Guido Porro Vigna Rionda Barolo 2014
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Reviews and notes on Guido Porro regularly refer to him as “under the radar”: the wines he makes are worthy of a stellar reputation, but he is too easygoing and unassuming to worry about whether the general wine-drinking public recognizes his name. He rarely bothers to send samples to wine writers. Guido is the fourth generation at an estate that has always been passed from father to son, and although fifth-generation Fabio hasn’t reached middle school, he is already showing a keen curiosity in the family business. The Porros continue to work just as their predecessors did—the only major change over the last few decades has been the decision to bottle at the estate instead of selling the wine in demijohns or barrels—and they like to keep things simple and down to earth. The door is always open, and Guido’s wife Giovanna never looks quite as happy as when she’s serving enormous platters of classic local dishes to a full table of guests.
The limestone-heavy soils of Serralunga d’Alba are known for providing the most long-lived and full-bodied Barolos. Porro’s vineyards are located here in the Lazzarito cru, a gorgeous amphitheatre that faces south-southwest and offers the grapes full sun exposure and protection from the wind. The sub-zones of Lazzairasco and Santa Caterina are both monopoli and share the same soil; however, different exposition and altitude bring distinct traits to each wine. Lazzairasco, a very hot site home to Guido’s oldest Nebbiolo, gives a more powerful, masculine wine, while the cooler, breezier Santa Caterina brings out the delicacy and elegance of Nebbiolo. Even Porro’s Barbera, a grape that is usually planted in lesser vineyards, enjoys a privileged place in Santa Caterina. Guido sticks to traditional methods in the vineyards and cellar, and he never gets in the way of the grapes’ natural expression.
The center of the production of the world’s most exclusive and age-worthy red wines made from Nebbiolo, the Barolo wine region includes five core townships: La Morra, Monforte d’Alba, Serralunga d’Alba, Castiglione Falletto and the Barolo village itself, as well as a few outlying villages. The landscape of Barolo, characterized by prominent and castle-topped hills, is full of history and romance centered on the Nebbiolo grape. Its wines, with the signature “tar and roses” aromas, have a deceptively light garnet color but full presence on the palate and plenty of tannins and acidity. In a well-made Barolo wine, one can expect to find complexity and good evolution with notes of, for example, strawberry, cherry, plum, leather, truffle, anise, fresh and dried herbs, tobacco and violets.
There are two predominant soil types here, which distinguish Barolo from the lesser surrounding areas. Compact and fertile Tortonian sandy marls define the vineyards farthest west and at higher elevations. Typically the Barolo wines coming from this side, from La Morra and Barolo, can be approachable relatively early on in their evolution and represent the “feminine” side of Barolo, often closer in style to Barbaresco with elegant perfume and fresh fruit.
On the eastern side of the Barolo wine region, Helvetian soils of compressed sandstone and chalks are less fertile, producing wines with intense body, power and structured tannins. This more “masculine” style comes from Monforte d’Alba and Serralunga d’Alba. The township of Castiglione Falletto covers a spine with both soil types.
The best Barolo wines need 10-15 years before they are ready to drink, and can further age for several decades.
Responsible for some of the most elegant and age-worthy wines in the world, Nebbiolo, named for the ubiquitous autumnal fog (called nebbia in Italian), is the star variety of northern Italy’s Piedmont region. Grown throughout the area, as well as in the neighboring Valle d’Aosta and Valtellina, it reaches its highest potential in the Piedmontese villages of Barolo, Barbaresco and Roero. Outside of Italy, growers are still very much in the experimentation stage but some success has been achieved in parts of California. Somm Secret—If you’re new to Nebbiolo, start with a charming, wallet-friendly, early-drinking Langhe Nebbiolo or Nebbiolo d'Alba.