one runs the risk of losing that virile, high-toned excitement with a long decant. Those elements considered, now is the perfect time to open and drink Barolo Classico blends and more delicate styles of single cru wines. That extends even to Bartolo Mascarello’s Barolo 2013 which is entering its long drinking window now. As Piedmont becomes increasingly sought after, prices rise, and the climate warms, it is prudent to backfill particularly with cooler, site-specific vintages like 2013, as it finds its feet as one of the best in recent decades. On the whole, the wines can be broached now thanks to their agile feel and crystalline fruit profile, while the very best crus will continue to develop without any concern for at least another decade.

2013 was also the first vintage in which we started importing the wines of the fantastic Piero Busso estate. First time around, I wrote that “bewitching, high toned pure fruit and floral aspects are their hallmarks, with something to say about where they are from.” In the intervening years, I have drunk and enjoyed more bottles of Busso than I care to remember. San Stunet and Albesani-Borghese have been drinking well for a number of years already (as is common with the generally earlier drinking Barbaresco vs Barolo). Exciting, the traditionally more backward Gallina, from one of the region’s greatest vineyards, is beginning to emerge with great style.

Though limited in availability we have gone through our cellars and highlighted six 2013s that are highly worthy of attention. For drinking now, it doesn’t come much more delicious than the Alessandria Barolo. Now a Comune di Verduno, in 2013 it included fruit from Gramolere in Monforte – adding an extra kick of salt and vitality. For the long haul, Roberto Voerzio’s Torriglione is an icon, while Riserva labels from Marco Marengo and Castello di Verduno can be broached now and enjoyed over the next decade. Vigna Rionda is one of Barolo’s undisputed greats and Luigi Oddero’s 2013, produced in the pre-Francesco Versio era shows impressive depth and complexity.

Mark Dearing, Italy Buyer

Selected Wines from this Offer

Barolo, Fratelli Alessandria, 2013

85 percent of the fruit comes from the Verduno commune with the rest being young vines Gramolere. A slightly shorter maceration than the Cru wines but with the same three years ageing in large casks, the 2013 Barolo is bright suave and supple. The sensual satin-like texture supports the open, plump and juicy fruit – predominantly fresh and aromatic red berry and loganberry flavours. Its beauty, composure and elegance point clearly to the Verduno style.

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Barolo, Brunate, Riserva, Marco Marengo, 2013

Tight, concentrated and edgy at first. A firm backbone softens a little with air and unravels intense aromas of dark fruit, violets and earth. The palate gradually reveals flavours of bramble and boysenberry fruit mixed with hints of cherry, strawberry, spices and herbs. There is also a strong underlying mineral element to the fruit. Deep, layered flavours that need time to unwind. Powerful but serious and smartly-tailored smart. One of the top Cru vineyards of Barolo, situated high up in the La Morra commune. Well protected and exposed with a nice mix of silt and clay soils this vineyard makes wines of power and refinement in equal measure. The Riserva comes from old vines the heart of Brunate, the upper middle part, planted in 1942. Produced in the same way as the other Cru wines – aged for 24 months in 25% new oak barrels - but kept an extra two years in bottle. Rarely more than 800 bottles are made.

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Barbaresco, Gallina, Piero Busso, 2013

So serious and so complete. A solid structure padded out with sufficient flesh. Generous fruit with a firm, focusing structure. Crispy notes of strawberry, raspberry, cherry and cool earth. A wine for laying down but so harmonious and accomplished, not a hair out of place. A clay-dominated, south-west exposed vineyard that faces the river so it has a very windy micro climate despite it not being particularly high, 240 metres altitude. Ageing is the same as for the other crus, 2 years in salvonian oak casks, but is kept an extra year in bottle before release.

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Barolo, Riserva, Monvigliero, Castello di Verduno, 2013

Gripping but stylish. Racy fresh salt-infused red fruits awaken the palate. Long vivid rose, alpine strawberry and wine-berry notes captivate and thrill, whilst a white pepper and rock-salt kick provide a bit of spice and interest to the long, long finish. A stunner. One of the great historic Crus of the area. The steep south-facing slope and, unusually for the area, the chalky sandy soils, give powerful wines of great tannic finesse, spiciness and minerality. There is also the fine perfume you’d expect from the river-influenced Verduno commune, where big day/night temperature differences build aromatics in the wines. For Riservas here the winemaking is the same as the other crus, though the wine is kept an additional two years in bottle before release. Long slow fermentation in open oak vats for up to 60 days, followed by ageing in large used Slavonian oak casks.

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Barolo, Vigna Rionda, Luigi Oddero, 2013

Much darker in profile than the estate’s other Barolos. A cooling, earthy “sous bois” nose followed by compact, deep and powerful flavours on the palate. Velvety and full in the mouth. Layered, bold rich flavours of earth, orange peel, bramble and iodine. There is a deep-lying force and undertow here driving the big flavours along. A baritone Barolo that needs many years to unfurl. From a prime south-facing parcel at the top of the hill, within one of the great historic Crus of Barolo. Aged for 30 months in large used oak casks followed by two years in bottle before release.

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Barolo, Torriglione, Roberto Voerzio, 2013

A linear, tight knit structure provides solid foundations to the wonderfully lush, full fruit. Fruity black and red forest berry with notes of Morello and faint sweet spice touches. Composed and complete. This used to be blended with Rocche dell Annunziata but as of 2010 will be bottled up separately in magnums and released a year later than the other Cru Barolos. From a small hill in the Barolo commune that produces, powerful classically-styled Barolos. Like the Sarmassa the wine is aged slightly differently to the other crus, for 24 months in 30% new oak barriques rather than in a mixture of barriques and 20hl wooden vats.

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