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An Afternoon with Mature Wine – Old Nebbiolo Back Labels

November 17, 2018 Leave a comment

After Afternoon with Mature Wine – Part 1 Nebbiolo

November 16, 2018 Leave a comment

Sudip, Lou, and I recently spent an afternoon following several bottles of mature wine.  The quartet of “little” Nebbiolo from Chambers St Wines proved the most interesting that day.  All of the wines were double-decanted to seperate off the sediment and even the minor wines benefited from air.

The youngest wine, 1973 Crissante Alessandria, Barolo, is from a rather weak vintage in Barolo.  It is the biggest surprise for me, medium weight flavors, zippy acidity, rounded luxury, and some fruit.  It is also the most alcoholic wine tasted which, perhaps, contributes to the weight it imparted.  The 1967 Franco Fiorina, Barolo was simple at best, with its citric, tart & sweet cherry flavor.  The inexpensive, cooperative bottle of 1964 Cantina Sociale Vini Sizzano & Ghemme, Ghemme held on for hours worth of drinking.  It is a subtle, old-school flavored wine of moderate flesh which is a good foil for better wines to follow.  The 1952 Cantine Diver, Tipico Spanna, Gattinara is another surprise.  I like the red fruit, earth, and leather but it is the quality of the acidity which caught my attention.  This is clearly from an excellent vintage but also an older wine.  Whereas the 1964 chugged along the 1952 had a peak then declined.  Good fun while it lasted!

1973 Crissante Alessandria, Barolo
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Alcohol 13.8%.  Fruity and floral with a wood-polish note.  In the mouth it is tense with sharp acidity and moderately round body with an ethereal, oil quality for luxury.  A spiced edge is ripe with a zippy, baking spiced finish.  This medium weight wine is full of life!  ***(*) Now but will last.

1967 Franco Fiorina, Barolo
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Alcohol 12%.  A touch of roast on the nose.  There is good mouth-feel with sweet baking spices and a fresher aspect.  Flavors of tart and sweet cherries have a citric presence in the mouth.  There is a round mouthfeel and some fat but overall a simple wine.  ** Now drink up.

1964 Cantina Sociale Vini Sizzano & Ghemme, Ghemme
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Old leather with old-school flavors immediately greet.  With a modest amount of air the body fleshes out and takes on nut flavors.  There is even some structure.  The entire wine remains in balance.  A subtle wine which provides a solid experience for hours.  **(*) Now.

1952 Cantine Diver, Tipico Spanna, Gattinara
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Hints of leather on the nose.  In the mouth crisp, red fruit, and a touch both of earth and leather.  There is a spine of acidity and an herbal-oil hint throughout.  The ripe, citric acidity mixes with compelling baking spices.  Quite good, clearly an excellent vintage, but of a shorter life-span once opened.  ***(*) Now but will last.

An exploratory tasting of mature Nebbiolo 1975-1954

December 1, 2017 1 comment

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.

A casual tasting from a 1975 Spanna to a 2012 Favorita

March 15, 2016 1 comment

A last minute offering to host some friends at the house resulted in four of us tasting through some excellent wines.  With a little bit of back and forth Lou, David, and Bill settled down in my living room with variety as our theme.  We began with a Piedmontese white wine which is something I have never tried before.  The 2012 Vigne Marina Coppi, Marine, Colli Tortonesi is made from Favorita which is a relative of Vermentino.  Tim (MacArthur Beverages) pointed this wine out to me and I am glad he did.  I was surprised by the floral aromas and even more so by the waxy, sweet lemon fruit, and substantial mouth feel.  It turns out the grapes are harvested ten days after maximum ripeness so as step everything up.  There were comparisons to Loire Chenin Blanc so if this sounds remotely interesting then you must grab a few bottles.

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I kicked off the red wines by serving the 1975 Antonio Vallana, Gattinara in a paper bag.  I had double-decanted the bottle two hours prior.  Both then and during the tasting I arrested by the amount of sweet fruit and freshness of the flavors.  Indeed, many guesses settled towards Bordeaux from the 1989 or 1990 vintages.  This wine reflected its outstanding provenance as you would expect from a Mannie Berk (The Rare Wine Company) selection.  While it comes across as fresh it has complexity from age.  Spanna is the local name for Nebbiolo.  If you have any interest in Barolo or Barbaresco then this wine must be on your list of bottles to try.

We moved onto younger wines.  The first bottle of 1998 Contratto, Solus Ad, Barbera D’Asti was recently brought back from Rome by Lou. Popped and poured, this bottle offered up coffee infused aromas and flavors.  Its heft was balanced by a certain roundness making it a solid, aged Barbera.  The 2001 Lisini, Brunello di Montalcino continued to offer deep, dark fruit flavors that were an easy match for the substantial structure.  At 15 years of age, I found it hard to resist this bottle since the harshness of youth is all gone.  It will continue to develop.  I want to try more Brunello.

We then moved to the Rhone in the form of another brown-bagged wine.  The fruit in the mouth was substantial, which gave me some doubt as to the origins, but I think we all pinned the floral aromas as being from a Syrah and Viognier blend from the Northern Rhone.  There were even guesses as to Cote Rotie but no one got the vintage correct.  The wine turned out to be the 2003 Duclaux, Cote Rotie.  David picked it in response to a 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape tasting where none of the wines were found to be overripe.  The 2003 vintage was very hot and has its critics.  This bottle of Cote Rotie exhibited the vintage by dialing up the fruit a notch (or two!) without losing any characteristics of the varieties and region.

This was the last good wine we tried.  The bottle of 2007 Bastide St Dominique, Les Hesperides, Chateauneuf du Pape was “troubling” with a consensus that it was heat damaged.  I returned with a brown-bagged 2003 Archery Summit, Pinot Noir, Arcus Estate, Willamette Valley.  David had mentioned the Archery Summit, Arcus in a winter time conversation so I thought this would match with his 2003 theme.  Let’s just say the guesses leaned towards Spanish Grenache.  This massive wine bore no resemblance to Pinot Noir.  While it was not an off bottle, no one drank it.  Why bother when there were so many good wines to return to?

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2012 Vigne Marina Coppi, Marine, Colli Tortonesi – $25
Imported by The Sorting Table.  This wine is 100% Favorita.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose attracted with heavy floral aromas which were rather sexy.  In the mouth the flavors were waxy with sweet fruit and lemons.  There is acidity in the start with some chalk in the finish and an aftertaste that left ripe texture on the gums.  If it is a little expansive in the middle then it reigns it in by the finish.  *** Now.

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1975 Antonio Vallana, Gattinara
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.  Alcohol 12%.  Bottom-neck fill.  There is a little funk and animale on the complex nose which reminds me of some 1960s Californian wines.  In the mouth there is still sweet fruit, lovely acidity, and a impeccable quality of freshness.  The wine is still structured leaving fine grip on the gums. The fruit mixes with floral notes before taking on a hint of tartness.  **** Now but will last for ages.

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1998 Contratto, Solus AD, Barbera D’Asti
Imported in a suitcase.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose evoked coffee and shoyu.  In the mouth the flavors continued with coffee infused dark fruit.  The wine was rounded with some density but did not overreach into sexiness.  There is a roast note to the fruit, good acidity, and fine, drying tannins in the finish. *** Now – 2021.

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2001 Lisini, Brunello di Montalcino
Imported by Wine Cellars Ltd.  Alcohol 14%.  The deep dark fruit is never ending which acts as a counterpoint to the substantial amount of tannins.  As substantial as the wine is, the acidity is bound in allowing the fruitiness to be enjoyed.  With additional air it takes on hints of wood.  This is still young and will continue to develop for several more years.  **** Now – 2026.

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2003 Duclaux, Cote Rotie
Imported by Chateau & Estate.  This wine is a blend of 95% Syrah and 5% Viognier which were co-fermented in concrete vats then aged for roughly two years in a variety of oak casks.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose is meaty with some maturity and a floral aspect pointing to Viognier.  There is a substantial amount of fruit in the mouth with a lot of drying tannins.  This mouth filling wine is slightly sexy.  If the fruit is almost effusive at the start it takes on tart red and black notes which balance everything out.  A pleasure to drink but will persist.  ***(*) Now – 2021.

 

A snow day with the 1981 Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo, Ghemme

January 28, 2016 Leave a comment

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The snow days full of shoveling and sledding left me worn out by the end.  I have mostly drunk inexpensive wines as a result, not wanting to waste anything.  I did manage to open one nice wine.  The 1981 Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo, Ghemme is produced mostly from Spanna which is the local name for Nebbiolo.  Ghemme, like its neighbor Gattinara, are lesser known regions compared to Barolo and Barbaresco.  In Sheldon and Pauline Wasserman’s Italy’s Noble Red Wines (1991) the 1981 vintage is not regarded too well.  In fact, the wines of Ghemme in general are damned with the conclusion “one has to wonder if it is really worth the effort to make these wines.”

If you drank this bottle within an hour or two of opening it you might agree.  Confident in the staying-powering of Spanna, I double-decanted this bottle 24 hours before drinking it.  The Wassermans also wrote that Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo is “the finest producer in the zone.”  Given that this basic bottling from a poor vintage showed as well as it did is testament to this estate.  The wine is, in all senses, elegant and tastes as if the flavors are fully mature.  However, this fine wine will continue to hold your attention for many years to come.  This wine was purchased from The Rare Wine Company.

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1981 Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo, Ghemme – $90
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. This wine is a blend of 75-80% Spanna, 15% Vespolina, and 5-10% Bonarda Novarese.  Alcohol 12%.  The nose was finely scented with roast aromas.  In the mouth was a subtle sense of sweetness to the flavors of dried herbs and fruit, the later from a tart cherry core.  The fine interplay between the dry flavors, old wood tannins, and very good acidity, left fresh impressions in the mouth.  ***(*) Now – 2026.

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