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Barolo 2016: A Modern Day Classic

Between March and April 2020, I reviewed 359 Barolos from the fantastic 2016 vintage. The reviews, out now in the latest issue of Wine Enthusiast and listed below, clearly back up my earlier assessments of the vintage, and then some. Unlike a number of critics these days, I don’t easily bestow 100 points, but I gave two 2016 Barolos 100 points and seven wines 99 points.

[Trovate qui la versione in italiano di questo articolo]

Serralunga d’Alba performed particularly well and my two 100 points both went to wines from this celebrated village. Both are radiant, with Serralunga’s combination of firm structure and elegance. Compelling and delicious, they will age beautifully for decades.

Castiglione Falletto also performed remarkably well overall, with 3 wines receiving 99 points. Verduno also impressed me, especially those from the celebrated Monvigliero cru, 99 points as well as those two 97 points.

An absolutely phenomenal showing across the board, I gave 115 of the 477 wines 95 points or higher, while a whopping 348 got 90 points and above.

One of the longest and latest vintages in recent memory, Nebbiolo thrived in what were ideal conditions for this fickle grape. Read my earlier report below for more details on the climatic conditions.

Kerin O'Keefe with Nebbiolo vineyards and Barolo Castle in the background

© Paolo Tenti | Kerin O’Keefe with Nebbiolo vineyards and Barolo Castle in the background

Barolo 2016 vintage evaluation by Kerin O’Keefe, published on January 13th 2020

Living just an hour drive from Piedmont, I spend a lot of time in the region, and travel there for days at a time at least nine or ten times a year. In the fall of 2019, I spent several days in Barolo dedicated to informally previewing a number of the already bottled 2016s that will be released later this year.

© Paolo Tenti | Maria Teresa Mascarello with Kerin O’Keefe in 2019

To say I was extremely impressed by the quality of the wines would be an understatement: these are some of the most magnificent young Barolos I’ve ever tried. But I was expecting nothing short of greatness based on the fantastic Barbaresco 2016s I reviewed earlier in 2019. Although it isn’t always the case that vintages will have the same results in Barolo and Barbaresco (as 2014 demonstrated), 2016 presented near perfect conditions for Nebbiolo in both denominations. It’s hands-down the greatest vintage I’ve ever tried so far in Barbaresco as my scores reflect: Out of 138 wines reviewed, I gave 99 of them 90 points and above, 38 of which received 95 points and higher:

Kerin O’Keefe Barbaresco 2016 reviews.

A classic, Old School vintage, 2016 had a cool, wet spring that delayed the vegetative cycle but thanks to the development stage the plants had already achieved, vines were spared damage by fungal diseases. The delay in the growing cycle continued throughout the summer as did cooler temperatures. 2016 had ample water reserves and no extreme heat spikes, a rarity in the area which has definitely been feeling the effects of climate change over the last two decades with overall hotter, drier summers that can negatively impact sensitive Nebbiolo. The summer extended well into September and Nebbiolo enjoyed ideal conditions that month and the first half of October that led to healthy grapes.

2016 was one of the longest and latest harvests in recent years.

© Kerin O’Keefe | Marta Rinaldi in 2019

“We started harvesting Nebbiolo on October 13,” Marta Rinaldi told me during my visit. Bottled at the end of August, by late September her Barolos were already showing beautifully. “2016 was a year for Nebbiolo,” confirmed Maria Teresa Mascarello, whose ‘16 is drop-dead gorgeous. “2016 is a happy combination of 2006 and 2008: it boasts the structure of ‘06 and the elegance of ‘08,” stated Enzo Brezza, whose perfumed 2016s are radiant, with captivating tension.

© Kerin O’Keefe | Enzo Brezza in 2019

The luminous 2016 Barolos are fresh, fragrant and loaded with finesse. They feature bright red berry fruit beautifully balanced by vibrant acidity and refined tannins. While site expression is often muffled in hot vintages, the different expressions of the various townships and vineyard areas come singing through on the 2016s.

The best 2016s are already dazzling, with remarkable depth and energy. They’ll be ready at the 10-15 year mark but they also possess incredibly age-worthy structures as well.

You can look up my 2016 Barolo reviews by clicking Italian Wine Reviews and inputing “Barolo 2016” in the serach box.

For articles on other vintages click here: Barolo vintage report

Kerin O’Keefe July 2020 ©kerinokeefe.com


Last modified: January 5, 2024