In the end, considering the list of names tasted here and the notes and scores I left with, I’d find it very difficult to recommend many of these bottles to the average consumer. While the Ca d'Morissio was drop-dead gorgeous and with a long life ahead of it, I only see availability in Europe, and at almost $500+ per bottle. My runner up, the Giacosa Riserva Asili can be had for $450+ in the US, which isn’t so bad when you consider the cost of recent vintages. That said, I won’t be seeking out any to buy. As for the Massolino Vigna Rionda, that’s the bottle that I would buy, assuming you can find it (for readers in the UK and Switzerland, you may be in luck). The Massolino was ridiculously close in quality to the top-scoring wines at this tasting. If you really want a great ‘96 Barolo in your cellar, that won't break the bank, then this is the one to hunt for.
As is usually the case, whenever my vintage reports come back with any negative feedback, I’m sure there will be many who will call me out. However, what kind of writer would I be if I didn’t share my honest opinions with my readers? I hope I’m wrong, but at this time, ‘96 isn’t looking like the all-around great vintage we had all hoped for. At the top of the pricing pyramid, your chances of a great experience increases.
On to my tasting notes:
Castiglione & Monforte d'Alba
1996 Vietti Barolo Rocche - The nose opened strangely, revealing notes of crushed seashell and saline-minerality. However, with time, the Rocche evolved with a display of floral undergrowth, brilliant red fruits and fresh green flora. On the palate, it was firm from start to finish, with earthy red fruits and intense minerality. Dried floral tones lingered throughout the finish, along with drying tannin and minerals. I had high hopes for this bottle, but it appears to be in a very closed phase. (91 points)
1996 Giuseppe E Figlio Mascarello Barolo Ca d'Morissio Riserva Monprivato - This revealed a bouquet of dusty black cherry, dried flowers, dark exotic spice and crushed stone minerality. It was hauntingly dark and and floral. On the palate, I found pure fruit and saturating tannic structure, as tart black cherry steamrolled across the senses, leaving a trail of acid-tinged minerals in its wake. The finish was long and structured, with lingering notes of dried berries and inner floral tones. I can only imagine that this wine will see a very long life, and I seriously hope to be able to taste it again. (96 points)
Barbaresco (Or the story of three Giacosas and a Cappellano)
1996 Cappellano Barbaresco - The nose showed dusty florals up front, with ripe cherry, exotic spice, menthol and sweet floral tones. On the palate, it was vibrant with silky textures that caressed the senses, as dark red fruits and inner floral tones persisted well into the long finish. Its structure loomed, along with a coating of minerals and a hint of herbs. This may not be quite as moving as the last bottle I tasted, but it was still an amazing experience. (94 points)
1996 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Rabajà - The nose was sweet and layered with dark red fruits, dusty florals tones and minerals. On the palate, I found soft, juicy textures with vibrant red berry fruit that coated the senses. Tannin came late and lasted long into the finish, along with lifted minerality and dark fruit. (92 points)
1996 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano Albesani di Neive - The nose was perfumed and floral with bright cherry and minerals in a very pretty expression. On the palate, I found soft textures with dark red fruits and spice, yet there seemed to be something missing throughout the mid-palate. It finished on dried red fruits and inner floral tones. On this night, the Santo Stefano came across as small-scaled and pretty, but not much else. (90 points)
1996 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto - The nose showed dark black cherry and minerals, yet it was restrained and ungiving at this stage. On the palate, the fruit turned crystalline and brilliant with mineral-wrapped black cherry and dark herbal tones that shot across the senses. It finished on concentrated red fruits, iron and fine tannin. I feel like many of the other tasters were let down by the Falletto tonight, yet I found it to be youthfully poised to grow into a beautiful wine. (92 points)
1996 Pio Cesare Barolo Ornato - The nose was almost savory, showing olive brine and sweet herbs before turning to crushed cherry, brown sugar and dark chocolate. On the palate, it was silky but also a bit one-dimensional, with notes of red berry, smoke and a hint of minerality. It finished on dark red fruits, yet it was murky and partially restrained. Unfortunately, I feel that the fruit here simply didn't integrate well with Ornato's barrique oak aging. (89 points)
Article, Photos and Tasting Notes: By Eric Guido