March 2008 – Italian Wine Dinner

The following notes stem from a dinner served in the Colorado Front Range where we tasted through a variety of older, mature vintages of Nebbiolo and Amarone. The wines were carefully handled and Slow Oxygenated (Slow O’d) across the board, allowing the gentle, caressing love of that method to do its magic. The results were impressive, as I’ve routinely found them to be when that method is judiciously employed.  

Flight #1
1967 Prunotto, Barolo Riserva (RT94) Showing a glorious translucent pale orange-garnet hue, this delivered classically nuanced typicity in spades with faded rose petal, dried raspberry, orange peel, and a hint of tobacco. With time a healthy dose of goudron (tar) began to emerge and build momentum. Seamless on the palate with a sweet core of fruit, excellent balance, and completely resolved tannins. For those looking for fresher fruit, this is perhaps a bit past that point of evolution, but for my palate another magical bottle of mature Prunotto from the Golden Era of this winery. Drink now

1982 Scarpa, Barolo, Tettimora (RT92) Showing a deeper, ruby garnet shade than its partner in this flight (1967 Prunotto, Barolo, Riserva), it delivers a decidedly fresh bouquet of violets, black cherries, and aromatic cedar. The palate reflects a more austere style of Barolo with lean, taut fruit, but this is very nicely balanced and is now in its peak drinking window. This built a serious head of steam in the glass and was terrific by the time we neared the end of the flight. Scarpa crafted some finely structured wine in this period of the winery’s history. Drink now-2027

Flight #2
1978 Gaja, Barbaresco (RT96+) It’s almost always a joy to drink a fully mature Gaja that’s been properly stored over the years and the ’78 Gaja Barbaresco was just that. It is a stunning wine with a decidedly lighter hue than either the ’78 Giacosa Riserva Collina Rionda or the ’89 Giacosa Riserva Falletto that followed in this flight. The absolutely penetrating bouquet shows layers of dried Morello cherry, sweet balsam, a potpourri of dried flowers, hints of crisp forest floor and a pinch of Islay smokiness. Superb on the palate, this is right up there with the most beautifully balanced ‘78s I’ve had, showing impressive richness, magnitude, and perfectly balanced acidity. Still showing ample structure and cashmere textured tannins, this is obviously the handiwork a master! The beauty of this wine greatly exceeded expectations! Drink now-2033+

1978 Bruno Giacosa, Barolo Riserva, Collina Rionda (RT100) Yet another off the charts, amazeballs showing of this fabled wine, from the Golden Days of Bruno Giacosa! The deep ruby russet hue looks 5 shades darker than the Gaja. Initially compact and a bit shy, within a half hour in the glass it literally explodes with its rich, massive and multidimensional bouquet of black cherry fruit, nori, Oolong tea, eucalyptus, pan iron and minerality. The more one spends time with it, the fresher it becomes and the more dimensions and complexity emerge. Shockingly, this mind blower is still in the early stages of its prime drinking window and there is little doubt this wine rivals the best bottles of ’78 Monfortino I’ve had. It ranks among the all-time great Barolos. Drink now-2038+

1989 Bruno Giacosa, Barolo Riserva, Falletto (RT100) Here is another example of why Bruno Giacosa holds true legendary status among Piedmontese winemakers. This wine shows amazing freshness and laser focus as notes of bright Marasca cherry, dried raspberry compote, spined red plum, rose hips, sappy balsam, classic marzipan and mineral dust lead to an equally laser focused palate. The fruit is fresh and bright, the acidity mouthwatering, and the tannins sweet and ripe, yet making their presence known. Wine geeks tend to talk about the 1989 Giacosa Riserva Rionda more often than this wine, but this is every bit as magical, dynamic, and long lived. Simply put, this wine is friggin’ stupendous! Drink now-2049+

Flight #3
1985 Bertani, Amarone (RT93) Both this and the 1988 Quintarelli Amarone that followed were left in an impossible to escape shadow to expect anything but a soft performance after the Gaja/Giacosa flight that preceded it, but make no mistake, these were both stunning wines. Bertani crafts classic, old style, traditional Amarone and those who have experience know they can age majestically. The hue is deep and dark ruby with a rime of garnet. Notes of late fall dried fruits, nuts and smoke lead to a deeply sensual palate that delivers rich, ripe fruit, delicious acidity and sweet tannins. This is an excellent showing! Drink now-2030+

1988 Quintarelli, Amarone (RT96) Served with a classic Northern Italian cheese plate drizzled with ancient Balsamico, which proved a perfect pairing! The 1988 Quintarelli is darkly hued, almost opaque in its visuals, while the bouquet delivers outstanding, beautifully articulated aromatics centered around a late fall cornucopia all things dried: fruit, flowers, forest floor, and nuts. As one spends time with the glass they are drawn into its developing complexity. This is truly magnificent, as it balances its bone dry character with this ripe, decadent richness of its fruit. This is a lovely bottle from one of the masters of Amarone, there’s no hurry here. Drink now-2038+