2023 Barolo en Primeur Charity Auction


I was delighted to taste the single-barrel 2022 Barolos on offer at the 2023 Barolo en Primeur Charity Auction, which will be held simultaneously in New York City, London and Grinzane Cavour on Friday, October 27 at 12pm New York time, 5pm London time and 6pm Piedmont time. This is a rare opportunity to acquire 2022 Barolo ahead of release. In addition to the barrel wines, the auction also includes lots from various producers, organized by village. All the wines will be adorned with special labels designed by artist Otobong Nkanga. Donations from barrel lots will be directed to various charities (as described below), while proceeds from the village lots will go to the Oenological School of Alba.

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), Italy’s 8th largest foundation, with assets of €1.6B. Christie’s is the official auctioneer. The contributions from the first two editions amount to nearly €1.5 million.

Registration is now open to bid online during the live auction. There are three types of lots:

1) Six barrels of the Gustava Barolo (notes below) for which winning bidders are able to designate their charity of choice.

2) Five barrels of the Gustava Barolo (notes below) for which the charity has already been designated. (One barrel will be auctioned at the Fiera del Tartufo Auction on November 12, 2023.)

In each case, winners of the Gustava barrels will be able to specify bottle sizes in due course and have the option to remit payment directly to the Foundation or the charities of choice.

3) Ten village lots, which comprise various wines in a range of formats from producers from each of the respective areas. Winning bidders of the village lots remit payment directly to the Foundation.

Vinous readers who intend on bidding on the lots and would like to attend the live auction, to be held at the Christie’s office in New York, can request to join in person by sending us an email at events+charity@vinous.com. Please note seating is extremely limited.

Cascina Gustava map, courtesy of Alessandro Masnaghetti. Used with permission. © 2023 Enogea, Alessandro Masnaghetti

2022 Barolo from the Gustava Cru – The Single Barrels

In 2020, the Fondazione CRC purchased 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 12 barrels of 2022 Barolos, two of them from historic old vines planted in the 1960s.

I tasted all of the 2022 Gustava Barolos from barrel this past June. Two thousand twenty-two is not an easy vintage. Vines struggled through intense heat and drought. I saw many vineyards under clear duress when I visited Barolo just prior to harvest. Not surprisingly, these wines show quite a bit of that stress. Harvest started on September 15 for the old vine parcels, while the majority of the vineyard was picked five days later. The 2022s were vinified in small oak vats and spent about ten days on the skins. Production is down about 20%, so 12 barrels instead of the 15 made in the first two vintages.

Tasting the 2022 Gustava Barolos from barrel.

I followed the young 2022s several times over the course of a few hours, during which many of the wines improved, some of them considerably, a promising sign. In this freakish year, the best barrels aren’t the usual suspects. That’s because the old vines, which are located mid-slope, south to southwest facing, were too exposed to unrelenting dry and warm conditions. Conversely, blocks on the lower slopes, in sections that would generally be considered less optimal, benefitted from their less well-exposed locations. Another signature of this vintage is that the wines aren’t as differentiated as they can be, which is typical of very warm years that can blur some of the micro-nuances of site. As a result, some barrels are pretty similar, for example, Barrels #4, #5 and #6, all of which are sourced from the same general part of the vineyard. Of course, the wines are still in barrel, so greater nuance may emerge over time. For more information, including the videos where I present every single barrique, visit the Foundation's dedicated Barolo en Primeur webpage.

2022 Barolo – Village Lots

The 2023 Barolo en Primeur Charity Auction also contains a series of lots that feature the 2022 Barolos from a number of producers grouped together by village. Each lot is a collection; in other words, the number of bottles and formats varies from lot to lot, but all the wines will be delivered with the commemorative label designed by Otobong Nkanga. I was not able to taste through all the offerings in this part of the auction because Piedmont doesn’t have the infrastructure yet that would make a comprehensive tasting of barrel samples possible. Perhaps that will come in time. View the full list of auction lots here.

This year's artist label, designed by Otobong Nkanga.

2022 Barolo Gustava – Tasting Notes

The 2022 Barolo Barrique #1 (Viti Storiche) is fragrant, aromatically expressive and nuanced. Crushed red berry fruit, mint, spice, cedar and white pepper are nicely lifted. There’s a bit of nervous tannin that needs to soften. Even so, I imagine the 2022 will drink nicely with minimal cellaring. Today, it comes across as quite ethereal and light in color and body.

The 2022 Barolo Barrique #2 (Viti Storiche) is clearly still coming together. Dark fruit, faded, sweet dark cherry, leather, tobacco and cedar emerge over time, but the tannins are pretty raw at this stage.

The 2022 Barolo Barrique #3 is a wine of substance and power. Black cherry, gravel, incense, tobacco, cloves and leather are all dialed up. This brooding, powerhouse Barolo offers good depth of fruit, but the tannins are also imposing. It will be interesting to see where this goes. Location on the lower slopes was a benefit in 2022.

The 2022 Barolo Barrique #4 is laced with black cherry, spice, menthol, licorice, orange peel and spice. A wild, exotic Barolo, the Barrel #4 has a lot going on. Time in the glass brings out the wine’s breadth and power. This is one of the more impressive wines in the tasting. Iron, cedar, tobacco, leather and incense linger on the imposing finish.

The 2022 Barolo Barrique #5 is a powerhouse. Rich, sweeping and dramatic in its intensity, the #5 offers up dark macerated cherry, cloves, new leather, spice, menthol and licorice. Broad swaths of tannin wrap it all together.

The 2022 Barolo Barrique #6 is another racy wine in this year’s collection of single-barrel Barolos. Broad and ample, with real substance, the 2022 possesses notable depth and tons of pure power. Black cherry, spice, leather, mocha and pipe tobacco all build effortlessly in the glass. Its balance really comes into focus with aeration. This brooding Barolo is promising.

The 2022 Barolo Barrique #7 captures an attractive stylistic middle ground that marries the finesse of the more restrained wines in this range with the power that is found in many of the 2022s. Silky, aromatic and light on its feet, the #7 speaks to elegance more than overt intensity. Blood orange, spice, menthol and new leather are all beautifully delineated throughout. This is nicely done.

The 2022 Barolo Barrique #8 is a somber, brooding wine. Black cherry, plum, gravel, incense and melted road tar add to an impression of gravitas. Imposing tannins only reinforce that. The #8 is a wine for those who can be patient, as it needs a few years to come into its own.

The 2022 Barolo Barrique #9 is another wine in this collection that is going to require patience. The aromatics are quite attractive, but all the elements have not come together just yet. This is one of the more slowly developing wines in this collection because of a late malolactic fermentation.

The 2022 Barolo Barrique #10 is promising. Crushed flowers, blood orange peel, white pepper, cedar, tobacco and mint give the 2022 an attractive upper register to match its mid-weight feel. The tannins need time to soften, but this has enough potential to make me cautiously optimistic. Exotic floral and spice notes reappear on the finish, adding lift.

The 2022 Barolo Barrique #11 is light in body and generally unsettled in its cloudy color and disjointed feel. Judgement reserved. Not rated.

The 2022 Barolo Barrique #12 is soft, open-knit and quite pleasant, but also lacking in structure. Perhaps this will fill out over time, but for now, a measure of caution seems prudent.

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