BARALE FRATELLI

It is exactly wines like these that will shift focus to what’s shaping up as a really serious vintage. I’ve now seen a good 70-odd Barolo and Barbaresco from 2017 – and I don’t just mean my wines, but a broad cross-section of credible producers – well enough to convince me we are looking at far more than merely a decent follow up to 2016. Frankly these wines just tend to echo the promise seen from a couple of years ago, in the Langhe and Nebbs d’Alba.  These passed inspection, as it were, with flying colours, with many wines also good enough to warrant cellaring.

A Discovery In Barolo Village Itself

These wines, which virtually no-one knew anything about a couple of years ago, have made quite an impact here in Australia. It’s probably also reasonable to say that quite a few people now regard themselves as complete Barale aficionados – Barale freaks maybe. The reception, especially from wine people, makers and sommeliers eg is wonderful, as they begin to fully appreciate that these wines represent the real thing. They are certainly one of the most exciting ‘discoveries’ in my 30-odd years of going to Italy.

VINEYARDS

The Barale family have in fact been at it for centuries and while they are amongst the first recorded producers of Barolo wine, from 1870, they appear in the village register of the early 1600s as owners of parts of some pretty familiar vineyard names; Coste di Rose, Cannubi, Castellero and Preda. The current custodians, Sergio Barale and his daughters Eleonora and Gloria owe their heritage to the acquisition, over generations, of vineyards in not only Barolo comune, but also in Monforte d’Alba and Barbaresco. By the 1970’s the family had brought more Cannubi and added Monrobiolo (in Barolo) and some Bussia (in Monforte) and into the 90’s had virtually swapped their long-held Rabaja vineyard in Barbaresco for some Serraboella in Neive. All this covers only 20 ha, with Sergio tailoring his plantings almost precisely only to the best soil and aspect combinations. Virtually the whole of Cannubi was replanted at the end of the 2007 vintage, and although just back in production, the two releases so far, 2011, and 2012 here in this offer, are wonderful. Vineyards are everything to Barale.

WINEMAKING

The initial approach is the same for all the reds; delicate crushing in order to keep skins intact, fermentation with indigenous yeasts, controlled temperature and maceration with frequent ‘basting’ of the skins. The fermentation vessel and temperatures and the macerations change according to the grape; Barolo and Barbaresco in wood fermentation tanks, temperatures around 30 °C and up to 40 days of maceration; for Langhe Nebbiolo, wood fermentation, temperatures around 26 ° and 10 days of maceration. For Barbera, steel fermentation, temperatures around 25 ° and a week of maceration. The aging for all these wines is done in wood: three years in French oak barrel of 15 – 30 hl for Barolo and Barbaresco and one year in tonneaux of 500 lt for Langhe Nebbiolo and Barbera. The oak is not allowed to impart any aromas or flavours. Although he’s used Allier for Nebbiolo for a couple of decades now, appreciating its superior effect on tannins and anthocyanins, Sergio noticed a “faint taste of vanilla” in early trials, which he says “…I didn’t like: for me, like my father before me, a woody wine is a bad wine, because our wines should preserve the flavour only of the grape and the land.”

The blue soil of Barolo Cannubi, Francesco Barale and Cantina Barale on Via Roma, Barolo.

REVIEWS

PublisherProducerWineVintageReviewScore
The Real ReviewBarale FratelliBarolo ChinatoNVMedium to light ruby/brick-red colour, with a pungent spicy aroma driven by cinnamon and china root. Very inviting and bracing. The palate is intensely sweet and bitter at the same moment, and loaded with spicy flavours. Firm astringency helps the bitterness dry the finish. A classic Italian taste, and a great digestif. Huon Hooke93
Barale FratelliGrappa di BaroloNV
The Wine PilotBarale FratelliBarbera d’Alba Castle2019This is a fascinating Barbera and quite different from the usual style thanks to its fun, perfumed fruits. It’s almost like a Cru Beaujolais with a crisp acid kick. There are pretty and fragrant aromas of dark cherry, truffle, dried herbs and old oak with an almost floral lift to it. It’s then followed by a bright, juicy and even silky mid-weight palate. It’s a classic bistro red but also has some quite serious complexity with dark cherry and roasted meat flavours supported by slinky tannins that lead to a tarry, lingering finish. It’s barbera all right, but not as you might know it, and makes a great introduction to what is often a highly underrated grape variety. Angus Hughson91
Jancis RobinsonBarale FratelliLanghe Nebbiolo2019Wonderfully period label. Very pale garnet. Not the purest nose. Much sweeter than stereotypical Nebbiolo on the palate with a hint of mint on the nose and then characteristic tannins. Certainly transparent and lively but I'm hung up on wanting a bit more Nebbiolo character, I'm afraid. It's the dominating sweetness that bothers me. Drying finish.15.5
The Wine PilotBarale FratelliLanghe Nebbiolo2020Bright, fragrant and juicy! Fabulously lifted florals and berry fruits with a nutty and earthy edge. Easy drinking and effortless as much as a nebbiolo can be! Zingy acidity, refined tannins with a concentration and length that could rival many entry-level Barolo! Marcell Kustos92
The Wine PilotBarale FratelliLanghe Nebbiolo2020As easy on the senses that you could ever imagine a Nebbiolo can be. Fragrant and juicy, cherry (almost liqueur notes) with peppery and earthy edges. Fine powdery tannins, fine acidity, excellent length. So drinkable. Great value. Tony Love95
Wine EnthusiastBarale FratelliBarolo2016Delicate scents evoking forest floor, crushed mint, leather and rose form the nose. On the linear palate, fresh acidity and taut polished tannins accompany red cherry, cranberry and tobacco. An orange-zest note lingers on the close. Kerin O'Keefe92
Barale FratelliBarolo2015
Wine EnthusiastBarale FratelliBarolo Castellero2016New leather, camphor, tobacco and fragrant purple flower are just some of the aromas you’ll find on this fragrant, focused red. The delicious palate features juicy red cherry, crushed raspberry, baking spice and truffle while taut polished tannins provide seamless support. Fresh acidity keeps it youthful and balanced. It’s already showing beautifully but will also offer years of pleasure. Kerin O Keefe96
VinousBarale FratelliBarolo Castellero2016The 2016 Barolo Castellero captures all the beguiling nuance of this Monforte d’Alba site. Dried flowers, mint, pine, licorice, spice and sweet red cherry fill out the layers effortlessly.94
Robert ParkerBarale FratelliBarolo Castellero2016The Barale Fratelli 2016 Barolo Castellero opens to immediate intensity with black fruit aromas that taste soft, rich and slightly overripe. This is a medium-bodied wine with a loose or open-knit texture that gives it an accessible personality. The mouthfeel is amped up with bitter cherry, blackberry and balanced spice or smoke. Fruit comes from a two-hectare vineyard at 270 meters above sea level with characteristic Sant'Agata marl soils and fossils. Fermentation kicks off with indigenous yeasts, and maceration lasts up to one month. The wine ages in traditional oak casks for three years. 92
Wine DecodedBarale FratelliBarolo Castellero2016When I first tried this going on 9 months ago I couldn’t see how it could quite come together. The tannins appeared angular the fruit closed. Now, May 2021, the picture has changed dramatically. Time has been good, very good for Barale’s Castellero. The fruit expression is energetic and vital. Juicy acid and fruit is deceptive in it’s elegance as some serious depth of flavour awaits. Fresh red fruits are wrapped with a little earthiness, a savoury, almost bloody hit, and topped with a layer of fine perfume. The tannins have lengthed, and evened out. A little dusty, they’re of very high quality and depth. Depth or layering of tannins is something often missed talking about mouthfeel. It makes such an incredible difference to any wine. As David notes the flavour and aroma profile now have a Burgundian feel to them. If scores are your thing, if you see one from the initial release 9 months ago add at least 1 point to it.
Jancis RobinsonBarale FratelliBarolo Castellero2016Barolo. Tasted blind. Just mid ruby. Perfumed cherry and cinnamon-bark nose with a hint of fruit cake. Elegant palate weight and not lacking in fruit, with hints of fruit cake on the palate too. Supple, juicy, long finish with powdery tannins. Already approachable, but can age too. A little fresher on the palate compared with the nose. Walter Speller17
Wine EnthusiastBarale FratelliBarolo Castellero2015This has aromas of underbrush, leather, scorched earth and camphor with a whiff of blue flowers. Full bodied and youthfully austere, the firmly structured palate offers dried cherry, cranberry and licorice set against tight, dusty tannins that leave a drying finish. 90
Wine DecodedBarale FratelliBarolo Cannubi2015Savoury, dark, brooding, rich aroma with a hint of chocolate. You expect power from the nose. It comes through on the palate. Bold even tannins sit under a solid core of fruit that despite it’s generosity and richness has an elegance to itt. Something savoury layered in. Quite complete. I expect as the tannins resolve a little here and secondary development build this will be quite something. It has a certain harmony about it that rings true of great wines.
The Wine FrontBarale FratelliBarolo Cannubi2015The last Cannubi from Barale. Sergio Barale gave his vineyard holdings to his late brother’s sons. I wouldn’t mind an uncle like that! This is Cannubi from Cannubi proper. Importer: David Ridge Wines. Strawberry, red cherry, rose petal, plenty of sweet spice (not oak derived) and a dash of white pepper. Fleshy, perfumed and pliant, a gentle dusting of tannin, distinct Aranciata flavour here too, unobtrusive acidity, spiced strawberries and more of that orange peel flavour on a long finish. Of course it will improve, though there’s certainly plenty here to keep you busy as at now.94
Wine EnthusiastBarale FratelliBarolo Cannubi2015Classic Nebbiolo aromas of perfumed berry, rose petal, iris, new leather and balsamic whiffs of camphor shape the expressive nose. Smooth and enveloping, the full-bodied delicious palate doles out raspberry compote, juicy morello cherry, cinnamon and star anise framed in polished, velvety tannins. Kerin O'Keefe96
Robert ParkerBarale FratelliBarolo Cannubi2015The Barale Fratelli 2015 Barolo Cannubi offers a powerful nose with a hint more alcoholic power (measured at 14.5%) that reminds us of the warm and sunny growing conditions experienced in this vintage. There is a sweet note to the fruit that comes forward with candied almond or cherry liqueur and ultimately finishes with spice, tar and tobacco. Eleonora Barale farms half a hectare in the celebrated Cannubi site. 94
The Wine FrontBarale FratelliBarolo Bussia2016You could almost think you’re tasting a great Pinot Noir here, albeit one with a much improved tannin structure, such is its fragrance of dried roses, mint, red cherry and sweet spice. It’s medium-bodied, deft and gently chewy, bright and precise, a tasty sort of sugared almond and liquorice flavour in the mix, strawberry and floral perfume, cool acidity, then the tannin leans in on the finish and pulls fine and chalky. The length is excellent. It feels like there’s a lot more to come. Garry Walsh96
Wine EnthusiastBarale FratelliBarolo Bussia2015Aromas evoking scorched earth, pipe tobacco and underbrush combine with a balsamic whiff of camphor. Firmly structured, the taut palate offers pomegranate, dried Marasca cherry and licorice set against tight, close-grained tannins that grip the finish. Kerin O’Keefe92
Jancis RobinsonBarale FratelliBarolo Bussia2015Monforte d’Alba. Tasted blind. Deep ruby. A nose that is a little touched by dried fruit, adding a sense of richness. Rich strawberry fruit with subtle, juicy acidity creeping up and lots of coating tannins. A very different, more youthful message on the palate indicating a propensity for further ageing. Walter Speller"16.5
Wine EnthusiastBarale FratelliBarolo Bussia2014This fragrant red opens with aromas of rose petal, new leather, wild berry and menthol. The racy ethereal palate offers wild strawberry, sour cherry, star anise and thyme framed in polished tannins and vibrant acidity. Drink through 2024. Kerin O'Keefe91
VinousBarale FratelliBarolo Bussia2014The 2014 Barolo Bussia is another beguiling wine in this range. Striking in its aromatic depth, the Bussia is sensual and inviting. Dark cherry, plum and a rush of menthol/balsamic infused notes wrap around the palate in a pliant, succulent Barolo that will drink well with minimal cellaring. Antonio Galloni90
Wine DecodedBarale FratelliBarbaresco Serraboella Riserva2016There’s a big difference between old school, never changed a thing, and, old school true to style, yet, with deep consideration of modern science. Looking at the film below you’d think Barale may be the former. Reading their website it is clear that they are the later. They understand the rule book so have thrown it away only to be used when they know they need to. I guess that’s what 150 years of making wine can give you! Yes, there is a rustic nature to this wine, it has structure with that true to commune zippy acid. The aromas dominated by anise, tar, earth, leather, with flowers lying underneath, then a surprise on the palate with a core of energetic sour cherries, the development is there with a savoury, bloody layer and a little spice. The purity of the wine is incredibly attractive, the tannins dusty, yet ripe are bold, but, somehow restrained. The delicacy and transparency of flavour is remarkable. Another example of just the diversity of inviting styles that Nebbiolo can produce!
Wine EnthusiastBarale FratelliBarbaresco Serraboella Riserva2016Rose, wild berry and leather aromas mingle with menthol and a whiff of truffle. The firmly structured, focused palate delivers ripe Marasca cherry, star anise and game alongside taut, fine-grained tannins and bright acidity. Best 2022-2028. Kerin O'Keefe94
VinousBarale FratelliBarbaresco Serraboella Riserva2016Barale's 2016 Barbaresco Serraboella is gorgeous. Rich, translucent and super-expressive, the 2016 has so much to offer. Macerated cherry, plum, lavender, spice, sage and new leather are all vibrant in the glass. Medium in body and plaint, the 2016 is a terrific example of this great Barbaresco vintage. I loved it93
Robert ParkerBarale FratelliBarbaresco Serraboella Riserva2016The 2016 Barbaresco Serraboella (with 3,600 bottles produced) is an open, immediate and easy-drinking Nebbiolo with bright cherry fruit that emerges gracefully from the bouquet. The wine is delicate and fine with a glossy and polished texture on the close. The wine's intensity is subdued and understated. Best to open it now to pair with a hearty risotto with wild porcini mushrooms.
Jancis RobinsonBarale FratelliBarbaresco Serraboella Riserva2016Neive. Tasted blind. Mid ruby. Lifted, aromatic cherry nose mirrored by the palate. Fruit wrapped in grainy tannins. Generous, perfumed and perfectly balanced by succulent acidity. Walter Speller17
Wine EnthusiastBarale FratelliBarbaresco Serraboella Riserva2010With its floral, fruit, spice and truffle fragrances, this is an alluring Barbaresco. The palate doesn't disappoint, thanks to juicy black-cherry flavors sprinkled with spices and Alpine herbs. The texture is silky smooth and leads to an elegant finish.92
Wine EnthusiastBarale FratelliBarbaresco Serraboella Riserva2008Your senses are greeted with dense concentration and a rich style of Nebbiolo that is colored by highlights of dark fruit, cola and exotic spice. The mouthfeel is lean and elegant with solid structure and an enduring finish.90
Jancis RobinsonBarale FratelliBarbaresco Serraboella Riserva2008Neive. Concetrated ruby still quite youthful. Stewed fruit nose, with hints of baked apple. Very sweet palate. Will this get more complex?14.5
Barale FratelliBarbaresco Serraboella Riserva2005
Wine EnthusiastBarale FratelliBarolo Castellero2008Fresh and buoyant, this has bright aromas of cherry cough drop, cola, rosemary oil and ginger. It is ethereal and clean with a very lively and polished mouthfeel.90
Wine EnthusiastBarale FratelliBarolo Castellero Riserva2007Barolo Castellero opens with vibrant tones of red cherry and cassis with elegant tones of licorice, cola, mesquite smoke and dried lavender flowers. It's a nuanced, feminine expression of Nebbiolo with impressive complexity and solid tannins at the back.92
Wine EnthusiastBarale FratelliBarolo Castellero Riserva2006This vineyard-designate Barolo opens with slightly gritty aromas of coffee rinds, crushed mineral and raspberry or pomegranate fruit. But the aromatic impact is also surprising as those notes evolve into cola, root beer and earthy violets. The wine is silky and firm in the mouth and the tannins are still young.90
Jancis RobinsonBarale FratelliBarolo Castellero Riserva2006Barolo. Medium-concentrated ruby with small orange-tinged rim. Herbal, perhaps even vegetal as well as a touch stewed. Highish acidity lifts slightly tired fruit. Walter Speller14.5
Jancis RobinsonBarale FratelliBarolo Cannubi Riserva2005Barolo. Minerally, earthy cherry with hints of pumpernickel, beginning of dried fruit and rusty iron. Lovely balance between acidity and powdery tannins and with just a hint of oak. Transparent and tannic. But makes for a lovely chew. Walter Speller17+
Wine EnthusiastBarale FratelliBarolo Cannubi Riserva2005Delicate and ethereal aromas of wild berry, balsam, cola, white pepper and aromatic herbs emerge from this characteristic Barolo. The wine slides down the palate with tonic freshness and personality, culminating in menthol flavors on the close.91
Jancis RobinsonBarale FratelliBarolo Bussia Riserva2011Tasted blind. Monforte d’Alba. Concentrated ruby with orange tinges. Dark, brooding and malty nose. Rich, supple fruit supported by grainy tannins. Seems a tiny bit stewed, but the finish is nevertheless complex and long. Walter Speller17
The Real ReviewBarale FratelliBarolo Bussia Riserva2008A lovely mellow, complex, mature colour and bouquet, with lots of quinine. Leather and cedar wood panelling. The flavour is intense and elegant, stylish and clean, the palate flowing long and linear with some leanness and svelte texture. A very smart wine. Huon Hooke93
Wine EnthusiastBarale FratelliBarolo Bussia Riserva2006This Barolo from the Bussia cru offers all kinds of smoky aromatic veils wrapped around tones of cured beef, licorice, toasted hazelnut, humus, cola and blackberry. It sports a lean, compact feel in the mouth with well-etched tannins on the close.90
The Real ReviewBarale FratelliBarolo Bussia Riserva2006Powerful flavour and great structure. Slinky texture. A superb wine. Huon Hooke95
Barale FratelliBarolo Bussia Riserva2005
Jancis RobinsonBarale FratelliBarolo Bussia Riserva2004Medium-deep ruby with narrow orange rim. A little marked by oak and mulch and cherry, yet amazingly compact and tight on the palate (30 days of skin maceration), with finely grained tannins. Seems indestructible. Fantastic acidity on the finish. Still so youthful. Walter Speller18
Wine SpectatorBarale FratelliBarolo Bussia Riserva200191
Jancis RobinsonBarale FratelliBarolo Bussia Riserva2001Monforte d'Alba. Poured from magnum. Youthful ruby with almost no sign of age. On the palate very much the reverse, with traditional dried fruit impressions. Lots of character, though. Powdery tannin and impressive length. Walter Speller17
Wine SpectatorBarale FratelliBarolo Cannubi2014Tasted blind. Mid ruby with orange tinges. Cherry liqueur and a touch of dried fruit. Seems to be heading towards oxidation. Sweet fruit with an acidic nerve and hints of dried fruit. Already getting a little tired? Slightly drying on the finish. Walter Speller15.5

TESTIMONIALS

"His family have produced Barolo since 1870 and Sergio’s (Barale) remains a traditionally-produced wine suitable for lengthy ageing. He still uses wooden fermentation vats in his cellars, although they are equipped with automatic timers. You’ll find his winery in the piazza at Barolo, next door to Bartolo Mascarello ands just a few hundred yards down from the Falletti castle. Yet in the space of these few yards, a wealth of Barolo history has taken place."

From book ‘The Mystique of Barolo’ (2002) by Rosso & Meier

"The best collection of Barale I’ve seen. The 2017 Bussia is a standout."

Peter Godden – August ‘21