Pietro Ratti on the 2005 Vintage of Barolo at the The Wine Media Guild
Pietro Ratti, owner and winemaker of the famous Renato Ratti winery, was driving Tom Maresca and I back to Alba after a tasting of 2005 Barolos. As we drove in the warm May sun, we spoke about the wines and the vintage. Almost without thinking I said to Pietro, “It would be great if you could come to New York and speak to the Wine Media Guild about the 2005 Barolo vintage.” Tom agreed and Pietro said, “I am sure we can work it out”.
Back in New York, I told my co-chair of the Wine Media Guild Pat Savoy about my idea and she replied that it would be a great event. We contacted Pietro and he agreed to come to New York on March 3rd for our tasting and lunch.
Pietro was able to get a number of the other producers to send their wines, too, which was not an easy task. 25 producers each sent one bottle of their 2005 vintage of Barolo.
Pietro, who I have known for a number of years, took over the winery in 1988 after the death of his father, the legendary founder Renato Ratti. From 2003-2009, Pietro was the President of the Unione Produttori Vini Albesi-Albeisa, a local association that includes more than 200 producers. Pietro was just elected Presidente del Consorzio Barolo & Barbaresco Alba Langhe Roero, a position his father held 30 years ago.
At the tasting, Pietro spoke of the difference between the villages in the Barolo zone and the different crus and the 2005 vintage. The hills of Barolo are mostly of marine alluvial origin, formed about 10 million years ago. Two main types of soil can be found which characterize two distinct zones: the Tortonian and Elveziano. The Tortonian extends from Verduno, passing through La Morra and Barolo and ending in Novello. The soil is gray-blue marl. The Elveziano goes along the Serralunga: Castiglione Falletto – Monforte axis and is gray – yellowish compact soil.
Barolo coming from the Tortonian soils is believed to be more elegant, less alcoholic, with a more intense bouquet. Elveziano soils give a generally stronger more austere Barolo. Both are very poor soils and cannot support agriculture but are ideally suited for the cultivation of Nebbiolo.
He went on to speak about microclimates and the effect that they have on the wine.
Even great crus that are next to each other on the same hill have different characteristics. For example at La Morra there are three great crus very close to one another, but with different characteristics: Cerequio has hints of truffle and mint, Brunate a range of different spices and Rocche dell’Annunziata is reminiscent of tobacco leaf, truffle and rose. Renato, Pietro’s father made the first detailed “Map of Barolo” in which he identified and classified the best positions to grow Nebbiolo. I still have a copy of the map. The late Sheldon Wasserman gave me a copy of one of the best books written on Italian wine, Conoscere I Vini D’Italia by Renato Ratti in 1985, and it is signed by the author.
Over all, the wines showed better in NY then they had shown in Alba. This may have been because they were 10 months older. As I noted when I was in Alba, there was less oak and most of the wines were less international in style than in the past.
When I reviewed my notes, I noticed that I liked the same wines in New York that I did at the blind tasting in Alba last May.
Eugenio Bocchino, Village – La Morra, Cru- La Serra
Renato Ratti, Village – La Morra, Cru – Rocche
Alessanderia Fratelli,Village – Verduno, Cru – Monvigliero
Brezza Giacomo & Figli, Village – Barolo, Cru – Sarmassa
Cavallotto Tenuta Bricco Boschis, Village – Castiglione F, Cru – Bricco Broschis
Monchiero F.LLI, Village – Castiglione F , Cru Rocche
Marcarini, Village – La Mora, Cru – Brunate
Palladino SAS & c., Village – Serralunga, Cru – Serralunga
Pietro told us that 2005 produced a lower yield than the 2004 vintage, about 10%-15% less than average. There were more problems with the weather in 2005 than in 2004. In 2004, the whole month of September was great; in 2005 the first few days of the month saw rainfall of varying intensity. There was more rain in October, but more than half of the grapes for Barolo were already harvested. 2005 was a very good vintage and in my opinion is underrated because 2004 is considered a great vintage. But as Pietro pointed out there are so many different microclimates that the quality of the wine depended upon the location and the producer.
After Pietro spoke, one of the long time members of the Wine Media Guild, Terry Robards, said that this was the best event he had attended as a member and I had to agree!