Barolo 2017

As a result of COVID19 we were very sadly unable to make our regular trip to Piedmont in October 2020. However, we are fortunate to be able to share the thoughts of some of the winemakers themselves and also of our suppliers who are on the ground tasting this vintage and speaking to the growers on a daily basis.

2017 will be remembered as the driest and hottest vintage on record in Italy and, as we know, heat and excessively dry weather are the biggest challenges for winemakers today. However, despite what has been written, 2017 in Piedmont has not been any hotter than other recent vintages. The key difference has been the amount of water, 350 mm compared to an annual norm of 680 mm, thus defining 2017 as dry year rather than a hot one. It was a year that would fully focus the minds and skills of the growers. As Walter Speller from Jancis Robinson so brilliantly puts it: “for many reasons 2017 is extraordinary, not least because just looking at the weather data no longer gives a clue to what to expect in the glass later on”. “The 2017 Barolos”, he says, display “a freshness and elegance that defy the vintage”.
 
The top growers in Piedmont know their vineyards as well as they know their children, sometimes better! They live and breathe them, and this intimate knowledge goes back generations, gifting them the understanding of how to handle them in extremes. Climate change is not new, 2003 set the benchmark for understanding drought and heat. Although two very different vintages, this knowledge and an increased investment in the wineries and vineyards have allowed the 2017s to flourish. 2017 is not a homogenous vintage, if you are selective you will be handsomely rewarded.
 
“In tasting, the 2017s are mid-weight Barolos with the classic structure of Nebbiolo. They are often intensely aromatic. Acids and tannins are prominent in many wines. The fruit profiles are ripe, often distinctly red-toned, but not cooked or over-ripe. Perhaps most importantly, the 2017 Barolos are very true to site, which is always a concern with vintages marked by warm weather. The best 2017s are exceptionally polished, vivid and flat-out delicious. If tasted blind, my guess is that few people would identify the wines as coming from a hot and very dry year."
Antonio Galloni Vinous February 2021


A snapshot of the vintage

The winter was relatively mild, as was the spring, but also rainy, which accelerated the vegetative growth. April was characterised by a sharp frost on the 14th which damaged vines positioned on the northern facing or lower parts of the slopes. From May onwards the weather was consistently hot, dry and sunny, and a period of nearly four months of 30°C days with little rain ensued. However, unlike 2000, 2003 and 2007, the nights were very fresh which tempered the hot growing season and gave a healthy crop, with almost no treatments needed. At the end of July and beginning of September some welcome rainfall revived the vines and temperatures dropped. An early harvest began in September and October, with some picking a full three weeks earlier than normal, from the 18th September in the warmer locations of Verduno, La Morra and Barolo. The higher vineyards with poorer soils, Castiglione Falletto, Monforte and Serralunga d’Alba could afford to hang on until the week of 25th Sept through into October.

What were the results?

The weather from the end of July into September saved the vintage. The cooler days and nights imparted good natural acidities and preserved freshness in the Nebbiolo. This helped develop and finesse the fruit profile and its aromatics. Finally, it allowed the fruit tannins to ripen naturally, and while they are present and provide structure, they are not harsh. These wines should also age well.

The Langhe has amazing water-retentive marine soils that have helped the vines survive the dry hot summer of 2017, as a result the vineyards containing more clay generally did better. Gianluca Grasso, of Elio Grasso, told us that, ‘the older vines (Chiniera and Casa Maté) which are over 40 years old, had roots deep enough to provide them with water from the snow during the wintertime’. It is clear in 2017 that the old vines had a clear advantage: their roots reaching deep in the soils for small amounts of water and essential minerals. This has given many of the 2017s a heighted sense of salinity and minerality.



Canopy management was key. Growers choose to keep more leaves on the vines to shade, cool and protect the fruit. Barely any bunch thinning took place, which helped regulate and slow down grape growth. They also had a lot more vegetation in the rows to interrupt the sun’s reflection and to maintain fresher temperatures in the vines. Hail nets had also been left out in many places, providing additional shade.

Despite the early vintage, the vegetative cycle was around 185-190 days in 2017. This is much longer than other hot vintages where it has been around 170 days. Gianluca Grasso also gave us this example from the growing season at Elio Grasso: “The vegetation cycle (for 2017) was 15 days shorter than 2016. I want to give you an example: for the classic vintages (as 2010-2013-2016-2019) the duration of the cycle (from bud break to harvest time) is about 200 days, for the early harvest (2011-2015) it was about 175 days and for the 2017 we were at 185 days so not so far from a classic vintage”.

David Berry Green, one of our suppliers who has helped us with this vintage insight said, “There was a need to pick early, pump over rather than submerge the cap (so less extraction) and limit the time in oak where necessary. To respect the fruit integrity and capture the vintage character. So, from good producers there is freshness and an almost Pinot, cassis perfume and delicacy. Pretty, red rose wines but with grip and charm, a perfect follow-up in the wake of the more ‘serious’ 2016s. As a result, 2017 is much more energetic than 2011, 2007, 2003, 1997, 1995….not far from 2001 perhaps?”

Gianluca from E Grasso also said, “Regarding the style, both [of our] Barolos (they were bottled 2 months ago) are really a surprise also for me. The wines are concentrated, with first aromas of fruit, good acidity and complexity. I tasted the wines blind and the impression is to have another very good vintage, with an evident classic style’.

As Galloni sums up in his recently publish article, “2017 Barolos are not rich or opulent wines, like the 2003s, 2007s or 2011s. Rather, they are mid-weight, nervy Barolos that are reminiscent of the 2015s in feel, with edgy tannins that recall the 2005s, and, in most cases, a great deal of site expression, as readers would expect to see in a more ‘classic’ vintage. The finest 2017s are distinguished by suave, polished tannins that are inside a core of fruit rather than on the outside…There is plenty to like in the 2017s. Readers who stick with the top names won’t be disappointed, but there are quite a few newer producers who excelled too."

We are proud to represent some of the finest and most successful growers and will be offering releases from the following producers, as well as many more:

  • Elio Grasso
  • Fratelli Alessandria
  • Vietti
  • Giacosa
  • G Conterno
  • Sandrone
  • Mascarello
  • Rinaldi
  • Produttori del Barbaresco


Please contact us on wine@goedhuis.com for more information or to receive these offers.

These wines are not available online please email or call us for details.

Pricing

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Additional Information

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  • En Primeur wines can only be purchased In Bond. On arrival in the UK these wines can either be stored In Bond in Private Reserves or another bonded warehouse or delivered directly to you. When you decide to take delivery, Duty and VAT at the prevailing rate become payable.

Tax status

  • IB: In Bond. These wines have had no UK Duty or VAT paid on them. Wines can be purchased In Bond for storage in Private Reserves or another bonded warehouse, or for export to non-EU countries.

  • DP: Duty Paid. Wines for immediate UK delivery must be purchased Duty Paid. VAT is payable on Duty Paid wines. Wines which have been removed from Bond cannot subsequently be returned to Bond. They must remain Duty Paid but can be purchased as such for storage subject to VAT.

  • EP: En Primeur. These wines are lying in the Domaines’ cellars until shipping. They can only be purchased In Bond. On arrival in the UK these wines can either be stored In Bond in Private Reserves or another bonded warehouse or delivered directly to you. When you decide to take delivery, Duty and VAT at the prevailing rate become payable.