The Langhe can be a beguiling area to navigate for wine lovers new to the area. Many aficionados naturally progress to Barolo via Burgundy due to the parallels not only between the grape varietals of Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo but also due to the similarities between the make-up of the various Crus and the way vineyards are often shared between winemakers. Put simply, if you know how to navigate Burgundy, you already possess the methodology to commence your journey of discovery in the Langhe. To confuse matters slightly we should probably throw in the dual 'spanners' of microclimate and terroir at this point. In this regard, the Langhe is like Burgundy on steroids and this is where you really need to know your onions. As with all specialist subjects, knowledge will come with time and experience and with many tasting reference points in between.
"The thing with Piedmont is you spend years finding your perfect terroir, that one cru that yields the particular nuances of Nebbiolo that appeal to you above all others. Then you find the one winemaker that delivers the most authentic expression of Nebbiolo from that vineyard. You've finally found 'your Nebbiolo'..... and then you find out only 600 bottles are made each vintage and it's all allocated." (Anon)
Piedmont is far broader than Barolo but as this is the designation the region is most famous for, it's a good place to start. So how should we navigate Barolo even? If we stick with the official Consorzio view, the vineyards or crus are associated with 11 townships ('comune'). Some comune will be more familiar to many with some of the most well-known being Barolo itself, Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga, Monforte and La Morra.
We are not fans of generalisations about the different comune of Barolo, in fact we positively enjoy highlighting the many exceptions to the rule but if we humour this, at least it lays down some sort of an initial orientation point. Castiglione, Monforte and to a lesser degree, Serralunga have a historical reputation for producing some pretty robust Barolos in their youth. Wines that demand patience and many years in the cellar in order to come round and to unveil their tightly furled inner elegance. For this reason, experienced collectors have long known the rewards for holding wines from these comune. Some might consider that the comune of Barolo itself sits somewhere in the middle in terms of accessibility and that La Morra gives the broadest potential haul of wines demonstrating earlier approachability. This doesn't mean that Barolo from La Morra is not worthy of cellaring or that it yields less serious wines.
Not only is La Morra the ideal comune to start your tasting journey from, it can cater for all stages of the inevitable deeper exploration you will embark on. From the moment that first legitimate Nebbiolo experience hits you and you understand what all the fuss is about, your personal search for the holy grail in Nebbiolo will commence. La Morra is the perfect gateway to Barolo.
The comune of La Morra hosts just under 40 individual Crus of varying exposure and height above sea level. Some of the most coveted Crus include: Arborina, Brunate, Capalot, Cerequio, Gattera, Giachini, La Serra and Rocche dell'Annunziata. A widely held view is that Rocche dell'Annunziata, where the cultivation of the vineyard dates back to the Benedictine monks in 1194, is what would be considered in Burgundy as a Grand Cru site. To be fair, the other Crus aren't too shabby either with vineyards like Capalot now being considered every bit as profound and desirable.
La Morra has more than its fair share of star winemakers - both established and up and coming.
Carlo Revello, the man with the famous pirate logo on his bottles, is a case in point having made his name with the Fratelli Revello and now in his own right. Carlo works with his eldest son Erik. Carlo delivers a stunning Barolo blend in every vintage, expertly crafted from holdings that include the highly rated Crus of Gattera and Conca. Carlo's Barolo 'classico' is the perfect place to start your Nebbiolo journey. This wine is all sweet cherry, fruit-driven Barolo typicity straight out of the blocks with a depth and complexity that will carry it for many years to come. It's the perfectly balanced all-round Barolo.