2007 Barolo

Don't Believe the Hype


Don’t believe the hype.

So a quick review of first to market reports in the US and Europe on 2007 Barolo reveals gems such as “buy them fast as they will never be this cheap,” a litany of “best wine ever from this producer”-type comments, more gushing prose than a freshman English class and point scores that are through the roof.

Thanks to the great Nebbiolo Prima event, I was just able to try a couple of hundred and all I’ve got to say is: Are you kidding me?
Top 2007 Barolo Picks
Related Imagery
20-Year Average Median Daytime Temperature (1970-1990)
Now you might just love the style of wines from 2007; but for me, it’s an average vintage, which is unique in character, but full of pitfalls. To say this is a great vintage is a stretch at least and to not recognize the character of each commune (for that is one thing the vintage does not lack, variability) is to lead the consumer astray.

I’m not sure why many people write about wine. Is it to sell wine, sell themselves, or in some rare cases, to help the consumer? I’ll let you decide, but I thought long and hard about how to rate 2007 as a Barolo vintage and at this point, a point in time that is several years too early to be definitive, I see 2007 Barolo as an 86-88 point vintage.

Don’t believe the hype here, folks. Try some wines before you buy or you could be very disappointed.

The main reason that 2007 is being called great is because of the wonderful growing season the vines enjoyed. A very mild winter with virtually no precipitation allowed for the vegetative cycle to arrive almost a month early. The summer was warm but generally not hot, and the cooling nights of fall arrived a few weeks early, slowing the maturation cycle down just prior to and during harvest, preserving the acidity in the grapes that in turn delivered freshness to the wines, right? Well I’ll get to that later, but no, not really.

So it was a fine year temperature-wise, as everyone will happily tell you, but you know what, it really wasn’t. It was a hot year, not so much because of the temperatures during summer, but rather because of the temperatures during each cycle of the vines’ growth. Yes, it was a normal August, but having the vines almost a month ahead of schedule meant that what was happening among the vines was taking place in a normal August, not a normal September. I’ve put together a little graph just to help illustrate the situation.

This graph (see 'Related Imagery' above left) illustrates the 20-year average for median daytime temperatures over the period 1970-1990. I’d use more current information, but I couldn’t find any; and considering the way temperatures have been going, I think it would just further illustrate my point.

As you can see, I’ve broken down the vines’ growth cycle into five steps, roughly divided into budbreak, flowering, fruit set, veraison and harvest. The last two steps, veraison and harvest, are the crucial steps in this graph. As you can see, the precociousness of the 2007 vintage forced these two periods of vine growth into markedly warmer temperatures than a more typical vintage may encounter. 2007 simply was not so historically cool to prevent this shift from having a profound impact on the vines.

So where does that leave us? Well, in short, with many wines that show the effects of excessive heat: cooked, fruit flavors and flabby textures. The regional variation that makes Barolo’s villages distinct is fairly obvious in 2007, and the crus that are most famous have sometimes suffered from an excess of sun or heat due to their usually ideal exposition.

For example, in La Morra, the wines were, as a group, fat and sweet with cooked or roasted flavors and sadly low acids. At first I thought that this was indicative of a vintage that presented growers with a particularly narrow window in which to harvest. While this goes contrary to the cool temperature model claimed for the season, it would explain why so many of the wines suffered from low acid and cooked flavors – they were harvested too late.

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  • I'd like to see more on Nebiollos.

    May 25, 2011 at 11:52 AM

  • I agree with you, Greg. There was a great deal of variability in 2007 and as time goes on, I have learned to apply the 'Burgundy Rule' in Piemonte - that is the producer trumps both terroir and vintage. There were some really good wines, for example, in La Morra (albeit more that were overripe and out of whack) and those were made by the commune's best producers.
    And yes, good producers could also make bad wine in 2007 (can you say Marcarini to start?) but I've learned that these things have a way of sorting themselves out.....in some ways 2007 reminds me of 1993 and that became one of the great revelatory vintages in my experience.

    May 25, 2011 at 3:49 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    More Nebbiolo coming tomorrow.

    Hey John,

    Nice to see you here. I agree it's really too early to make grand pronouncements, I even think those Marcarinis are going to sort themselves out, but as you know many of the wine we tasted will never really come into balance.

    Here's hoping for a 1993 redux!

    May 25, 2011 at 6:18 PM

  • Snooth User: BlissHall
    777362 3

    It's simplistic reviews like this one on the 2007 Barolos that makes me wonder about the quality of the service that snooth provides. Any one knowledgeable on vintages in the Piedmont knows the importance of aging in rating Barolo. The most sophisticated taster anticipates how the wine will taste in the future based on tasting from the barrel or tasting right now. 2007 has a long way to go on aging.

    May 25, 2011 at 6:28 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Yes you are right.

    I should do away with this simplistic approach that includes tasting 200 wines and analyzing weather patterns, the growth cycle of the vines, the effects of hail and harvest timing, in an attempt to reveal the cause behind the high variability between communes this year.

    Silly me!

    I should get me some sophistication, and learn how low acid wines will gain structural integrity in the bottle while high acid wines will soften over time. Be able to anticipate how wines with over 15% alcohol will taste in the future when all that alcohol miraculously disappears!

    Or I should just rely on having tasted these wines for well over 2 decades, knowing what I like, and not feeling the need to tow some line because that's what people want and expect.

    Feel free to disagree with me on my assessment, even explain your thoughts if you can, share all your wisdom with all of those who know less than you, tell us about the wines you've tasted, but frankly the implicit intolerance for an alternate opinion in your comment makes me think you will only be happy when someone else validates your opinion. I suggest you visit a retailer for that.

    May 25, 2011 at 7:35 PM

  • Gregory
    Thanks for the your review. We've been in Italy for a month with a 4 day sojourn in Piedmont this Monday. We have tasting appointments at Ornellaia, Sassicaia, Tua Rita, and Le Macchiole. Do you have reccomendations for 2-3 more? We have a 1500 bottle cellar but only about 2 cases from Nebbiolo and Barbera grapes and want to learn more about these wines. Thanks for any suggestions.

    May 26, 2011 at 3:48 AM

  • Snooth User: Marty N
    142701 11


    A wonderfully informative article--and one to read and re-read. Unfortunately, there are very few wine writers who have the desire and probably the ability to dissect the "pathophysiology" of a vintage and the resulting wines in the fashion that you have in this article. For me and hopefully for others, too, this is part of the fun of enjoying wine and you don't have to a prospective MW to enjoy wine in this way and obviously from just a palate standpoint. Keep such articles coming.


    May 26, 2011 at 11:55 AM

  • Greg, i love you're 'simplistic' articles and read them every day...don't change a thing!

    May 26, 2011 at 12:13 PM

  • Great article Greg! There will always be less than intelligent people who make ignorant comments (I'm referring to the "simplistic"). Anyone who has written and spent time analyzing vino knows that you have to summarize and simplify your findings. If you wanted to get technical/sophisticated then you would need to write a book. Keep up the great work!

    May 26, 2011 at 2:41 PM

  • Snooth User: BlissHall
    777362 3

    Very sorry that my comment generated so much heat, and that was probably due to my unfortunate use of the word simplistic which did not adequately describe my disappointment with the Del Piaz review. First of all, I am not keen about vintage reviews because the generalization they offer can lead one astray. Ultimately it comes down to the specific vintner.

    No, my problem with the review is that it dwelt too much on the weather pattern in the Langhe region that year. And while that is always an important factor in winemaking, there are so many others. Barolo and the Nebbiolo grape are a very complex subject. You cannot spend time in the Langhe without noticing how deeply the subject is discussed in great detail everywhere and how subtle differentiations of soil composition, sunlight, clonal selection, fermentation, etc., etc. are poured over. This precise examination of all the elements of making Barolo is further intensified by the extraordinary number of producers operating in small vineyards, more so than anywhere else in Italy.

    That brings us to the critical subject of what the winemaker does in the vineyard and then what he does with the grapes. No discussion of Barolo is complete without a commenting on the style of the Barolo. Was it made by the traditional method or by the modern way? Did the weather pattern that Del Piaz examine have a different influence on those wines produced by the different methods. How in tasting 2007 Barolos do you compare a wine made by the traditional method which requires lengthy aging to reach peak versus a more modern Barolo that can be drunk younger.

    In conclusion while a specific rating of 2007 Barolos is interesting my interest is whether this vintage can be drunk younger. Barolos cannot be described as fruity or jammy. their uniqueness lies not so much in their tannins, but in the complexity of sweet and savory elements. How is the 2007 vintage in this respect?

    Finally, everyone is entitled to his/her opinion on wine and wine commentary and that includes me. You may not like what I have to say, but that doesn't give you the right to call me less than intelligent and ignorant. No one should condone that kind of name-calling because supporting its use is the best evidence of intolerance.

    P. S. To Abristoltran: I was puzzled by your note because you mentioned your 4 day sojurn in Piemonte and then followed that by saying you had tasting appointments at Ornellaia, Sassicaia et al and asked for other suggestions. You may have taken a wrong turn here because those two wines are super Tuscans from the Bolgheri DOC and have nothing to do with Barolos.

    In the Langhe region, Paolo Scavino and Aldo Conterno come to mind as good Barolo tasting experiences.

    May 27, 2011 at 11:20 PM

  • Greg, you write "In late May and early June of 2007, there were some widespread, if patchy, hail storms in Castiglione Falletto and Barolo, particularly in the region of the expansive Bussia cru."

    Bussia is in Montforte, so just a slip of the pen, or was Monforte hit too?

    May 31, 2011 at 7:46 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Thanks for pointing this out. Looks like we lost a line in editing. I've patched it up but need to check the original tonight to make sure it's as intended. Bussia was hit with hail as well with small pockets of damage.

    May 31, 2011 at 8:06 PM

  • To Abristoltran Ornellaia and Sassicaia younger wines are excellent. le Volte, Tenuta San Guido, my personal favourite Le Serre nuove . Enjoy.
    Le Volte 2009 is great (slightly decadent) current house wine at my place and an amazing match when paired with chicken livers and offal.

    To Greg - this is the kind of article I read you for, informative and original. Not some shill for what retailers are selling. And if it means I taste the 2007s before buying on reputations, well thanks even more.

    Jun 07, 2011 at 11:53 AM

  • Snooth User: blackwa
    1131505 551

    Thank you for the information about the variability of this vintage. As you can imagine, all that I had read previously was that 2007 was a marquis year for Barolo & Barbaresco. I wish that I would have read your article before purchasing a '07 G.D. Vajra Bricco delle Viole Barolo!

    Sep 12, 2012 at 12:18 AM

  • Snooth User: Helen Poole
    1337036 29


    Aug 30, 2013 at 5:58 AM

  • Snooth User: anvilpep
    1370081 34


    Sep 24, 2013 at 12:57 AM

  • interesting

    Sep 27, 2013 at 2:28 AM

  • interesting

    Oct 07, 2013 at 12:15 AM

  • good

    Jan 21, 2014 at 1:05 AM

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