There is indeed a renewed sense of something special happening at Poderi Oddero, and I was happy to visit again with some of the people responsible for that, Mariacristina Oddero, who stewards Oddero, and Luca Veglio, the enologue there. Luca, who was away on honeymoon during my last visit, was deep in the thralls of the harvest season on this occasion, but still took the time to welcome us at the winery.
Isabella Oddero, seen here in the cellar with a visitor from California, was also recently married and of course this is a source of consternation to the young bachelors of the Piemonte, as she is quite beautiful. I imagine that there will be some broken hearts among the young truffle hunters this season. I heard that more than one young man politely inquired of Isabella's intentions, and upon hearing them, asked if she was really sure that she wanted to get married so early. Clearly she made the right decision though, as she wears the glow that young people show when they feel loved.
In fact I got to visit with most of the family on this trip, as Giacomo Oddero also stopped in to say Ciao. Giacomo celebrated his 86th birthday one week before this picture was taken.
A much younger Giacomo once shared a laugh or two with Bartolo.
Not to be left out of any significant family gathering, there was Mannie, Isabella's dog Manhattan.
Mannie, as you can see here, is a fan of the whole cluster press, as he has a fondness for stems. He generally prefers the oversized stems.
It seems to be the chewy texture of stems that appeals to Mannie most.
My conversation with Mannie about stems over for the moment, we two legged types headed down to the cellar to taste some wine.
We took a sneak peek at the two 2011 botti of Bricco Chiesa Barolo, one with juice that had been pumped over the cap of skins, and the other where the cap had been submerged with the aid of wooden stakes. I saw this experiment performed with the 2009 Bricco Chiesa Barolo, and it sort of blew my mind: one sample of wine with pretty red petals, and the other a dark chiseled rock poured into a glass. The 2011 divide was less stark, but certainly still very apparent. The pumped over juice showed dark plum and white floral tones, as well as soft red fruit. The submerged cap rendition was a dark hole turned in on itself a bit, more powerful than expressive, with fruit more dried than fresh, and stalagmite minerality rising from the bottom. The two botti will eventually be blended together to form the majority of the Poderi Oddero Barolo normale.
I also got a chance to see what that blend might look like, as the two 2009 Bricco Chiesa Barolo botti have now been joined together. Also in the sample was the fruit from Fiasco and Capalot that make up the rest of the Barolo normale. And if that sounds like a lot of ingredients maybe that's a good thing, because let me tell you, this was a Barolo with everything nice in it. Excellent balance. Power. Elegance. Subtle spices. Nuance. I challenge you to find a producer with over 30 hectares of vines who is making as good of a Barolo normale as this wine was on this day. We'll see what it is like after it is bottled, but given the price that is generally asked for the wine, I am already highly enthusiastic. And in general I'm not a big 2009 hyper.
It seems to me that the submerged cap Bricco Chiesa botti is adding the gras to the Barolo normale at Oddero that you might say has been missing from previous releases. I like the 2008 just fine, for example, and actually a bit more than that, because I think it is very good. But the restrained red fruit of the 2008 perhaps lacks a little power. That this was recognized and answered is the sort of accomplishment that is distinguishing the new level of quality at Poderi Oddero.
We also tried several 2010 Barolo samples from wood - the Brunate, the Mondoca, and the Bricco Chiesa - and it may turn out to be the 2010s that really convince observers as regards the quality being achieved today at Oddero. They are powerful and impressive wines, and I have no doubt that they will turn heads. They also have very strong, dry tannins and it is possible that some people will ask if these powerful 2010s are being achieved at the expense of supple polish. Poderi Oddero's recent decision to hold the Brunate longer at the winery before release may be especially warranted in the case of the 2010. The 2010 Mondoca from botti, which so bowled me over when I tried it for the first time this summer, seemed to be caught on this occasion in deep thought, with a furled brow and a reclusive manner. This may indeed be a wine for a dark cellar and a forgetful owner who lets it take its time once in bottle. We'll see.
While the 2010s may turn heads in the future, the 2008s at Poderi Oddero can be very convincing from bottles opened today. I was especially drawn to the 2008 Barbaresco Gallina, which may be their best wine from Gallina in several years. It was sophisticated and wonderfully classic, with the lifted acidity on the finish that I love in a young Nebbiolo. Also sophisticated and nuanced was the Barolo Rocche di Castiglione from 2008. Some of Oddero's oldest vines are planted in Rocche, and I tend to think that if you want to find the gem amongst the large Oddero range, that you should in general reach for the Rocche. The raw materials that the vineyard gives are excellent, yet you are not asked to pay the higher prices that are associated with the Brunate or Rionda.
Interestingly, I found out on this visit that Poderi Oddero bottles two different Barbera d'Albas, one for the American market and one for the Europeans. The 2009 Barbera d'Alba (they make Asti as well) meant for the States was sourced all from La Morra, and showed fairly lush fruit. In contrast the 2009 Barbera d'Alba that is found in Europe has fruit from both La Morra and Castiglione Falletto inside, and showed both more structure and more restraint. The two wines are bottled with distinctly different labels, so if you see a Barbera d'Alba from Oddero somewhere along your travels abroad you might not recognize it at first.
I guess it's true, or at least it seems like this is true, that nothing gives me more pleasure than finding a winery that is making better wines than they are generally given credit for. I love telling the story of wines that need a bit of help in the market. And I love watching as a producer meets with more and more success. I am happy to report to you that Poderi Oddero is such a producer.