Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - 35

Beyond Serralunga
Piedmont has seen a tremendous increase in wine tourism in the last 20 years, and as more wine lovers make
the trek to Barolo and visit its villages, they are starting
to think about Barolo not as a monolithic zone but as 11
separate ones. For Stefano Conterno, who now works with
his father at the Diego Conterno winery, this was a motivating factor when the family decided to make a Barolo
del Comune di Monforte d'Alba, first released in the 2016
vintage. "People know the Barolo area better now, and
it is important to work on the brand of the comuni. The
opportunity of comune wines is to help the final customer
to understand Barolo better."
Vittore Alessandria, winemaker at Fratelli Alessandria,
has decided to shift his Barolo classico to a comune wine,
and next year will release the 2017 as a Barolo del Comune
di Verduno, the first one from this comune. His Barolo
classico typically included ten to 15 percent of fruit from
Gramolere, an MGA in Monforte d'Alba, and while this
would technically be legal in a comune wine (up to 15
percent of the fruit can come from other communes), he
decided to use fruit exclusively from Verduno to make it
a purer representation of his home village.
Alessandria compares his Barolo Monvigliero, from
Verduno's most renowned MGA vineyard, to a soloist
who sings with great personality and also, perhaps, some
idiosyncrasies. The comune wine, Alessandria says, is more
like a choir: "The voices are a bit different, but similar
to each other and in harmony. Our idea of quality and
beauty is the fact that you can recognize this similarity. If
a wine lover can recognize that this wine is from Verduno,
that is the important thing."
Comune labels may be more confusing for consumers
when they come from the village of Barolo, but there are
now at least nine such wines on the market, including one
from Marchesi di Barolo that existed since 1987, although
under a variety of different labels prior to 2010. Virna

"Serralunga
fruit was
always
considered
the backbone
of a blended
Barolo."
- GIOVANNI MINETTI,
WHO HELPED DEVELOP
BAROLO'S MGAS AS THE
CONSORZIO PRESIDENT.

Borgogno, another producer in the commune of Barolo,
had been making a Barolo with fruit from Preda and Sarmassa, two of her most important MGAs, both located
within the comune of Barolo, and she labeled the wine
Barolo Preda Sarmassa. When the new MGA rules went
into effect in 2010, it became illegal to use the name of
more than one cru on a label. She changed the blend from
50/50 to 85 to 90 percent Preda, preserving more of her
Sarmassa fruit for her single-cru wine, and renamed the
blend Barolo del Comune di Barolo in the 2010 vintage.
Alessandro Masnaghetti, an Italian wine journalist
whose two-volume tome is considered the last word on
Barolo's MGAs, believes that comune wines represent a
significant trend. "At the beginning, only a few producers were really convinced of the potential of this kind
of Barolo," he says, "but along the years, they started
to realize this wine has bigger potential compared to
the regular Barolo, because it is a way to give the idea
that 'this is from my village.'" Masnaghetti thinks that,
in terms of quality, comune wines lie between regular
Barolos and those from single MGAs, but are closer to
the cru level. He sees comune wines as a reference point
for consumers: "If you want to approach Barolo and have
a first idea of the villages, this is the place to start. But
then you have to move to the single-vineyard Barolo, to
understand that the villages have more than one single
character."
With the rise of Barolos carrying the name of a comune
or an MGA, where does this leave Barolo classico wines,
those labeled simply Barolo? Some have begun to see
wines from Barolo as a pyramid, with MGA wines at the
top, comune wines in the middle and Barolo classico wines
at the base. Yet a pyramid may not be the best model for
Barolo. Unlike Burgundy, with its premier- and grand-cru
designations, the MGAs are officially neutral on the question of quality. They indicate differences among the sites
without rating any as better than the others.
Many comune wines are made with fruit from single or
multiple highly-regarded MGA vineyards. The same can
be true of Barolo classico: A prime example is made at
Bartolo Mascarello, one of the most renowned houses in
the region, now run by Bartolo's daughter, Maria Teresa
Mascarello. Harkening back to Barolo's earlier tradition,
Mascarello makes just one Barolo, and it has always been
a blend of fruit coming from her vineyards in the Barolo
and La Morra communes.
The day may come when Barolo assigns quality
classifications to its MGAs, though this seems a distant
prospect. Until then, perhaps it is more useful to think of
Barolo's wines as a set of concentric circles, with Barolo
classico as the outermost ring, comune wines inside of that,
and single-MGA wines as the center. You can find highquality wines in any of the circles, and some producers
make excellent wines in all three, but as you move closer
to the center, the wines should reflect a more specific
expression of place. There is value in following this path
and in spending some time in that intermediate ring,
becoming familiar with the personalities of Barolo's 11
communes and building a context for approaching the
array of single-site MGA wines at the center. n
(For reviews of current Barolo releases, including some
Barolo del Comune wines, turn to page 82.)
WINE & SPIRITS

DECEMBER 2020

35



Wine & Spirits - December 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Wine & Spirits - December 2020

Contents
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - Cover1
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - Cover2
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - 1
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - 2
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - Contents
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - 4
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - 5
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - 6
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Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - 8
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