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A Remarkable Quintet of 2015 Barolo from Brovia

While Barolo’s style pendulum continues to swing away from the excesses of a few decades back, it is a true reward to work with an estate who never succumbed to modern technology’s seductive promises. The Brovia family established themselves as winegrowers in the hamlet of Castiglione Falletto in 1863, amassing over time an enviable collection of vineyards in some of the zone’s greatest crus (Rocche di Castiglione, Villero, and Garblet Sué), as well as a sizable holding in the cru Brea in Serralunga d’Alba. We at Rosenthal Wine Merchant have imported the family’s gorgeously traditional Barolo since the 1978 vintage—first with Giacinto Brovia, who revived viticulture here in 1953, and today with his daughters Elena and Cristina, as well as Elena’s formidably talented husband Alex Sanchez.

Brovia’s work in the vines and in the cellar embody an ardently traditional sensibility, albeit one executed with sensitivity and precision, and their wines have always displayed an uncanny balance between ruggedness and grace. No chemical treatments are ever employed in the vineyards. The hand-harvested, carefully sorted fruit ferments spontaneously in large cement tanks, with an appropriately lengthy three-to-four-week period of maceration. Aging takes place in gargantuan, ladder-requiring old Slavonian casks, and bottling is done without fining or filtration. It’s the sort of time-tested, simple cellar approach that allows the unparalleled majesty of Nebbiolo in these vaunted soils to shine; tasting Barolo as wondrous as Brovia’s, one marvels that such methods were ever questioned in the first place.

In early October, we will receive Brovia’s quartet of crus from the 2015 vintage—our 38th together—to supplement the 2015 Barolo “normale” already in our warehouse. Although 2015 seems to have a broad reputation for power and richness in the marketplace, the vintage’s best Barolo are anything but one-dimensional. The growing season itself was uneven, with dramatic heat spikes throughout May and June, a virtually rainless July, a hot but rainy August, and a September and early October slightly cooler than normal. Brovia began harvesting at the very beginning of October, bringing in remarkably clean and healthy fruit beautifully suited to extended macerations. These 2015s show marked tension, offering an interesting combination of warm-vintage amplitude and cool-vintage poise; they are authoritatively ripe but not juicy, and they display striking finesse. Their tannins are plentiful but less bare-knuckled than those of, say, 2013 or 2010, buffered as they are by such concentrated fruit—fruit which is irresistibly delicious yet controlled. They constitute yet another stunning effort by an estate that has few peers in the region, and we greatly look forward to sharing them with you.

2015 Barolo
Always a stunning value and a perfect encapsulation of the Brovia house style, their Barolo “normale” is comprised 60% of a portion of their holdings in Brea (the oldest and best-exposed vines are bottled separately as “Ca’Mia”—see below) and 40% of the younger vines of their three crus in Castiglione Falletto. One feels both the spicy, boisterous generosity of Serralunga d’Alba and the mineral thrust of Castiglione Falletto in this wine, and the 2015 is a particularly layered, dynamic version, offering excellent concentration but relative accessibility at this early stage.

2015 Barolo “Garblèt Sue”
Garblèt Sue, also known as “Altenasso,” is a subsection of the cru of Fiasco in Castiglione Falletto. Soils here are of sand and clay-limestone marl, but they are richer and less well-drained than those higher on the hill in Fiasco proper. Brovia owns 0.7 hectares of western-exposed Nebbiolo here, planted between 1970 and 1979, and situated at 250 meters altitude (their lowest-altitude cru holding). If “Garblèt Sue” typically shows a hair’s breadth less complexity than its two Castiglione Falletto brethren, it compensates with a generous, exuberant personality and a tendency to drink better earlier. If anything, it punches above its weight class in 2015, offering a core of luscious fruit, an alluring wildness reminiscent of a great “Villero” (see below), and beautifully cushioned tannins.

2015 Barolo “Rocche di Castiglione”
Rocche di Castiglione is one of the most coveted crus in the appellation, and for good reason: its high-altitude, white-sand soils render a Barolo of dizzying perfume and supreme elegance. Brovia owns a 1.5-hectare parcel of southeast-facing vines at 350 meters altitude, and this is indeed always the most refined, lithe wine in their lineup. That said, the 2015 is ample in size, with plenty of fruit in reserve, but there’s no hiding the finely etched minerality which buttresses the wine. It displays exceptional aromatic grace as well, with high-toned, delicately expressed spices, and a very pretty floral element.

2015 Barolo “Villero”
Brovia owns a hectare and a half of old vines (planted in 1961) situated at 340 meters altitude in this characterful southwest-facing cru in Castiglione Falletto. Villero’s clay-limestone marl (though still containing some sand) renders a wine of powerful structure—one which often assumes a dark, brooding personality in its youth. We have always adored its uncompromising nature, as well as its ability to age with consummate breed, and this 2015 is a fascinating version. One might expect, given the vintage’s warmth, that this would be the most impenetrable wine of the lineup, but there is a real tension at its core, while the vintage’s fruit engenders a sense of relative openness. Still, it’s a feral wine with a strong grip, and one would be remiss not giving it some time in bottle to blossom.

2015 Barolo “Ca’Mia”
Brovia’s lone Barolo from the neighboring township of Serralunga d’Alba, “Ca’Mia” is sourced from the best and oldest part of the family’s holding in the centrally located cru of Brea. The Nebbiolo for “Ca’Mia” was planted in 1955 on a southeast-exposed part of the cru at 350 meters altitude, and Brea’s limestone-dominated soils—in contrast to the generally sandier soils of Castiglione Falletto—yield a Barolo of boisterous and unabashed lushness. If “Rocche” is regal and poised, and “Villero” stern and brooding, then “Ca’Mia” is pure extroversion—the kind of wine that can’t be ignored. The 2015 is a tour de force, showing great nuance and focus beneath its rush of dark, spice-drenched fruit and stony power. Its tannins, while fresh, are potent and plentiful, and the wine certainly needs time for its neutron-star density to relent.