Monday, November 30, 2015

Hit and miss: Two tales of Barolo and Burgundy

As they sit around the domino table, spinning yarns about the way it used to be, many an old-time, old world wine drinker can be heard to utter the unicorn words "As Barolo and Burgundy age, they tend to converge sensorially." Being a confirmed unicorn and UFO hunter, I have been searching high and low for writings which confirm this position; or at least discuss it in some meaningful way. I thought that I had happened upon two of those articles this year -- based on the titles -- but I can say at this time "mission un-Accomplished."

The first of the two articles was titled The Burgundization of Barolo -- An Imminent Sea Change in the Langhe, posted on the blog On the Wine Trail in Italy on Sunday, January 18, 2015. This post focused on the changes taking place in the broader Barolo region and drew especially on a Levi Dalton podcast with Antonio Galloni to help make the case. This was not exactly what I had been looking for but was a very interesting post, nonetheless, with some piercing insights:
  • The wines and social climate of Barolo and Barbaresco might be shifting to the more "exclusive and limited world in which Burgundy finds itself."
  • Winemakers in Barolo are becoming less accessible a la their peers in Burgundy
  • Barolo may become like Burgundy where winemaking families cannot afford to buy vineyards that come on the market. Those vineyards will instead be bought by investment groups.
This was interesting so I filed it away in Evernote with the sense that I might be able to build a knowledge base of some type that would build on it..

Just a few weeks ago, @Winefamilies tweeted a link to an article by Jay McInerney in titled Can a Barolo Really be as Good as a Top Burgundy? And still be Affordable? This stoked some fires. First, based on the title, I thought that the article would provide arguments as to why -- and why not -- a Barolo was not as good as a Top Burgundy. Secondly, while not defining the term "Top Burgundy," the title implied that all Top Burgundies were good. Further, the article was not asking whether a Top Barolo could be as good as a Top Burgundy. Instead it seemed to be asking that question re Barolo as a class. Seemed somewhat non-competitive to me. Finally, I thought that this article could be the second installment on my knowledge base, which at this time only consisted of the Acevola post above.

Anyway, I continued reading the article. It went on at great length about Chiara Boschis (star of the movie Barolo Boys, according to the article), the battle between the modernists and traditionalists in Barolo, and the Giacomo/Giovanni Conterno Monfortino story. It was not until close to the end of the article that the word Burgundy is mentioned in the text. I will quote you the entirety of its treatment:
Conterno aside, Barolo still represents great value compared with, say, the wines of Burgundy, a region with which it has much in common. Both are small, geographically complex appellations composed mostly of small grower domains (sic).
That's it. On the basis of these two sentences we are supposed to answer the questions posed in the title? Now don't get me wrong. This was an excellent article. I am just not sure, however, that it addressed the burning questions that it asked.

Well, my hunt for the unicorn goes on. As does my hunt for an answer to the question "Can a Barolo Really be as Good as a Top Burgundy? And still be affordable?

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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