Winefriend by David Way

Writing about the wines of Piemonte, Italy and France

Diary 59: Ceretto Barolo and Barbaresco vertical

Before we get to the Ceretto wines, we should celebrate the exceptional view of Castiglione Falletto, within Barolo DOCG, from the Bricco Roche vineyard. This vineyard is a monopole of the Ceretto family and the site of the small winery where its single vineyard wines are made. I happened to catch the view on a magical late-autumn morning. The famous nebbia (fog) came and retreated as the sun broke through. Magical! As was the Ceretto Barolo and Barbaresco vertical that followed.

Ceretto is one of the best-known wineries in the Langhe. This is due to its scale and the high quality of its top wines. In response to my request to taste vintages from the last two decades, Alessandro Ceretto, winemaker, put together a comparative tasting of wines from two of their top MGA wines, Barolo Brunate and Barbaresco Asili. The pairs were from 2020, 2015, 2013 and 2008. The two vineyards make for a subtle contrast. While it is easy to categorise Barolo and Barbaresco as respectively more and less powerful, more about structure than about perfume, the contrast between these two wines is not that great. Both come from relatively low elevations (the Ceretto plot in Brunate is lower than much of the vineyard), the soils are both over Sant’Agata Fossili marls and for Barbaresco, Asili is known for its powerful tannins.

The pairs from 2020, 2015, 2013, 2008

2013 was the outstanding vintage in this line-up. The Asili was really enticing on the nose with outstanding aromatic lift, combining complex red fruit with savoury depth. The firm tannins and the depth of fruit suggest that there is so much potential still ahead of this wine. Brunate again was more muted on the nose but then showed extraordinarily dense fruit supported by lively acidity. This will be a real keeper.

Of the pairs from the same year, 2008 demonstrated perhaps the most marked contrast. The Barbaresco was much more developed which of course may have been due to oxygen ingress through the cork. (Natural cork has inherent variability.) The wine was all marmite, truffle, earth and then merging red fruit. There were still lightly grainy tannins for longer-term ageing. By contrast, the Barolo tasted younger: there were still some sweet new oak notes (this was the first year that the proportion of new French oak barriques was reduced) but there was a beautiful fruit core and a long finish. The 2015 Barbaresco was also surprisingly tertiary. Layers of ripe red cherry and plum fruit, reflecting a warmer year, are accompanied by leather and undergrowth aromas. Brunate was again younger in its expression, focused on ripe red-to-black fruit, still with much power to unpack. In both wines, the tannins are firm and yet to resolve fully.

Finally, the babies of the tasting, the 2020s (Asili released, Brunate pre-release) shared super juicy, very ripe fruit and were surprisingly approachable. Only the young tannins mean that these wines are not yet ready to drink, even for those who prefer Nebbiolo in its youthful expression. As with many other top producers, the Ceretto wines are approachable from a remarkably young age.

Thanks to Alessandro for this Ceretto Barolo and Barbaresco vertical. For my reflections on tasting the great Nebbiolo wines of the last 20 years, see Vintage Reflections.

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