This afternoon we begin the exceptional Barolo 2016 campaign in earnest. The 2016 vintage across Europe and the US has achieved unprecedented adoration, surpassing even the legendary 2010. Yet, Barolo maybe bestowed with the highest blessings from this year. The great vintage coincides with a new era in Barolo, a time when its flag of dominance is firmly thrust into the earth, marking the beginning of its global rise. This thesis seems odd, when after all Barolo is already one of the world’s most iconic wines. Over the last few years serious speculators and merchants have begun stocking up. Speculation surrounding Barolo as the next large growth region abound, a natural conclusion due to its similarities to Burgundy, both in terms of vineyard division, terroir driven style, small production and the elegance of the wines. Price rises have begun and a vintage of the century will create further interest, making Barolo perennially highly allocated. When one looks back in the rear-view mirrors in 10 years time, one will lament the price hikes: unless you buy now.
In a recent Forbes article, the winemaker at the great Vietti estate, Luca Currado declared ‘2016 is the vintage we are all waiting for… For me, 2016 is just a perfection of the beautiful Nebbiolo balance – it’s like a beautiful opera ballerina dancer: all the movements are just perfect and graceful,’ He goes onto consider it most like 1989 and 1990 vintages. Though no major critic has released their final reports Antonio Galloni has led with ‘Early tastings from barrel suggest 2016 will be an exceptional vintage for Barolo in which both quality and production are high. The wines are aromatic, beautifully resonant and highly expressive of site.’ Enough gilding the 2016 lily; onto our inaugural release Ellio Grasso.
Elio Grasso’s wines are among the most compelling and sought after in Barolo and instrumental in establishing Monforte d’Alba as a stronghold, where they boast wines Gavarini and Ginestra, jewels in any crown. In 2015 Elio Grasso’s great Crus Gavarini Vinga Chiniera and Ginestra Casa Mate were two of the wines of the vintage, awarded 96 and 97 point scores from Vinous Media (Galloni) and Monica Larner of the Wine Advocate. Indeed, since 2010 the wines average 95.5 points. In 2016 we can expect the 2015 scores to be matched and doubtless surpassed. They should be secured together, however, to say a word on both: the Gavarini vineyard is 100% owned by Elio Grasso. It is sited 430 metres above sea level were the soil is sandier, though mainly limestone. The Ginestra vineyard (Casa Mate) has more clay in the vineyard, though also boasts sandy soil. It is a wine of intense structure and perhaps a little more masculine. As two of the finest wines in Barolo they are ‘no-brainer’s’ and priced today on release at £350 per case of six. This offers remarkable value and the 2016s have already sold out at the estate. Only 1,000 cases of each were made to fulfil the huge global demand and we expect this to trade up to £550 a case within three years.
The Elio Grasso Estate is sited in the municipality of Monforte d’Alba. It is made up of 42 hectares, of which 24 hectares are forests and meadows that border their 18 hectares of vineyards, all within the World Heritage site. The vineyards themselves were included within the great historian, Lorenzo Fantini, ‘world’s greatest vineyards’ in the early 20th century, highlighted as great then and now great in posterity. Indeed, the Grasso family have been instrumental in establishing Monforte d’Alba as one of the finest subregions in Barolo and their Cru holdings Gavarini Chiniera and Ginestra, are majestic exemplars of the finest terroir in the world.
Elio Grasso was sent to school in Turin by his farther, who gave him orders to work hard and not come back to the struggling post war Langhe life. He did just this, advancing into a successful career in banking. Though eventually the call of his family as leading grape grower brought him home to the rolling hills of Barolo. In 1978 he established the eponymous Elio Grasso Estate in the township of Monforte d’Alba and he and his son Gianluca, who joined in the early 90s set to creating a wine dynasty. Indeed, they decided immediately to vinify and bottle grapes separately from their various vineyards.
During the period since, Barolo has had a transformational 30 years. Which begun with a handful of winemakers introducing French oak and shorter maceration times, coining the modernist winemakers and the ‘Barolo Wars’. There became two waves of winemakers, the traditionalists and the modernists. The traditionalists use large Slovenian oak casks and produce wines with big tannins and beguiling aromas, requiring longer ageing, with noticeable spice aromas such as cinnamon. The modern winemakers use rotary fermenters and shorter maceration times; they also use much smaller new French oak barrique (225 litres). As a result, the wines tend to have oak, vanilla and toast flavours, are more fruit forward and can be consumed younger. Though the factions to some extent still exist, the lines have blurred and wine lovers have benefited from a middle way. Elio Grasso arrived and stayed clear of the conflict yet saw the potential of modernisation thereon investing heavily in technology yet keeping a traditional style. As such, Elio Grasso straddles the two schools beautifully, famous for being aromatic, exhibiting class and stunning finesse.
We are extremely excited to offer the two Crus Gavarini Vinga Chiniera and Ginestra Casa Mate at £350 each per case of six in bond. These will be fully allocated for years to come and the smart money should be starting now.