November 2014 – 15 Year Retrospective of 1999 Barolo & Barbaresco

We kicked off this memorable evening with 1999 Delmotte, Brut, Blanc de Blancs and NV Villmart & Cie, Brut Rosé, Cuvee Rubis, along with a painfully young 2012 Pattes Loup, Chablis, 1er Cru, Butteaux. The Delmotte was right in its wheelhouse, showing a decided roundness and drinking sublimely well, while the Villmart merely hinting at its potential, but still showing its richness. On the other hand, the Pattes Loup revealed a bracing spine of acidity, yet has all the components to mature into greatness. It just needs cellar time, give it another 5-7 years.

While the discussion of which is the finest vintage of the 1990’s always makes for a lively debate, in my view 1999 is perhaps the most popular of the decade, showing fresh, bright, beautifully developed succulent fruit, increasingly complex aromas and flavors, and firm, polished, accessible tannins. It lacks the dryer, firmer tannins that mark the 1995, 1996 and 1998 vintages, and to a lesser degree the 1990 vintage. Many of the 1999s appear to be on a long evolutionary development curve, similar to 1996 and akin to 1990. What is perhaps most interesting is that the wines were very difficult to understand in their youth, yet today continue to blossom and reveal their sheer magnificence. There is little doubt this is one of the top vintages of the decade.

Flight #1

1999 Elio Grasso, Barolo, Vigna Chiniera (RT95) SO’ed in the morning, then, mid-afternoon it was double decanted back into its original bottle. Showing a translucent ruby hue, reveals gorgeous freshness of fruit and is finely focused. Layered with eucalyptus, dark red cherry, pine and menthol. Terrific palate weight that floats weightlessly in your mouth and a finish that goes on and on and on……one of the top wines of the night. Drink 2014-2039+

1999 Scavino, Barolo Riserva, Rocche del Annunziata (RT94) SO’ed early in the day, it was double decanted early in the day, then allowed to breath for the duration prior to the drive to my place. Deep ruby with a russet tinge, it reveals a soft overall character with an initially strange, slightly bitter note on the finish. With time in the glass it blossoms showing a cool herbaceous note, with hints of dark chocolate and a decided minerality. This kept opening and developing over the course of the evening, when revisited later in the night it was truly magnificent. Drink 2019-2039+

1999 Clerico, Barolo, Percristina (RT94+) SO’ed in the morning. Dense, dark and brooding, heavy balsamic notes dominate the palate, backed up by deep black cherry with resinous lift. Surprisingly soft on the palate, the overall impression leaves on feeling like it’s slightly closed down and just not giving all it has to give. Rich and full figured in the mouth, with time oak tannins enunciate the finish, making it chewier and chewier. Drink 2019-2034+

Flight #2

1999 Aldo Conterno, Barolo, Cicala (RT95) Slow O’ed early in the day. Right out of the starting gate this Cicala threw off a gorgeous nose layered with brown sugar, sous bois and classic earth-driven elements of the Bussia Cru. With time in the glass, it picked up velocity, gaining elements of freshness. Clearly showing the best aromatics thus far of the night, the mouth feel didn’t quite live up to the bouquet, but then again it was no slouch. Big acidity, a full mouthfeel and a long finish ensure this is just starting to show its full potential. Drink 2014-2039+

1999 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco, Santo Stefano (RT95) Slow O’ed in the AM, as it did in the 10 Year Retrospective, the Santo Stefano once again shows its greatness. Captivating herbaceous notes, big ripe red fruit, spices, and fennel mark this wine’s identity. Energy soars around the fresh core of fruit, and refreshing acidity and slightly angular tannin remind us this needs more bottle time to truly show its potential. Gorgeous balance and a classic Giacosa finish make this a go to ’99 Barbaresco. Drink 2014-2039+

1999 Vietti, Barolo, Brunate (RT96) Slow O-ed early in the day, the Vietti has shown up to play with its A game. Beautifully lifted bouquet layered with classic earth, sous bois and deep violets. Time in the glass reveals additional layers of personality and growing intensity. Its lovely mouthfeel, smooth and elegant, along with its finesse-driven style delivers a huge bonus to its already intense nose. Anise and a streak of minerality further define this wine’s ever-changing persona. This is clearly one of the outstanding wines of the night, what a stunner! Drink 2014-2039+

Flight #3

1999 Giuseppe Mascarello, Barolo, Monprivato (RT not rated) Expectations were high, especially for me having had this bottling less than two months ago with a close friend, where it showed absolute magnificence, but as fate would have it this bottle was corked aka TCA flawed. Sacrificed to the landscape gods.

1999 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo, Cascina Francia (RT97) Our last of the night and the unanimous finest. Slow O’ed in the morning, upon pouring the Cascina Francia catapulted out of the glass with soaring aromatics layered with Morello cherry, anise, herbs, green tea, and violets. On the palate the sensation of utter weightlessness is captivating, clearly a sign of magnificent winemaking combined with fruit from a premium vintage. If any wine represents the way this vintage has blossomed in the bottle it is this wine. On this night the ’99 Cascina Francia towered over the rest on the table. Drink 2014-2039+