Vietti’s historic Barolo winery.

Luca Currado Vietti is candid: there are no excuses for not making great wine in Piedmont today. The winemaker of the distinguished Vietti winery was in Australia earlier this year on his regular visit, and staging his customary comprehensive tasting of great nebbiolo and barbera wines.  

“The seasons are much better now, so I have an advantage over previous generations,” he said. “In the past, we used to have two outstanding vintages in a decade, three very good, two good and three not good. Now, we have five outstanding vintages, three good and two OK.”

In addition to this, Vietti is privileged to have only grand cru vineyards. Fifteen of them. Its Nebbiolo Langhe DOC (brand named Perbacco, A$55 for the 2016) is actually a declassified Barolo. Another winery might sell this wine as a Barolo, but not Vietti. The quality of the vineyards ensures this wine is a cut above most nebbiolo Langhe.

“If you made a nebbiolo Langhe from non-grand cru vineyards, it would be more green and aggressive,” says Currado.

Above Perbacco is the regular Vietti Barolo Castiglione (A$140 for the 2015), which is a blend of several vineyards across three communes. Vietti makes about 25,000 bottles of this superb wine.

Above that are the single cru wines, of which Vietti was a pioneer in Barolo. Today, Vietti bottles five single-cru Barolos and one Barbaresco. The Barolos are Brunate, Rocche di
Castiglione, Lazzarito, Ravera and the riserva, Villero. The Barbaresco is Masseria.

These are quite extraordinary wines, but they are wines that deserve and need time in the cellar. The 1982 Villero, which I drank several years ago, remains one of my benchmark Barolos. And the 2010, which I tasted recently, is still very young and in my view somewhat wasted if drunk too early.

The 2015 Lazzarito (A$465), the latest release of that cru, is massively concentrated – a great powerhouse of a wine that will probably drink for 40 years. When Currado poured this at his tasting he poured a 2009 Lazzarito as well, for comparison. While the colour of the older wine was starting to show some brick-red tints, not unusual even in much younger Barolo, it was still massive, impressively powerful and tannic, and promising even greater rewards for patient wine lovers. Likewise, a 2006 Castiglione poured alongside the 2015 was wonderful to drink now, but showing assertiveness and tannin firmness to encourage further cellaring.

The 2015 Lazzarito (A$465), the latest release of that cru, is massively concentrated – a great powerhouse of a wine that will probably drink for 40 years. When Currado poured this at his tasting he poured a 2009 Lazzarito as well, for comparison. While the colour of the older wine was starting to show some brick-red tints, not unusual even in much younger Barolo, it was still massive, impressively powerful and tannic, and promising even greater rewards for patient wine lovers. Likewise, a 2006 Castiglione poured alongside the 2015 was wonderful to drink now, but showing assertiveness and tannin firmness to encourage further cellaring.

The Vietti story is about barbera as well as nebbiolo, and Currado is a strong believer in this ‘second-fiddle’ Langhe grape. So much so that he replanted some of the family’s nebbiolo vineyard to barbera. This is Scarrone Barbera d’Alba, the vineyard located in the Castiglione Falletto commune, near the winery. The latest release 2017 (A$110) has fresh, bright cherry flavours and generous soft tannins. The old vines in this vineyard are kept separate and the wine bottled as Scarrone Vigna Vecchia. The current vintage 2016 (A$130) is remarkably rich and concentrated and will reward cellaring for a good 20 years.

The less-expensive Vietti barbera, Tre Vigne, is from the Asti area. The 2016 vintage (A$50) is fruit driven and fresh, bright and elegant. Like all Vietti wines, it is beautifully clean and well made.

While Vietti has great vineyard assets to draw upon, and the recent seasons have been kind, Currado’s philosophy suggests that he takes nothing for granted. “If you want to do quality wine, you must take risks and live on the edge.”

Amen to that.