Who is making "real" Barolo
In the 70's Barolo farmers struggled to sell their grapes and a bottle of wine would sell for $1. In a couple of decades Barolo went from 0-100 and today it's a challenge to find a bottle for under $100 here in Sydney. In the 80's the younger generation of Barolo asked the question WHY? Why isn't our wine selling, why are the French wines selling for 5, 10, or even 20x the amount.
Elio Altare future member of the "Barolo Boys" took his car and drove to Burgundy in search for answers. Elio was not the only one who sought change he was joined by Angelo Gaja, Renato Ratti and Roberto Voerzio to name a few. Changes were made and with absolute horror from their parents, Elio Altares father passed away thinking his son was crazy and disinherited him. Numerous changes were made: shorter maceration, barriques (sneaked into the town in cardboard at first), crop thinning and picking riper grapes. The style of the "Modernist" is more overt fruitiness and new oak to give structure and additional flavours of vanilla and chocolate with an aim to make Barolo enjoyable now! and not in 25 years like their parents were making. Where as "Traditionalist" see themselves as the guardians of authentic Barolo, with long, slow ferments and prolonged ageing in large, often very old oak casks.
I'm not interested in making great Barolo,
I simply want to make great wine and the world's great red wines are matured in barriques"
Whether your camp A or camp B the modernist can be thanked for putting Barolo on the map, for having the courage to change things in both the vineyards and wineries even if that meant losing their family along the way or being forever thought of as "crazy". Some argue they took this movement a step to far.. and perhaps they did with Elio saying "I'm not interested in making great Barolo, I simply want to make great wine and the world's great red wines are matured in barriques" - did the growers of Burgundy not teach Elio about Terrior?!. The Modernist gave the market want they wanted and moulded Barolo to suit the crowds and wine critics like James Suckling and Robert Parker. The "traditionalist" winemakers like Mascarello - his grudge against the modernists is "I don't for one minute dispute that some are making great wines, but they are not making great Barolo."
All this happened in the 80's and 90's though still today is talked about, the older generation working in the Langhe are still bitter towards the younger "Modernists" and believe the way it was before should never have been altered. Perhaps Barolo farmers would still be struggling to sell their grapes and put food on the table if it wasn't for their children's innovative ways.
If you want to learn more you must watch The Barolo Boys documentry - If your in Australia this can be tricky - the easiest way is to rent the documentary www.baroloboythemovie.com - for less than $6.00 - grab a bottle of Langhe wine and enjoy!