The Barolo production zone is comprised of eleven communes that vary in size as well as style. While there are a few that are quite small, containing only a few dozen acres of Nebbiolo vines used to produce Barolo, there are five that emerge as the leading areas for classic, structured, long-lived examples of this iconic Piemontese red wine.
Serralunga d’Alba is one of these five and it’s a personal favorite of mine. That’s because the wines here are so terroir-driven, wines that truly reflect a sense of place. The wines here are for veteran Barolo drinkers and by that I mean they are rugged wines, meant for full enjoyment two or three decades (or more in exceptional vintages) down the road. As Franco Massolino, co-proprietor and co-winemaker at his family estate in this town comments, “these are probably not the easiest Barolos. But if you have the opportunity to try these after 20 or 25 years, you will find something particular in the wines. This is the business card of Serralunga.”
This is not to say that Barolo from Serralunga is not elegant; certainly a wine that is meant for long-term cellaring and reflects power would never drink well after twenty or more years if it were not well made with impressive harmony of fruit, tannin and acidity. It’s just that the wines reflect the specific soils of this commune, ones that are ancient and quite thin, requiring the roots of the plants to go quite deep, resulting in powerful, firm tannins. As I said, these are wines for Barolo lovers that are searching for classic, ageworthy examples.
A quick glance at the Barolos from Serralunga is like a who’s who honor roll of this wine type. The famed Francia cru, situated in the far southwestern reaches of Serralunga is the source for two great Barolos from Giacomo Conterno; the Cascina Francia and the legendary “Monfortino”, sourced from the finest grapes of the vineyard and made only in the greatest vintages. Another great cru is Falletto, owned by Bruno Giacosa, who has made some of the greatest Barolos from any commune from this site.
Other renowned vineyards here include Ornato, the source of the finest Barolo of Pio Cesare; Lazzarito, the fruit of which is used by producers such as Vietti, Ettore Germano and E. Mirafiore for a rich, rather spicy Barolo, and Prapò, a small site shared by several distinguished producers, including Ceretto, Mauro Sebaste and Ettore Germano. Taking into consideration only these few vineyards (there are at present, thirty-nine crus in Serralunga) one can easily understand the enthusiasm of Danilo Drocco, winemaker at Fontanafredda, the largest Barolo producer in Serralunga. Drocco compares the commune’s vineyard setting “like a long tongue”, with many great valleys inside. Every little valley is a grand cru, a single vineyard with a great potential.”
The finest vintages here, recently 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010, are remarkable wines that have truly amazing complexity; there are particular single vineyards as well as specific producers elsewhere in the Barolo production zone that are the equal of Serralunga quality, but in my mind, there is no other commune that yields as many great wines from as many great producers as in Serralunga. For the vintages listed above, 2006 has resulted in the longest-lived wines (35-40 years), while the 2004s are the most floral, yet though less powerful than 2006, may drink well almost as long.
Here is a short list of great Barolos from Serralunga, listed by cru and producer:
Falletto (Bruno Giacosa)
Francia (Giacomo Conterno – note that this is a producer from Monforte, but his best examples of Barolo are from this Serralunga cru)
Lazzarito (Vietti, E. Mirafiore, Ettore Germano Riserva, Guido Porro “Lazzairasco”)
Prapò (Ceretto, Ettore Germano, Mauro Sebaste)
Ceretta (Ettore Germano, Giovanni Rosso, Luigi Baudana)
Vigna Rionda (Massolino, Luigi Pira, Giovanni Rosso “Tommaso Canale”)
Fontanafredda (Fontanafredda “La Rosa”)
Now just in case you want to taste the Serralunga style, but don’t want to wait twenty years, there are some lovely options. Several producers within Serralunga produce wines blended from vineyards within the commune; they are not cru offerings from a single site, but rather commune Barolos, produced entirely from Serralunga fruit. The best of these are:
Fontanafredda “Serralunga d’Alba”
Ettore Germano “Serralunga”
Giovanni Rosso “dal comune di Serralunga d’Alba”
These wines, especially from the 2008 and 2010 vintages, are somewhat approachable now and are absolutely delicious, perfectly balanced wines that are great introductions to the Serralunga Barolo style. These vintages in particular, resulted in wines of very good acidity, thus ensuring a long life. Also, at $45-50, these are very good values for classically-styled Barolo.
You’ll want to stop for a meal when you’re in Serralunga and believe me you won’t be disappointed. While this small village is not home to three-starred Michelin restaurants, there are some very fine dining establishments that emphasize local foods and wines, as is typical in Piemonte.
Here are three:
Disguido – Osteria del Vino Libero
This is a handsome osteria situated at the Fontanafredda estate that offers local dishes and Fontanafredda wines (both by the glass and bottle). My favorite entrée from my last visit was the Tacchina Marinata alle Taggiasche con verdure (Marinated turkey with Taggiasche olives and vegetables – pictured). I’d skip the Barolo for this dish; a Dolcetto or Barbera from Fontanafredda would be a much better option.
La Rosa dei Vini
Loc. Parafada, 4
If you blink, you’ll miss the small road where this charming trattoria is located. You look out the huge windows at the Parafada vineyard on a sunny day and everything is right with the world! Great wine list – especially of Serralunga Barolos – along with simple, beautifully prepared plates. A small gem!
Via Roma, 6
You really don’t need an address for this place, as everyone in Serralunga knows this eatery as well as its owners, Alessio and his wife Stefania. Alessio is as down to earth and as friendly a guy you’d want to meet, combine that with remarkable prosciutto (which Alessio will carve for you) and classic Piemonte dishes such as carne crude ( as well as some non-classic Piemontese plates – the baccalà is amazing, but not always on the menu). Great wine list – many famous Barolos as well as Champagnes (surprise!) at this small (there are fewer than ten tables), essential vinoteca. You haven’t been to Serralunga unless you’ve been here!