The weather in 2002 was notoriously hard on the Piedmont. The summer was relatively wet with little sun. In mid-September hail storm hit the vineyards of La Morra and Barolo. To add insult to injury, the storm actually passed through, stopped and reversed course, hitting the vineyards again. In many famous vineyards (ie. Brunate, La Serra) nothing was left but the trunk and canes. For the vineyards that remained warmth and sunshine could have prevented an all out lost but little sun came. Critics were quick to write the vinatage off and, in most cases, rightfully so. However, there were a few producers who managed to make good wines in in this most difficult of vintages. The first that jumps to mind is Paolo Scavino's Bricco Ambroggio.
Bricco Ambroggio is Southern Piedmont in the commune of Roddi. The slightly warmer conditions and a selection of fruit from better exposed sites produced Barolo that rivals an averages producer's from a great vintage. It shows more of the Scavino house style than a particular terroir. Ripe cherries and menthol are framed by the spice box aromas of new Barrique. The palate is full and shedding its tannin at a rapid pace...a blessing for this lighter vintage. What tannin remains gives nice texture. The whole package is kept buoyant by its acidity. The Scavinos seem to have eased off the new barrique in this vintage, a wise choice.
The second successful Barolo of the vintage is that of Domenico Clerico. Clerico is best known for his single-vineyard and proprietary labels; Sori Ginestra, Pajana and Per Cristina. In this troubled vintage Clerico decided to forgo individual bottlings and make one Barolo. I visited Clerico in 2005 and tasted the 2002 blend at that time. He was still debating whether to bottle it under his own name or sell it off in bulk. At the time i was skeptical, the US retail price would be $60, an average price for others Baroli from average vintages. Considering Clerico's generosity at dinner i avoided making any disparaging commnets about the prospect of selling the wine.
One year later the 2002 arrived on American shores with barely so much as a whimper. Few expected to see wines from 2002 and few bought what showed up. Today, three years later, Clerico's Barolo is reaching its peak, showing its best...and still hard to sell. It's a shame. Today it shows the orange-hued color typical of Monforte. Unlike te Scavino, the Clerico shows aromas and flavors typical of its terroir: dark stone, dried Apricot and, most typical of all, bitter Cherry. What three years ago was a mass of surly tannin has faded into a textural component. The finish lingers with oak, cherry and earth aromas.
2002 Paolo Scavino Barolo Bricco Ambroggio. OH Retail: $20-50
2002 Domenico Clerico Barolo. OH Retail: $20-50