There is perhaps no wine better suited to the Fall season than Barolo, and Nebbiolo in general. As diners naturally move to order more hearty meat dishes, and chefs turn more toward root vegetables and mushrooms, Barolo finds its moment. But this year especially there seems to be increased interest in Barolo from drinkers. Some of that is due to the excitement that is attending the release of the lauded 2010 Barolo wines into the market, some of it has to do with the publication of some recent books and articles on the topic, and also we happen to be in one of the best white truffle years in a while. But where should you go to drink Barolo if you want to? It can sometimes be a difficult decision.
Some restaurants, even some Italian restaurants, seem to give Barolo scant attention. Barolo can be the odd wine out, ignored by the red sauce joints that are Tuscan heavy as well as by the hipster spots that have embraced Sicilian wines. At other times it is pricing that is the culprit, as some restaurants seem to feel that ordering Barolo should be punishing on the wallet or nothing, listing exclusively famous producer names that rarely dip below the $250 mark per bottle. But the truth is that there are many Barolo bottles produced today, much of it of very good quality, and at all different levels of pricing. At the same time, drinking Barolo is one of the great pleasures of the season. Here is where to do it well in New York City today.
Maialino offers a deep collection of decade-old Nebbiolo that is both unrivaled in the city and reasonably priced. If you want to find and drink many of the legendary wines that collectors spend their lives searching out, this is the place to do it. And while these bottles might be locked in a fortress of untouchable pricing on any other wine list, here the tariffs are within reach for many diners. The extensive Barolo by the glass options that Maialino currently pours also make approaching the list easy. [Photo: Daniel Krieger.]
Alessandro e Gian Natale Fantino "Vigna dei Dardi" Riserva Barolo 1998, $96
Dark and rustic Barolo meant for a night when there is a chill in the air or when lamb is being served. Or both. This is in a nice spot right now as the tannins have opened up.
Castello di Neive Barbaresco 1971, $165
A classic, old school producer from a classic, old school year. This is what Maialino does so well: source wines like this and offer them for less than half of what you might find them for elsewhere.
G.B. Burlotto Barolo 1967, $250
So delicious, this wine. Nebbiolo from Verduno, a cooler climate within the Barolo zone, and capable of Burgundy levels of finesse. Decant the bottle, give it a few minutes to settle, and then enjoy with the Malfatti al Maialino pasta. That is a good day.
There is no doubt that its B&B Hospitality Group siblings Babbo and Del Posto go longer and deeper with the Nebbiolo selections than Otto, but Otto occupies that prized middle ground with many delicious options in the $90 to 170 range, which is a price point that can get a bit left behind at those other restaurants. [Photo: Daniel Krieger]
Tenute Sella Bramaterra 2007, $65
Nebbiolo is joined by the local Croatina and Vespolina in this wine, from one of the star producers of the northern Piemonte. The winemaker here also divides his time making the much more famous (and expensive) Giacosa wines. The bottle is right in the zone of maturity and ready to be drunk with beef.
Scarzello Barolo 2005, $130
Federico Scarzello had one of the most successful vintages of his career to date in 2005, and when I serve this exact wine to connoisseurs with the label covered they always guess that it is something much more expensive. Here is a chance to drink an insider's Barolo, for an insider's price.
Conti Boca 1985, $147
You see the soulful and character rich old wines of Conti on many wine lists around town, but rarely do you see them for this price anymore. They usually sell for much more now. This is a traditionally styled wine, so don't broach a bottle without some food to go along with it. And decanting is definitely recommended. But if you like your Piemonte wines to speak with nuance instead of brash fruit, this is the wine for you.
Colicchio & Sons
Colicchio & Sons may be the most overlooked wine program in the city right now, as the list is currently bursting at the seams with old wines from around the world. Barolo isn't even what the list does best, yet the lineup is still strong enough to stand in amongst the best in class. If you haven't checked in with the program there lately, and you really like wine, give it a look. [Photo: Colicchio & Sons]
Schiavenza "Bricco Ceretta" Barolo 2009, $95
From a year and a vineyard that can be big on fruit, but Schiavenza is excellent at teasing out more nuance from a wine than just lush fruit. Mineral, savory notes can also be found here, and if you decant this it is approachable now.
Giacomo Fennochio "Bussia" Barolo 2001, $165
A lot of people are focused on Giacomo Fennochio now that the 2010 from this producer received considerable attention. But here is a chance to try the wine from before it was hip, and with age on the bottle.
Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco 1979, $195
A perfect way to experience profound Nebbiolo. The 1979s are underrated in general, often showing a finesse to the fruit that the more lauded 1978s often lack. And this is a producer that almost never misses. A reference point wine that the drinker is likely to remember for many years. Maybe the rest of their lives.
I Trulli has been stocking back vintages of old classics on its list since before it was fashionable to go searching for the old Piemonte wines of a different winemaking era. The focus is on a specific set of producers known to the house, but the offerings for them go deep and long, and this is an excellent place to explore old wine. [Photo: I Trulli]
Sorbrero "Ciabot Tanasio" 2008, $90
Sorbrero is still little known in the market, but that has nothing to do with the quality of the wines, which as far as I can discern are an excellent blend of refined power with classic structure. These wines are meant to be drunk with some age on them, but the 2008 is more open than most, and a delicious option to pair with secondi meat courses.
Castello di Montegrosso Barolo Riserva 1982, $175
This is an example of a wine that you will not find at any other venue in New York, for any price. It has a definite imprint of wood tannins, so be warned if that is not your flavor, but if you are game, this is ready and waiting for you.
Prunotto Barolo Riserva 1971, $325
Beppe Colla, who was born in 1930, lives in obscurity now, but he was for a great while a true maestro of Barolo production and revered for his expertise. Here is an example of his skill in action, a bottle from the great 1971 vintage and Prunotto, the winery that he ran. Classics don't get any more classic than this.
Alta is often thought of as a Spanish spot, and certainly it has back vintage Rioja aplenty. But it also has a very well chosen set of Barolo offered for sharp pricing. This is the kind of lineup you don't see too much of anymore — one assembled by a buyer with a very keen eye for value. If you want to drink quite well but for not too much, take note. [Photo: Alta]
Giovanni Manzone "Bricat" Barolo 2003, $90
Many buyers passed up the 2003 vintage from this region, because the weather conditions that year were extraordinarily hot. But the wines are often drinking well at the moment, and many were closed out in the wholesale market for fire sale prices. Buyers who were smart enough to pick some up have something very reasonable to offer their guests: decade old Barolo for under $100. A smart choice.
Giuseppe Rinaldi "Brunate-Le Coste" Barolo 2004, $188
Beppe Rinaldi Brunate for $188??? Mic drop! Q.E.D.! End of debate. The value is real, people. This wine would be $300+ at any Italian restaurant. Go get it.
Marcarini (Cogno) "Brunate" Barolo 1970, $210
Real Piemonte aficionados know that back in this era Marcarini, led by Elvio Cogno, was one of the kings of the roost in Barolo's La Morra zone. This is a special chance to connect with a different era of Piemonte, and to do so for a price that is extraordinarily low.
Becco, the Theater District stalwart, may be the most overlooked outpost of the Bastianich empire in New York. But at one time Becco was a wine pioneer; this is where Joe Bastianich launched the $25 wine list. A list of wines offered for $25 each, taking the price out of the ordering equation. That format still exists, but what most have forgotten is that Becco also offers a supplemental Reserve List of wines over $25, and that list is a gold mine of untapped values. Sometimes being forgotten about means that something is still left for you to find. At Becco that means a lot. The Becco Reserve List is especially strong for Barolo in that $100-$200 range that many other wine lists find difficult to fill. [Photo: Becco]
Rovelotti Ghemme 2006, $65
If you are a fan of Nebbiolo flavors but not a fan of a lot of Barolo pricing, ordering this wine is an easy decision. Classic tones, well structured, nice ripeness, excellent aromatics. Everything you want, at a price that is right.
Poderi Colla "Dardi le Rose Bussia" Barolo 1999, $110
This is a perfect example of the kind of value that Becco can offer. A very good producer, an excellent year, plenty of age on the bottle, and all of that for way less than $150. It is almost too easy to find appealing options like this at Becco.
Francesco Rinaldi & Figli "Cannubio" Barolo 2000, $155
Whoah, seriously? One of the very best parcels of a famed vineyard, a year this is drinking well now, and a historic producer that is receiving more and more attention from collectors. There is not much to dislike about this wine for the price being asked.
Of all the Epicurean Management Company restaurants, it is dell'anima that does Nebbiolo the best. There is not a deep run of options, but the choices that have been made make every line count, and there are several good choices to choose from. [Photo: dell'anima]
Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco 2010, $78
In 2010 the well respected Produttori decided not to bottle all of their single vineyard wine separately, as they often do, and so all of their best fruit went into this bottling instead. An excellent chance to be drinking from the greatest parcels of Barbaresco, and to do so for much less than those single vineyards would have cost you.
Boasso "Gabutti" Barolo 2006, $135
This is an example of the kind of selection that demonstrates dell'anima is up to good things with Nebbiolo. Boasso is a excellent producer, with holdings in a superb vineyard (the more famous Cappellno winery bottles wine from the same vineyard), but Boasso is often overlooked in the States. There is no cult reputation or following for the winery. But this also means that you are not paying cult prices. This is sturdy, firm Barolo with impressive concentration from a particularly good year for it. Perfect for a winter meal.
Le Piane "La Meridiana" Boca 1984, $175
The old vintages of Le Piane are not known to many drinkers, but they rarely go wrong, even in the supposed "off" vintages, like this one. Developed flavors are exhibited here, and the kind of aromatics that set old Piemonte apart from other wines. Pour this for your Nebbiolo geek friends and even they may be surprised at how good it is. A smart choice for sure.