"The wine of kings, the king of wines.” Barolos are among Italy’s most prized wines, and they are loved for their perfumed nose, layered flavors, great structure, and long cellar life. Paolo Damilano, who has vineyards in the best sites in the region, recently stopped in New York to discuss his family’s historic wines and some new projects.
Because of they are so highly valued, Barolos are typically sold in the U.S. for no less than $50-$60 and often for far more. Yet this tasting began with the Damilano Barolo Lecinquevigne 2009, a relatively new project for the winery. At $35, it is a “gift for the market,” according to Paolo. The wine was ruby with slightly browning at the edges from age. There were tight tannins and spice. As for the nose, Paolo stated, “Balsamic is typical for a Barolo.” The complex layers of flavor included cherries and clove. Seventy percent of sales of Lecinquevigne are in the U.S., and it is the perfect economically priced Barolo to drink now. For those who have never tried Barolo, it’s a good entry point as well.
The Barolo region has a collection of specific vineyard sites that vary in sun exposure, soil, climate, and vine age. In the tasting, we were able to clearly distinguish among Barolos from different vineyards, even among wines of the same vintage, and all of which are comprised (as all Barolos are) of 100% Nebbiolo grapes.
Barolo lovers, and they are a passionate bunch, know that the Cannubi cru is widely acknowledged as the most highly regarded vineyard in Barolo. Paolo noted, “Wise people always knew Cannubi had great exposition,” and the Cannubi name was found on a wine label as early as the 18th century. While the borders of this historic vineyard area were recently expanded, the original cru is only 15 hectares in size. Ten of those hectares are farmed by Damilano.
The tasting continued with the Damilano Barolo DOCG Cannubi 2008. There were violets on the nose, cherries on the palate. The wine was beautifully perfumed, elegant, and had great length. With this wine, Paolo advised, “Don’t look for the power, look for the elegance.” Paola said that in 2008, the winery made a change and stopped using the smaller barrique barrels for aging: they now use only large format barrels. The change has provided a wine in which the fruit is more prominent and the flavors that oak can impart are less present.
We continued with the 2006 Damilano Barolo DOCG Brunate, which I gave my highest rating of the tasting. The wine had higher tannins and more fruit than the Cannubi – in short, it was a bigger wine. With eight years aging, the color of the wine was a light ruby with browning. The nose was balsamic and floral, the flavor was intense with tobacco, cherries, and spice, and it had great length. The wine is produced from the vineyard Brunate in the municipality of La Morra.
The 2006 Damilano Barolo DOCG Liste was our final wine. This wine was deeper in color and the nose had blackberries and smoked meat. This well-structured wine showed the aging potential of great Barolos. Along with the production of the moderately priced Lecinquevigne and the commitment to quality in the historic vineyard production, the Damilano family is now looking to bring a Riserva wine to the market that would only be produced in the best vintages. In 2015, Paolo hopes to launch the first Riserva from the 2008 vintage. Judging from the exceptional Damilano wines we tasted that night, the Riserva will be a rare treat that Barolo lovers will eagerly anticipate.