Iconic Barolo from Luciano Sandrone
Luciano Sandrone is one of the great names of Barolo, a wine I love dearly. In the last 15 or so years, Barolo (and Barbaresco) have rivalled Burgundy for a share of my heart, throat and cellar. But not my diet, alas. They’re too expensive for anything but special occasion drinking. Unhappily, they’re rapidly becoming more expensive as the world’s fashion-conscious latch onto them. These are wines for the cellar, certainly, but they’re not wines for collecting or investing. No wine should be. Wine is for drinking, with food and friends. It’s the speculative buyers who have driven the prices of all the world’s greatest wines into heights unattainable for most wine-lovers.
End of rant.
Now to Sandrone, whose wines were displayed to wine trade members during a recent visit by Luciano’s daughter, Barbara. (That’s Barbara, not Barbera, although the family also makes a cracking Barbera d’Alba. The 2015, AUD $62, is the current release.)
But it’s the nebbiolo wines I cherish most. The range begins with the 2015 Valmaggiore Nebbiolo d’Alba, which is a lighter, early-drinking, accessible nebb produced from the nearby Roero region, but Roero is not a terroir that can compare with Barolo and Barbaresco. The wine has more fruitiness and softness, yet will still take 10 years of cellaring in its stride. It’s a great introduction to the grape and the Sandrone range. (AUD $78)
Sandrone makes two Barolos with contrasting approaches. One is a single-vineyard wine, the other follows a more traditional pattern: it’s a blend of vineyards. The latter is named Barolo Le Vigne, and in recent years it has been a combination of grapes from four crus: Vignane, Merli, Conterni and Ceretta. The latest release, however, introduces two new vineyards: Baudana and Villero, both famous names, while retaining Vignane and Merli. The addition of Villero – a vineyard made famous by Bruno Giacosa and more recently Vietti – is intended to increase the depth of the wine.
Sandrone deliberately uses four distinctly different regions to achieve a synthesis of all the best features of Barolo. The Baudana comes from Serralunga, the Villero is from Castiglione Falletto, the Vignane is from the commune of Barolo and the Merli is from Novello. The 2013 (AUD $219) is a superb, but young, wine and was outshone on the day by three older vintages, 2007, 2004 and 1999. The 2004 was simply sensational, a great wine, scoring a rare 99 points from me.
Sandrone’s second Barolo is the single cru wine, Barolo Cannubi Boschis, which comes from an especially privileged site in the Barolo commune. The current release 2013 (AUD $249) was again compared with three older vintages: 2007, 2005 and 1999. Again, the tasting proved the value of extra bottle-age, the ’05 being super impressive.
In 2013, Sandrone has added a name to this wine, Aleste, which is a composite of the names of his two grandchildren, Alessia and Stefano.
With both Barolos, the 1999 vintage showed the wine at maturity, but in each case with at least a decade left in the peak drinking window.
Italian wine writer Antonio Galloni has special praise for Luciano Sandrone, which I quote:
“Of the Piedmont wineries that are still in their first generation, those that started in or around the 1980s, Luciano Sandrone is arguably the only estate that has joined the small group of properties, all of them multi-generational, whose wines are widely recognized as an icon.”