Festa del Barolo 2023 Recap


Festa del Barolo is right around the corner. As we make the final preparations, so many memories of the 2023 edition come rushing back. In 2023, we presented an expanded program of tastings, seminars and dinners. This is a look at some of the many highlights.

The inaugural Festa del Barolo-Los Angeles was a huge success. The walk-around tasting featured ten growers, each of whom presented several wines.

Festa del Barolo 2023 kicked off with our first events in Los Angeles. We were fortunate to have a perfect day. To be sure, Los Angeles makes for a great escape from New York winters. A mild, sunny day with plenty of California sunshine helped the wines show at their best. We did two events: a walk-around tasting featuring ten growers and their 2018 Barolos, followed by our traditional big bottle Gala Dinner, both held at Ristorante Marino in Santa Monica. We had never done a walk-around tasting before. I found the more informal vibe vis-à-vis the seated masterclass format we use in New York to be very relaxed and perfectly suited to the crowd. Dinner was a great hit of iconic wines served by producers and guests who dug deep into their cellars to open their very best. Brothers Sal and Mario Marino cooked a fabulous dinner.

The Los Angeles Piedmont contingent showed up strong for our Gala Dinner. These are some of the wines we enjoyed.

Overall, it was the generosity and camaraderie of the day that I will remember most.

Vittore Alessandria (Fratelli Alessandria), Mario Andrion (Castello di Verduno) and Fabio Alessandria (G.B. Burlotto) at our Verduno dinner, the first in a series of thematic, village-focused dinners at La Festa del Barolo.

A few days later, we were back in New York. I have always wanted Festa del Barolo to offer the ultimate educational experience for readers who love the great wines of Piedmont. To that end, we launched the first of a series of dinners focused on single villages. In 2023, we focused on Verduno, with stellar lineups from Fratelli Alessandria, G.B. Burlotto and Castello di Verduno. Vittore Alessandria, Fabio Alessandria and Mario Andrion presented the wines. The energy in the room was tremendous. Although one of Barolo’s historic villages, Verduno has long been in the shade. That has changed over the decade thanks to the efforts of a small group of elite wineries. What a night. This year’s dinner focuses on Serralunga d’Alba.

A stunning collection of vintages at our Bartolo Mascarello dinner, where we served wines back to 1955.

Thursday evening, we gathered at Legacy Records for a breathtaking vertical of Bartolo Mascarello Barolos all the way back to 1955, all served from magnum. It was another fabulous evening full of beautiful wines and conversation. Tracking the estate’s evolution over the last several decades made for an incredible evening. All the bottles were sourced directly from the winery, meaning provenance was as perfect as it could be. The older vintages, served from 1.9 bottiglioni, were especially memorable. Giacomo Conterno’s Barolo Riserva Monfortino will be the focus of this year’s dinner.

Aldo Vacca explains the unique characteristics of Barbaresco single vineyards at our Produttori del Barbaresco lunch.

Another goal of ours has been to open Festa del Barolo to include the other noteworthy Nebbiolo wines of Piedmont. We were delighted to host Aldo Vacca of Produttori del Barbaresco for a lunch featuring all nine of the Produttori’s 2017 Riservas. This was one of our most popular events of 2023, a testament to how loved and respected the Produttori are. Here, too, the discussion was wide-ranging. Tasting the nine Riservas side by side is always such an illuminating experience, as the only thing that changes is the site. This year, we will take an in-depth look at Roagna’s Barbaresco Crichët Pajé, specifically focusing on all the vintages Luca Roagna has made since assuming primary responsibility for the wines starting in 2001.

Guests often put together tables with their friends and focus on specific themes at the Gala Dinner. This group enjoyed a spectacular collection of Barolos from Giuseppe Rinaldi.

Festa del Barolo’s Gala Dinner and Charity Auction is now a time-honored tradition. Hosted at The Pool, one of New York City’s most iconic dining rooms, the Gala Dinner, showcases top Piedmont wines in a super-classic setting endowed with the essence of New York City character. Each grower hosts a table and pours library wines while guests bring bottles to share at their tables. It is no exaggeration that the Gala Dinner sees the most jaw-dropping collection of older Barolo opened on a single night anywhere in the world. The only thing that comes close was the LA version! We tasted a stunning range of wines at our table, ranging from the iconic wines Bruno Giacosa made during his peak to bottles from lesser-known producers such as Pianpolvere Soprano. Too many great bottles to remember them all. As always, the generosity in the room was beyond measure.

The Saturday morning masterclass always offers a mix of education and entertainment mixed with poignant moments that are reminders that these wines are made by people and families rather than companies.

The following morning, we hosted the 2018 Barolo Masterclass. In my clearly non-impartial view, the Festa del Barolo Masterclass is the single greatest Barolo tasting anywhere in the world. Fifteen top wines are presented in perfect condition. Guests have plenty of time to taste through the wines and ask producers questions. The entire morning is videotaped for future reference. As a critic, even I don’t have an opportunity to taste this many elite wines in such ideal conditions. Clearly, 2018 was a challenging vintage for Barolo, and yet the best examples showed very well. Presenting this seminar with 15 growers in attendance and an audience of some of the most expert Piedmont tasters in the world is always an enormous privilege.

The Grill's burger is legendary and makes for a fine New York City lunch alongside a collection of superb Barolos.

From there, we adjourned to The Grill for another Festa del Barolo tradition, the Barolo and Burgers lunch. Guests have an opportunity to revisit some of their favorite wines from the morning session while enjoying The Grill’s fabulous burger. After months of intense planning, Festa is wrapping up. This is the one moment when I can relax a little. I went back and enjoyed some of the wines I thought showed especially well. As much as I enjoy tasting wine, sometimes it is also great to just have a glass or two. Drinking, not tasting, as I like to say. And for those who have asked, the Carrot Cake is gone in 2024, and we are serving Chocolate Cake!

More Gala Dinner wines...

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