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The Barolo appellation covers all or part of 11 neighboring villages. And, as in Burgundy, each of these villages has become associated with a certain style of wine, based on factors such as soil composition, aspect/elevation of the vineyards, and so forth. Today, we’re back in the celebrated village of Verduno, which is home to several of the greatest single-vineyard sites (MGAs) in the Barolo appellation, including the iconic “Monvigliero” and its neighbors—one of which, “Massara,” is the source of today’s soaring 2017 from the great Castello di Verduno. Housed in a 16th-century castle and owned by the Burlotto family since 1909, this winery is way more than an architectural landmark: This is one of the standard-bearers of classically styled Barolo, and in 2017, they found that sweet spot where youthful accessibility and age-worthy structure meet. This is a drink and hold kind of Barolo, so take enough so you can enjoy some now and later. Grab a four pack for an additional 10% off and you’ll have one for now, three for later!
Let’s take a moment to put Castello di Verduno in proper context. This is a producer that should be mentioned in the same breath as all-time-greats like Bartolo Mascarello, Giacomo Conterno, and, closer to home, G.B. Burlotto. That last name, in fact, looms large in the history of Italian wine: the commendatore Giovan Battista Burlotto was one of the very first producers to bottle Barolo and promote it on the world stage as a worthy competitor to the best wines of France, and his descendants not only run his namesake winery but the Castello di Verduno as well.
As I’ve noted in other offers (another Verduno-based winery, Fratelli Alessandria, is a SommSelect favorite), the village of Verduno is the northernmost of the 11 communes that make up the Barolo DOCG zone. Essentially an ‘extension’ of the La Morra vineyard area, with similar southeastern/southern exposures in the best sites, Verduno’s “cru” vineyards typically produce wines like those made in La Morra: The exposures are such that the vines are taking in morning sun, and this part of Barolo generally has a higher percentage of clay in its soils, so many of the most perfumed and most elegant examples of Barolo hail from here.
The current-generation Burlotto at the helm of Castello di Verduno is Gabriella Burlotto, whose husband, Franco Bianco, comes from a long line of vignaioli in Barbaresco. When they married, they united their Verduno vineyard holdings under the Castello di Verduno banner—although, as required by law, the Barbaresco wines (which include single-vineyard wines from famous crus like “Rabaja”) are vinified in their own dedicated winery in Barbaresco and aged in the castle’s cellars. Under the supervision of talented young winemaker Mario Andrion, who has been at Castello di Verduno since 2000, the wines continue to be made in a resolutely “traditional” manner: during fermentation, the Nebbiolo grapes are left to macerate on their skins for extended periods, and when it comes time to age the wines, they spend longer-than-required times in oak barrels (always large, used casks) and bottle before release.
In the glass, this 2017 shows nice color concentration, displaying a deep garnet core moving to a pink rim. But unlike the last edition of “Massara” we offered—the brooding, mega-powerful 2015—this ’17 is a gentler, if no less intriguing, expression. Nevertheless, the aromas are intense and complex: bing cherry, wild strawberry, cranberry, currant, blood orange peel, leather, dried rose petals, underbrush, sandalwood, underbrush, smoke…the list just goes on and on. It is brightly aromatic and almost silky by Barolo standards, but there’s still plenty of structure to tackle the kinds of fatty braises Barolo is built for. Check out the attached recipe and bookmark it for revisiting in about 3-5 years’ time, when this wine will be right in its sweet spot. Rarely does a collectible of this pedigree come in at a sub-$100 price tag—take advantage!
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