But there’s one little-known Barolo village that all lovers of Italian wine should keep an eye out for: Verduno.
Made entirely with native grape Nebbiolo, Barolo can be made in eleven separate villages. The wine’s namesake township of Barolo, as well as Castiglione Falletto and Serralunga d’Alba are entirely located in the denomination’s boundaries, while Monforte d’Alba and La Morra both have substantial vineyard holdings in the growing area. The villages of Novello, Verduno, Grinzane Cavour, Roddi, Diano d’Alba and Cherasco have varying amounts of acreage in the growing zone, but of these six minor villages, Verduno is the rising star.
Located on the northern edge of the denomination and accounting for just 5% of Barolo’s total production, Verduno turns out full-bodied reds loaded with finesse and abounding with enticing floral and spice sensations. Although the string of hot, dry vintages that have become the norm since 2000 have challenged growers and winemakers throughout the region—and in all of Italy for that matter—Verduno has actually thrived, turning out structured wines with a vibrancy and energy that many Barolos from other villages lack in scorching years, like 2007, 2009 and 2011.
Verduno bottlings are generally approachable sooner than other Barolos, but they still age gracefully for decades in the best vintages, like 2006, 2008 and 2010.
According to growers and researchers, the secret behind Verduno’s trademark spiciness lies in the soil—a complex mix of calcareous clay, silt and sandstone interspersed with chalky veins. It’s worth noting that the rare native grape Pelaverga, which yields a bright, fruity red wine loaded with white pepper sensations, is grown almost exclusively in Verduno, where it excels.
Vineyard location is also a key factor in Verduno’s stunning Barolos, and the township boasts some of the best crus or vineyard areas in the denomination, including Massara, Pisapola and the magnificent Monvigliero. Of all the village’s wide-open and luminous vineyards, the Monvigliero hill is undoubtedly Verduno’s grand cru. According to Prof. Vincenzo Gerbi, who teaches enology at the University of Turin, Monvigliero is one of the top sites in all of Barolo, saying, “Monvigliero is the only cru in the denomination that faces completely south.” Even though many Barolo vineyards with predominantly southern exposures now suffer from scorching summer temperatures and drought thanks to climate change, Monvigliero’s best parcels, lying between 919 and 984 feet above sea level, benefit from cool evening breezes generated by the Tanaro River directly below that keeps the grapes fresh. This unique microclimate gives Monvigliero Barolos their signature aromatic intensity and complexity.
Verduno also played a key role in the early history of Barolo production: King Carlo Alberto of the Royal House of Savoy, the father of the first future King of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II, bought Castello di Verduno in 1838 and with the help of pioneering enologist General Paolo Francesco Staglieno, began making Barolo. In the mid-1800s, a young entrepreneur, Comm. Giovan Battista Burlotto, founded his winery in the village, and in 1909 bought Castello di Verduno from the House of Savoy. Various branches of the family still make Barolo today.
For decades Verduno’s estates have flown under the radar, known only to the most passionate Barolophiles. One reason for this is due to its small output that makes Verduno Barolos harder to find, while another reason is that until recently, most growers sold their grapes to large bottling houses. But as wine lovers now look for wines boasting complexity and finesse as opposed to concentration and muscle, Verduno Barolos are in high demand, encouraging more growers to bottle their own wines.
Here are the estates to look for:
Castello di Verduno 2011 Massara (Barolo); $85, 95 points. Violet, rose, perfumed berry and a whiff of sweet cake spice are some of the enticing scents you’ll find on this impressive wine. On the delicious palate, notes of clove, cinnamon, mocha, licorice and raspberry weave seamlessly throughout the juicy black cherry core. It’s elegantly structured, with fresh acidity and firm, ripe tannins. Drink 2020–2036.
Comm. G. B. Burlotto 2011 Monvigliero (Barolo); $63, 94 points. Pressed rose, dark berry, baked earth, forest floor, licorice, walnut and a balsamic note are some of the intriguing aromas you’ll find on this fantastic, balanced Barolo. The structured, elegant palate delivers mature black cherry, dark raspberry, anise, white pepper, tobacco, orange peel and clove alongside assertive but refined tannins.
Paolo Scavino 2011 Barolo Monvigliero (Barolo); $70, 93 pts. Crushed iris, pressed rose, perfumed berry and eucalyptus scents come together on this stunning wine. The elegantly structured palate delivers red cherry, raspberry, white pepper, licorice and chopped herb alongside well-knit, polished tannins and fresh acidity. This is one of the few 2011s that will do well with more cellaring. Drink 2019–2031.
Fratelli Alessandria 2011 San Lorenzo di Verduno (Barolo); $66, 92 points. Enticing scents of wild rose, violet, perfumed berry and a whiff of aromatic herb unfold on this full-bodied red. The firm palate offers juicy black cherry, crushed raspberry, white pepper, clove and anise framed in assertive but ripe tannins and fresh acidity. Better after 2019.
Bel Colle 2011 Monvigliero (Barolo); $70, 91 points. Truffle, underbrush, dark berry, mocha and grilled sage aromas unfold in the glass. The firm palate delivers smoke, raw berry, baking spice, anise and a sprinkling of aromatic herb while bracing tannins provide the backbone.
Ascheri 2011 Barolo Pisapola (Borolo); $50, 91 points. Made from the Pisapola vineyard in the village of Verduno, this elegantly structured wine opens with aromas of pressed violet, wild berry and sweet baking spice. The linear palate offers sour cherry, raspberry, crushed aniseed and white pepper alongside youthfully austere but polished tannins. Drink 2018–2026.