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Italy’s Killer B’s

2019 is an AMAZING Vintage for Barolo, Brunello, & Bolgheri!

Italy’s best wines have rightly earned their spot in the upper levels of the world’s most collectible wines. Though there is a long list of Italian wines that can compete on the world stage, it is Barolo, Brunello, and Bolgheri that make everyone’s list of Italy’s top wines.

Vintage generalizations are just that: a general summary of the macro vintage characteristics and successes of a specific area’s wines in a specific year. And of course, a great vintage in Barolo does not mean it would be a great vintage on Mt. Etna—a different grape and 880 miles can change outcomes. But serendipitously (and happily), 2019 WAS an outstanding vintage for all three of Italy’s most noble red wine zones.

First up: Barolo (and Barbaresco). Geek knows this region better than any other having visited there regularly since the early 80’s. The area has enjoyed a string of mostly good to great harvests in the 2010 decade, with 2016 being the overwhelming favorite…until the 2019’s. Due to the pandemic, we were not able to taste the Nebbiolo-based wines from the zone until the fall of 2021, and when we did, we were simply blown away. We have been waiting ever since to get these wines to our customers & friends. Great, classic bones with bright acidity and oozing with fruit. Simply spectacular wines. Look for: Gaja, Renato Ratti, Michele Chiarlo, Ceretto, G.D. Vajra, G.B. Burlotto, Produtorri del Barbaresco.

Next, look to Brunello di Montalcino. They too have had a good run of vintages in the 2010’s, and the local Consorzio makes it easier (sorta) to determine which vintages are best with their rating system—rating the vintage in general from 1 star to 5 stars. However, since it’s the producers themselves that decide on the ratings, one must be at least a little suspect of the veracity of the ratings. For example, we never thought 2015 was a 5-star vintage as declared by the Consorzio. But there hadn’t been a 5-star rating since 2010 (which could have received 6 stars!), so we think they had an itchy trigger-finger. Then when 2016 came out, it was clear that 2015 was a step below. And now we have the 2019’s: no disagreement here! A superlative vintage, providing almost uniformly great wines: Rich, complex, balanced wines. Showy already, but with decades of growth ahead for the best wines. If there are any children/grandchildren born in this vintage do them (and grandpa) a favor and BUY SOME. Most notable wines: Il Poggione, Argiano, Col d’Orcia, Piave di Santa Restituta, San Polo, Le Potazzine, Il Marroneto.

And finally, the insider’s appellation of Bolgheri. We say insider mostly because while there are around 250 producers of Brunello and several hundred producers in the Langhe (and even more growers), in Bolgheri there are fewer than 75. And based on our experience, they ALL make great—and expensive—wine (we cannot say the same about Barolo and Brunello sadly). Here the vintage was NOT the most stellar of the decade—that would fall to 2015. But 4.5 stars is pretty good. Since these are mostly Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant wines, they too are extremely long-lived, yet like the Brunello’s this vintage, they are fleshy and showy already—the best of both worlds. Best producers: Ca Marcanda, Guado al Tasso, Poggio al Tesoro, Tenuta San Guido.

Though the wines from all three of these appellations cost a bit more than they did twenty, or even five years ago, they are increasingly popular and that means prices won’t be going down. Load up now, you’ll thank us!

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