Friday, March 27, 2015

1996 Barolo--Blind Tasting Retrospective

A while back, I polled a number of experienced Barolo collectors for their choice of the best vintage of the ‘90s. These days, we seem to have a great vintage every year, if not every other year, with ‘06, '08, and '10 being reported as great and '05 tailing close behind. Notice that I didn't really mention the highly acclaimed 2007 vintage, as I've found these wines to be far less impressive than originally expected. However, back in the nineties, Barolo only saw two decent vintages between 1990 and 1995. It wasn't until 1996 when they hit their vintage streak with '96, '97, '98 and '99. These were all good-to-very good years, but there is only one vintage of the nineties that each of these experienced collectors believed to be the best vintage, and that's 1996!

Why? Because of structure and balance.

The Barolos from 1996 showed that perfect unity of tannin, acid and alcohol with a core of rich fruit, that spells "cellar worthy." Most Barolo lovers look for the next 1989 or 1978 that they can squirrel away in their wine cellars and enjoy in their magnificent maturity; it's a big part of what draws people to Nebbiolo, the heights it can reach with proper aging. All signs lead us to believe that 1996 is the next great vintage. The only question is, when do we start drinking them? It was with this in mind that we recently organized a "blind" 1996 Barolo dinner.

The biggest surprise for me was how open each of these wines showed. At all of my recent '96 tastings, the wines continued to display gripping tannin, which would restrain the fruit on the palate. Although their bouquets were developing well, I began to fear that these wines would never come out of their shells. This tasting was a perfect example of how unnecessary those fears truly were.

Granted, this tasting contained quite a few modern-styled wines, which confirmed a different notion that I’ve been toying with—that the structure of 1996 Barolo lent well to the better modern producers of the time. Imagine my surprise when a bottle of Azelia Bricco Fiasco came out on top, a wine that I would have assumed to be clunky and showing remnants of dark oak. But that was not the case. In fact, the Fiasco vineyard within the commune of Castiglione Falletto reigned supreme on this night, as Paolo Scavino’s Bric del Fiasc, found the third place spot.

Another interesting reoccurrence is the inclusion of the Cappellano Barbaresco, which held its own in the company of Barolo. Yet again we find a Barbaresco inserted into a blind Barolo tastings and showing tremendous potential and longevity.

In the end, I firmly believe it’s time to start digging into our cases of most ’96 Barolo. I’m sure the top traditional producers are years away from their peak (possibly our next tasting), yet from the modern camp, there’s no shame in pulling some corks.

Head over to: The Cellar Table at Morrell Wine for more photos and the tasting notes:


Friday, January 9, 2015

Making the Case–for Barbaresco

It’s time to put away the preconceptions and admit to the fact that Barbaresco can be just as great as Barolo.

I’ve been a fan of Barolo for as long as I’ve been into wine. It’s just something about its imposing nature and how Barolo makes you wait for it to blossom. There’s a challenge in loving Barolo, as you have to study and pay close attention to truly enjoy it. You don’t just open a bottle on a whim; instead you spend time deciding which bottle would be best at the moment and for the occasion. When you make the right choice and give Barolo the proper amount of air (in bottle, not decanter), you’re rewarded with an otherworldly experience. Barolo is in many ways about chasing those experiences. You won’t always find euphoria, and oftentimes you’ll be let down, but when you open a great bottle, it’s worth all the effort.

1998 Bruno Giacosa Asili
However, what I failed to understand is that the same experience can be found with Barbaresco, usually for less money and without having to wait as long as we do for our precious Barolo to mature. So you question if it can age as well as Barolo, and my response is a definitive YES! What it took to open my eyes was my involvement with a tasting group of friends who are all Barolo enthusiasts. Often, the evening would call for a blind tasting, and in each of these a Barbaresco would manage to find its way in. Would it surprise you to know that in almost every instance, the Barbaresco came out on top?

To continue reading and for tasting notes and photos, 
visit my new Blog: The Cellar Table


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Year in Review: My Top Wines of 2014

It’s that time again. 2014 is coming to a close, and the holidays are in full swing. I’m sorting through recipes for Christmas Eve, Christmas parties and New Year’s bashes. However, before I get too deep into things, I love to look back over the past year and my 500+ tasting notes for my top wines of the year. This isn’t a list that’s built through politicking or overthinking the subject. Instead, these are my favorite wines of the year in four categories: mid-priced gems, top-shelf wines, vintage wines and eye-opening experiences. You may notice that I don’t have a value wine section, but that’s because my article “Give the gift of wine for Christmas” spells out many of the best value wines I’ve had this year.

Looking over this list, I’m not surprised to see such a large representation of Riesling, as this year my eyes were truly opened to the heights of which they are capable. If you happen to be looking for a vinous New Year’s resolution—I would highly recommend exploring this amazing variety.

Italian wine continues to amaze me for both quality and value. Nowhere else can such world-class wine be had for the relative value Italian wines represent. However, I’m also very happy to see wines from Burgundy (a region I’m only now beginning to truly understand), Austria and California. I've tried to include links wherever possible, but unfortunately, the greatest winemakers of the world don't always have the best websites.

All kidding aside, there’s something for everyone here. This is truly my “best of the best” list. I would love to put any of these wines in my cellar.

To Continue Reading Visit: The Cellar Table