In Piemonte, visiting Roberto Voerzio, one of Barolo’s star producers

Roberto Voerzio is one of the leading names in Barolo. He went out on his own in 1986, and was inspired by the great wines of Burgundy. He has 35 hectares of vines, which is quite a lot for Piemonte, of which 15 are his own and 20 are rented. All are in La Morra, save one – Sarmassa – which is in Barolo.

The Cerequio vineyard in Sarmassa

There are three very distinctive features of Voerzio’s vineyards. The first is that they are planted at high density. 3200 vines per hectare is normal for the region, but he’s packing in 8-10 000 vines per hectare. The second is the way he controls yield – almost obsessively. Nebbiolo in the Langhe is normally cropped at 4 kg per plant. He is looking for 500 g per plant (for Barolo) or 700 g/plant for his other wines. One new wine to the range is RV 350, which is cropped at 350 g per vine. The third feature is that all his vines are hail netted, so they are quite easy to spot, for this reason and others.

Andrea Trevisan of Roberto Voerzio shows the Barbera grapes in Pozzo dell’Annunziata

Pruning takes place in January, and there are two styles. For Barbera, the vines are Albarello (head trained with short spurs). For Dolcetto and Nebbiolo, it’s a simply guyot with a five or six bud cane and a short replacement spur. Between mid-July and the end of July the first green harvest takes place, reducing the bunches per plant from perhaps 12 to just five. Then there’s a second green harvest in mid-August, when the shoulders of bunches in some of the blocks are removed.

Barbera doing veraison

I aksed Roberto whether he uses a sorting table. He wasn’t impressed by the question. All selection at Voerzio is done in the vineyard, and for me to suggest that they might want to sort shows that I haven’t understood just how meticulous the vineyard approach is. They select a week before harvest, and then 2 days before harvest, getting rid of anything that isn’t of the right quality. ‘A single vine cannot make three different qualities of grapes,’ he says. ‘If a vine makes top quality grapes, then all are top quality. Triage tables are for impressing journalists: people who do this have bad quality viticulture.’ He says that his winemaking is really all about green harvesting.

Voerzio seems quite a shy man, but he has strong opinions. ‘I’d never say to anyone that my system is the only way to make wine,’ he says with a slight twinkle in his eye, ‘but I do think it.’

Rocche dell’Annunziata
Low yields are Voerzio hallmark

No herbicides are used. The soil is turned, and in autumn, fertilizer is added in the form of cow manure. This fertilization is done plant by plant: if the leaves are light green, more is used; if they are dark green, little is added. One of the reasons they plough is to break the superficial horizontal roots and encourage root growth in a downward direction.

Young vines in Cerequio

In the cellar, fermentation is all in stainless steel, and there’s a wide array of tanks of various sizes. This is because Roberto hates mixing plots up, and also because he doesn’t like variable capacity tanks. Time on skins varies from 10-12 days for Dolcetto, 15-20 days for Barbera and Langhe Nebbiolo and 15-30 days for Barolo crus. Fermentation is at 28-30 C, and will be cooled down if it gets as high as 33 C. There are pump overs at 6 am and 6 pm, and these last 5 minutes at the beginning, then in mid-fermentation they double to 10 mins, and then they drop back to 5 mins later on. Grapes are 100% destemmed and both alcoholic and malolactic fermentation take place without inoculation. After malolactic, the wine is pressed to botti or barriques (light toast French oak, 20% new). The wines spend two years in wood, then they are blended to stainless steel where they stay for 6 months, and then they rest in bottle for six months before they are sold.


Roberto Voerzio Barolo La Serra 2017
This was the dry vintage with 5 months of no rain. Fresh and vivid with notes of mint and a a touch of balsamic vinegar under the ripe red cherry fruit. Very direct with nice intensity, perfume and structure. There’s a directness here and some firmness with a nice tapered finish. Polished but not showy. 95/100

Roberto Voerzio Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata 2015
14.5% alcohol. Apparently there is a layer of sand 10 metres deep and when the roots reach that (which they have with these vines) the wine takes on a really perfumed quality. Highly aromatic notes of dried herbs and leather with some iodine, blood and spice, as well as sweet plums and liqueur-like cherry fruit. The palate is fresh and taut with lovely density of fruit. There’s a nice brightness here with cherry and raspberry, and lovely purity. Everything is in harmony, and there’s good structure. So exciting. 96/100

Roberto Voerzio Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata 2019 (sample)
Fine, fresh floral cherry fruit on the nose. Great concentration and structure here with pure red fruits, lovely density and firm tannins. Pretty but structured, with great concentration and intensity. 95/100

Roberto Voerzio Barolo Cerequio 2018 (this is a sample of the blend that’s currently in stainless steel after two years in oak)
Finely aromatic with cherries and a touch of cedar, as well as some hints of mint and ginger. The palate is sweet and textural with lovely warmth, and notes of cherry and plum, with some richness and fruit sweetness. There’s also a touch of pepper on the finish. This shows warmth combined with good structure: real finesse and purity. 96/100

Roberto Voerzio Barolo Cerequio 2020 (sample)
So aromatic and floral with wonderful red cherry fruits showing perfume and purity. Great concentration and freshness, with finesse and purity on the palate, as well as good structure. 96/100

Roberto Voerzio Barolo Cerequio 2019 (sample)
Floral red cherry fruit with some spice and cedar notes. Savoury spicy notes sitting under the sweet cherry fruit. The palate is dense and concentrated with lovely savoury spiciness and grippy structure. Taut and well defined, and really nicely structured, finishing firm. 94/100

Roberto Voerzio Barolo Riserva Roscaleto 2018 (sample)
Aromatic, pure and vivid with sweet blackberry and cherry fruit. The palate is sweetly fruited with nice dense concentrated fruit, but also lovely sweetness and good acidity. Really intense and vivid: lovely. 94/100

Roberto Voerzio Barolo Riserva RV 350 2019 (sample)
This wine was first made in 2016 but hasn’t been released yet. The principle is to take a few rows of vines in a couple of crus (this changes each year, in 2019 it was Casa Nere and La Rocca) and crop down to 350 g per plant. This shows floral, expressive raspberry and cherry fruit with some fine spices. Great concentration on the palate which is pure and intense with sweet cherry and plums and a touch of raspberry, and firm tannins. Still so primary with amazing presence. 97/100

Roberto Voerzio Barolo Riserva RV 350 2016
15% alcohol. This year the vineyards were La Serra and Fossati. Complex nose with some spice, minerals, tar and herbs, as well as very fine red cherry and redcurrant notes. The palate is concentrated with powerful notes of spice, minerals and a touch of dried herbs, as well as cedar, tar and gravel. Lovely concentrated fruit here. Fine, expressive and complete. 97/100

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