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Parusso Barolo Piccolo Vigne 1997
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Winemaker Marco Parusso was overwhelmed with emotion when he discovered an old document at his family’s estate in Barolo. Dated 1901, the crumbling contract, signed by his grandfather, Gaspare Parusso, was evidence of his purchase of a parcel of land called “Mariondino” – the small vineyard where he first planted Nebbiolo, and where the Parusso story begins. As a humble agrarian, Gaspare began selling his grapes to friends and local cooperatives and added a farmhouse to the estate in 1925 (which still stands today) overlooking the rolling Rocche vineyard. It wasn’t until 1971 that Armando, Gaspare’s son, saw even greater potential in this small piece of land, and began the adventure of crafting his own wines under his own family label.
Without fully realizing it, Armando had slowly begun to transform the family from farmers to vintners. He bought property in Bussia and Mosconi in order to expand production, working closely with young Marco, who became fascinated with winemaking at an early age. Marco Parusso began working full-time in the cellar in 1986 after attending enology school in Alba. Since then, he has successfully grown the estate from a small local winery to one of the most respected names in Barolo.
Besides traditional techniques, Parusso has pioneered the concept of micro-zoning soils based on the individual characteristics of each plot. Individual attention is given to each and every section of the vineyard, adjusting for any particular needs of the vines’ fertilization, pruning and harvest methods. “The purpose of our work is to ensure the longest natural life cycle of the plant in order to obtain the highest quality and most balanced grapes,” says Marco.
Today, Parusso operates on 22 hectares of land, producing just over 100,000 bottles annually. The winemaking is solely focused on indigenous Piedmontese varieties: Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and Barbera. All wines are carefully crafted, combining structure with finesse and elegance, resulting in beautiful, fresh, fruity wines that can be enjoyed in their youth but are also able to evolve and develop incredible complexity over the years.
The center of the production of the world’s most exclusive and age-worthy red wines made from Nebbiolo, the Barolo 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 hilltops, is one full of history and romance of 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, 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 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 soils 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 Piemontese villages of Barolo and Barbaresco. This finicky grape and needs a very particular soil type and climate in order to thrive. Outside of Italy, growers are still very much in the experimentation stage but some success has been achieved in parts of California. Tiny amounts are produced in Washington, Virginia, Mexico and Australia.
In the Glass
Nebbiolo at its best is an elegant variety with velveteen tannins, mouthwatering acidity and a captivating perfume. Common characteristcs of a well-made Nebbiolo can include roses, violets, licorice, sandalwood, spicebox, smoke, potpourri, black plum, red cherry and orange peel. Light brick in color, Nebbiolo is a more powerful wine than one might expect, and its firm tannins typically need time to mellow.
Nebbiolo’s love affair with food starts in Piedmont, which is home to the Slow Food movement and some of Italy’s best cuisine. The region is famous for its white truffles, wild boar ragu and tajarin pasta, all perfect companions to Nebbiolo.
If you can’t afford to drink Barolo and Barbaresco every night, try the more wallet-friendly, earlier-drinking Langhe Nebbiolo or Nebbiolo d'Alba. Also search out the fine offerings of the nearby Roero region. North of the Langhe and Roero, find earthy and rustic versions of the variety (known here as “Spanna”) in Ghemme and Gattinara.