RAISING THE BAROLO

We quiz Pietro Ratti on his new 2019 Barolo vintage, produced with Nebbiolo grapes grown on the most elevated plot of his renowned Piedmontese vineyard

Ratti’s 2019 Barolo is a very special vintage – its production posing an interesting challenge: namely, how to create a Barolo of distinction in the highest part of La Morra.

The Serradenari plot sits on the uppermost elevation in the La Morra region – almost 500 meters above sea level. The Cascina Sorello estate covers an area of almost 4.5 hectares and benefits from south and south-west facing exposure and with vines aged between 20 and 40 years old.

Not only does Serradenari enjoy spectacular views of the Piedmontese Alps, the sun exposure and greater altitude allow for later harvesting – something that has become ever more important in light of climate change.

Mapping the best places to grow the Nebbiolo grape for his prized Barolos, Renato Ratti, the founder of the winery, identified Serradenari as an optimum plot. Since taking over the winery in 1988, Pietro Ratti has continued his father’s investigations in seeking out land that with warming temperatures will continue to help create Barolos with real individuality and connection to land. In his words, Serradenari has given the wines a greater “edge.”

With the 2019 Barolo available from Maze Row from March 2023, we asked Pietro about his latest vintage, and his hopes and dreams for Serradenari.

How do you feel about the 2019 Barolo vintage?

It’s a great vintage! That was a perfect year all-round, harvest was in the second and third week of October, and the grapes were perfectly ripe. I would say [the vintage] is very traditional.

Cultivating Serradenari is an extension of your father’s pioneering work in mapping the best plots in La Morra to grow Nebbiolo for Barolo. What are the benefits of farming here?

Serradenari is about 450 meters while our other vineyards in Annunziata are around 300 meters [above sea level]. This is a big difference and reflects in the grapes’ ripening time, which tends to be around ten days later.

Another aspect is the specific microclimate of Serradenari. You could say it’s more “open” to the Alps, so it gets more breeze, and in the highest part it’s surrounded by a small oak forest which also gives more coolness to the site.

Does the Serradenari plot’s high elevation impact on your vineyard work?

Farming is similar to our other plots. We are still studying the subsoil to understand the humidity and drainage situation, which was an important factor in the last warm vintages.

Serradenari is a pretty special plot, with magical vistas of the surroundings and Piedmontese Alps. From your personal perspective, does this impact how you experience the wines?

All these aspects contribute a great “edge” to the Barolo. So, it’s more rigid and nervous, with a sharper edge compared to the wine from lower hills of La Morra. The wines will probably need a little more time to soft down, which makes it very exciting!

Will any grapes from the Serradenari cru be used in your Marcenasco bottling? If so, how does that change the wine?

Yes, because so far we only use one parcel to make the single-vineyard Serradenari. Approximately one hectare out of the 4.5 hectares. The remaining grapes go into the Marcenasco in order to give more freshness to it.

Are climate concerns impacting on how you envisage mapping out the future of Ratti with site seeking in higher elevations?

The “Barolo Map by Renato Ratti” will remain the one my father drew 50 years ago. I still believe those single-vineyards are the top ones. Of course, we can challenge ourselves to make great Barolo also from other plots, which was probably not imaginable 50 years ago. I still believe that viticulture has moved 100 meters higher over the last 20 years, which is significant. It also means the lower vineyards will be picked earlier to keep acidity and freshness.

You’re transitioning your celebrated Conca Cru Barolo to a Riserva with the 2019 vintage.  How did you come to this decision, and how are you changing the winemaking for that plot?

Conca has always been more “black” compared to floral Rocche and Marcenasco. This means there is an aroma of pine, liquorice, tar, also with more power and concentration due to the soil and microclimate of this special vineyard. This is the reason to “push” aging longer in oak – one more year – in order to keep concentrating the wine and maturing the flavors. Of course, to be fantastic, it will need a few more years to develop in the bottle.

You’ve been the winemaker for 30 vintages of Barolo, with 2019 your 31st. How do you see your Barolo evolving in the next ten, with the changing world and new opportunities like Serradenari?

In Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, there is a very famous sentence from Tancredi, the nephew of the Prince of Salina: “Everything must change for everything to remain the same.” This reflects well how we make wine now and how we will make wine in the future in order to maintain the elegance, complexity and personality of Barolo Ratti, including the new Serradenari vineyard.

“The 2019 Barolo is a great vintage! That was a perfect year all-round, harvest was in the second and third week of October, and the grapes were perfectly ripe”

Harvesting at the Ratti vineyards in Piedmont

Pietro Ratti inspecting the fruit at the Serradenari plot on La Morra’s uppermost elevation, where the sun exposure and greater altitude allow for later harvesting

PIETRO RATTI’S TASTING NOTES 

Denomination

Barolo D.O.C.G.

Variety

100 percent Nebbiolo

First Vintage

2019, on sale starting from 2023

Vinification

Grapes handpicked in the month of October, de-stemmed and pressed. The alcoholic fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled stainless steel containers. Contact with the skins lasts approximately three to four weeks and includes the fermentation and successive post-fermentation maceration with the traditional submerged cap system. The malolactic fermentation takes place in steel containers.

Aging

Refining for approximately two years, partly in barriques and partly in oak barrels of 25hl, followed by bottle refinement of approximately one year.

Label

The historical label bears the coat of arms of the local noble family, with a black hawk against a gilt backdrop. The Latin inscription “Probasti me et cogniusti me” means “You tried me, you knew me.”

Bottle

The Albeisa – from the name of the city of Alba – is the iconic bottle created by Renato Ratti in 1973, as a way of identifying the uniqueness of a territory and its wines.

Tasting Notes

Garnet red color. Fragrance with notes of plums, violet and tobacco. Full flavored with good tannin levels and acidity.

Pairing

A great wine for red meats roasted on a spit or grilled, game, dishes of gourmet white and red meats and ripe cheeses.

Photography ©Rob Lawson, Roberto Fortunato, Helen Cathcart

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