On the edge of Barolo village, just a few metres down and across the cobblestones of the via Roma from Mascarello, is the unprepossessing cantina frontage to one of the most exciting discoveries in my many years of going to the Langhe. It's not as though Barale just emerged, but gradually these firmly traditional wines have reached a point where now they are being made to the full potential of this family's remarkable vineyards and their confident and traditional style is now being fully appreciated. It’s no exaggeration to say that the quality of these wines, following the first release earlier last year, has surprised a lot of people.
Barale present a catalogue of superb, authentic Barolo and a consistently outstanding Barbaresco, bell-clear Piemontese varietals, Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto, along with a slight twist in the form of a wonderful metodo classico - maybe the best sparkler I've ever had in Italy. A further surprise has been to be able have some access to a wonderful, typically far-sighted museum collection, an archive the last 2 decades of Barale winemaking. Some bottles recently brought into Oz of 1978 and 1979 Barale Barolo base, Barolo Castellero and Barbaresco Rabaja, have opened superbly. Not just good, nice or curio, but superbly.
The Barale family have in fact been at it for centuries and while they are amongst the first recorded producers of Barolo wine, from 1870, they appear in the village register of the early 1600s as owners of parts of some pretty familiar vineyard names; Coste di Rose, Cannubi, Castellero and Preda. The current custodians, Sergio Barale and his daughters Eleonora and Gloria owe their heritage to the acquisition, over generations, of vineyards in not only Barolo comune, but in Monforte d'Alba and Barbaresco. By the 1970's the family had brought more Cannubi and added Monrobiolo (in Barolo) and some Bussia (in Monforte) and into the 90's had virtually swapped their long-held Rabaja vineyard in Barbaresco to rent some Serraboella in Neive. All this covers only 20 ha, with Sergio tailoring his plantings almost precisely only to the best soil and aspect combinations. Virtually the whole of Cannubi was replanted at the end of the 2007 vintage, and is just back in production. Vineyards are everything to Barale.
The initial approach is the same for all the reds; delicate crushing in order to keep skins intact, fermentation with indigenous yeasts, controlled temperature and maceration with frequent 'basting' of the skins. The fermentation vessel and temperatures and the macerations change according to the grape; Barolo and Barbaresco in wood fermentation tanks, temperatures around 30 °C and up to 40 days of maceration; for Langhe Nebbiolo, wood fermentation, temperatures around 26 ° and 10 days of maceration. For Barbera, steel fermentation, temperatures around 25 ° and a week of maceration. The aging for all these wines is done in wood: three years in French oak barrel of 15 - 30 hl for Barolo and Barbaresco and one year in tonneaux of 500 lt for Langhe Nebbiolo and Barbera. The oak is not allowed to impart any aromas or flavours. Although he's used Allier for Nebbiolo for a couple of decades now, appreciating its superior effect on tannins and anthocyanins, Sergio noticed a "faint taste of vanilla" in early trials, which he says "...I didn't like: for me, like my father before me, a woody wine is a bad wine, because our wines should preserve the flavour only of the grape and the land."
The blue soil of Barolo Cannubi, Francesco Barale and Cantina Barale on Via Roma, Barolo.
The Piedmont Reds
Barale's two red varietals at DOC level, Barbera and Nebbiolo are beautiful, superior versions, combining style with drinkability. Eventually, we should be able to qualify for a little of their Dolcetto; a lovely, distinctive red made from the rare peduncolo rosso variant of Dolcetto.
2014 Barbera Superiore 'Castlè' RRP $47.95
25 yo vines in Castellero (Barolo comune) on silt/clay soils facing sth-west at 300 m. As Castellero is a cru name ie now allowed only for Barolo, Barale use the local dialect 'Castlè' for Barbera growing on this very good site. My notes (DR Oct '15) ; "Lifted, fragrant prune skin and black cherry. Sappy, delicate, easy and long.”
2013 Langhe Nebbiolo RRP $58
Planted 1975 in S. Giovanni (Monforte d'Alba) - so, effectively it's Bussia Nebbiolo - on calcareous/sand, facing sth-east at 350 m. A personal ob is that Monforte provides my ideal economy Nebb; ie generous (as far as Nebbiolo goes!) in a serious way...if you know what I mean? A lot of joy here." Very, very good. Cherry and clear Monforte blue fruits. Quite tannic, long and lively." (DR Oct '14). A surprise packet from last release, as this was loved by pro and amateur alike, with its rich, fragrant fruit able to cope with grippy Monforte tannins. Real zip.
2010 Barolo RRP $100
Parcels of Barolo comune crus, Monrobiolo, Coste di Rose & Preda (all owned) of various ages to 45 years. Tending to silt/sand and up to 350m with either sth-east or sth-west aspect. A producer's Barolo normale or base ought to be good. This is better than that. The three crus, each sitting just above Bussia, do combine in a wine with Barolo & Monforte personalities. " Rose, herb, cherry skin and violet. Firmness (Monforte?) and zing (Barolo?) are jostling at the moment. Quite generous, needs time" (DR Feb '15)
"This has such beautiful length and balance to it, with blueberry, dried-berry and cherry character. Full body, with ultra fine tannins and a long, chewy finish. Stylish. Better after 2016. 93pts" (Jamessuckling.com April 2014)
Aged Barolo Riservas
Sergio Barale shows his wisdom and patience, by allocating a small, ongoing museum cache at modest prices to show his wines a bit closer to their prime. Cannubi is fascinating, not only as it's one of the most famous of all Barolo, but because these are the last two wines before Barale's 3 parcels were replanted in 2007. Bussia is 1.5 ha of Bussia Soprana in very sandy soil at 350 m, which produces a very dense and even wine of the most obvious Monforte blue fruits and violets. Their concentration earmarks them as Riserva Barolo.
2007 Barolo Riserva 'Cannubi' RRP $240
It's a sort of paradox when the so-called generous/ready vintages like '07 (and 2009) deliver up generous Cannubi, because there's a still a need of either a long breathe or aging to let it reveal that utter finesse lying in wait - or else it goes to waste. Plenty of rose, dried herb and cherry here already.
"This tasting concluded with the 2007 Barolo Riserva Cannubi. I was absolutely charmed by all the little sound bites the wine offers to communicate the territory and vineyard site that shaped it. Thanks to three years in botte grande, it delivers hints of white truffle and underbrush with cassis, dried cherry and cedar. The finish shows a solid tannic grip and long persistency. 94pts" (erobertparker #213)
2006 Barolo Riserva 'Bussia' RRP $240
2006 is well-known here as a brilliant vintage. These are a bit more useable than 2004’s eg, and show greater vivacity and fruit – and tend to be less inhibited by their tannins. Quite rich and fleshy, with generous orange and cinnamon characters evident now. Wonderful, important bottle of Barolo.
Please contact Chris regarding stock availability and ordering
(08) 8337 1808