Two thousand five has never been a vintage of obvious across the board greatness in Barolo as it was in both Burgundy and Bordeaux, its two closest global peers. The weather was much more challenging, which, among other things, made the wines hard to read at the outset. Now, at ten years of age, the best 2005 Barolos are showing all of their pedigree and potential. Although 2005 is not in the same league as the truly epic vintages of the last decade or so – 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010 – it is not too far behind.
The 2005 Growing Season
Two thousand five is remembered mostly for a massive storm that arrived in early October and lasted over a week. Even before then, though, the year had been challenging. Conditions were damp and cool in the spring, while hail in August lowered production dramatically. But it was deteriorating weather in October that forced growers to choose between harvesting fruit that was not quite ripe ahead of the rains or wait things out to get better ripeness, but also risk heavy losses. Vintages that require last minute harvesting decisions always favor small producers who can bring in their crop in a matter of a few days. Larger estates that normally harvest over several weeks simply have to tough things out. Most producers I visited picked ahead of the rains, although the number of growers who manage to harvest their entire crop just before inclement weather arrives is always surprising.
The 2005 Barolos
Broadly speaking, the 2005 Barolos are mid-weight wines with considerable tannic clout from the slightly underripe fruit. Even though many wines remain quite firm, there are no green notes in the 2005s, just slightly less than optimally ripe tannins. The 2005s don’t have the multi-dimensional, enveloping feel of the 2006s and 2010s, nor the grace of the 2004 or 2008s, but they have plenty of structure. Many wines show dark tonalities of fruit and generally virile, masculine personalities. I initially thought the 2005s would age on the faster side (in relative terms for Barolo), and while that will likely be the case compared with the recent highly tannic, structured vintages (2006 and 2010 come to mind), firm tannins and high acidities will almost certainly give the 2005s plenty of age worthiness. That said, I did find many wines aged in new French oak barrels to be aging prematurely. The main culprit, in my opinion, is not French oakper se, but rather a suspicion I have had for some time that Italian producers were not getting the very best oak available when these wines were made. Although the quality of barrels (and corks) producers in Italy are able to source could be the basis for an entire article, suffice it to say I believe these to be the single greatest production issues Italian winemakers face today.