Ned Goodwin MW on Piedmont's 2015 Vintage
Tuesday, July 23, 2019 in News
Ned Goodwin is a multitalented wine communicator and an Australian Master of Wine. After achieving his MW letters in 2010, Ned attended the 2012 Len Evans Tutorial and achieved the honour of being named Dux of his class. His personal wine passion has led him to the wines of Piedmont and working with Langton’s.
2015 was hailed as yet another warm to very warm year. It was thought by many to be further testament to Global Warming’s inexorable push toward riper wines, darker of hue and marked by the roughage of thick grape skin tannins.
And yet once bottled, the best 2015’s have proven to be a complex jigsaw far greater than the sum of their many pieces, lauded by even the staunchest of critics.
These pieces include superior vineyard management. 2015 was a year in which the growing swathes of holistically farmed vineyards came of maturity, manifesting as wines of detail, energy and a paradoxical freshness. Iterations of organic, fully fledged biodynamic farming or at the very least, a sustainable eschewing of chemical applications in the name of vine health and biodiversity, have become the norm rather than the exception in the Piedmont. This allowed for optimal physiological ripeness of the grapes at lower sugar levels.
Ned Goodwin on a recent visit to Langtons, facilitating a Piedmont masterclass.
While it was once said that the region’s best vineyards for its finest variety, Nebbiolo, were deemed by the earliest snowmelt, today the reverse is often true. Cooler sites and the attenuated ripening patterns and diurnal shifts that they facilitate are pieces in the puzzle that at once defy traditional mores, while obviating the challenges of warmer weather.
Moreover, despite the natural extract of the grapes in 2015 and with that, potentially high alcohols, a regional proclivity toward gentler extraction and less new oak has resulted in a plethora of elegant 2015’s that are admittedly rounder and softer than, say, the best wines from 2013 or 2010, but no less fresh. With the exception, perhaps of sandier sites. Their porosity simply meant that water-absorption, so necessary to alleviate the warmer weather, was limited, Denser, water-sapping clay and heavier soils, preferred; at least in a year like this.
This pattern is manifest in a contemporary ‘in between style’ of winemaking in the Piedmont that increasingly nullifies the once-wide-divide between the modernists of Barolo and Barbaresco (short hot extractions of late harvested and highly concentrated fruit, facilitated by the use of roto-fermenters and maturation in new barriques ) and the traditionalists (long extractions with little to no temperature control, followed by long ageing in large neutral Slavonian casks).
As a general guide, this piece of the 2015 jigsaw incorporates around a 10 day alcoholic fermentation, two-weeks of post-fermentation maceration on skins and maturation in a combination of new and used wood for around two-years. The possibilities include barrique (225 litres), Slavonian botti (700 litres) and other formats, noting a growing enchantment with French tonneaux (500 litres).
Today’s more perspicacious approach, evidenced by the success of so many 2015’s, is not only in keeping with climate change and a global penchant for fresher, more digestible wines; but is also a reflection of the growing confidence in the Piedmont and with that, an awareness-rather than an arrogance-that the region is responsible for many of the world’s greatest wines.
A gentler touch from vineyard to winery is a means to protect and nourish this pre-dominance. 2015 is ultimately a testament to the vinous sovereignty of the region, auguring for a very bright future indeed.