Paolo Manzone Barolo Riserva 2012
Barolo, Italy’s most famous wine producing region, is actually divided into five separate communes. These communes are now gaining a level of name recognition, but for many years this was not the case. Historically, to most producers, Barolo wines were a “blend.” Not a blend of grapes – Barolo is 100% Nebbiolo – but a blend of different villages.
Why blend vineyards from different villages? Probably for two reasons. First, planting in different areas meant that your crops had a better chance for survival. A hail storm in one village may not fall on its neighbor. Second, some villages have always been more prized, yet sourcing your entire harvest from the best village might result in a wine that is unsellable, simply due to its price.
This was in the “old days,” pre-1980. Nowadays producers almost always identify what village their grapes are from and what vineyard. But I can tell you from tasting many old Barolos, even if they were a blend from different villages, that the most age-worthy Barolo always comes from, and always has come from, the village of Serralunga.
Now let me step back a moment and introduce you to Gianpaolo Manzone.
For most of his career, Gianpaolo was a wine consultant, helping others make wine in Barolo. Yet he dreamed of having his own wine. In 1999, he got just that. It’s not clear to me how (I haven’t been to this estate, alas) – from what I gather, the estate has always been handed down from father to son. But it also sounds like wife Luisella brought some magic (Money? Land? Energy? Charming good looks? Serious know-how? All of the above? – Probably!) into the mix, allowing Gianpaolo AND Luisella to found the estate Paolo Manzone at Meriame in the Cru of Serralunga.
In ALL of my Barolo tastings, I’ve found wines from the village of Serralunga to be, by far, the most age-worthy. And not only is this wine from Serralunga, it’s from the single vineyard of Meriame – that’s the Luisella side. Further, you don’t get to have a five-decade career in Barolo without knowing exactly what you are doing – that’s the Gianpaolo side. Combine both sides, and you’ve got amazing Barolo:
As Forbes magazine notes, “This is one of the 25 best Barolos… the riserva [this very darn wine] is nothing short of brilliant.” And all of that shows on the nose and palate: an immensely profound nose of cherry tobacco, roses, hand-smoothed leather, rich black cherries with touches of savory anise and veal stock-braised fennel pour out of the glass. The winery’s website amuses me, but I think it sums up the palate: “[We do] a proper vinification and aging process to obtain hefty wines, with full regards to traditional methods.” And you better believe it! Nebbiolo is one of the world’s most tannic grapes and Serralunga produces some of the most tannic Barolo, and this is a Riserva, aged extra-long –hefty is one way to put it.
Having enjoyed Serralunga Barolo dating back to the 1970s, I say there is simply no reason to rush. This is a cellar-worthy masterpiece.