Barolo 2018 – let’s take a look at the vintage
Barolo 2018 – delicious or disappointing? That is the question. But we’ll dig into that a little later. First, let’s look at some facts. As a stark contrast to 2017, which was very dry, 2018 was quite rainy. There were 62 days of rain during the growing season, just like 2014, which was considered one of the rainiest years of all time. But a few things distinguish 2014 from 2018, including the temperature. The temperature was on average higher in 2018 compared to 2014, especially towards the end of the growing season.
So what does all this mean? Well, first of all, too much rain leads to a lot of work in the vineyards. All that humidity creates perfect conditions for downy mildew, a fungus growing on the grapes. The winmakers combat this by spraying copper sulfate, but they basically have to spray after every rainfall. If you have half a hectare, that’s probably not too big a deal, but when you have three, five, or 14, it’s a lot of work.
The heavy rain combined with the high temperatures, also means quite a lot of growth in the vineyards. Which in turn meant they had to be vigilant about managing their vineyards. I think that’s really the key in any vintage: work in the vineyard. Fabio from Burlotto prefers to call himself a “winegrower” and not a “winemaker”, because he first and foremost considers himself a farmer. And when you pay a lot of attention in the vineyards, “it’s difficult to have a bad vintage.”[i] And I agree. In my experience, a good winemaker will make good wines in every vintage. And so in some vintages, like 2018, my advice would be to chose the winemaker and not the wine, if that makes sense.
Barolo 2018 – many different opinions
I am not the first to share some thoughts on Barolo 2018. There have been split “reviews” on this vintage, both from the winemakers and from the wine reviewers. Some are on the more dramatic side, to the point of almost condemning the vintage. Others bear a more hopeful tone, highlighting that despite the difficulties of the vintage, the resulting wines are actually of higher quality than excepted.
Masnaghetti, a great source of information when it comes to Langhe, and the godfather of the Barolo maps, wrote this in his Barolo 2018 Vintage report: “In the history of Barolo, and not merely of Barolo, the vintages which presented themselves at their origin as problematical have been anything but rare. But, in a hypothetical classification of all the vintages, very few would be able to rival 2018.”[iii] But although the season was difficult, he thinks the wines will be “classified in the future as of good level.”
Joshua Dunning, the talent behind Word On The Grapevine, called the vintage a “tangram”. If you had to google that word, don’t worry, I did too. A tangram is “a Chinese puzzle made by cutting a square of thin material into five triangles, a square, and a rhomboid which are capable of being recombined in many different figures”. [iv] And I think it’s a fairly spot on description. He goes on to say that “challenges notwithstanding, the finished wines are an altogether more positive picture than their contributory climatic components might suggest.”[v]
Davy Żyw from Berry Bro’s and Rudd dared to say that the Barolo 2018 has “a Pinot Noir-style personality.”[vi] The same comparison was made by Fabio Alessandria when I visited him November 2021. Davy Żyw made some good points in his Barolo 2018 Vintage Report, including that the “best wines of the ’18 vintage showcase the strength of this multifaceted and extraordinary terroir, elegantly choreographed and infused by an equal sense of calm and place.”
Now, some of you might be waiting for Piemontegirl’s opinion on Barolo 2018. I have to start by saying that I believe there is not such thing as a bad vintage. However, I do believe there are bad wines. I think there is a difference between the two. What is it that they say? The proof is in the pudding? Well, in this case, the wine… There are so many really good 2018 Barolo’s out there. Floral. Fruity. Balanced. Elegant. Crisp. Wow. Beautiful. Incredible. These are only some of the words I used to describe Barolo 2018. And so yes, the growing season was difficult. And yes, overall this vintage might lack some structure compared to 2017, 2016 and 2015. But there are plenty of good Barolo’s out there. You just have to find them.
Here are some of my favorites:
Barolo 2018 Tasting Notes
Bruna Grimaldi Barolo Bricco Ambrogio 2018
A classic nose, floral and fruity. Silky tannins. A very approachable Barolo.
Bruna Grimaldi Barolo Badarina 2018
A slightly vegetal and austere wine. Aromas of red fruit, leather and balsamic. Good structure.
Burlotto Barolo 2018
Masculine nose with aromas of leather and tobacco, but still fruity and quite approachable. A gentle and elegant wine.
Burlotto Barolo Acclivi 2018
The Acclivi is a bit deeper than the Classico. So elegant in the mouth with a very gentle structure. Fruity and crisp, with a long finish.
Burlotto Barolo Monvigliero 2018
Incredible nose with aromas of white pepper and red fruit, with a hint of spice. It was actually a bit spicy in the mouth as well. A very distinctive wine with a lot of personality.
Burlotto Barolo Cannubi 2018
With the Cannubi, the word elegance springs to mind. Elegant nose, elegant tannins, elegant structure. If I were to pick a wine to demonstrate how a Barolo should smell, this one would be a perfect example.
Chiara Boschis Barolo Cannubi 2018
I kid you not, my notes actually say “holy shit”. What a nose! Crisp, mineral, complex, rich, beautiful, feminine. There are aromas of tar and roses. Good depth and long finish. Chiara herself describes the Cannubi as “a kind wine”. And I can’t argue with that.
Chiara Boschis Barolo Via Nuova 2018
The Via Nuova is a bit more austere. A fruity and balanced wine. I agree with Chiara that the 2018 Barolo’s are more Burgundian than other recent vintages.
Chiara Boschis Barolo Mosconi 2018
I guess the word I’d use about Mosconi is “more”. More complex nose, more masculine, more spices, more structure. There are also hints of orange, apricot, peach and white pepper in this wine.
Cristian Boffa Barolo 2018
A delicate and balanced Barolo, with aromas of red fruit and strawberry. Long finish, with round, sweet tannins. A very good Barolo!
Diego Morra Barolo Zinzasco 2018
Beautiful nose with aromas of fruit, flowers and white pepper. Round tannins and good body. A wine with quite a lot of depth.
Diego Morra Barolo Monvigliero 2018
Floral aromas with hints of white pepper. A very good wine with good structure. Might need some time to open up fully.
Fratelli Revello Barolo Gattera 2018
The Revello Gattera has aromas of red fruit, liquorice and roses. It’s an elegant wine with soft tannins.
Marengo Barolo Bricco Delle Viole 2018
Wow! What an incredible nose. So floral and fruity, yet complex. Smooth tannins. Easy to drink.
Marengo Barolo Brunate 2018
Tried this straight from the tank, before it went into the bottle. A beautiful wine. Complex nose with aromas of leather, tobacco and a hint of chocolate. Good balance and structure. Long finish. balance.
Marengo Barolo Riserva 2018
“Very young, but so good.” Enough said. Or maybe not, but that’s all my notes said…
Nadia Curto Barolo La Foia 2018
Amazing nose with aromas of roses, red fruit and a hint of tar? Good body with round, smooth tannins.
Nadia Curto Barolo Arborina 2018
The Arborina might be a bit more complex than the La Foia. More leather, tobacco and spice aromas. More powerful, more intense. This might be due to the south exposure and long extraction.
Paolo Giordano Barolo 2018
I was really impressed by this wine. Good structure, but still easy to drink. Round, well integrated tannins. And it really opened up in the glass.
Roberto Voerzio Barolo Del Comune de La Morra 2018
A complex wine with a good nose. Aromas of spices and a hint of mint. Delicious. Good grip in the tannins. A long finish.
Roberto Voerzio Barolo Brunate 2018
I’ve tasted this both from tank and from bottle. The tank sample had an incredible nose. Concentrated with aromas of dark fruit. Elegant. Classic. Then, when I tasted from the bottle the nose was quite closed. But it had that wonderful combination of a feminine nose and complex body. Tannins were a but dry, but the aftertaste was incredible. Long finish.
Roberto Voerzio Barolo Fossati 2018
I also tasted this from both tank and bottle. When I tasted from the tank the wine was quite masculine with aromas of tobacco, some herbs and quite harsh tannins. Then, when tasted from the bottle, the nose was still quite masculine, but the harsh tannins were gone and the wine was quite feminine. With a long, good finish.
Roberto Voerzio Barolo La Serra 2018
A wine with an interesting nose. Red fruit, spices and a hint of licorice? Smooth tannins, good body and good deoth. Easy to drink. Integrated tannins.
Roberto Voerzio Barolo Cerequio 2018
Stunning! I really liked this wine. Aromas of red fruit and tobacco. A bit austere maybe. But WOW what a delicious wine. A good example of how maybe the nose and taste don’t always “go together”.
Roberto Voerzio Barolo Rocche dell Annunziata 2018
Floral and feminine on the nose. Fruity, with grippy tannins.
Roberto Voerzio Barolo Sarmassa 2018
Quite aggressive at first sip, but when the grippy tannins disappear you’re left with delicious fruit. Looooong finish. PS: Only magnums.
Stefano Corino Roncaglie 2018
A floral, fruity and crisp Barolo. Smooth tannins. Quite classic.
Vietti Barolo Castiglione 2018
The 2018 is a bit more elegant compared to the 2017. Fruity with beautiful floral notes. A fairly structured wine with good depth.
Vietti Barolo Brunate 2018
The Brunate had a perfect Barolo nose. Complex and structured, but at the same time extremely elegant.
Vietti Barolo Ravera 2018
You can feel that power in the Ravera. Aromas of leather with a hint of balsamic. Complex but balanced.
Vietti Barolo Lazzarito 2018
Minty and herbal with a touch of balsamic. Round in the mouth, with a good finish. Very good.
Vietti Barolo Rocche di Castilgione 2018
A beautiful floral nose, a bit similar to the Brunate. Quite structured, but still elegant with a fresh fruitiness.