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An interesting match-up – the four great producers of La Morra from the 1950s – 1980s. Renato Ratti is the latecomer, having bought his property in 1965 (although there are Ratti labels back to 1961). Ratti returned to Barolo after working abroad; he is quoted as saying that as an “outsider”, he was free to explore changes to local winemaking customs, seeking to produce a Barolo that was more accessible than the traditional model. So too, we read, at Cordero di Montezemolo (the family traces their roots in Barolo only to the 1300s) and I have loved old Cordero wines. Ratti and Cordero went into full modern-style winemaking in the 1990s, and the wines became very oaky indeed (the only old Ratti I’ve tasted was a very good 1979), now apparently they have modified the use of new wood. Meanwhile, Marcarini and Oddero went about their business making some of the best traditional wines of Barolo; I have had monumental bottles from both, and they can be depended on to deliver the best quality, even in weaker vintages.
Ratti is entirely focused in La Morra, with all of their vines in the hamlet called Annuziata (in some vintages Ratti produced a Barbaresco, from purchased fruit). Masnaghetti’s Barolo MGA provides some key information about the Ratti labels: “Marcenasco is the name utilized by the Renato Ratti winery from 1965 up through 1969 for its single-vineyard Barolo produced from the current Conca MGA. From the 1970 vintage up through now it has been utilized, again by the Ratti winery, for its blended Barolo. The name derives from San Martino di Marcenasco, the former name of the Annuziata area of La Morra and the zones around this part of the township.” Over the years there are Ratti wines labeled Marcenasco, Conca, and Rocche dell’Annuziata (their crown jewel), and also Abbazzia dell’Annuziata (the Abbazzia is a former abbey which gave its name to some parcels of vines around the abbey, but it’s no longer permitted to be used on labels). Along with wine of high quality, Renato Ratti produced one of the first authoritative maps of Barolo, which included a ranking of some of the individual vineyards; Ratti also made a vintage chart going back to the 1800s, and which has been updated since his death in 1990.
Cordero di Montezemolo bottles a renowned Barolo from Villero in Castiglione Falletto (the label is “Enrico VI”), but like Ratti their focus is concentrated in a small area of La Morra, on their estate called Monfalletto. Until 1987 the Barolo Monfalletto was a single-vineyard wine from the cru Gattera (after 1987 the “Monfalletto became a blend of Gattera and Bricco Manescotto). Once again I’ve depended on Masnaghetti to begin to understand a confusion of names and places, but etymologies aside, old Monfalletto is a great wine – full of forest and truffle aromas, balanced, richly textured, and thoroughly satisfying.
From 1958 on, Marcarini focused on single-vineyard bottlings from La Serra, and Brunate (where they have vines in both the La Morra and Barolo sections of the vineyard). From 1964-1990 the wines were made by Elvio Cogno, and they are superb. There are also some non-single-vineyard Barolos - a blend of Brunate and La Serra - and very occassionally a wine labeled "Cogno", but clearly a Marcarini wine under the winemaker's name.
Only Oddero owns significant vineyards outside La Morra. Until 1982 when they first bottled some single-vineyard wines, their Barolo represented the idealized classic blend of vineyards from different communes, which in principle brings complexity to the wine – a Barolo enthusiast has to only ponder the result of a blend of Oddero’s vines in Brunate, Rocche di Annuziata, Rocchette (La Morra); Bussia Soprana, Mondoca di Bussia (Monforte); Rocche di Castiglione, Villero (Castiglione Falletto); Gabutti, Parafada, and Vigna Rionda (Serralunga) to realize that something very special is at hand. There is also an excellent Barbaresco, a blend of Faset, Montestefano, and Pora. Jamie Wolff
*My screen shots don't begin to do it justice, but any Barolo fan owes themselves the treat of subscribing to Masnaghetti's new BaroloMGA.it However, fair warning: this is a completely entrancing rabbit hole, and may be the most fun you have all day!
PS - the 2020 harvest in Brunate has started, and here's some up-to-the-minute news in the form of this beautiful bunch of organically farmed Nebbiolo grapes. Proud papa Claudio Boggione is very happy with the season!
Oddero is one of just a handful of producers who made excellent wine in the past and who continue to do so now. Admittedly our opinion of their current vintages is biased, since we admire Oddero's fidelity to Barolo made in the traditional manner. Anyway, the old wines are great, and we're happy to have old vintages whenever we can.
Like some other very good Piedmont 1974s, this wine has a nice amount of fruit, and it's well-balanced — actually quite elegant. From an over-looked vintage, this is a fine value.
A consistently excellent wine — we've been lucky to get to taste this several times in the last few years. It needs a lot of time to breathe, and then it provides a classic example of fully mature Nebbiolo. Jamie Wolff
Old Cordero Barolo is great wine (recent vintages are in a fairly heavy, oaky style that we don't love so much, but the old stuff...). A couple of years ago we had several cases of this wine, which afforded multiple tasting opportunities; at this price the wine is a steal.
Enrico VI is the name given to a plot of Villero — a great vineyard in Castiglione Falletto — which the producer considers their finest wine (the oldest Enrico VI we've had was a 1974 — we're not sure when they started labeling this wine).