The outstanding 2020 Barolo of Elio Grasso including the first release of the 100-point 2016 Riserva Runcot

The outstanding 2020 Barolo of Elio Grasso including the first release of the 100-point 2016 Riserva Runcot

The outstanding 2020 Barolo of Elio Grasso including the first release of the 100-point 2016 Riserva Runcot

2020 Barolo, Gavarini Chiniera, Elio Grasso - £350 per 6 bottle case in bond
2020 Barolo, Ginestra Casa Matè, Elio Grasso - £350 per 6 bottle case in bond
2016 Barolo Riserva, Rüncot, Elio Grasso - £450 per 3 bottle case in bond

To say I have been looking forward to the latest releases from Gianluca Grasso would be something of a crass understatement. His 2020s were exceptional – from a vintage that will reveal a few significant surprises in due course, and his 2016 Runcot Riserva is a legend in the making; a wine that has shown remarkable character since my earliest sneak preview. I am pleased to see this has been picked up on by Antonio Galloni, who has seen fit toward a 100-point score to the Runcot, making it one of a handful of Barolo to have received such praise. Have I got your attention? I sincerely hope so as these are a notable set of new Barolo releases. You can see my full notes and those of Antonio Galloni below.
About the 2020 vintage
I will release a Barolo vintage report shortly to give more detail on 2020 vintage, but to give you a guide on the nature of vintage, I would say that not every grower excelled but where there are peaks of quality, they are notable and comparable to great wines from any other recent vintage. I found it challenging and fascinating to taste the 2020s. Some growers excelled, producing wines that eclipsed their results in 2019, some produced wines of less intensity and stature. That said, common to nearly all is a sense of refinement and elegance. I didn’t find it a difficult vintage to assess – many were appealing showing a rare accessibility at this early stage. I don’t think I have tasted another vintage that showed similar traits at the same stage of evolution.
In terms of conditions, 2020 was troubled by stop start weather conditions in April, May and June – this included an early budbreak on account of warmer than normal temperatures, only for some vines to be hit by frost. Once we approached July, things settled into a pattern of greater consistency – temperatures warmed up considerably, accelerating the vine’s development. While temperatures were higher than average, there were no dramatic heat spikes. October marked a cool conclusion to the vintage with some early rains. Some estates had already harvested by this point, while other waited it out. Gianluca held his nerve and harvested the Casa Mate on the 9th October and the Chiniera a touch later on the 14th. This brave decision has paid off handsomely.
I don’t think the best 2020s are heavily marked by heat, their profile isn’t quite classical, but the sense of balance leans in that direction – in fact, they show uncommon harmony for such young wines, balancing good richness of fruit with freshness. Some could even be termed supple or forward drinking, though others show that they will require greater patience. 2020 is certainly a successful vintage with some exceptional wines. It is likely to necessitate a little selectiveness than either 2019 or 2021, but it is clear than the three vintages will provide a fascinating comparison in years to come. And while 2020 may be termed a vintage of mid-weight Barolo with less tension, that is still a vastly generalised view, and the reality is much more complex. Some of the growers we work with made wines in 2020 that surpass their 2019s with ease. So much relates to decisions taken in the vineyard as well as in the cellars, and producers in Barolo have become incredibly skilled in dealing with warmer than normal conditions.
About Azienda Agricola Elio Grasso
As mentioned previously, Barolo releases do not follow a set pattern as different producers see fit to release at different stages of the year. Some of the first out the gate are the wines of my good friend, Gianluca Grasso. Since taking over from his father, Elio, Gianluca has worked tirelessly to bring about added refinement and consistency in the wines of Elio Grasso. Gianluca has also adapted to the different nature of modern Barolo vintages, and I consider his wines to excel in the warmer conditions we encounter in Piemonte today. Stylistically, that added generosity and ripeness that comes from such conditions seems to bring out added nuance and complexity in the single vineyard Barolo that Grasso produce from Monforte d’Alba. Anyone who tasted Gianluca’s 2015s, from a less lauded Barolo vintage, will be under no doubt as to how well this estate has adapted.
I have been visiting the Grassos since the 2001 vintage and have known their wines from bottle since the 1996 vintage. In the last decade they have lifted the bar hugely, with remarkably fine Barolo made in 2010, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2019 and now 2020. As with a number of other estates, they have benefited from an unprecedented run of high-quality vintages, dictated first and foremost by the weather during the growing season, but equally Gianluca’s deft hand in winemaking has brought about greater purity and nuance in the estate’s wines. Gianluca, and his father Elio, have always stressed that wine is made in the vineyard and Gianluca often talks about the run up to harvest and the fraught few days he endures while waiting for the fruit to achieve optimum ripeness. I think his judgement has been spot on in 2020. Gianluca is obsessive about determining the perfect moment to harvest and appreciates sometimes you have to risk something to gain something if you want to allow Nebbiolo a longer hang-time than might be the case in certain vintages.  Certainly, the cooler October temperature and the accompanying diurnal shift have brought a brightness and energy to the Grasso 2020s, that may be lacking elsewhere.
And the 2016 Barolo,  Runcot Riserva? I don’t think I need to reintroduce this outstanding Barolo vintage, which ranks among the very best we have encountered. The Runcot is a gem – so please take a look at my note below.
Please note given how sought after this wine is, the 100 point score and the modest volumes available, balanced orders including the 2020s will be given priority. This is the fairest way to allocate the limited stock available.
Website offer bottle shots (40)

2020 Barolo, Gavarini Chiniera, Elio Grasso
£350 per 6 bottle case in bond

97 points, Antonio Galloni,
The 2020 Barolo Gavarini Chiniera is a heady, almost exotic wine. Harvest took place on October 17, very late for the year. Hard candy, kirsch, menthol, dried rose petal, mint and blood orange infuse the 2020 with striking depth. The tannins, often incisive here, are remarkably polished. A wine of beautiful nuance and persistence, the 2020 Gavarini is not the most obvious wine in this range, but it could very well be the classiest. Don't miss it! Drink 2026-2045.

My note:
A south-facing vineyard with vines of approximately 35 years of age, planted at an altitude of 350 to 400 metres. The soils differ slightly to Casa Matè as there is a little more sand over the limestone. The aromas are immediately appealing with classic notes of rose, mint and spice allied to bright red fruits. As is so often the case, Chiniera is the more expressive at this early stage, both aromatically and on the palate, which shows fine depth to its fruit with notes of dark cherry, pomegranate and blood orange. There is a sleek impression created by finely expressed tannins hinting at fruit harvested close to perfect ripeness. Juicy, energetic with a terrific sense of refinement. Another stunning expression of the Gavarini site from Gianluca. (SL) Drink : 2025-2040+

2020 Barolo, Ginestra Casa Matè, Elio Grasso
£350 per 6 bottle case in bond

96 points, Antonio Galloni,
The 2020 Barolo Ginestra Casa Matè is gorgeous. Aromatically captivating and nuanced, the 2020 impresses right out of the gate. All the classic Ginestra signatures are present. Today the tannins are pretty imposing in the positive sense, as they are present, but also impeccably balanced within the wine's frame. This is impressive stuff. The substantial, balsamic-infused Ginestra finish is captivating. Drink 2026-2045.

My note:
A south-facing vineyard with vines of approximately 40 years of age, planted at an altitude of 300 to 350 metres. The soils here are slightly clayey over a limestone base. A little more restrained on the nose, with hints of dark fruit, liquorice and mint. The Casa Mate possesses a more assertive structure, but equally the intensity of fruit to flesh it out. All that is required here is some patience – the richness is of fruit is impressive in the vintage context too. Small dark berries and an earthy, mineral undertow.

2016 Barolo Riserva, Rüncot, Elio Grasso
£450 per 3 bottle case in bond

100 points, Antonio Galloni,
The 2016 Barolo Riserva Rüncot is quite possibly the single greatest wine I have tasted in more than twenty years I have been coming here, with the possible exception of the 1989s and 1990s. Deep and powerful, but not at all heavy, the 2016 dazzles from the very first taste. Dark cherry/plum fruit, menthol, lavender, licorice and mocha saturate the palate in a Barolo of extraordinary richness and intensity. The 2016 spent four years in 100% new oak, and yet there is no trace at all of wood. Magnificent! Drink 2026-2041.

My note:
From a south-facing sloping vineyard at 300-350 metres in altitude with a clayey, limestone base. The vines are on average 30 years old.  After fermentation, the wine is aged exclusively in French oak barriques. Oh boy. I have tasted this vintage on a couple of occasions in Grasso’s cellars and from the very first time I tasted, it was clear this was a special wine, only confirmed by Gianluca’s beaming smile. The Runcot possesses terrific depth of fruit, wonderfully ripe – picking up more stone fruit characters on both nose and palate. Damson, black cherry with a distinct fresh mint note as well as hints of spice, tobacco and liquorice. Mouth-filling with an effortless intensity, the tannins are beautifully expressed, evident but tensile. There is no doubt this will need a little time to develop, but it shines from the very first taste. It is one of those wines that possesses both an immediacy and sense of potential. Gianluca’s decision to hold the wine in oak for four years has imbued this Runcot with an impressive, sleek, glossy textural impression, but the barrique has not overwritten the wine’s fruit expression one iota. 2016 was an extraordinarily fine vintage, and Grasso has crafted one of his very finest wines without doubt. Hugely impressive. (SL) Drink: 2027-2045.

It might be Burgundy season, but it isn’t too early to bring you a bit of excitement from Piemonte too!

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