Two years ago, even before I had a chance to taste this estate's 2001, Luca Currado told me that 2001 at his family's winery was a 100-point year. I am happy to report that the 2001 Vietti Barolos and Barbarescos are indeed a stunning group of wines, as complete as any I tasted in the Langhe in September. "This vintage offers the essence of Barolo," explains Currado, "a rare combination of power and freshness of fruit. The wines are beautiful now and will be beautiful in 15 to 20 years. " The Currados have redone and expanded their vinification facility and barrel cellars, and now can work virtually entirely by gravity (the barrels can even be brought up to the bottling area via an elevator). Since the 2001 vintage, the Currados are starting their Barolos in barriques and finishing them in botti, which they believe allows for the best possible combination of controlled oxidation and retention of fruit. But the use of barriques remains critical here:that's where the malolactic fermentations take place, and the lees are stirred until the March after the harvest-very unusual for the region. The dying yeasts release stamens, says Luca Currado, which are antioxidants and work in favor of wine longevity. Currado noted that the family carried out four green harvests in 2004, including a pruning just before the harvest to get more natural concentration in the fruit, a technique he described as Burgundian. "We don't use concentrators to get more color and extract," he explained. Vinification takes place almost entirely in vertical steel tanks, where frequent mechanical pumpovers are gentle enough not to break the seeds and stems. The macerations last 10 to 15 days, including a bit of cold maceration in the same steel tanks, with the Villero and Rocche cuvees spending closer to three weeks on their skins. Currado says the estate sold off its rotofermenters, keeping just one for possible use in an emergency. But the rotofermenters, he believes, do too much extraction and yield unbalanced wines. (Remy Amerique, New York, NY)
($16) Good red-ruby. Dee p, fresh aromas of black cherry, violet, licorice and mint. Fat, sweet, broad and lush; a large-scaled, fairly muscular dolcetto with a solid tannic spine. This will probably be better for a year or so of patience.
($19; just bottled; half of this wine began in barriques, then the entire cuvee finished in larger casks, mostly once-used) Good bright ruby-red. Vibrant aromas of cassis and violet. Sweet and highly concentrated, with well-integrated acids giving it a juicy, penetrating quality rare for this hot year. An outstanding "regular" barbera.
($41; from vines planted in 1932 and 1935) Medium ruby. Cassis, violet, pungent minerals and chocolatey oak on the nose. Lush, sappy and rich, with superb life in the mouth. Offers outstanding breadth without any excess weight. Remarkably fresh for barbera from Asti Juicy black fruit flavors linger impressively on the aftertaste. This was aged in barriques until the second December, then moved to stainless steel for three months.
($32; from 25-year-old vines near the winery in Castiglione Falletto; no Scarrone was made in 2002) Medium ruby. Aromas of cassis, violet and bitter chocolate. Superrich, broad and lush but with very fresh acidity. Big, chewy, plush wine with more obvious tannins than the example from Asti Simply owing to economic reasons, it's rare to find barbera from this Barolo soil.
($55) Bright medium ruby. Crushed cassis, black cherry, violet, minerals and mint on the nose. Lush, thick and sweet, with almost candied flavors of cassis and violet. Offers a creamy sweetness that's rare for the variety. Finishes with resounding length and sweetness and an impression of powerful extract. Transcendent barbera.
(the 2001s were bottled in August of 2004) Moderately saturated medium red. Red cherry, raspberry and flowers on the nose, with hints of mocha and leather. Sweet, round and fleshy but a bit withdrawn in the middle palate and tight on the back end. But this will be lush with another few years in the bottle. A non-cru bottling that's actually a blend of five crus: Bussia, Ravera, Bricco del Fiasc, Meriondino and Fossati.
Good medium-deep red. Ripe, expressive aromas of cherry, chocolate, cedar and rose petal. Intensely flavored, juicy and del ineated, with enticing inner-mouth perfume and grip. Not as large-scaled or fleshy as some of the other 2001 Vietti Barolos but finishes long and stylish, with very fine tannins.
Medium red. Complex aromas of redcurrant, plum, cedar, licorice, spices and underbrush, with a superripe suggestion of chocolate. Big and round but dry; a huge, mouthfilling, plush wine that somehow avoids heaviness, thanks in part to its underlying minerality. Finishes with substantial, thoroughly ripe tannins. Currado notes that this wine is typically Chateauneuf du Pape-like in terms of its ripeness and dark fruit flavors.
Good deep red. Very ripe aromas of cherry liqueur, mocha, chocolate and camphor. Sweet, lush, rich and chocolatey, but with powerful structure. Classic traditional Barolo, finishing with huge tannins that coat the front teeth.
(aged in a new Slavonian oak botte in 2001, as was the Rocche; this cru has only previously been offered in '97, '96, '90, '89, '85 and '82) Excellent deep red. Flamboyantly ripe aromas of cherry, raspberry, minerals, marzipan, roasted nuts and underbrush. Lush and superrich yet somehow elegant, with a captivating, three-dimensional tex ture. Wonderfully complex fruit flavors. The fabulous rising finish features cedary tannins, a whiff of peppermint and great persistence.
($75) Good full red. Red cherry, raspberry, minerals and rose petal on the fragrant nose. Silky entry, then highly complex and perfumed in the mouth, with great class and clarity of flavor. Lighter and less fat than Vietti's 2001 Barolos, but with no less intensity. A great Barbaresco.
($65) Full, deep red. Spicy, aromatic nose of redcurrant, plum, tobacco, dried flowers and underbrush. Lush, dense and sweet, with a glyceral, fleshy texture for Barbaresco and excellent concentration. Seamless, complex and rich. Finishes with very fine, thoroughly buffered tannins and lovely lingering sweetness.
($42) Medium red with an amber edge. Superripe, slightly reduced aromas of smoke, game and camphor. Fat, sweet and full, but without quite the depth of flavor of the 2001. Still, this has lovely brea dth and finishes with sweeter tannins than the '01.
($85; just the second vintage for this bottling) Good medium red. Highly aromatic, complex nose combines cherry, raspberry, leather and game, along with a deep woodsiness. Plush and deep, with nuanced flavors of red fruits, leather, mocha, camphor and marzipan nicely framed by sound acidity. Very showy Barolo with impressive complexity of flavor on the ripely tannic, expanding aftertaste.
($85) Medium red. Aromas of raspberry, mocha, clove, licorice and mint. Lush and broad on entry, then rich, sweet and concentrated in the middle, if not as complex and perfumed as the 2001. Not quite as pliant today as the Castiglione or Ravera. But the wine's finish features sweet, fine-grained tannins.
($85) Good full red. Captivating, superripe aromas of cherry liqueur, redcurrant, rose petal and mocha; very 2000. Wonderfully sweet, but the sound acidity for the year, along with mineral and floral notes, give lift to the wine's flavors. This boasts superb palate-coating fruit and terrific length. Offers a rare combination of the seamless tex ture of 2000 and the sheer grip of a more classic year. Comes across as sweeter today than the 2001 version, and today I actually give this vintage a slight edge.
($85) Medium red. Complex aromas of underbrush, licorice, mocha and licorice; red berry notes emerged with aeration. Large-scaled, ripe and rich; a huge wine that finishes with serious but completely smooth tannins that saturate the teeth and cheeks. Boasts great length and thrust for the vintage.