I must have done something right in a past life, because I spent yesterday afternoon tasting a selection of Barolos and Barbarescos by Ceretto. And while these Barolos are not like the more “traditional” dirty Barolos that first exposed my soul to the deep, dark, underground pleasures of such aged wines, with their notes of tobacco, spice, and stewed prune, the Barolos of Ceretto were contemplative, some drinkable at a young age, and at times, divine.
Located in the Langhe region of Piedmont and founded in the 30’s, Ceretto soared in the hands of the “Barolo Brothers”, Bruno and Marcello Ceretto, who took to the helm in the 60’s. As “modernists” leading the crusade, Ceretto championed accessible Barolos with shorter fermentations (in stainless steel tanks) followed by less time in oak (as the DOCG decreased its required time in cask from three to two years)–techniques that yield fruiter wines with fewer tannins that require little or less time in the cellar before drinking.
As the umbrella of four estates, including Bricco Rocche, which produces four single-vineyard Barolo wines; Bricco Asili, home to two single-vineyard Barbaresco wines; Monsordo Bernardia; and Vignaioli di S. Stefano, Ceretto grew as the Barolo Brothers acquired various vineyards and constructed their estates.
Of the 45 wines at the tasting, I tasted them all and spit until I got to the good stuff; and I wasn’t the only one. Someone even commented to me on the empty spit buckets, of which I had already made note. And there were constant murmurs of delight about the room. Frederico Ceretto (pictured above and the youngest of the Ceretto family), at one time complained that the room was too serious, to which I replied that it was a compliment, this roomful of people contemplating and engaging his wines. The afternoon shift that I attended certainly differed from how Frederico described the early attendees who flew through the room. For the time I was there, everyone lingered, hovering around the table of single-vineyard Barolos and Barbarescos, of which I will offer here, a few notes.
While there was room to move about and space in which one could focus on the wines, one must keep in mind that notes are much thinner or threadbare when tasting through a roomful of wines.
Barolo Zonchera 2004–Notes of leather hide, cherry and fennel; it’s dusty with a silky texture–a wine that’s ready to drink.
Bernardot Barbaresco 2004–Aromas of dusty rose and earthy cherry fruit.
Barolo Brunate 2004–Shows dirty cedar wood, rose, and minerality that crescendos with a touch of chili, and finishes with fruit riding the wave of tannins that coat my tongue. Drink now.
Barolo Prapo 2004–Like game wrapped in clay, with mellow chili spice, and a bottom layer of fruit. It’s acidity streams through straight to the finish.
Brico Rocche Barolo 2004–A berry mud pie seen through the eyes of childhood delight, sprinkled with dusty rose pedals, and flecked with bits of game.
Barolo Brunate 2003–Initial showing of vanilla, followed by dark cherry and near-to-the ground berries, bright acidity, light-grip tannins, and Middle-Eastern spices, like cumin.
Bricco Asili Barbaresco 1999–There’s barnyard on the nose; and it appears seamless with a touch of spice, fiery acidity, and dusty minerality.
Bernardot Barbaresco 1998–More barnyard, dried iron ore, and the dirty, minty essence of basil.