The 2015 release of Ettore Germano’s Barolo Riserva ‘Vigna Lazzarito’ was a great success last year and I am pleased to follow that up with the much-awaited release of their 2016 version, as well as the 2018 Barolo, Prapò – our first release from this vintage.
By now I am sure everyone is aware that 2016 was a truly great vintage for Barolo – I may have mentioned it once or twice. Conditions were near ideal in 2016 and the results speak for themselves. 2018 was a much trickier vintage to navigate and generalisations are not applicable, as some growers have struggled while others have excelled. The Barolo, Prapò from Ettore Germano took me by surprise as you will see below. It isn’t a vintage that I would lay down to be consumed too far down the line, rather a vintage I would broach early. I am certain it will drink well on release given how much charm the sample showed last week. This is what has impressed me with the wines from Ettore Germano; the winemaking approach adjusts to maximise the potential on offer – on one hand they can craft a classical 2016 Barolo Riserva with all the promise of 20 years or more cellarage, and on the other hand, they can adapt in a more mixed 2018 vintage to make a wine of charm and refinement, knowing that the fruit harvested does not offer the structure for a bolder style. There is more than a grain of truth in the oft-quoted phrase that skilled winemakers reveal their talent in more difficult years.
So, Ettore Germano remains a little off radar, and being off the radar means that the wines are incredibly well-priced. When the 2017s were released, Antonio Galloni commented on vinous.com that there had been a move towards a fresher style with less oak influence and suggested the wines were ‘strong across the board’. At the same time, Monica Larner wrote on robertparker.com that ‘Ettore Germano has taken ambitious leaps and bounds toward greater quality and consistency in this impressive group of new releases.’ I am on the same page, convinced that Sergio Germano’s star is in the ascendant. That might seem a strange thing to say about an estate founded in 1856 that rests with the fourth generation, but recent vineyard acquisitions and inherited parcels have injected new impetus here. The estate, based in Serralunga d’Alba, now has enviable holdings in famous Cru vineyards such as Vignarionda, Prapò, Cerretta and Lazzarito. Having kept an eye on progress following a visit a few years back, I have been incredibly impressed by recent tastings as the wines have shown remarkable finesse. Extraction is carried out in a very careful manner – the wines are never overly firm, neither are they lacking in structure and the vineyard expressions really come to the fore. There is little more that you can ask for.
On the vineyards
Lazzarito was first mentioned as a vineyard in the land register of 1610. Today this MGA (Menzione Geografica Aggiuntiva, or appellation) covers 30 hectares at an altitude of 350 metres. The one-hectare parcel that belongs to Germano is oriented south-west and benefits from the afternoon sun. This is an old vine parcel with the vines dating back to 1931. Lazzarito is a fascinating Cru – as with various examples from Serralunga d’Alba, it can show some austerity in its youth, perhaps on account of the marl soils with veins of iron-rich sandstone. That said, with maturity, there is a silky quality to the tannins of Lazzarito and a sense of great refinement, as well as persistence, largely due to the calcareous element in the soil. Given the calibre of the parcel, Germano has opted to make a Riserva from the fruit from these beautifully situated vines and what a gorgeous wine it is. Riserva must be aged for 62 months before release, of which 18 months must have been in oak.
Prapò lies right next to the Germano’s house and cellars in Serralunga d’Alba. It is a highly regarded site with a south-east exposure and an altitude of 340 metres allowing for slow ripening of the fruit, which has been beneficial in recent Piemontese vintages. The soils are calcareous but not as heavy as some other Serralunga vineyards, which means the tannins and structure in a young Prapò are not as dominant as in other Serralunga Cru. The vines here were planted in 1967 by Sergio’s father with some replanting having taken place since.
Please see below for my full notes. As yet neither Monica Larner nor Antonio Galloni have published notes on either of these wines, I have included Walter Speller’s informative notes from Jancis Robinson’s website.