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Along with the wines, this just in: The Negri 2016s are sensational. Not too much of a surprise, given the attention, skill, and respect for the best of tradtion that's lavished on these wines.
At Negri you enter the property at the highest point of the Serradenari vineyard – over 1700 feet / 530 meters above sea level; these are the highest elevation Barolo vines. Once in the gate the vineyards slope gently downhill to the cellars; the exposure is full west – you are on the other side of the ridge of La Morra, in a peaceful spot that few visitors see. On a clear day there is a spectacular view of the Alps.
Serradenari is a fragmented vineyard, with parcels of vines interrupted by large areas of woods. Unusually for Barolo, the Negri vines are contiguous, and this makes for an ideally isolated setting for organic farming – effectively an island of vines surrounded by woods (which are apparently excellent truffle ground).
Giulia Negri took over the family winery in 2010, and 2014 was the first vintage of her own label. She talks about falling in love with Burgundy, and as a result she makes a very good Langhe Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir, but her love for Burgundy informs all of her wine. Her Barolo is a traditionally made wine: 40+ days of fermentation in wood, and aging in 25hl Slavonian botte for 24-30 months, so there’s nothing “Burgundian” about the technical side, but in Negri’s hands Serradenari clearly can offer very Burgundian Barolo.
From north-facing vines, and so good that it can stand as evidence that in the era of climate change some less ideal sites can produce fine wine. The Nebbiolo is fermented in stainless steel with indigenous yeasts, for about 15 days, with aging for 14 months in steel and (now well-used) tonneaux. Unless you require a very muscular wine, this is a don’t-miss bottle. It’s very aromatic, with even the nose showing great balance of savory and fruit elements. Light-medium bodied, this is really drinking well now, but I’m going to try to save a couple to see what develops in a few years. Jamie Wolff
I’m stumped. I’m sure that you could cellar this wine for years, but it’s so good now that even I, zealot for mature Nebbiolo, find it hard to imagine how it could improve. Frankly it puts to shame the many clumsy attempts we still encounter to try make a Barolo that’s suited to early drinking. Tartufaia is 80% Serradenari, and 20% from Brunate (purchased fruit). Lifted, savory, chalky aromatics are balanced with cherry and delicate ripe tannin. I find it fantastically elegant and long, a wine of real finesse that inevitably brings a top Chambolle 1er Cru to mind. Jamie Wolff
The Barolo Serradenari is from the upper part of the vineyard. It’s deeper and more structured than Tartufaia, with more pronounced tannin. Very forest-y, with tons of truffle, balsalm, black cherry, and cocoa, and super-complex both aromatically and on the palate. It’s incredibly long and deep on the finish with the aromatics reasserting themselves. The great balance of elements that the best 2016s offer is very clear. Not to hard sell, but of all the ‘16s I’ve tasted I’m most reminded of Maria-Teresa Mascarello’s Barolo. And, sorry, but it feels inevitable that I think Chambertin. Jamie Wolff
Marassio is the name of a small section of vines at the very top of Serradenari. It sees 40 days of fermentation and maceration in ‘tini’ – large conical wooden vats; then 30 months of aging in 25hl Slavonian botte. We have been trained to expect that as wines get more expensive they get heavier and more obviously “important” and “blockbuster”, but in 2015 the Marassio was a bit lighter and more delicate than the Serradenari. I haven’t tasted the 2016, but the 2015 was an ethereal beauty from which I’d expect even more of the same in the ’16. Jamie Wolff