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An exploratory tasting of mature Nebbiolo 1975-1954


A small group of us gathered to explore modestly priced old Nebbiolo of which little is known about the producers in general or the wines in specific.  This meant no Vallana and no Nervi, for example.  We selected 10 different red wines from 1975 back to 1954 but were sure to include flights from the excellent 1964 and 1958 vintages.  The wines hailed from Barolo, Carema, Gattinara, Ghemme, and simply Alto Piemonte.  Before we tasted the red wines we tucked into a bottle of NV Ruinart, Champagne Brut Rose and a trio of German wines from 1976.

Sticking with the theme of little known, the German trio included Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Optima.  As may be expected the 1976 Gebruder Schneider, Riesling Auslese, Martiner Schloss Ludwigshohe, Rheinpfalz is the best of the lot.  The deep nose perks interest and in the mouth it is mature yet rounded so as to provide good mouthfeel.  It falls a bit flat since it lacks the electric acidity I would like.   The 1976 Gebruder Schneider, Gewurztraminer Auslese, St. Martiner Zitadelle, Rheinpfalz smells and tastes like Gewurztraminer yet is a bit monolithic.  Finally the 1976 Gebruder Schneider, Optima Beerenauslese, St. Martiner Baron, Rheinpfalz is a strange combination of fruit and florals as if it could not decide what to be.  This grape is a Riesling and Silvaner cross that was crossed with Muller-Thurgau.  That fact is more interesting than the wine.

From the shadows of Mont Blanc the 1975 Produttori di Carema, Carema Etichetta Rosso is the brightest, most acidic, and nearly most tannic of all the wines tasted.  You get hints of its maturity but you are left wondering when will it ever be ready to drink?

The 1964 flight was a mixed bag but the wines improved across the flight.  Our bottle of 1964 Agostino Brugo, Colline Novaresi Spanna Riserva is clearly way past good drinking.  The 1964 Agostino Brugo, Ghemme smells proper but there is a bit of roasted earth indicating it is over the hump of prime drinking.  I suspect it was always a modest wine.  Much better is the 1964 Cantine Curti, Spanna.  It is pungent and still has concentration from age.  Quite good if not the most exciting wine.

I found the wines from the 1950s of the most interest primarily from the successful flight of 1958 Vini Valsesia.  The 1958 Vini Valsesia, Gattinara still has incensed red fruit and tangy grip.  This bottle and the 1958 Vini Valsesia, Ghemme Riserva were the two most consumed.  The Ghemme is very good and a clear step up in quality.  It is ripe and mouth filling with sweaty, earthy notes.  If I had to guess, it is this wine which saw the addition of fruit from Southern Italy.  It took several hours for the 1958 Vini Valsesia, Spanna Riserva to clean up.  It has moved passed fruit to old leather and dried oregano notes.  Both the Gattinara and Spanna Riserva had similar weight and acidity.  A fun flight.

The final flight of wines sported two very powerful yet boring Barolo: 1959 Cavalier Felice Abbona & Figli, Barolo and 1958 Pistone Luigi, Barolo Riserva.  The former is clean with simple flavors of tart, red fruit and the later, a bit stinky with blood and iron flavors.  Neither wine changed over three nights.  The nose of our 1954 Avondo, Gattinara is volatile, but still with hints of perfume.  The flavors are completely clean and electric with fresh red fruit.  There is depth and character here such that this could have been the wine of the night.

Thanks to everyone for their contributions.  I had a lot of fun tasting through wines that I had no idea what they would be like.   There was also a slew of dessert wines but I will write those up in a separate post.

1976 Gebruder Schneider, Riesling Auslese, Martiner Schloss Ludwigshohe, Rheinpfalz
A honied, deep nose.  In the mouth are round flavors, black tea notes, and fresh acidity before the lighter flavored middle.  There is nice body, floral notes, and rounded finish with watering acidity.  ** Now.

1976 Gebruder Schneider, Gewurztraminer Auslese, St. Martiner Zitadelle, Rheinpfalz
Gewurz on the nose and in the mouth but with density and white nuts.  Full of flavor yet not that complex and in need of acidity.  *(*) Now.

1976 Gebruder Schneider, Optima Beerenauslese, St. Martiner Baron, Rheinpfalz
A strange combination of tropical fruit and floral notes.  Very rounded in mouth, could stand more acidity. Weird.

1975 Produttori di Carema, Carema Etichetta Rosso
Alcohol 12%.  It is a brick, tawny color.  Blood on the nose.  There is bright red fruit in the mouth, some leather and some age evident in the bit of roasted earth flavor.  There is strong, citric acidity and very fine structure in the finish.  Will this ever develop?  **  Now but will last.

1964 Agostino Brugo, Colline Novaresi Spanna Riserva
Founded in 1894 the wines are raised in oak and chestnut.  Brown in color with a nose of roast earth, must, and cheese.  Tastes old.  Past.

1964 Agostino Brugo, Ghemme
The tawny color has hints of cherry.  The subtle nose reveals deeper, sweaty notes.  In the mouth are red fruit flavors, cranberry, and that slightly sweaty complexity.  There is some roasted earth speaking of age but the bottle comes across as well stored with freshness and citric grip in the finish.  ** Now.

1964 Cantine Curti, Spanna
Alcohol 13%.  It is a light to medium tawny brick color.  The first proper smelling wine with pungency and old concentration.  There is a core of ripe red fruit with good flavor.  The bottle is in fine condition, tasting fresh with some density up front but becoming lighter towards the finish.  There is a modest amount of the sweaty funk in the end.  *** Now.

1958 Vini Valsesia, Gattinara
The Valsesia family have produced wine since the 1920s when Alessandro Valsesia purchased the Perucca family of wine and grain licenses. In the 1950s, Anselmo Valsesia takes control of the winery and begins to bottle Novaresi wines. It is not until 1960 that new land and a new cellar is built.  Alcohol 13%.  The lightest color yet being a brown tawny.  The nose is gentle with bloody hints.  In the mouth is delicate, incensed flavors of bright red fruit.  There is fine texture, electricity acidity, and a lifted finish.  I like the tangy grip.  ***  Now.

1958 Vini Valsesia, Ghemme Riserva
Alcohol 12.5%.  A medium+ tawny brick.  Clearly a good nose with sweet and sweaty concentration.  This is a ripe, mouth filling wine with fruit, earth, and even some vigor.  There is gentle spice, sweet leather, and more weight in the finish.  I like the ethereal nature of the ripeness.  It picked up a menthol note in the finish.  **** Now but well stored bottles will last.

1958 Vini Valsesia, Spanna Riserva
Alcohol 13%.  Not up to the other wines and in need of much air to clean up.  This is less about fruit than old wood, dried oregano, and blood.  The acidity is fresh and the wine is grippy.  ** Now.

1959 Cavalier Felice Abbona & Figli, Barolo
The Abbona family has produced wine for this firm located in the center of Barolo since at least 1873. In 1929 the Abbona family acquired the Marchesi di Barolo winery and vineyard.  Alcohol 13%.  A dark tawny color.  The subtle nose is meaty.  In the mouth this remains a focused and decidedly tart red fruited wine with lively acidity and power.  To match the power is the structure and puckering finish.  No real complexity.  * Now but will last.

1958 Pistone Luigi, Barolo Riserva
Around since at least 1890.  Alcohol 13%.  A light brown color.  A stinky nose of meat. In the mouth is a tight core of grippy red fruit, bloody, and iron that fill the mouth with flavor.  There is plenty of fresh drying structure that coats the gums.  * Now.

1954 Avondo, Gattinara
Caesar Avondo of Lozzolo exhibited his 1874 Spanna at the Paris Exposition of 1878.  There is some volatility on the nose but also perfume.  The wine is clean in the mouth with plenty of lively fruit delivered with an electric, vibrant mouthfeel.  I agree with Lou’s comment of, “fresh crushed berries”.  It would have been wine of the night but for the nose.  *** Now.

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  1. December 4, 2017 at 9:36 am

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