Monday, October 10, 2016

More than a century of Barolo vintages — Marchesi di Barolo

In the northern Italian vineyard region of Piemonte, two well-known Barolo producers have provided publicly available comments on 100 years of their wine vintages. Finding these online is not easy, and so I will be covering them in this blog. I have already presented A century of Barolo vintages — Fontanafredda.

Here, I have listed the chart from Marchesi di Barolo (formally: Cantine del Marchesi di Barolo S.p.A.). You can read all about the estate and winery at the Marchesi di Barolo web site (in several languages).

I obtained this listing from the 心無罣礙 – 抱青 website, which in turn got it from a page (that no longer exists) at the Marchesi di Barolo site. There are apparent errors in the source, which I have corrected here. I have provided a brief analysis of the data at the end of the post.

A Century of Barolo Vintages 1861-2005

The 145 vintages are scored on an increasing scale:
    Poor, Average, Good, Excellent, Great, Exceptional.
However, the first two categories are not actually distinguished in the list; and comments on the vintage are provided only for the latter four categories.

Year Harvest
1861  Excellent  A limited harvest. Wine of great structure and balance with intense perfumes and pronounced flavor. A wine for long ageing. 
1862  Good  A full-bodied wine with pronounced tannins and acidity. Aromas are fairly intense and complex. 
1865  Excellent  Meagre harvest due to severe spring frosts. The grapes that were harvested, however, were very healthy and mature, creating wines of good structure and pedigree. 
1867  Good  Normal level of production with healthy, mature grapes. The resulting wines are medium-bodied, robust and harmonious. Some retained a touch of sweetness. 
1868  Exceptional  An extremely well-structured wine with remarkable perfumes that are both very intense and very appealing. A wine for long cellaring. 
1869  Good  A wine which seems weak at first but reveals a ray of ample, pleasant aromas. The palate sensations are at once delicate and decisive. For these reasons, this wine could be considered one for easy drinking. 
1870  Good  Somewhat lacking in structure but nonetheless very pleasant to drink. Firm, supple tannins guarantee a moderate capacity for ageing. 
1873  Great  A wine of great structure and vigor. Extraordinary perfumes and pronounced tannins render it suitable for long ageing. 
1876  Good  A tremendously structured wine with firm tannins that initially seem very hard. Extremely intense and persistent perfumes. 
1879  Excellent  An abundant harvest of healthy, mature grapes produced wines with excellent structure, soft tannins and good acidity. Excellent prospects for a long period of maturation. 
1885  Good  A very sturdy, pleasant and inviting wine, even if a bit light in body and structure. 
1886  Great  Scarce harvest due to heavy hailstorms during the summer. However, the grapes that were harvested were beautiful, ripe and perfectly healthy. The wines are very robust and well-structured, making them good candidates for extended ageing. 
1887  Excellent  A wine of great robustness and structure. Perfumes are very pronounced, intense and appealing. A vintage to remember. 
1889  Excellent  A wine with tremendous body and character. Aromas are intense and persistent with incredible structure and equilibrium. Firm tannins, which at first come off as soft and unobtrusive, and good acidity are clear indications of its promising future. 
1890  Good  Though this excellently structured wine initially seemed a bit coarse and rough around the edges, over time it has developed a good equilibrium with intense and pleasing aromas. This is not, however, a wine that will benefit much from long ageing. 
1894  Excellent  Extremely ripe, healthy grapes produced a wine that is well-structured and high in alcohol yet perfectly balanced. Very intense, persistent aromas. Drinking well in its youth, it also shows excellent potential for long ageing. 
1895  Good  Rich and well-structured, with intense and moderately long perfumes. Good balance between tannin and acidity. A wine which is both harmonious and pleasant to drink. 
1897  Exceptional  The grapes, which were actually very scarce due to strong spring frosts, matured perfectly during the subsequent growing season and were harvested in perfect condition. The result is a wine with tremendous structure and powerful alcohol. Very intense and persistent aromas. A perfect candidate for long ageing. 
1898  Excellent  Rich and well-structured with intense, moderately long perfumes. Good balance between tannin and acidity. A wine which is both harmonious and pleasant to drink young, but capable of ageing as well. 
1903  Good  A wine with a big structure, initially slightly unbalanced but developing fine equilibrium as it matured. 
1905  Good  An imposing wine because of its impressive elegance, structure and rich sensations; generous and promising. 
1906  Good  Well-structured wine, abounding in tannins and acids; strong, forthright sensations. 
1907  Great  A wine of great breeding and superb balance. Famous for its generosity and austere elegance that persisted for many years. 
1908  Excellent  A wine with a good structure but not richly endowed with color or tannins. Impact on nose and palate somewhat weak but pleasant. 
1910  Excellent  Austere, rich wine with good impact and a fine balance among its characteristics. 
1911  Good  A wine with a great structure, well-endowed with tannins and acids. Pronounced disequilibrium initially but unusually promising. 
1912  Great  An imposing, generous and robust wine of fine breeding. Surprising because of its austere balance and rich sensations. 
1917  Excellent  A wine with a great personality. Full and intense aromas and flavors distinguished by their austere generosity and elegance. 
1919  Great  A wine of superb breeding. Rich and persistent aromas; flavors that were imposing because of their intensity, balance and harmony. 
1920  Good  A generous, well-structured wine with intense and agreeable sensations. 
1922  Exceptional  An opulent wine with remarkable aromas and flavors that melded in a triumphant blend. 
1924  Good  A well-structured, hardy wine with pleasant although not intense or persistent aromas; forthright tannins that, in time, developed balance and harmony. 
1925  Excellent  A rich, unusually refined wine because of its complex, intense and persistent aroma and exhilarating flavor, harmoniously combined. 
1927  Excellent  A wine whose strength and generosity were well expressed in its range of aromas and flavors. 
1928  Great  A great wine in all its characteristics, with a fine concentration of sensations. The harvest was weak after a long and frigid winter and disastrous hailstorms. 
1929  Exceptional  Extraordinary wine with a complete range of intense, full and persistent odors and possessing a wealth of flavor sensations of surprising intensity. The wine showed remarkable balance and harmony. 
1931  Exceptional  Extraordinary wine with a complete range of intense, full and persistent odors and possessing a wealth of flavor sensations of surprising intensity. The wine showed remarkable balance and harmony. 
1934  Excellent  A generous, well-structured wine with forthright tannins and acids; characteristic and distinctive aromas and flavors in a complex equilibrium of notable austerity. 
1937  Good  Generous, well-structured wine with good and persistent odors and pleasant and relatively complex flavor sensations. 
1945  Good  A robust, well-structured wine, distinctive for its intense and pleasant aromas and properly balanced flavors of fine complexity. 
1947  Exceptional  The wine possessed all the elements of greatness: aromas of rare intensity and appeal; noble, unusually persistent flavors; balanced and harmonious sensations of incomparable softness. 
1951  Good  A well-structured wine, richly blessed with pleasant and intense odors and complex, attractive and persistent flavors; exceptionally well-balanced and harmonious. Production was limited because of violent hailstorms that ravaged many vineyards. 
1955  Good  Remarkable for its structure and generosity, the wine offered intense aromas with good persistence and complex, attractive flavors; notable equilibrium and harmony. 
1957  Excellent  A wine with a big, full and generous structure. A wealth of intense and persistent aromas; remarkable equilibrium and harmony that contributed to a velvety sensation. 
1958  Great  A warm, full-bodied and well-structured wine. Intense, remarkably full aromas; a desirable touch of acidity and a substantial supply of sweet tannins combined to assure softness and elegance. 
1961  Great  A wine of superb class characterized by a substantial structure and aromas of great depth and breadth. Sweet tannins and moderate acidity yielded a full and harmonious wine of exceptional elegance. 
1964  Great  A majestic wine because of its structure and complexity. Noble aromas that were full and persistent, forward tannins that were assertive but, in combination with all other elements, they assured an unusually long life. 
1967  Excellent  A wine with outstanding structure and body, a pleasant and intense aroma, tannins, tending toward sweet, that were evident but of good quality and pronounced sapidity, characteristics that promised a brilliant future. 
1968  Good  A wine with little structure but endowed with appealing and intense aromas. Rich flavor sensations tending toward seductive softness. 
1970  Great  A wine blessed with a magnificent structure, generous and richly endowed. Its strength was such that it could accept a substantial content of tannins and acids that, supported by the warmth of the alcohol, assured remarkable sensations of equilibrium and harmony. 
1971  Exceptional  In addition to its attributes of fine breeding, imposing structure and rich personality, which were also found in the 1970 Barolo, this wine offered an impressive wealth of aromatic sensations and a flavor that was exceptionally well-balanced and notably elegant. 
1972  [Such a poor year for the nebiolo grapes that it was voluntarily declassified by all Barolo and Barbaresco producers.]
1974  Excellent  A wine of good breeding with a rich body and tannins and acids that were forward but well balanced. A full, intense aroma that was extremely pleasant, inviting and persistent; flavor sensations marked by an austere elegance. 
1975  Good  A rich, well-structured wine with intense and relatively persistent odors, a good balance between tannins and acids; a harmonious, drinkable wine. 
1978  Great  A well-structured wine, with a rich and vigorous body. Intense aromas of outstanding fullness and persistence; excellent equilibrium and harmony among all elements. The tannins were forward but tending toward the sweet. A modulated, elegant wine. 
1979  Excellent  This rich and complex wine showed fine breeding. Elegant, extremely intense and well-modulated aromas; substantial tannins and acids that assured an austere and balanced wine. 
1980  Excellent  A robust, well-structured wine. Full and encompassing aromas; outstanding balance and an exhilarating, unusually harmonious finish. 
1982  Exceptional  A rich wine with a big and complex structure. Noble aromas that were full and persistent in perfect harmony with complex, velvety and elegant flavors. Undoubtedly a vintage of outstanding longevity. 
1984  Good  A complex wine although lacking in structure. Delicate but intriguing and persistent aromas; outstanding flavor sensations but somewhat hard due to excessive tannins and acidity. Apparently disharmonious but promising. Weak production caused by a late frost. 
1985  Great  A wine with an extraordinary structure and complexity. A wealth of elegant and enveloping aromas. Sweet tannins and balanced acidity combined in flavors that were soft and elegant. 
1986  Good  This wine had a big structure and outstanding complexity but yield was reduced because of a fierce hailstorm in the spring. Complex and forthright aromas; imposing but evolved tannins with a flavor in perfect balance with the big body. 
1988  Excellent  A well-structured wine with remarkable richness of components. Intense, full and pronounced aromas and a full, perfectly balanced flavor despite extremely forward tannins and acids. A promising wine with the certainty of a long life. 
1989  Great  An impressive wine because of its big and generous structure. Extremely intense and remarkably full and persistent aromas of pronounced sapidity. Holding great promise for the future. 
1990  Exceptional  Because of its extraordinary attributes, the wine displayed a majestic opulence. Aromas of an enormous range of full and elegant sensations. The flavor showed great harmony and balance against a remarkably velvety background. 
1991  Good  Despite its apparent delicacy, this wine featured a superb range of full and appealing aromas seconded by delicate and impressive flavor sensations. Because of those qualities, it was regarded as a highly drinkable wine. 
1993  Excellent  A wine with a good structure and a commendable balance among its components. Intense and well-expressed aromas and relatively forward tannins but with good prospects for further development. Remarkably harmonious. 
1995  Excellent  A wine with great character and big body, the fruit of the few grapes saved from a ferocious hailstorm that battered the vines during the summer. Intense and pronounced aromas; structured and balanced flavors; noble tannins and good acidity that offer excellent promise for the future. 
1996  Great  A wine that is imposing and noble in character and structure. Its intense, full and persistent aromas are in perfect harmony with a rich array of visual and flavor sensations. Outstanding vinosity, proper acidity and forthright tannins that are steadily softening give this wine a majestic austerity that assures a long life and remarkable elegance. 
1997  Exceptional  An extraordinary wine! The richness of all its components is as noteworthy as it is rare. Possessing great strength because of its alcohol level and striking in appearance because of its intense, deep ruby-red color, it is certain to please even the most demanding connoisseurs. Its complex, full and persistent bouquet is highly provocative, while its noble, balanced, harmonious and full-bodied flavors, which are without equal, are accompanied by an unusually persistent aromatic intensity. 
1998  Great  Noble and strong wine. Its colour and intensity are just perfect. It has an intense, rich and persistent bouquet with scents of ripe fruit, sweet spices and undergrowth. Moderate acidity and marked but sweet tannins confer good balance and ease drinking. It is a solid promise for the years to come. 
1999  Exceptional  This vintage wine has extraordinary characteristics. It is gifted by nature with all the possible elements that express themselves generously. Its bouquet is infinitely rich with elegant and persistent notes. Extraordinary balance and harmony livened by a remarkable velvety sensation. Long life and big promises. 
2000  Great  This wine has wonderful looks. The beautiful shade and intensity of its colour and the garnet nuances confirm a correct evolution. Its rich, full and persistent bouquet is highlighted by notes of vanilla and spices, as a result of its noble lineage and maturation in precious wood. It feels warm, sober, rich and well structured in the mouth. The balance of acids and tannins reveals excellent chances of evolution. The finish is long with a pleasing aromatic persistence. 
2001  Exceptional  Garnet-red with deep ruby reflections exalted by a remarkable transparency. Copious ‘tears’ confirm its generous austerity. Exotic aromas of dried flowers, small fruits and wood essence combine to form a bouquet of extraordinary complexity. On the palate one is struck by heat, power, structure and tremendous equilibrium. Alcohol, acidity and tannin co-exist with amazing harmony and persistence. 
2002  Good  Brilliant garnet-red color that, if not very intense, is still quite alive and promising. The bouquet is full and persistent with subtle hints of vegetable, flower and spice. There is the light secondary aroma of vanilla from the wood in which the wine matured. The palate impression is decidedly dry, warm and harmonious. Moderate acidity is balanced by the sensation of soft, supple tannins. Overall, pleasant and well-structured. 
2003  Excellent  A vintage which will be remembered for its prolonged drought and extreme heat. Optimal in visual appearance and rich in body, with pronounced though perfectly balanced acids and tannins. Full and persistent perfume of balsamic vinegar with secondary aromas of ripe fruit and mountain hay. The palate is dry, warm and engaging. An austere, important wine with a long, lingering aromatic finish. 
2004  Great  Brilliant wine with a lively garnet-red color that is both intense and appealing. The bouquet is intense, rich, full and complex. It opens up slowly with evident notes of sweet spices, licorice, berry fruits and dried flowers. There is a subtle hint of vanilla in an otherwise decisive, forward wine. On the palate, this wine is distinguished by its elegant structure, pleasant sapidity and soft, almost sweet, tannins. A true ‘purebred’ which will surely continue to evolve and develop for a long time to come. 
2005  Great  Beautiful, intensely brilliant garnet-red color. Impressively rich bouquet recalls the fragrance of roses, sweet spices and fresh inviting fruit. On the palate there is a magnificent balance between the power of its alcohol, its firm tannins (which are already showing a tendency to soften around the edges), and a pleasantly vibrant sapidity. A wine of great breeding and nobility with a long, lingering aromatic finish. 

Analysis of the data

Summary of the harvest quality data for the 145 vintages:
Exceptional  12
Great 18
Excellent 22
Good 24
Average/Poor  68
Declassified   1

The declassified vintage in 1972 is discussed in the post A century of Barolo vintages  — Fontanafredda.

The harvest quality data here cannot be shown as a time series, as they were for the Fontanafredda vintages, because the Poor and Average data have not been included. However, the vintages for which there are available data (55 of the vintages from 1906 onwards) can still be compared to those for Fontanafredda. This comparison is shown in the table below.

Comparison of Fontanafredda and Marchesi di Barolo vintage qualities

As expected for two producers in the same region, there is a close association between these two datasets. The vintage quality was scored identically in 33 cases (60%; marked in orange in the table), and differed by only one category in a further 19 cases (35%; marked in bright yellow). However, the 1928 vintage was scored as Normal by Fontanafredda but Great by Marchesi di Barolo, which is a difference of three categories.

During the 80 years from 1906 onwards, there were only four occasions when both producers rated the vintage as best: 1922, 1931, 1947 and 1971. However, during the next 20 years there were another four occasions: 1990, 1997, 1999 and 2001. This emphasizes just how different European grape harvests have been since 1990. This is discussed in more detail in the post Two centuries of Bordeaux vintages.

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