I have visited Silvia Altare, the daughter of Elio Altare, several times in La Morra, Barolo. I have always been impressed by their Barolo Arborina, especially from the vintages 2000 and 2004.
Arborina is a very small vineyard in La Morra with a lot of calcareous clay mixed with sand, marl and rich in manganese/magnesium carbonate. Typical soil from the Tortonian geological era which makes up for fragrant and very elegant wines in this region. It is also, unfortunately, exposed to hail and heavy rains. In 2006, hails wiped out the whole harvest, so no bottles from Arborina were made this year. Arborina is not considered among the best crus in the region, but Altare has succeeded in making great wines from here and is a good example of what a really skilled producer can do.
Elio Altare was the leader of the “modernista” movement back in the 80’s inspired by a trip to Burgundy. The modernists aimed for more approachable barolos with the use of barriques to soften the tannins but also to make an elegant, international style barolo. In order to restrain the prominent tannins in the nebbiolo grape during extraction, an extremely short 4-day maceration is still employed and the use of rotary fermentor which is a stainless steel temperature-controlled cabin originally invented by Enrico Scavino with a mechanic rotor that is configured to automatically move around the skins from the surface a few times a day. In the case of Arborina, usually 20% new and 80% 2nd passage french barriques are used to make this very burgundish barolo. Thus a fairly low level of new oak is employed.
2009 is an average-good vintage that was warm, very patchy, short-cycled and absolutely not a classic one. In general, it may offer less concentration and be a little volatile, but if harvested at the right time it usually renders fine balance and the quality of tannins in terms of ripeness are in general better than the forecast. Many skilled producers that employed careful selection of grapes still managed to do really good wines.
Colour has a very dark ruby middle, very young white/transparent edges.
The nose emerges with immediate, distinct sweet fruity cream cake, but then the nose changes tremendously even after three hours of airing. Anyway, there are pleasant and subtle fragrances, scents of water-on-stone, some tar, tiny asian herbs, saline mushrooms, mint, violets, solvent and oil paint in here. This somewhat continuously changing broad spanning nose is really fresh and delightful.
The palate offers intense, pure and very forward fruit. Grape-peel, shale, anise, fresh menthol and fine tuned minerals. Very fresh, balsamic and energetic acidity. Alcohol is a little high now, but this is just a very minor remark. Fine, but now a little rough tannins, but still of good quality. Texture is sandy now and structure is fine with a medium body. There is complexity here but this wine needs to integrate a few years more, but it will be really fresh and pretty.
A fresh and approachable wine that still offers good concentration and complexity considering the short-cycled vintage that is not in favour for nebbiolo. Open 2015.
A somewhat carefully nose with red fruit, lots of wild berries, balsamic notes and menthol. Not so much depth but very fresh.
Taste: Again generous with wild berries. The acidity adds freshness and energy. Some sweetness, candy and hints of solvent.
Finish: There are some sandy tannins but also fresh acidity.
Summary: This wine needs a few years for the acidity and tannins to get integrated 100%, but it has great potential and is already very good. Compared with the 2004 it is much fresher in the finish. You feel like drinking more immediately. This is a quality wine.
2008 was a cool, somewhat patchy and difficult vintage with hails and a wet summer with mildew and parasite, but was saved by a stable weather with minor rains and cool nights in the beginning of September that lasted until a late harvest caused by an unusually late ripening. A vintage of timing the harvest it appears.
It is a good and classic vintage and generally appear, I think, very aromatic and with structure, but with more saline minerals than usual and now usually not approachable at all. The acidity level is very high and will most likely need significant time to integrate, so acidity and minerals has a tendency to cover everything else and certainly needs more airing than usual.
Colour is dark ruby middle, scarlet-red tone in the outer parts with transparent edge.
There is notes of sweet oak and some alcohol on the nose, glue, some tar, rosemary, vibrant earthy minerals and spices. After an hour, bunches of intense red flowers and the typical feminine, lovely style perfume emerges.
The mid palate has layers of blackberries, anise, peppers, pastry, black tea, notes of truffles, fresh herbs and a lot of earthy minerals. Instantly more meaty and fleshy than expected, very mouth-filling, generously full-bodied indeed with impressive concentration and it is long. The end currently has thick, chewy tannins (a little more than usual for this wine) that bites and the acidity is a little gnarly even after a lot of airing, but it is pleasantly balsamic and promises freshness for a long lifetime. This all very good. On the bad side here, is some unexpected excessive alcohol and a little sweetness and bitterness from new oak which disturbs the mid palate a little. The latter is a surprise, since the estate is usually very skillful with new oak. Even though it is too young now for evaluating its future destiny in terms of balance and elegance, it is clearly not in the same league as e.g. the great 2000 or 2004 vintages. Open 2018+. Costs about €70.
2005 is a very good and underrated vintage, but not a classic one. It is in general less heavy on tannins, less structured from a little cooler vintage that is for early drinking that will not gain that much from further bottling. Concentration is usually good and if harvested at the right time it is usually balanced and more complex than forecasted.
Colour is very dark ruby middle, scarlet-red tone in the outer parts with transparent edge.
A little sweet oak on the nose, tar, asian herbs, cinnamon, rosemary, vibrant earthy minerals, very fresh black fruit, forest floor, very balsamic, a bunch of intense red flowers and the typical feminine, stylish inner perfumes. Super-freshness and stylish perfume are the obvious key words here!
The mid palate has layers of fruit typically boysenberries, wild strawberries and dark cherries. Other aromas follow e.g. anise, fennel, menthol, notes of truffles, fresh herbs, black tea, balsamic notes, spices, pepper, a lot of fine tuned earthy minerals and tar. Tannins are surprisingly just a little heavy still and not as polished as I would expect in this vintage and site when drinking it now. A very balanced wine that only suffers from just a little excessive alcohol and some oak notes that is a little disturbing, but more importantly it doesn’t cover the complex aromas here at all. Concentration is great, complexity is impressive and it is long.
An incredibly fresh and complex nose. Yes, I’d like less alcohol here too, but in this case I think there is so much else to discover here so I am more forgiving in this case. It is elegant and the tannins are thicker than usual, they are pleasantly chewy and it is complex, long and very balanced and very, very Burgundish. Open in 2014 just to let the tannins settle a little more and get more polished. Costs €82.