Piedmont Trip 2013: Oddero – The elegance-focused owner of six Barolo grand crus

The estate has been making barolo as we know it since the 1870’s. Today the estate is headed by the sisters Maria-Cristina and Maria-Vittoria Oddero, but Maria-Cristina is obviously the one that has put in a lot of effort to improve the vineyards and vinification a little to produce even more elegant and consistent high-quality wines, really balancing tradition with modern techniques aiming for transparency, freshness and elegance. The sisters are helped by a team with Sergio Blengio in the vineyard, Luca Veglio in the cellar and Gabriella Rosso on sales and accounting. In addition, Maria-Vittoria’s daughter Isabella has recently joined the winery and is the one travelling around the world to promote the wines, but still she stays in tune with the quality improvements at the estate.

Luca showing us the upward trellising system

Their enologist is the very helpful and engaged Luca, who together with Gabriella was kind enough to take us for a tour on our visit when Isabella could not receive us because of a business trip to Hong Kong.

The estate probably has the vastest collection of unofficial grand crus for Barolo in the area. Now, we are talking vineyards comprising parcels in the great Vigna Rionda from Serralunga d’Alba; the top three vineyards Villero, Bricco Fiasco and Rocche from Castiglione-Falletto, Brunate from La Morra and the Bussia Soprana from the northern part of Monforte d’Alba. As the crowd of Barolo fans already have noticed, this is indeed a collection of some of the very best crus in Barolo. Five of them are bottled as single cru Baroli.

Nebbiolo bunch with grapes and green stems

As most quality producers today, they put most of their focus on their vineyards and here we, with true joy, see the true potential. Green harvest is employed and only the best grape bunches are left two months before scheduled harvest. In addition, they started to employ high upward-trained trellising systems with wide rows in the vineyard in the 2000 vintage with more evenly outtake and riper fruit as a result as well as reducing the number of toppings. Yes, it sounds like what Roberto Conterno and Luca Roagna are doing to further improve quality.
The top soil is organically cultivated and they started doing this in 2008 using only copper sulfate to treat illness and mildew. Moreover, they now use organic matter and humus to fertilize the soil more naturally and they are preparing for an organic certification. In addition, they have started to adopt sexual confusion techniques to keep moths away.

Luca explains how you can recognise phenolic maturity and ripe grapes through inspection and by tasting. We discuss how hard work de-stemming of nebbiolo really is and that Oddero really tries to remove all stems, since they in nebbiolo vines usually are very green and bitter in Luca’s opinion. Obviously, in contrast to pinot, nebbiolo certainly does not need stems to add tannins.

The barrels in the cellar

Selection is hard and done both in the vineyard and a second one in the winery at harvest. After de-stemming, a 20-30 days maceration depending on vintage and vineyard is carried out by pump over and delestage in steel vats. However, for the Barolo classico, the traditional sub-merged caps is carried out. They used to use cement, but today only steel vats are employed for alcoholic fermentation. Only large, neutral barrels (45hl to 70 hl) from Slavonia and Austria are used for the Langhe Nebbiolo and Barolo classico. For the Barolo crus, they first use french barriques during the malo with the sediments that endures for about 6-9 months depending on vintage of course. Luca reminds me that no new oak is used, but only 2nd passage or 3rd with light toasting, except for the barberas. Then the grape juice is moved into neutral (25 hl and 30 hl) Austrian oak barrels for aging.

2009 Barbaresco Gallina

Dry soil and good drainage. Exposition is south. Maceration is carried out for 20 days with regular pumping over and a few delestage.

The colour is dark ruby red with white, transparent edges.

The nose has obvious oak notes, very fresh perfumes, dried rose petals, dry red fruit; strawberry, dark cherry.

The taste is very driven by ripe fruit, orange-peel, anise, fennel and ginger. Texture is fine sandy and tannins are quite polished already. Medium-bodied and slim structure. Fine finish with some saline acidity. This definitely lacks complexity and elegance, but fruit is good and tannins are polished and of high quality.

88-89p/100


2009 Barolo

This is a blend of the vineyards; Bricco Chiesa, Bricco Fiasco and Cappallotto. Oddero will soon start bottling the Bricco Fiasco as a single wine. The grape for this blend in contrast to the barolo crus sees traditional maceration with submerged caps.

The colour is dark ruby red with white, transparent edges.

The nose offers animal notes, fragrant rose petals, wood glue and leather.

The mid palate offers balsamic tastes, fine minerals, fennel, tar, anise and loads of fresh, ripe red fruit. Texture is sandy and tannins are fine, The wine is build with details, nuances and a firm, base without being heavy. Impressive concentration, some depth and elegant persistent finish, but just a little too sweet. Structure is almost full-bodied.

92p/100 


2009 Barolo Villero

Luca describes this wine as “not too tall, not too round”. The wine was introduced in 2004 and before it was blended into the classic barolo. The vineyard has south exposition and is warm even during nights, so the soil will lose water, but it will stay deeper down. The roots then needs dig really deep down to find it, but can still handle stress well and the wine miraculously still manages to be fresh.

The nose offers complex, conserved and deep fruit. The mid palate offers paint box, wood glue, truffle, oranges and perfumes. A very complex and deep nose.

A mid palate of menthol, fine minerals, spices, tar, anise, some old-style austere note and loads of incredibly fresh, ripe fruit; plum, blackberry and cherry. Texture is sandy and tannins are a little heavy now but appears to be ripe and of high quality. Impressive concentration, its is very rich with a persistent finish. Structure is full-bodied and weightlessly powerful.

The colour is dark ruby red with white, transparent edges.
This surprises with its freshness in such warm exposition lacking cool winds. It is rich, balsamic-fresh, deep and powerful. Open 2016.

94-95p/100


2008 Barolo Rocche di Castiglione

Colour is dark ruby red with light edges.

The nose offers plum, earth cellar, not so fresh. Burned minerals, glue.

A mid palate of dry licorice-root, minerals, metals, incredibly balsamic, grape-peel and distinct layers of unexpected darker fruit than usual. Texture is fine sandy, almost polished already, but tannins are a little dry and heavy. Medium-bodied and persistent with a classic austere-herby and a little dry finish. Open 2017.

91-92p/100

2006 Barolo Brunate

Oddero’s parcels are very high up in this vineyard, where it is usually windy and the wine usually reflects aromatics and freshness.

Colour is dark ruby red with light edges.

The nose offers plum, sherry, earth cellar, not so fresh. Burned minerals, glue.

Unfortunately, very austere fruit in such a lovely vineyard. Texture is coarse sandy, tannins are rough, or more honestly stone-hard and a little dry. This is unpleasantly tannic, austere, grassy and simply strange expression for this great site that normally produces great elegant and complex wines. A true disappointment. What went wrong here in such a classic year?

87-p/100

2005 Barolo Vigna Rionda

This is a very classic site and Oddero harvests this one before the other nebbiolo vineyards. The wine ages for 42 months in cask. Not this one, but from the 2006 vintage, this barolo will be released first after ten years of ageing in Oddero’s cellar.

Colour is dark ruby red with light edges.

The nose emerges with dry lavender, cinnamon, ethereal, glue, black pepper, exotic herbs, gravel of lime, dry licorice-root and balsamic fur. I always recognise this vineyard on the nose and this is a really great version.

A mid palate of distinct dark, very deep layers of fruit, tea, forest floor, shale, leather, some orange-peel and complex minerals. Texture is fine sandy, tannins are of high density, fat, chewy and hefty. This wine, as expected, has big, big structure, is mid-weightly powerful and offers fantastic concentration.

A wine with more feminine characteristics than usual from this vineyard that resemble us of Massolino. This offers depth, great concentration and impressive balance. Open 2015.

94p/100

2003 Barolo Bussia Soprana di Mondoca

Among all Oddero’s six unofficial grand crus, this is their favourite and it was acquired in 1980. Vines are about 35 years old here, exposure is south-west and the soil is almost white which is referred to as “lunar soil” according to Isabella. In the best vintages a special riserva is made too.

Colour is garnet red with light-orange edges.

The nose offers conserved fruit, plums, wood glue, violets, thyme, fire stone, shale, forest floor, burned limestone and dry herbs.

A mid palate emerges of very fresh, ripe fruit, fennel, anise, balsamic flavours, tar, metals. Texture is fine sandy and tannins are fine but over ripe and bold, The wine is build with details, nuances and a firm, base without being heavy. Very good concentration, some depth and elegant persistent finish, but just a little too sweet. Structure is almost full-bodied.

92p/100

Summary

Over the years, Oddero has appeared uneven among vintages and vineyards and also in this tasting two wines from great vintages e.g. 2006, 2008 were disappointments, whereas others are great and interesting. However, the main impression is that the estate offers an exceptional portfolio of grand crus and when Oddero gets it right, they truly excel. The 2005 Vigna Rionda and 2009 Villero are good examples of this and these really impressed us. I certainly hope that quality in the very near future will be more evenly high and that they will be more recognised, because we think this estate have a lot of potential and they are definitely on the right track.

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