Ahh, Barolo. Perhaps the most renowned of the renowned Italian wines. Made mostly from Nebbiolo in Piedmont, it's not that often that we find revered wines like this in our price range. In fact, it's so rare to find wines like Barolo, Brunello or Amarone under $20 that when we do their authenticity is in question.
Take, for example, our review of the Conte di Bregonzo Amarone found at Trader Joe's for around $18. After publishing that review I was contacted by journalists in Italy who were highly skeptical that the wine was authentic. It turned out it was but many producers get quite upset when these authentic low price bottles receive any publicity at all as they seem to think it damages the wine's reputation (or maybe they are just trying to protect their profits). In any case, it's the reason we entitled today's post "Barolo on the Down Low".
Of course there's a good reason many of these wines are so expensive. In the case of Barolo the wines are required to have 38 months of aging before release, 18 of which in oak. To get the Reserve label that goes up to 62 months (again with at least 18 in wood). There are also very strict limits in place on grape yields and the amount of wine that can be produced, which limits supply. Then there is the Nebbiolo grape which is notoriously hard to grow in many areas, again creating limited supply and exclusivity.
Even with all these challenges, today we have managed to find two examples of authentic Barolo that manage to keep their prices right around $20. And while they go about it in slightly different ways, the key to both is cutting out the middleman.
First up is the 2004 Barreri & Rovati Barolo Riserva, available exclusively at Trader Joe's. It sells for $19.99.
This wine is imported by Latitude Wines exclusively for Trader Joe's wines. This direct import model is the one of the reasons their prices are so low. (Find out more about Trader Joe's low prices here.) A little research shows that the Barreri & Rovati label is owned by Terre Da Vino, a cooperative of 3,000 growers representing almost 15,000 acres of vineyards in Piedmont. They also produce the excellent Rocca dell'Olmo Barbaresco that sells for just $9.99 at Trader Joe's.
From the bottle:
An opulent, full-bodied and complex red wine. Deep garnet red, with typical orangish tints, it is warm and intense, with generous scents of spices, liquorice and violets. Well-integrated tannins accentuate the wine's elegance and richness.
The 2004 Barreri & Rovati Barolo Riserva begins with a complex bouquet featuring a bit of everything: sour cherry and other ripe fruit, spice, some herbal notes, rose petals, violets, lots of mint and a little vanilla. This one really needs a good long decant for the nose to open but then it reveals some simply intoxicating aromas. The wine tastes smooth and super drinkable and at about a decade old it is just hitting its stride. In fact, it's a fascinating wine to watch evolve in the glass over a few hours as well as it reveals more and more layers of its complexity. It ends with dry, firm tannins; a bit of an earthy streak; and even a touch of minerality on the long finish. The wine is just as good on day two with a bit more of the earthy side showing through.
Shockingly, not only is this wine a Reserva (meaning it has at least 62 months of aging) but it also comes from the very highly rated 2004 vintage. And that is really my only reservation with this wine in the future -- if new vintages that aren't rated as highly as 2004 one can hold up, or if this is just a one time find from an excellent year. For that we'll have to wait and see, but in the meantime, enjoy!
Next up is the 2010 Cordero Barolo DOCG available exclusively at Naked Wines. It has a normal price of $59.99 on Naked Wines and is available to Angels for just $23.99 (Saturday Splurge).
This wine comes from father-daughter winemaking duo Gianfranco and Serena Cordero. Their Barolo normally sells for over $200 a bottle, but thanks to $750k in crowd-sourcing funds from Naked Wines Angels they have produced this wine exclusively for Naked Wines at a fraction of the cost. We've long been a fan of the Naked Wines model, which you can find more about in this post, and it's very encouraging to see them expand beyond California wines and bring in producers like this.
From the bottle:
Thanks to your support we're proud to present our first Barolo for NakedWines.com. It's not easy to produce such a noble wine, but it has been made possible because of you!
This bright garnet red wine with its rich and multilayered fruit opens up gradually, showing the best characteristics of Barolo. It is delicious to drink now, especially after decanting, but it will develop even more after 8-10 years of ageing.
Our Barolo is the perfect wine to enjoy with friends and goes especially well with a hearty beef stew.
So enjoy it! And thank you again!
The 2010 Cordero Barolo DOCG begins with a wonderfully deep, complex aroma filled with black cherry, strawberry and spice. The wine tastes rich, dry and spicy with lots of mineral notes. One taste is all it takes to tell you that this is no cheap version of Barolo, it's the real thing although it's almost criminal to drink this bottle so young! It ends dry, long and savory with spice, leather and more mineral notes. Fantastic!
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