2021 Barolo en Primeur Charity Auction


I am delighted to once again host the Barolo en Primeur Charity Auction, being held simultaneously in New York City and Grinzane Cavour on Friday, October 28 at 12pm New York time and 6pm Piedmont time. This is a rare opportunity to acquire 2021 Barolo ahead of release. Some of the lots will be sold as single barrels, as they were last year, while others are collections of smaller lots from various producers, organized by village. All the wines will be adorned with special labels designed by artist Michelangelo Pistoletto.

This year’s Barolo en Primeur Charity Auction is being led jointly by the Consorzio of Barolo, Barbaresco, Alba, Langhe and Dogliani and the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Cuneo (Fondazione CRC), the foundation of the local bank in Cuneo, Italy’s 8th largest foundation, with assets of €1.6B.

Cascina Gustava map, courtesy of Alessandro Masnaghetti. Used with permission. © 2022 Enogea, Alessandro Masnaghetti

2021 Barolo from the Gustava Cru – The Single Barrels

In 2021, the Fondazione CRC acquired Cascina Gustava through CRC Donare, its Piedmont-based charitable foundation, with the goal of ensuring the vineyard would always remain a sort of real-life laboratory for the students of Alba’s school of oenology. Gustava is located in Grinzane Cavour, right next to the castle, the former home of Camillo Benso di Cavour, Italy’s first prime minister.

The acquisition of the vineyard resulted in the creation of a charitable auction inspired by the Hospices de Beaune that the organizers hope will grow in the coming years. Donato Lanati, one of Italy’s most respected consulting oenologists, was brought on to oversee the wines, which are made at the Ascheri cellars in Bra. There are a total of 15 barrels of 2021 Barolo, three of them from historic old vines planted in the 1960s.

Christie’s will run the live auction. Bidding is now open for those who can’t attend the live auction but who would like to submit a bid. Winning bidders are able to designate their charity of choice as the beneficiary and also specify bottle sizes for the Gustava wines, which are sold by the barrel. Readers who would like to attend the live auction, to be held at Il Gattopardo Restaurant, 13-15 West 54th Street, New York, NY 10019, can RSVP by sending us an email at events+charity@vinous.com. Please note seating is extremely limited.

I tasted all of these wines from barrel this past June. Overall, I found the quality of the 2021s higher than the 2020s. I suspect that is attributable to a more favorable growing season, a full year the team from the Alba Oenological School had to work the vineyard and the greater experience that comes from a second year in vinifying micro-parcels, which is not common in Piedmont. In 2021, harvest took place over three days, one for the old vines and two for the rest of the vineyard a week later. The wines are fermented in stainless steel and are aging in François Frères medium-toast oak barrels.

2021 Barolo – Communal Lots

This year the 2021 Barolo en Primeur Charity Auction also contains a series of communal lots that feature the 2021 Barolos from a number of producers grouped together by village. Each lot is an individual collection; in other words, the number of bottles and formats varies from lot to lot, but all the wines will be delivered with a commemorative label designed by Pistoletto, a renowned local artist. I was not able to taste through all the offerings in this part of the auction because of the large number wines and because Piedmont doesn’t quite have the infrastructure yet that would make a comprehensive tasting of barrel samples possible. Hopefully that will come in time. View the full list of auction lots, by village, here.

Tasting through the wines for Barolo en Primeur.


The 2021 Barolo Barrique #1 (Old Vine) emerges from vines planted in the 1960s. Deep, rich and lush in the glass, the #1 offers plenty of old-vine gravitas. Dark cherry, plum, tobacco, leather and menthol are some of the many aromas and flavors that gradually come together. The Barrique #1 is powerful, structured and full of character, even though the malolactic fermentation is not totally complete. Impressive.

The 2021 Barolo Barrique #2 (Old Vine) is a special wine and one of the best I have tasted so far from this nascent project created to support the Oenological School in Alba and a number of local and international organizations. Harmonious and impeccably balanced for a young Barolo, the Barrique #2 offers up an exciting melange of red/blue fruit peppered with hints of flowers and spice. It is medium in body yet also quite powerful, highlighting one of the dualisms that makes Barolo such a special wine.

The 2021 Barolo Barrique #3 (Old Vine) is a potent, virile wine. Swaths of tannin wrap around a core of dark fruit. Gravel, incense, tobacco and scorched earth amplify impressions of textural depth as well as structure. This is quite promising.

The 2021 Barolo Barrique #4 emerges from a southwest-facing parcel in Gustava. It’s one of the more elegant wines in this range. Lovely red-toned fruit notes open first, followed by hints of cedar, sweet pipe tobacco and dried flowers. This mid-weight Barolo is a charmer.

The 2021 Barolo Barrique #5 is powerful, rich and explosive in feel. Soaring aromatics meld into a core of dark blue fruit. All the elements come together in a Barolo endowed with expressive, deeply pitched aromatics, dense fruit and plenty of tannic heft. This south to southwest-facing block yields a big Barolo that is a bit richer than some of the other wines in the collection. It’s a style that works beautifully.

The 2021 Barolo Barrique #6 is laced with hints of red fruit, chalk, mint, white pepper and truffle. Bright and intensely aromatic, the #6 presents a decidedly focused, taut expression of Barolo. There’s terrific energy here.

The 2021 Barolo Barrique #7 is a wine of tremendous intensity shaped by the south-facing exposure of this parcel. Incense, blood orange and spice meld into a huge core of red/purplish fruit as this dense, potent Barolo shows off its personality. All of that intensity builds into the gorgeous, textured finish.

The 2021 Barolo Barrique #8 is a nervy, classically built wine that will appeal most to readers who enjoy Barolos of tension and linear drive. Bright red-toned fruit, chalk, mint and white pepper abound. This nervy, austere young Barolo has plenty of character.

The 2021 Barolo Barrique #9 emerges from a southeast-facing parcel within the Gustava cru. Light floral and spice accents lift a core of sweet red berry fruit. This elegant, lithe Barolo is a charmer. It should be one of the earlier drinking wines in the collection of 2021s.

The 2021 Barolo Barrique #10 is one of the more potent wines in this collection. It offers up a heady melange of black cherry, spice, menthol, licorice and a whole range of balsamic inflections to round things out. This strapping, virile Barolo builds nicely in the glass, showing quite a bit of resonance and plenty of style. The tannins are pretty imposing at this stage, so some cellaring is advised.

The 2021 Barolo Barrique #11 is powerful, youthfully austere and very tightly wound today. Even so, there is a good bit of fruit in the background. Readers will have to be patient here, but there appears to be potential. I hope to have a chance to taste this again in the future.

The 2021 Barolo Barrique #12 is one of the more delicate wines in the range. It is done in a mid-weight style that emphasizes aromatics and pretty red berry fruit character. I imagine it will drink well with minimal cellaring. 

The 2021 Barolo Barrique #13 is another of the more delicate wines in the collection. Leather, tobacco, incense and spice are woven throughout a core of dark-toned fruit. Balsamic overtones linger nicely on the finish. The aromatics are quite pretty, but the palate needs to flesh out a bit more.

The 2021 Barolo Barrique #14 is a bit nervy, but it has enough depth to make me think all the elements will come together over time. Dark-toned fruit, floral and mineral accents gradually emerge with a bit of coaxing, but the 2021 is not in the mood to show all its cards just yet. 

The 2021 Barolo Barrique #15 is dark, powerful and very well put together for such a young wine. There’s terrific depth and plenty of structure. Dark-toned fruit, leather, spice, menthol and licorice fill out the layers. Time and aging should help soften some of the nervous edges that are present today.

For more information, visit the Foundation's dedicated Barolo en Primeur 2022 webpage.

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