I had the chance to taste an obscure Barolo recently from the outstanding 2016 vintage, and to access a few cases. Frankly, with regard to Barolo, my thoughts had started to turn to the 2019 vintage, which already sounds hugely promising.
However, I find a lot to like in the wines of Verduno, a northern commune of Barolo, whose wines are renowned for elegance and refinement on account of the soils that dominate here. Verduno is home to the Cru vineyard of Monvigliero, which is now touted as being one of the great sites in Barolo. Verduno hasn’t seemed to suffer from the run of hotter and drier vintages that Piemonte has experienced and the success of a couple of estates, namely Burlotto and Fratelli Alessandria, has drawn new interest to the area; interest from consumers, critics and producers - for example, Vietti acquired a parcel here recently and released their inaugural Monvigliero 2018 earlier this year.
What draws attention is that Barolo from Verduno tend to be more approachable in their youth – their structure is markedly different to that of, say, Serralunga or Monforte d’Alba where there is invariably more power, backbone and necessity to age. They are typified by floral aromatics, refined tannins and capture a certain spicy overlay to their supple fruits. If you have never tasted Barolo from Verduno, you should – it underlines that Barolo is much more varied in style across the communes than most consumers realise.
Neirane is a lesser-known vineyard within Verduno, which covers just over 37 hectares in total. Notable growers like Burlotto have vines here, though the fruit from their holdings goes into blended Barolo so it is unusual to see the vineyard name/Cru stated on the bottle. It lies at an altitude of 330-405 metres and represents a site that marks the transition from typical sandy Verduno terroir to the blue-grey marl soils of neighbouring La Morra. It is a cooler, west-oriented site and that really comes through in the refinement of the wine in question here from Bosco Agostino. Interestingly, just 45% of the vineyard area is planted with Nebbiolo, but as we witness climatic changes, the fortunes of cooler sites may change as growers seek fresher-styled wines. It is easy to see why wines from Neirane could offer value to a blend. That said, in an impeccable year like 2016, with near perfect conditions, Neirane can show its qualities on its own.
The little-known estate of Bosco Agostino was founded with a view to growing grapes to sell on rather than wine production. This focus changed in 1979, at which time Agostino joined his father, Pietro, in his labours both in the vineyard and the cellar. Today it remains a family affair with Agostino’s wife Carla and son Andrea both working for the estate. This four-hectare estate is situated in La Morra, where they own vines in La Serra to add to the holding in Neirane. The winemaking style is reassuringly traditional, with ageing taking place in large Slavonian oak botti for 23-24 months.
Please see my recent note below as well as Monica Larner’s from July 2020.