A recent visit to Guido Porro’s cellar in Serralunga d’Alba confirmed my speculation that this humble, reserved vignaiolo has taken the small family farm and turned it into one of the great traditionalist estates of Barolo. Not much has changed here since Guido, the fourth generation of Porros to make wine in Serralunga, took over from his father in 1996. The wisdom passed down from his ancestors guides his approach to viticulture, and he still ages his Baroli extensively in huge old Slavonian oak casks. The only real changes of late have been the acquisition of a prime slice of Serralunga’s most legendary cru, Vigna Rionda (inquire about availability), the decision to revert to the estate’s magnificent historic label design, and the increasing presence in the cellar of Guido’s passionate twenty-year-old son, Fabio. Given their excellent vineyard holdings and steady adherence to classical vinification methods, it is safe to say the Porros and their wines will be around for a long time to satisfy our thirst for Piedmont’s fabled Nebbiolos. The majority of Guido’s production comes from the Lazzarito cru, a steep slope that abuts the Porro cantina at its highest point. Two distinct Baroli originate here, differentiated by their unique exposure and elevation: the lower-slope Lazzairasco, which yields a mouth-filling, authoritative Barolo with trademark Serralunga tannins and extensive cellaring potential, and the slightly higher, less-exposed Santa Caterina, which gives a more delicate, high-toned, floral expression of Nebbiolo that nonetheless features a tightly wound core and has a great track record of aging. Gianetto, a more recent addition to the lineup, sits opposite the Lazzarito hillside; the young vines here impart less structure but plenty of approachability and pleasure for the near term. As far as the three vintages offered here are concerned, both the 2015 and the 2014 will provide early-drinking charm: the 2015 conveying a plump, fruit-driven ripeness, with the 2014 leaner, earthier, and spicier. The 2013, by contrast, is built for the cellar—a “classic” Barolo vintage if there ever was one, it will uncoil slowly over many years. Last, but certainly not least, we cannot forget to mention Guido’s Dolcetto and Barbera. Fresh, juicy, and incredibly food-friendly, these authentic and expressive reds offer a delicious glimpse at this Piemontese maestro’s work at bargain cost.
Through Monday, March 30th, 25% off Guido Porro Barolos listed below.
There was once a time in Piemonte, decades ago, when growers had to beg clients stocking up on Dolcetto and Barbera to also pick up a few bottles of Barolo. It seems unimaginable today, but the Langhe’s economy once depended far more on the humble reds from its workhorse grapes than on the King of Wines. Uncomplicated and easy to down, Porro’s Dolcetto illustrates the popular appeal of such wines. It smells of violets and wild blackberries, feels soft, plump, and round on the palate, and is completely gulpable.
Porro’s Barbera straddles the line between an everyday pizza wine and a more substantial red that expresses nuance and can even improve with age. For a Wednesday night pasta dinner, it checks all the boxes: ripe berry fruit with cleansing acidity; richness contrasted by vivaciousness. However, if you have a cellar, don’t hesitate to lay down a few bottles: in a balanced vintage, this wine has serious potential. The 2003, for example, still drinks superbly. After all, these Barbera vines sit in a privileged Barolo site, so there is no shortage of pedigree.
Tasting Guido Porro’s fresh and vibrant 2015 Gianetto from Serralunga, you wouldn’t necessarily guess that this vintage in Piemonte is described primarily as “hot and dry.” Indeed, there were very warm stretches throughout the summer, including the hottest-ever July, but a wet winter and spring—which provided water reserves in the soil to last through the hot summer—combined with a relatively cool September and October to create classy, approachable wines like this one, which is already open for business.
While the Barolo appellation features marl soils throughout, the town of Serralunga is home to particularly poor, limestone-rich marls that give especially potent, structured expressions of Nebbiolo. The steep Lazzairasco vineyard lies in the lower portion of the famed Lazzarito cru and enjoys full southern and southeastern sun exposure and shelter from prevailing winds. As a result, this site bakes in the summer heat, producing ripe, full-throttle wines with all the heft, concentration, and aging potential Nebbiolo can provide.
Guido Porro must have one of the shortest commutes in the business. All he has to do is step out the cellar door and he’s standing in one of the most famous crus in Barolo: Lazzarito. The Nebbiolo vines for the Vigna Lazzairasco, Porro’s oldest, are ideally situated with a southeastern exposure; they soak up the morning sun but are spared the worst of the afternoon heat. The 2014 is a Barolo for near-term drinking. Wait two to four years, or drink it now, absolutely guilt-free. I love the coolness on the nose—think mint or eucalyptus—as well as the blood orange and floral notes. Open and charming are two adjectives not normally associated with the fearsome Barolo, but sometimes you just luck out.
Guido Porro may be the best Barolo producer you’ve never heard of. A quiet fellow most content to work away in his steep Serralunga d’Alba parcels, this Barolista prefers to avoid the spotlight. Guido is simply a hardworking traditionalist who makes Barolo the old-fashioned way: that means fermenting with natural yeasts, macerating the juice on its skins for at least three weeks, and aging the wine for three years in Slavonian oak casks. Lazzairasco is a sunsoaked amphitheater that gives correspondingly rich, lush, powerful Baroli, loaded with sumptuous ripe fruit and streaked with notes of tar and tea. It drinks well young, but there is certainly no hurry to uncork this big, bad beauty.
In Serralunga d’Alba, the combination of full sun exposure and limestone-rich marl soils yields ripe, fleshy, structured Barolos that can stand the test of time. Guido Porro’s Santa Caterina is a perfect example of the finesse, complexity, and longevity this cru can achieve, specifically when crafted via traditional production methods such as spontaneous fermentation, long macerations, and extensive aging in enormous Slavonian oak casks. These techniques produce a Barolo with delicate and nuanced aromas backed by a deep, chewy structure that promises a slow and steady evolution throughout the years—twenty years or more, if you so wish. To best enjoy it young, decant it for an hour or two and serve with richly flavored pastas, a rustic bollito (boiled meat with a bright mostarda), or other typical Piemontese dishes.
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