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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.
Home to the world’s most powerful wines made from the Nebbiolo grape, the Barolo village of Piedmont has long been known as “the wine of kings, the king of wines.” There are two predominant soil types here, which distinguish Barolo from neighboring Barbaresco as well as from the lesser surrounding areas. Compact and fertile Tortonian sandy marls define the vineyards to the west, typically resulting in fresher, fruitier, and softer wines that are approachable relatively early on in their evolution. This is sometimes referred to as the “feminine” side of Barolo and is closer in style to Barbaresco with its elegant perfume. On the eastern side of the region, Helvetian sandstone clay soils are chalkier and less fertile, producing age-worthy wines with full body and structured tannins—the more “masculine” style. The best Barolo wines need 10-15 years before they are ready to drink, and can further age for several decades.
Barolo is one of the world’s most distinctive red wines, and experienced tasters typically have no trouble picking it out of a lineup. In addition to Nebbiolo’s signature “tar and roses” aroma, one can expect to find complex notes of strawberries, cherries, leather, white truffles, anise, fresh and dried herbs, tobacco, violets, plum, and much more. Despite its deceptively light garnet color, Barolo has a full presence on the palate and plenty of tannin and acidity. The traditional style of Barolo relies on the use of neutral large wooden vats for aging, which do not impart flavor to the wine and preserve the natural character of the Nebbiolo grape. Meanwhile, a more modern, “international” style of Barolo utilizes small French oak barrels to add spicy, woody flavors and a softer texture resulting in earlier drinkability.
Responsible for some of the most elegant and age-worthy wines in the world, Nebbiolo is the star variety of northern Italy’s Piedmont region. Grown throughout the area as well as in neighboring Valle d’Aosta and Valtellina, it is at its best in the Piedmontese villages of Barolo and Barbaresco. Nebbiolo is a finicky grape, and needs a very particular soil type in order to thrive. Outside of Italy, it often fails to show the captivating aromas for which it is so beloved, but some success has been achieved in parts of California.
In the Glass
Nebbiolo is an elegant variety with mouthwatering acidity and a compelling perfume of rose petals, violets, fresh tar, licorice, clay, and dried cherries. Light in color and body, Nebbiolo is a more powerful wine than one might expect, and its firm tannins typically need time to mellow. With age, it develops a velvety texture and a stunningly complex bouquet.
Nebbiolo’s love affair with food starts in Piedmont, which is home to the Slow Food movement and some of Italy’s best produce. The region is famous for its white truffles and wild boar ragu, both of which make for excellent pairings with 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.