Giacosa’s 2006 vintage and Decanter’s slopping blogging

As much as I despise the editors of The New York Post, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when, over a straphanger’s shoulder, I read my favorite example of yellow journalism back in 1999: “The first shiksa wants to be a yenta!” (The article referred to Hillary Clinton’s mention of a Jewish relative.)

I wouldn’t go as far as to call it “yellow” journalism but I was so troubled by a recent post by Decanter.com that I felt compelled to post a few reflections of my own.

On Wednesday, one of Decanter’s writers, a certain Suzannah Ramsdale, wrote that “The renowned Piedmontese wine producer Bruno Giacosa has announced that he will not be bottling his 2006 Barolos and Barbarescos… Company oenologist Giorgio Lavagna says that the wine will be sold on as sfuso (unbottled wine) for use by another bottler.”

First of all, this is not exactly breaking news. Back in April, James Suckling reported in his Wine Spectator blog — with much more restrained and judicious tone — that Giacosa was making a “hard but right” decision:

    It’s a courageous thing to do, and I can’t think of many wine producers who would do the same. I was at the 80th birthday of Bruno Giacosa, the legendary winemaker of Piedmont, about a week ago and he told me that he wasn’t going to bottle his 2006 Barolos or Barbarescos.

    “I just don’t like the quality of the wines,” he said, as we ate lunch and drank some of his fabulous Barolo Le Rocche del Falletto including the 100-point 2000. “I just don’t like the way they are. They are not good enough for me. So I am not going to bottle them.”

Secondly, what really happened was that the British importer of Giacosa announced that it was going to be releasing Giacosa’s 2007 bottlings in February of next year (since the 2006 will not be available). Here’s the release, which was sent to me today by the importer Armit:

    2006 was a difficult year for Bruno Giacosa. He suffered a serious stroke which resulted in him being absent from both the vineyards and cellar for most of the year and into the beginning of 2007.

    Although 2006 was overall a fine vintage in Piedmont, now that Bruno is in a position to judge the quality of the wines personally, he is not satisfied that the Barolo’s and Barbaresco’s [sic] produced at Giacosa meet his exacting standards.

    He has taken the brave and we think highly honourable decision not to bottle these wines, which is clearly a considerable financial sacrifice.

    Bruno’s decision underlines the remarkable recovery he has made. He is now back fully involved, alongside new winemaker Giorgio Lavagna, and after a clearly difficult period, the focus on quality remains as strong as ever at Giacosa.

    As a result of the decision with the 2006s, we now plan to release the 2007 Barbaresco wines in February/March 2010.

I hope this helps to clarify Decanter’s sloppy journalism.

– 2006 was actually a “good” although not “excellent” year in Langa; not everyone made exceptional wine, but the wines will be generally good (Franco and James both agree on this: read this exchange between the two of them on this very issue);

– Giacosa is not going to sell his wine off in demijohns as vino sfuso; that’s just preposterous; he regularly bottles using the Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC and I imagine he’ll sell some of the wine to other notable producers who will bottle it.

Above: Back in September 2007, Alice, Lawrence, and I shared a wine bottled by Giacosa in a vintage not considered one of the best.

It’s no secret that since Bruno suffered his stroke, his daughter Bruna has been looking for a buyer for the estate. It’s also no secret that last year, Bruna forced Bruno’s long-time protégé Dante Scaglione out of his position. Could it be that internal issues played a role here?

It was irrepsonsible for Ramsdale to make it sound as if Giacosa was patently dismissing the 2006 Langa vintage. When viewed in context, the not-so-breaking news reveals other forces at play.

8 thoughts on “Giacosa’s 2006 vintage and Decanter’s slopping blogging

  1. Mille grazie, Dr. Parzen. Here in the sweltering tropics, his ’06 Arneis is my semi-regular semi-splurge. I’ll have to take a deep breath & sample a broader cross-section of the Giacosa catalogue.

  2. well, i guess wine journalism isn’t free of sensationalism either.

    on the blogging note, and you know to whom i’m referring, the fact that bloggers aren’t paid journalists does not release them from responsibility of using their power wisely.

    thanks for fighting the good fight, 2B.

  3. We just placed the Giacosa Arneis on the shelf. It is a wine that brings me great joy. As we all imbibe, life happens…impermanence is a cruel lesson, but should remind us all to taste each moment as if it was our last.

  4. Nice job expunging the riffraff from the slushpile. It appears that you are doing the very job the editors at The New Yorker fail to do. As a writer of fiction and poetry, I’m with you all the way. However, wouldn’t it be nice if you could get a Barolo via sfuso?

  5. Dear Mr Parzen and all readers,
    thank you for your honesty in clarifying things.
    The Consortium for the Defence of Barolo Barbaresco Alba Langhe and Roero, the Regional Wine Cellar of Barbaresco and the Regional Wine Cellar of Barolo have also issued a joint press release on the subject. even if too long for a blog, I try to post it here.

    With respect to some articles published in the last weeks by the international press putting the quality of the 2006 vintage for Barbaresco and Barolo into question, the Consortium for the Defence of Barolo Barbaresco Alba Langhe and Roero, the Regional Wine Cellar of Barbaresco and the Regional Wine Cellar of Barolo would like to prevent any possible misunderstanding. Therefore, they make it clear that the great majority of producers and of the consumers of Barbaresco 2006 (on the market since January 2009) believe that 2006 is a very good vintage, with some exceptional peaks. They also underline that some expert wine journalists recently judged Barbaresco 2006 with good scores (e.g. James Suckling on Wine Spectator Insider Special Report: Piedmont, Vol. 5, No. 26, July 1, 2009).

    2006 Barolo is still ageing in the cellars for its 3rd year of mandatory ageing (according to its production regulations), but oenologists’ impressions on the evolution of this “Nebbiolo-to-be-Barolo” are very positive. On the other hand, Barbaresco 2006 has already been appreciated by the public on various occasions. For example nearly 2.000 people participated in the event-preview Il Barbaresco a Tavola, which took place on May 15th, 22nd and 29th, 2009 in thirteen restaurants within the production area. Those people tasted around 70 Barbaresco Docg 2006 from different producers and production zones and they expressed great satisfaction.

    In order to highlight the great value and quality of the 2006 vintage for both Barbaresco and Barolo we hereby summarize the climatic conditions which characterized that year.

    During 2005/2006 winter it snowed a lot, but springtime was not very rainy, thus causing some risks of water shortage. Rain luckily fell in the second half of June.

    Even though the summer started with thunderstorms, it quickly turned to dry weather. Actually, July 2006 was one of the hottest Julys in the history. Rainfalls around mid-August refreshed the air so that the prematurity in the development of grapes caused by the dry climate of July was balanced.

    The climatic trend in September – usually the crucial month for the final quality of the Nebbiolo grapes used to produce Barbaresco and Barolo – was very favourable: warm but rather windy during the day and fresh during the night. These conditions allowed the grapes to correctly ripen.

    Even the rain fallen between September 24 and 26 did not create any problem to the quality of grapes. At the most it determined a short interruption in harvesting, which nevertheless ended up with general satisfaction.

    Therefore, 2006 vintage has been characterized by a standard rhythm, with harvesting of Nebbiolo grapes – healthy and of excellent quality – taking place between the end of September and the beginning of October.

    What the 2006 wines are concerned, both Barbaresco and Barolo show great structure, full body and roundness. Even if young, both are elegant. The garnet colour is intense, in some cases still with ruby-red highlights. The perfume is full-bodied, with clear fruity hints and the first hints of spices. The taste is full and persistent.

    Consortium for the Defence of Barolo Barbaresco Alba Langhe and Roero
    The President
    Claudio Rosso

    Regional Wine Cellar of Barbaresco
    The President
    Giancarlo Montaldo

    Regional Wine Cellar of Barolo
    The President
    Renata Salvano

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