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Italian Barbera from 1964 to 2013

The gray weather parted allowing a small group of us to taste through a range of Barbera on my back deck. Unspoken etiquette ensured we had bottles of Champagne and white wine to occupy ourselves as the bottles of Barbera were opened and I fussed with the grill. Both starter bottles were excellent. Having now tasted NV Demiere Ansiot, Champagne Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs I can state that I want to drink it again. This is surprisingly complex Champagne with frothy bubbles and balance such that it should be drunk up right now. If you like mature Champagne go buy several bottles. The 2007 Red Newt, Gewurztraminer, Curry Creek Vineyard, Finger Lakes is comparatively younger in profile with its dense flavors of nuts and tropical fruit. It is a lot of wine.

We began the Barbera tasting with a trio of four old wines, one of which was bagged. My favorite is the 1967 Casa Vinicola Antonio Vallana, Barbera del Cantina di Bacco. Some did not like it which meant I was left with the lion’s share of old-school sweaty aromas and sweet, concentrated, silky fruit. From the same vintage I also liked the 1967 Cattaneo Adorno Giustiniani, Castello di Gabiano Riserva which with one “b” is one of Italy’s smallest DOCs from Monferrato and not to be confused with the estate from the south of Florence. The brighter fruit and blood are gently delivered making for a different expression of Barbera. This brightness could be attributed to the wine containing up to 10% Freisa and Grignolino.  Our oldest bottle of 1964 Poderi di Luigi Einaudi, Barbera is a survivor for I drank a glass of leftovers the next night with only slightly diminished pleasure. It is bright, tart, and bit acidic making it more of a curiosity. The brown-bagged 1974 Angelo Papagni, Barbera is a wine that is simply too old.

Our next two bottles were flawed. It is a shame because the 1990 Poderi Aldo Conterno, Conca Tre Pile, Barbera D’Alba has the potential to be very good. There is not telling what the 1999 Elio Grasso, Vigna Martina, Barbera D’Alba should be like.

In young territory the 2005 Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa, La Bogliona, Barbera D’Asti is young primary and attractively floral. In contrast the 2006 Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa, La Bogliona, Barbera D’Asti sports heft, brawn, and good flavor. It is one to age for many more years. Also promising is the elegant and impeccably balanced 2008 Bartolo Mascarello, Barbera D’Alba. The last bottle of 2013 Coppo, Pomorosso, Barbera d’Asti proved to be the youngest and most modern wine. It is a good, articulated wine but not of my preferred style.  Based on these wines I would like to repeat the tasting but focus in on 1990s and older.

NV Demiere Ansiot, Champagne Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs
Becky Wasserman selection imported by USA Wine Imports. This wine is 100% Chardonnay. Alcohol 12%. The nose begins with a yeast hint then toast and apple orchard aromas which together make for a very satisfying nose. In the mouth are racy flavors of delicate berries, definitely fruity, and frothy bubbles. The fizz is not hard rather it is subtle. This is an excellent wine for drinking now, it is complex with baking spices and a clean finish.  **** Now.

2007 Red Newt, Gewurztraminer, Curry Creek Vineyard, Finger Lakes
Alcohol 14.7%. The color is bright and golden with a green hint. The flavors mix nuts with tropical fruit with a tilt towards sweet flavors. This fine, dense wine has a minerally middle.  Good stuff! **** Now – 2020.

1964 Poderi di Luigi Einaudi, Barbera
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports. Alcohol 11%-14%. The nose is musky at first morphing to old leather as it cleans up and with air adds in cinnamon. The wine itself is earthy with bright acidity and a clean flavor profile of tart cherry and cranberry red fruit. It is a little tired towards the finish but the tart fruit persists in the aftertaste. ** Now.

1974 Angelo Papagni, Barbera (brown bagged mystery wine)
Alcohol 12.5%. A garnet color but one sniff and taste tell that this wine is way past prime. Not Rated.

 

1967 Cattaneo Adorno Giustiniani, Castello di Gabiano Riserva
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports. This wine is probably a blend of 90%-95% Barbera with the rest Freisa and Grignolino.  Alcohol 11%-14%. The nose smells of blood. In the mouth this is a bright, forward wine with nice bright acidity and up-front grip. It sports an old-school gentleness and softness. Notes of polished wood eventually come out. The blood returns in the aftertaste. *** Now but will last.

1967 Casa Vinicola Antonio Vallana, Barbera del Cantina di Bacco, Colline Novaresi
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 12.5%. The nose is old-school, sweaty and sweet. In the mouth the ripe fruit is sweet with concentration. This silky, smooth wine gains focus and length with air. There is fine texture and weight to the core of fruit which is surrounded by sweaty notes and wood. **** Now but will last.

1990 Poderi Aldo Conterno, Conca Tre Pile, Barbera D’Alba
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports. Alcohol 11%-14%. Sadly cooked on the nose. In the mouth though are gobs of mouth filling fruit with a fine, ripe texture from the tannins. There are tart red fruit flavors in the finish. Correct bottles should be quite good. Not Rated.

1999 Elio Grasso, Vigna Martina, Barbera D’Alba
Alcohol 14.5%. Bad bottle! Not Rated.

2005 Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa, La Bogliona, Barbera D’Asti
Alcohol 14%. The nose is still young and clean with finely scented aromas of violets. Still youthful in the most this primary wine is fresh with watering acidity. ***(*) Now – 2027.

2006 Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa, La Bogliona, Barbera D’Asti
Alcohol 14%. The color is darker with a purple tinge. The nose sports more heft to the aromas. In the mouth the flavors are brawnie and matched by additional tannins. There is dark red fruit, rounded feel, and a good personality. This will age for a long time. ***(*) Now – 2032.

2007 G. D. Vajra, Barbera D’Alba Superiore
Imported by The Country Vintner. Alcohol 14.5%. It is hard to get past the over-ripe, full-bore fruit. The wine becomes tangy with serious weight.  ** Now.

 

2008 Bartolo Mascarello, Barbera D’Alba
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 14%. An elegant nose moves on to bright red fruit over a black fruit foundation. This wine is balanced with grippy personality, texture and some ink. The structure is finely integrated with the fruit. ***(*) Now – 2027.

2013 Coppo, Pomorosso, Barbera d’Asti
Imported by Folio Wine Partners. Alcohol 14.5%. This is an articulated, young, modern wine that is not without attraction. Not really my style but I can appreciate it.  *** Now – 2025.

Old-school 1979 De Forville Barbaresco

I opened the 1979 De Forville, Barbaresco on a whim when I found out a dinner guest at our house is another wine lover.  I picked up this bottle from Chambers Street Wine a year or two ago on the recommendation of Jamie.  De Forville is a 19th century estate which, according to the Wasserman’s, produced this wine using the traditional methods of long skin contact and long cask aging.  The 1979 vintage was uneven but I suspect the traditional winemaking and careful storage ensured that it arrived at my table in fine shape.  This bottle fleshed out then peaked after 15 to 30 minutes.  It is more complex in the mouth and when opened up, reveals mouth filling old-school flavors.  I happily savored the last glass while I read a mystery book.

1979 De Forville, Barbaresco
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports.  Alcohol 13%.  The cranberry with mixed red fruit nose reveals that the wine is very much alive.  In the mouth the flavors of leather and red fruit soon flesh out a bit.  This is an old-school wine with plenty of grip and acidity.  It becomes more complex in the mouth adding black fruit, wood notes, and an inky bit.  It wraps up with ethereal ripeness in the aftertaste.  **** Now but will last.

Outstanding Bottles of Giacosa and Conterno

December 2, 2016 Leave a comment

At the end of October I was fortunate to attend an Italian tasting largely focused in on the wines of Bruno Giacosa and Giacomo Conterno.  No tasting of Barolo should be without a mature example and this one began with a very fine 1967 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo.  Double-decanted midday it continued to slowly develop in the glass.  I can only write that I love the aroma and flavor of this type of wine.  Also with attractive maturity, the 1978 Carlo Boffa & Figli, Barbaresco Riserva Vigna Vitalotti is meatier and earthier but leaves the impression of being tired.

The youthful white-labeled pair of 1996 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Gallina di Neive and 1997 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Santo Stefano di Neive did not prepare me for the outstanding red-labels.  At 20 years of age the 1996 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Riserva Asili is beginning to move past its youthful stage.  It is a powerful, intense wine which never takes away from the beautiful flavors.  Younger in age and profile, the 2001 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Riserva Rabaja promises a great future.  There are primary aromas and flavors right now but everything is in place for slow development.

Completely different in nature the 1997 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo Riserva Monfortino, with moderate concentration and complexity, acted as a segway to the outstanding 2000 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo Riserva Monfortino.  This is a highly refined, ethereally flavored wine which fills the mouth.  With air it fleshes out to provide seamless pleasure.  What a tasting!

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1980 Stony Hill, Chardonnay, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13%.  Looks like a copper-orange wine.  There is a complex nose which is a touch maderized.  In the mouth is focused, driven flavors that are quite lively and even sport some body but the wine is clearly not correct.  Not Rated.

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2010 Domaine Leflaive, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes
Imported by Wilson Daniels. Alcohol 13.5%.  The flint aromas make the nose stand out.  In the mouth the precise, lemon fruit mixes with flint and smoke.  This is a persistent, tart wine with lime flavors and a long, finely textured finish. Impressive now.  **** Now – 2026.

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2005 Domaine des Croix, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru
A Becky Wasserman selection imported by Wine Cellars LTD. Alcohol 13.5%.  The subtle nose is a touch earthy and lactic.  A significantly rounder body is backed by glycerin.  Flavors of lemon and lime take on subtle baking spices.  It improves with air, filling the mouth with flavors and the sensation of an oily, luxurious body. ***(*) Now – 2021.

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2010 Lucien Le Moine, Corton Blanc Grand Cru
Imported by Barrel One Selections.  This is aromatic with sweet fruit and floral spices.  The tart start is focused yet offers weight.  It is almost puckering with a wood hint, floral flavors throughout, and smoke in the finish.  It is almost spicy. **** Now – 2026.

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2005 Etienne Sauzet, Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  A slight darker color hints at the inevitable.  Shame!

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1967 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo
Imported by suitcase.  The nose is subtly smokey.  In the mouth are lively, fresh flavors that are initially linear and focused but expand by the finish.  There is bottle aged complexity as this wine is beyond fruit.  I like the blend of old leather and weighty, animale flavors that develop with air. ****(*) Now – 2026.

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1978 Carlo Boffa & Figli, Barbaresco Riserva Vigna Vitalotti
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  The meaty nose is good and opens up a bit with air.  In the mouth this is grippy with tart red fruit, and an animale nature.  It builds subtle ripeness but is ultimately leaner and not as flavorful.  *** Now.

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1996 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Gallina di Neive
Imported by Winebow. Alcohol 14%.  The fruitier nose is attractive with complex bitters-like aroma.  This grippy wine starts with dry tannins and  young fruit but it has very attractive grip, long taste, and a haunting personality. ***(*) Now-2031.

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1997 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Santo Stefano di Neive
Imported by Winebow. Alcohol 13.5%.  The darker nose is more subtle.  This is a rounder wine with less acidity and tannins, despite its youthful flavor.  It shows more balance at this time.  The complex red and black fruit are supported by some firm, underlying structure. ***(*) Now – 2026.

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2001 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Riserva Rabaja
Imported by Wine Cellars. Alcohol 14%.  The aromas step out of the glass, primarily exuding violets.  This is very young in the mouth, powerful with very fine tannins.  A core of blackberry fruit comes out.  This clearly has a strong future ahead. ****(*) Now – 2036

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1996 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Riserva Asili
Imported by Premier Cru. Alcohol 14%.  The nose is concentrated and strong with fruity aromas of licorice.  The rounded start is powerful with intense structure and fine, grippy tannins.  The flavor, though, is undeniably beautify with density, and some bacon fat.  The liquidity of the wine is bound with the acidity. ****(*) Now – 2031.

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1997 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo Riserva Monfortino
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 14%.  The flavors are of lighter berries and almost roast earth.  The wine remains firm with fine, strong tannins.  There is structure to last but the flavor concentration does not seem to be there. **** Now – 2026.

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2000 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo Riserva Monfortino
Imported by Vieux Vins. Alcohol 14%.  The young grapey nose makes way to a smooth entry of mouth filling, black, ethereal flavors.  The power of this wine builds with time becoming fleshier too.  Lovely and very classy. ****(*) Now – 2026.

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2012 Donnhoff, Oberhauser Brucke Riesling Eiswein, Nahe
Imported by Kirkcrest Imports. Alcohol 7.5%.  This, bright, electric wine is noticeable for its residual sugar and almost effervescent sensation on the tongue.  The spices soon mix with sweet grapefruit and sugar.  Young and a bit hard to drink at this stage. **** 2026-2046.

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2002 Alois Kracher, Scheurebe Trockenbeeren Auslese #6 Zwischen den Seen, Neusiedlersee
Imported by Kirkcrest Imports. Alcohol 8.5%.  Like liquid amber, this aromatic wine is lovely with an apricot hint that is more fresh than dried.  It adds baking spices and cinnamon.  Weighty with good integration of sweetness.  **** Now – 2026.

A bit too old, Monte Antico and Pio Cesare from 1979

November 9, 2016 3 comments

My friend Sudip is a gambling man who is all for trying any old vintage of wine.  A gamble and a bit of recklessness was all that was required to try the 1979 Castello di Monte Antico, Tuscany.  Neil and Maria Empson started Monte Antico in 1977, some five years after founding their wine importing company.  Monte Antico is a super-Tuscan wine, meaning it is a blend of Sangiovese with international varieties, in this case Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  Super-Tuscans grew in popularity during 1970s.  This particular wine is one I drank with some occurrence during my university years in the 1990s because it was affordable.  I had no expectation it would be a decent drink or even palatable, being a budget wine, but the bottle looked good, the price was cheap, and it reminded me of times past.  The color was in the autumnal brown spectrum and the nose was advanced, as in roasted earth.  But in the mouth it was surprisingly round with hints of sweet fruit that developed into licorice.  But for the nose it would rate higher.

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Two wines from the same vintage makes for more fun.  I expected the 1979 Pio Cesare, Barolo Riserva to be better than the Monte Antico and it was.  This was another cheap purchase made years ago.  After an hour of air, I simply pulled the cork.  The wine gave all that it could.  The fruit has departed leaving leather and mushroom but the lively, tense acidity still remains.  It fades soon in the glass.  Neither bottle was finished but other young wines were.  Sudip had fun.

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1979 Castello di Monte Antico, Tuscany
Shipped by Neil Empson.  Imported by Wine Imports.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose initially smelled of roasted earth then celery.  It is much better in the mouth, round with hints of sweet fruit.  Certainly old but bits of fruit and licorice come out.  Two stars for flavor but overall  * Now.

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1979 Pio Cesare, Barolo Riserva
Imported by Paterno Imports.  Alcohol 13.5%.  Though an advanced color it had a lively tension.  It is simple at first and surprisingly closed.  After an hour of air it opened up.  All fruit gone having left just bottle aged flavors of leather, mushroom, and a very fine texture.  ** Now.

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Drinks from the holiday weekend

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There was no shortage of grilled food and wine this Memorial Day weekend.  Thanks to many generous people I got to try decades worth of wine.  An inexpensive bottle of NV L.A. Cetto Vino Espumoso from Baja California enlivened a lunchtime sangria.   The first serious wine is a magnum of 2006 Macarico, Aglianico del Vulture which smelled and tasted great from the very first pour.  It still has strength but the tannic edges are receding such that you notice the dark fruit and minerals.  I wish I could age more of these wines.  The 1998 Chapoutier, Hermitage Monier de La Sizeranne showed much better oak integration than when tasted last summer.  It is a substantial wine with a long future.  The 1971 M. Mascarello, Nebbiolo d’Alba held up for several hours after double-decanting.  It was sweaty on the nose, in an attractive old-school way to me, but better in the mouth with lively acidity and a core of flavor.

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The 1971 M. Mascarello helped show how a 1976 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape was even fruitier with notes of old wood.  It made for a perfectly good drink.  I will follow this post with a real tasting note.  The magnum of 2007 Domaine Ponsot, Morey St. Denis 1er Cru Cuvee des Alouettes showed on the elegant side of the spectrum with very clean fruit.  Other drinks include a 2003 Le Vieux Donjon, Chateauneuf du Pape that is youthful and packs quite a lot of forward fruit.

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Roland opened a slew of bottles including 1990 Alain Graillot, La Guiraude, Crozes-Hermitage.  This wine is made from a selection of the best barrels and is certainly the oldest Crozes-Hermitage that I have tasted.  This was still clean and fresh with that sense of lightness a Crozes can offer.  It was almost suspended in time.

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The 2007 Henri Bonneau, Chateauneuf du Pape was quite tight right after double-decanting.  Nevertheless a few minutes of swirling coaxed an elegant wine.  It has quite a bit of focus and certainly more heft than the ethereal Marie Beurrier can have.  The 2001 Domaine Bois De Bourson, Chateauneuf du Pape showed great right out of the decanter.  It is drinking near peak with earthy flavors and garrigue delivered with grip.  A pour from the end of the 1990 Jamet, Cote Rotie provided a really good glass.  There was an aspect of elegance to the maturing and complex flavors.

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The 1994 Chateau de Fonsalette, Cotes du Rhone drank quite well.  This is a generous Rayas wine made from Syrah.  It is floral with dark blue fruit, wood notes, and good complexity.

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I also tried a surprisingly savory, dense, and fruity bottle of 1996 Chateau Ste Michelle, Merlot Reserve, Columbia Valley.  This came from a mediocre vintage and if this took a toll on the wine it was only that the finish was a bit short.  This wine was made under David Lake MW which probably explains why it is still balanced and lively.  There is not much Charbono around so you should try whatever you can.  The 2011 Calder Wine Company, Charbono, Meyer Vineyard, Napa Valley is still not up to the quality of the 2009 vintage but it reveals vintage perfume unique to the grape.

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As for dessert wines the half-bottle of 1983 Zilliken, Saarburger Rausch Riesling Eiswein contained only 7% alcohol.  The undoubtedly high levels of residual sugar were perfectly balanced by the acidity.   It is really easy to drink and is entering the middle of life.  Finally, a double-decanted 1977 Warre’s, Vintage Port needed just a little air before showing dense flavors of dark blue, racy fruit. Good stuff!  There were some other wines I tried but I did not get a look at the bottles.

If you hate Altare read this post

May 11, 2016 1 comment

David Bloch is surprised by a bottle of Altare.

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2001 Elio Altare, Barolo (normale)
Let me say up front that my favorite Piedmonte producers include both Mascarellos, both Conternos, Vietti, Vajra, Rinaldi and Giacosa.  So it may come as a surprise to read that I thought this was a really good Barolo.  Yeah, open top roto-fermenters, micro oxygenation, etc. etc. etc.  The bottom line is that this is a complete Nebbiolo that smelled of roses and violets, tasted like dark berries and earth, and has some really, really fine grained tannins still left unresolved.  Bricking at the edge, the wine was delicate yet persistent all the way through.  The wine was paired with grilled 35-day dry aged ribeye and baked Cavatappi with Taleggio, Gruyère and Provolone Piccante, topped with bacon crumbles.  The Barolo was a perfect foil for this quiet Mother’s Day meal at home.

Notes from the dump bin: 1999 Corino, L’Insieme

February 22, 2016 Leave a comment

L’Insieme or “together” is a charity project spearheaded by Elio Altare.  Eight winemakers from Piedmont formed a group where each made a wine called L’Insieme based on their own particular blend.  In my case I tasted the blend from Giovanni Corino.  After double-decanting the wine, I found it was firm so we let it sit for a few more hours.  The wine morphed from tasting just past prime maturity to a mouthfilling wine with interesting perfumed and floral notes.  Even Jenn found it rather good.  If I were to try another bottle I would double-decant it four hours ahead of time.  This wine was purchased from the dump bin at MacArthur Beverages.

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1999 Giovanni Corino, L’Insieme, Vino da Tavola – $30
A Marc de Grazia selection imported by Bacchus LTD.  This wine is a blend of 50% Nebbiolo and 50% Barbera with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose remained firm with Bordeaux like aromas.  In the mouth this maturing wine began with firm, black fruit flavors, polished wood, dry tannins, and an assertive finish.  With air it developed blue, weighty fruit matched by integrated acidity.  Though the structure remained, it took on cinnamon notes and a little coarseness near the end.  This bit of ruggedness did not deny the wine from developing mouth filling flavors that became both perfumed and floral.  ***(*) Now – 2020.

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