2014 The Good and the Better

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The 2014 vintage will be talked about for its notoriously cool and wet summer season in many areas, which was thought to compromise quality. But Italy’s winemakers say that people spoke too soon, as many, many wines have proven to be excellent. And the proof is in the bottle – but also the reviews.

Conterno Fantino’s 2014 Sori’ Ginestra received a coveted WINE HUNTER PLATINUM AWARD at the Merano Wine Festival, a winelover’s paradise, recognized the world over for its excellence and unforgivingly high standards. Other regions in Italy also enjoyed top scores. Wine Enthusiast awarded Pietradolce Vigna Barbagalli with 94 points (and Gambero Rosso gave it tre bicchieri). At the same time, Wine Spectator awarded Speri Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2014 with 90 points,  Boscarelli Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2014 with 90 points and Franz Haas Pinot Nero Alto Adige Schweizer 2014 with 89 points. And finally, Antonio Galloni awarded Ca’ Rome’s Chiaramonti and Rio Sordo with 91 and 93 points, respectively.

This welcome recognition certainly reflects the skill and effort put into making quality wines. Conterno Fantino echoes this sentiment: “2014 was not an easy one, especially since the weather alternated nice and not so nice in most of Italy. More than any other year, the professional ability and meticulousness of the work were important. The best results in terms of production came from the most cared-for vineyards, opportunely pruned to have fewer buds and leaves, with timely and effective treatments. The vineyards with better sun exposure got better results in quality. The professionalism of single winemakers at harvest was also fundamental in terms of choosing the most suitable moment to harvest and the accurate management of that period, eliminating unbefitting grape clusters. Those who worked hard in the vineyard found healthy grapes with good sugar (without the spikes of the last few years) and acidity levels and low pH. In light of these considerations, the 2014 Barolos have excellent color, ample aromas and good acidity. They especially have good primary aromas, such as its typical violet supported by fragrances of rose and black cherry. The Barolo 2014s are tangy with rich minerality, favored by low pH, showing the fine and elegant side of Nebbiolo.”

Barolo’s Consorzio maintains the same position stating that Nebbiolo has proven “its truly surprising capacity to adapt to the area. Well-cared-for vineyards with aerated clusters didn’t experience any rot. On average, wines will have good alcohol, elegance and balance, with good acidity, therefore ageability, and excellent aromas, rich in mineral notes.”

Giuseppe Marengo of Ca’ Rome’ agrees that “2014 was rainy but thanks to a low yield (due to the rainy weather), the results are very positive.” Manuel Marchetti of Marcarini explained, “Our 2014 Barolos have wonderful elegance. We certainly won’t find the big structure of exceptional years, but we also won’t need to wait for this structure to evolve. These wines reflect the classic Barolo character with a fineness and readiness that will make many happy, especially those who want to get to know this fabulous wine.”  The very verbose Davide Mozzone stated that, “There was so much said about the 2014 vintage; things that were valid for certain reasons and rash for other reasons. For us, 2014 began by giving us good quality, healthy white grapes (Arneis). [In terms of] Nebbiolo, that’s where the good part comes in. How does a winery like mine say, “We downgraded our Dolcetto, Barbera and Langhe Rosso but we are happy with the quality of our Nebbiolo grapes, which are picked last? In short, winter had little snow and rain; the growth cycle began slightly early; there was incessant rainfall in spring and very low temperatures in summer.  These conditions continued through August. Fortunately, September was generous and pushed the grapes through. Personally, I think people will mistakenly generalize this vintage, making it simple to declassify it even for those who spent a lot of time and money, working hard to make a difference. He explained that more work in the vineyards and more treatments helped his vineyards (especially old) resist adversity. “My Barolo 2014 and my Pernanno 2014 are good interpretations of the vintage, with all of its merits and flaws. While hot and dry vintages tend to lead to high-alcohol, soft and ready-to-drink Barolos, this vintage – thanks to the excellent health of the grapes – will offer wines lower in alcohol, with stronger acidity and color. These are the things that make us hopeful for a wine that will distinguish itself from many other wine-producing regions in that the message in the bottle is that of difference between vintages and vineyards.” Matteo Sardagna explains, “The vintage 2014 has certainly been particular in terms of climate change. From the first stage of maturation, we saw once again a high level of humidity, which stayed with us until the end of Spring. Things improved progressively in September, which favored a remarkable ripening of our Nebbiolo grapes. All this allowed us to harvest very ripe grapes that can achieve great results with regard to tannins, elegance and the variety of the aromas.”

Giving credit where credit is due, we can safely say that our winemakers worked hard to put out an excellent product and while the 2014 vintage presented some challenges, they were up to the test.