Giving one wine a perfect 100-point score is rare for me, but to bestow two such scores to bottles from the same denomination and vintage is practically unheard of.
It happened just once before since I began working at Wine Enthusiast in 2013, for two 2010 Barolos. This time, it happened with two Barolos from the magnificent 2016 vintage, a classic year for the capricious Nebbiolo grape.
Last spring, just a few days after I tasted that first 100-point 2016 Barolo, a second dazzling wine from the vintage rendered me similarly speechless. This second Barolo had a perfect combination of structure, elegance and vibrancy. What began as an analytical tasting quickly became an extraordinary pleasure.
All tastings are blind at Wine Enthusiast, so I had no idea who the producer was. My assistant sets up flights in numbered bags every morning, and at the end of these sessions, I uncover the bottles. I only knew it was a young Barolo and that it was most likely from the just-released 2016 vintage.
It instantly stood out from the others with its intensity, great depth of flavors and a gripping combination of finesse and firm structure.
Barolos are full-bodied wines with ageworthy structure, so we uncorked that day’s selection a few hours before I started tasting to give the wines time to breathe. If the wines were still nervous and shy at first taste, I would revisit them later.
This wine didn’t need extra time. It instantly stood out from the others with its intensity, great depth of flavors and a gripping combination of finesse and firm structure. And, as I wrote in my tasting notes, it was also “thoroughly delicious.”
Only when I finished the day’s tasting did I discover the identity of the 100-point wine: Brovia 2016 Brea Vigna Ca’ Mia.
Like my other top-scoring Barolo, this luminous wine also hails from the village of Serralunga. Out of the 11 Barolo villages, Serralunga performed extraordinarily well in 2016. Its steep hillside vineyards impart freshness, and its lightly colored limestone soils generate noble tannins. As a result, the best Barolos from Serralunga have remarkable finesse and longevity.
Situated 1,148 feet above sea level, the Brea cru is owned by the Brovia family, whose Barolo roots stretch to the 19th century. Vigna Ca’ Mia is a 2.5-acre plot in the larger Brea vineyard area. Harvested, vinified and bottled separately, vines for their Vigna Ca’ Mia bottling are the oldest in the cru, planted in 1955. The combination of high altitude, vine age and the village’s celebrated soils produce wines with fragrance, body and intensity.
Founded in 1863, Brovia is run by Elena Brovia, a fourth-generation agronomist who manages the vineyards. Her husband, Alex Sanchez, takes care of the winemaking. The firm has a decidedly hands-off approach and ferments in concrete tanks with native yeasts.
The 2016 Vigna Ca’ Mia was aged for two-and-a-half years in casks of Slavonian and French oak that range in size from about 30-40 hectoliters, or 800 gallons to more than 1,000 gallons. Like all of Brovia’s wines, it is unfiltered.
The textbook vintage, old vines, terroir and careful, non-invasive winemaking fused to create this quintessential, arresting Barolo.