Barolo Riserva Villero – A Complete Retrospective 1982-2004
1982 Vietti Barolo Riserva Villero 91
1985 Vietti Barolo Riserva Villero 96
1989 Vietti Barolo Riserva Villero 94
1990 Vietti Barolo Riserva Villero 93
1996 Vietti Barolo Riserva Villero 96
1997 Vietti Barolo Riserva Villero 95
2001 Vietti Barolo Riserva Villero 96
2004 Vietti Barolo Riserva Villero 97
is one of Piedmont’s historic estates. The late Alfredo Currado was among the
first producers to bottle a single-vineyard Barolo (the Rocche in 1961), focus
on estate-grown fruit and build a significant market presence outside of Italy.
Today the winery is run by Alfredo’s son Luca, who oversees winemaking, and
son-in-law Mario Cordero, who runs the business.
Barolo Riserva Villero is the estate’s rarest wine. It has been made just eight
times between the inaugural 1982 and 2004, in keeping with the original spirit
of Riservas that were once only made in truly exceptional years, rather than
most years, as has become the norm in many cellars. There was no Riserva made
in either 1999 or 2000, and the 2003, which I tasted several times from cask,
was easily worthy of the estate’s top label. In all of those years – and
naturally lesser vintages as well – the juice was blended into the estate’s
entry-level Barolo Castiglione, which may very well be the single most
compelling value in Barolo today.
good as the Villero Riserva can be, in my opinion Vietti’s top wine remains the
Barolo Rocche. That may change in the future. My feeling – and I have been
drinking Vietti for over 20 years – is that the wines were always good, and
sometimes great, as witnessed by the 1989 Barolo Rocche, which remains one of
the most sublime wines I have ever had the privilege of drinking. But the
estate’s reputation as an uncontested superstar in the Barolo landscape only
dates back to about 2001 or so, when the wines began the ascension to the
stratosphere that has defined the winery’s modern history.
is a relatively large vineyard whose boundaries have expanded over the years.
Vietti farms two parcels in Villero; the first is owned directly, the second is
farmed by Vietti through a long-term purchase structure that is common in the
Langhe. Vietti replanted this plot in 1979. Winemaking comfortably bridges
traditional and modern styles. The early Villeros saw malolactic fermentation
in steel and then at least three years of aging in large casks. In the early
1990s Luca Currado began experimenting with malolactic fermentation in French
oak as a means to stabilize color, a big preoccupation among winemakers in the
Langhe during that time. The first Vietti wine that saw malo in French oak was
the 1992 Barbera d’Alba Scarrone Vigna Vecchia. The first Villero Riserva to be
vinified in this fashion was the 1996. Aging is and has always been done in
cask. Today the malos are usually finished by February. The wines are then
moved into cask, where they remain until they are prepared for bottling
have had mixed experiences with the 1982
Barolo Riserva Villero, but this bottled is beautiful. It still shows good
intensity of color for a wine of its age. Sweet tobacco, herbs, licorice and
dried cherries are some of the nuances that emerge in the glass. The 1982 needs
quite a bit air to find its focus. Though at peak, well-stored bottles still
have a few years of fine drinking in them. According the Luca Currado, the high
degree of bottle variation in 1982 is mostly attributable to an approach to
cork that is now outdated, plus a generally more rustic approach to winemaking. The
1982 is the only Villero that was made from three parcels. During this era,
Vietti also sourced fruit from a vineyard owned by the Fenocchio family. The
1980s were a time of transition in Piedmont as the trend to work with
estate-grown fruit accelerated. Vietti lost leases in several other high
profile vineyards, including Rabaja and Pian Romualdo, but compensated by
consolidating their holdings elsewhere. Drinking window: 2011-2014.
1985 Barolo Riserva Villero is a
classic. It captures the essence of the vintage and vineyard beautifully. Still
dense and rich, the 1985 flows with layers of dark fruit, tobacco, herbs and
plums. There is gorgeous richness in the glass, not to mention considerable
inner perfume and sweetness. Smoke, licorice and tar are woven into the
exceptionally pure finish. Simply put, the 1985 is stunning. I would prefer to
enjoy the wine over the next few years, while it is a peak of expressiveness. Drinking window: 2011-2017.
1989 Barolo Riserva Villero is a bit
of an anomaly as only of the estate’s two plots was used. The purest and
silkiest of tannins frame the fruit beautifully from start to finish. This,
too, oozes with class and personality in its expressive aromatics and
well-delineated fruit. As wonderful as the 1989, it is a touch light for the
year and probably not destined for an eternal life in the cellar. Drinking window: 2011-2015.
1990 Barolo Riserva Villero is one
of the slightly underwhelming wines in this tasting. Quite surprisingly, it is
more advanced than the 1985. The fruit is dark, rich and powerful, but also
over-ripe. Early oxidative notes have crept in, suggesting the wine needs to be
drunk sooner rather than later. This is an example of the inconsistency that
defined some of the estate’s earlier wines. The 1990 Barolo Rocche is still
stunner, even today, but the Riserva falls short of that level. Drinking window: 2011-2014.
estate’s 1996 Barolo Riserva Villero
is outstanding. Layers of dark fruit, sweet spices, menthol and crushed rocks
saturated the palate as this powerful, brooding wine shows off its pedigree.
This intense Barolo makes a compelling case for the glories of the 1996
harvest. Flowers, minerals and a host of other dark, balsamic aromas and flavors
add complexity on the brooding, dense finish. This is a phenomenal wine from
Vietti. Drinking window: 2011-2021.
1997 Barolo Riserva Villero is at
the early part of its drinking window. It shows drop-dead gorgeous intensity
and marvelous inner perfume, all supported by plenty of tannic heft. This is
pure Villero and pure 1997, both at their very best. The fruit builds with
considerable momentum to the glorious finish. The 1997 is another wine in which
only one of the two Villero parcels was vinified. Drinking window:
2001 Barolo Riserva Villero is the
first of the truly great vintages for this wine. Layers of sweet, expressive
fruit emerge from this layered, exquisite Barolo. Stylistically the 2001 is
quite similar to the 1989 in its inner sweetness, but it has more depth and
sheer textural richness. Firm yet beautifully integrated tannins frame the
polished finish. This is a magnificent Barolo from Vietti. Drinking window: 2016-2031.
of the elements that make the 2001 so attractive reappear in the 2004 Barolo Riserva Villero, only with
even more expressiveness and character. The 2004 is showstopper loaded with
class and pedigree. Endless layers of explosive fruit saturate the palate in
this radiant, harmonious Barolo. Everything is simply in the right place, and
there is just so much going on in the glass, in all direction. This is another
dazzling effort from Vietti. Drinking window: 2019-2034.