Home Winners > Winners 2014 > ITALY: North-West Reds, including Barolo & Barbaresco

Winner Details

Italy: North-West Reds, including Barolo & Barbaresco

2014 Gold: 8; Silver: 7; Bronze: 7; Commended: 14
2013 Gold: 1; Silver: 4; Bronze: 2; Commended: N/A
Must-list status: 45%
Overall SWA performance 2014: A

North-West Italy has been a serial under-achiever at SWA in the past. Too often the Barberas are insipid, the various Nebbiolos simply an expensive way of stripping the gums from your mouth. But not this year. True, we had a big jump in entries from this part of the world in 2014, but still this was a stunning performance.

Barolo and Barbaresco led the way with a truly impressive statement of intent. It says something that the wines were uniformly expensive and that all the tasters recognised they would be a difficult sell – ‘it’s definitely not the most accessible wine’, as Arbutus’s Will Smith put it – yet they still had no hesitation in giving out four places on the Gold List. The quality was simply irresistible.

‘We couldn’t put through all the Golds we wanted to. I’ve been to many of these SWA judgings, and every time I’ve walked away from the Italian reds wondering what all the fuss was about,’ said The Harrow at Little Bedwyn’s Roger Jones. ‘ Today I’d list all eight. And they’re quite cheap – £30 or £40 is value for money when you’re talking Italian reds. They were seamless.’

The other reds from the North-West – mostly Barberas – were less universally successful, with a few notable exceptions. A big entry lost a good few wines at the early stages of judging, with tasters feeling that too many wines overstepped the boundary between ‘crunchy and fresh’ and ‘thin and hard’.

‘We were looking for fruit to balance the tannins and acidity, but this was lacking in some of the wines and this wouldn’t improve with age,’ said Oxo Tower Restaurant’s Mark Graham.

The wines that made it through for medals, however, were not like this. Fresh and zippy, but still ripe and accessible, they were popular with the tasters.

‘On the whole it was very positive,’ said Vinoteca’s Charlie Young of his medal flight. ‘I personally love this style of wine.’

A Food Match and a Critics Choice for the two Il Cascinone’s simply underlined a really strong performance for the region.

FOOTNOTE: Includes wines from Valle d'Aosta, Lombardy, Piedmont & Liguria.


In an impressive category, the performance of Il Cascinone stood out. Following up a Gold and a Silver last year with two Golds, a Food Match and a Critics Choice was impressive.


From the Tasting Teams

‘The Barolos and Barbarescos were absolutely amazing.’ Roger Jones, The Harrow at Little Bedwyn

‘There was lots of freshness, red fruit and texture in the North-West reds. It went from a lifted, crunchy style to something richer with some oak. We champion a lot of wines like this at our place, we get behind them and we sell them. But it is more of a hand-sell at times.’ Charlie Young, Vinoteca

‘Sometimes the price can be a bit of a problem with this kind of wine, but there was freshness, not much concentration and they were really approachable.’ Franco Fortunati, L’Anima

‘Modern Barolo is made to drink much younger than it used to be. Although they have big tannins, you don’t notice it now, and that makes it easier to sell. You can get these wines in front of people without worrying about whether they are sophisticated enough to appreciate them.’
Christine Parkinson, Gold List co-ordinator