Sunday, November 12, 2017

Aglianico del Vulture Returns to Collisioni

Article, Photos and Tasting Notes: Eric Guido


When heading back to Collisioni this year, the number one question on my mind was if I would have a chance to conduct a focused tasting of Aglianico del Vulture. To the average consumer, this may not seem like the tasting that I would be looking forward to the most as I packed my bags for a stay in Barolo, but it was. Why? Because in my opinion, this is a region and a variety that is on the rise in Italy. One that deserves its day in the sun, but through the sins (or let’s just call it lazy winemaking and overproduction) of the past, it had its momentum slowed over the last ten years.

Aglianico del Vulture is a DOC in Basilicata, a region of Southern Italy which borders Campania, and it is one of the few regions that has a coast on two sides of the boot. It is also well known for Monte Vulture, an extinct volcano, that gives its name to Aglianico del Vulture.

First and foremost because of the variety, Aglianico, which is renowned for its use in creating Taurasi in Campania. Add to that the diverse volcanic soils throughout its five delimited growing zones, Maschito, Ripacandida, Barile, Ginestra, and Rionero. The climate of each of these is moderated by influences from two seas, a large range of altitudes and degrees of elevation–it all adds up to having the ingredients to make a great wine.

I recall my early inquiries into Italian wine, and the writers of the time commenting on the potential of the Vulture–unfortunately, that potential was never realized. In some cases this was due to the lack of a champion, a producer that consumers and collectors could relate to, who would show them what was possible beyond the status quo. Don’t get me wrong, the region had its big names, such as Paternoster and their consistently high-scoring Don Anselmo. However, there was no face or name behind the brand that was out in the world and speaking to collectors. This may seem petty compared to the quality of what is in the bottle, but without a face behind the brand, it was just another Italian wine that most consumers didn’t understand.

Today, the producers in Aglianico del Vulture are determined to change that. Much of this is the result of the new generation that is taking on more responsibility in the wineries, or taking over completely. The simple fact that these producers have put so much energy into a large showing of wines and personally attending Collisioni is a huge point in their corner. They have attended the event with ears and minds open to change, taking in all of the criticism and compliments that our board of wine writers, somms and professionals were eager to give.

We spent the better part of a day tasting Aglianico and talking through the wines, and I can say with certainty that the bar has been raised yet again. Last year I found a mixed bag of some excellent, others inspired (but not quite there yet), and a few downright poor examples of Aglianico del Vulture–but this year, there was a marked change.

First there is a new emphasis on place, which I’d like to see displayed more on each label, instead of the fantasy names that many producers choose to use. When you hear that a wine is made from grapes sourced from a vineyard in the crater of a volcano, it adds a story and urges you to search for the terroir in the glass. To think that a producer would choose not to market this information is beyond my comprehension–this is the kind of information that we wine lovers thrive on.

Next is the cleaning up of the wineries, and a smaller dependence on old, old… old barrels that needed to be retired many years ago. There’s no question that most tasters preferred large, neutral barrels, but when that barrel is leaking and dirty–you end up with a dirty wine. Last year, I found a number of wines that suffered from this. This year, only one wine showed signs of old barrels.

Lastly, it’s the goal to establish Aglianico del Vulture as a competitor against Barolo, Brunello and Taurasi as one of Italy’s great wines of longevity. The truth is that the timing couldn’t be better, as we watch the prices of Barolo and Brunello soar–and Taurasi seems comfortable to rest on past laurels. If Aglianico del Vulture can refine and elevate its reputation in time–it may just end up as the new “Barolo of The South”.

In the end, the producers of Aglianico del Vulture wanted to know about how they can begin to be profitable in the face of all of this change, and that will be the most difficult part. We were all asked to give them a dollar range that we each believed their wines could be worth, assuming they continued to move in the right direction. In nearly every case, these wines are currently undervalued. But first, Aglianico del Vulture needs to prove to consumers they they are worth the tariff.

The day will come (possibly sooner than you think) that these wines will sell for twice, if not three times their current cost. My advice is to stock up now, because this is not only a region on the rise, it’s an organization of producers who are determined to prove themselves to the world.

All of my tasting notes are below, both good and bad. As for my recommendations for those looking to take advantage of this region on the rise, look to Cantina del Notaio La Firma, Donato D’Angelo and Laluce to lead the way. It’s an exciting time to be following Aglianico del Vulture.

On to the tasting notes:


2012 Cantine del Notaio Aglianico del Vulture La Firma – The nose was dark and layered, showing black cherry, plum, sweet violet tones, clove, dried orange, and dusty black earth. On the palate, I found silky textures offset by notes of plums and spice, lifting minerality and fine saturating tannin. The finish was firm and drying yet extremely long on violet-inflected black fruit. This is a wine to bury in the cellar. (93 points)

2008 Azienda Agricola Michele Laluce Aglianico del Vulture Le Drude – The nose showed crushed black fruits, savory spices, dried flowers, and undergrowth. On the palate, I found soft textures with stunning, vibrant acidity, dark red and black fruits, wild herbs, and savory spices. Tannin mounted throughout the experience, yet it’s already quite enjoyable, showing mature earth and charred meat tones. The finish was long, showing savory herbs, dried meats and spice. (93 points)

2012 Donato d’Angelo Aglianico del Vulture – The nose showed incredible depth with mineral-laced cherry, violet floral tones, dried orange peel and peppery herbs. On the palate, I found silky textures offset by fine tannin and balancing acidity, as dark red fruits began to saturate the senses and hints of spice and inner violet notes formed. It finished long on tart cherry and fine tannin, yet it maintained freshness and lift. In five to ten years, this should be just entering a long and lovely drinking window. (93 points)

2011 Colli Cerentino Aglianico del Vulture Masqito – The nose was beautiful yet dark, showing spiced cherry, plum, dried orange, and crushed violets. On the palate, I found tart black fruits, inner floral and herbal tones, with energizing acidity matched by fine tannin. It finished intensely structured on dark fruits, undergrowth and hints of ash. This needs time, but I’m already loving it. (92 points)


2012 Azienda Agricola Michele Laluce Aglianico del Vulture Zimberno – The nose was dark and earthy, showing mineral-tinged black fruits, volcanic ash, spicy herbs, and undergrowth. On the palate, I found soft textures counterbalancing tart black fruits and savory herbs. The ash and minerals from the bouquet seemed to translate perfectly onto the palate, adding a saline quality to the experience. It finished long with clenching tannin and tart black fruits. (92 points)

2005 Tenuta le Querce Aglianico del Vulture Vigna della Corona – The nose showed mature notes of undergrowth, crushed cherry, plum, dried flowers and dark earth. On the palate, I found soft textures, plum and crushed cherry, savory minerality and sous bois. On the finish, I found unbelievably youthful tannin with bitter black fruits and spice. (91 points)

2013 Terra Dei Re Aglianico del Vulture Nocte – The nose was dark and spicy with violet inflections, showing intense black cherry, cinnamon, anise, hints of undergrowth and ash. On the palate, I found soft textures with blackberry and plum fruit, savory spice, saturating fine tannin and balancing acidity. It finished structured yet with good energy and lingering spices. (91 points)

2012 Cantina di Venosa Aglianico del Vulture Carato Venusio – The nose showed depths of crushed black cherry, with notes of cedar, sweet herbs and minerals. On the palate, It displayed energizing acidity with silky textures, ripe cherry, sweet spices and herbs. Medium-tannin lingered on the palate, along with black cherry and undergrowth. (91 points)

2012 Terre degli Svevi Aglianico del Vulture Re Manfredi – The nose was lifted, showing violets, blackberry, tart plum and minerals. On the palate, I found lean textures with peppery black fruits and a combination of zesty acids and saturating tannin. It finished long and structured with concentrated tart black fruits coating the senses. (90 points)

2015 Paternoster Aglianico del Vulture Synthesi – The nose showed bright mineral-tinged black cherry, rich ginger spice, hints of violet florals and peppery herbs. On the palate, I found tart red fruits and lean tannin on a medium-to-light bodied frame. It finished tart, yet still quite fresh with lingering tannin and hints of blackberry fruit. This is a fresh style for Vulture, yet with a beautiful purity of fruit. (90 points)

2011 Tenuta I Gelsi Aglianico del Vulture – The nose was intense with dark red and black fruits, both savory and sweet spices, and hints of minty herbs. On the palate, I found soft textures with a savory and almost-saline personality, showing tart cherry, plum and saturating minerality. Its firm tannin came on late, drying the fruit throughout the finish and leaving an impression of youthful austerity–bury some in the cellar for at least five to ten years. (90 points)

2012 Tenuta I Gelsi Aglianico del Vulture – The nose showed intense dark red fruits, anise, dried violets, moist ash and pepper. On the palate, I found silky textures on a medium-bodied frame offset by tart black and red berry fruits, spice and leather. It finished structured with saturating tannin, tart dark red fruits and black earth tones. (89 points)

2013 Cantine del Notaio Aglianico del Vulture Il Repertorio – The nose showed intense crushed raspberry with notes of clove, anise, and spice. On the palate, I found medium-bodied textures with intense dark fruit, giving way to wild herbs and peppery spice. It finished medium in length with fine tannin and savory spices lingering on. (89 points)

2013 Cantine Strapellum Aglianico del Vulture Piano Regio – The nose was holding back, yet with coaxing, it revealed dark red fruit, violets, clove, wild herbs and crushed stone. On the palate, I found lean textures with tart red and black fruits, dark soil tones and spice. It finished long with saturating tannin violet inflections and lingering tart red berry fruit. (89 points)

2008 Colli Cerentino Aglianico del Vulture Masqito – The nose was dark and brooding, showing savory charred meats, black earth, cherry, herbs, and crushed stone minerality. On the palate, It was unexpectedly youthful and complex, displaying tart cherry, saline-minerality, and spice. The finish was long with saturating gruff tannin that dried the fruit despite the wine’s age, making me wonder if the fruit can hold up to them over time. (88 points)
2011 Cantine Strapellum Aglianico del Vulture Nibbio Grigio – The nose was fresh and floral with light blackberry, minerals and spice. On the palate, I found soft textures with a mix of red and black fruit, yet this lacked persistence, as fine tannin saturated the senses. It finished structured yet still fresh with medium length. (88 points)

2015 Cantina di Venosa Aglianico del Vulture Verbo – The nose was perfumed with spicy red florals and notes of crushed raspberry, orange peel, and crushed stone. On the palate, I found vibrant red fruit with juicy acidity and hints of spice. It finished with zesty red berries and a coating of fine tannin. This may be simple, but it’s undeniably enjoyable today. (87 points)

2013 Terra Dei Re Aglianico del Vulture Vultur – The nose showed crushed violets, black fruits, ash, fall leaves, and peppery herbs. On the palate, I found lean textures with herbal black fruits and saturating tannin. It finished on drying tannin and tart red fruits. (87 points)

2011 Terre degli Svevi Aglianico del Vulture Re Manfredi Vigneto Serpara – The nose was brooding and dark with notes of plum, undergrowth, ash, chalk dust, and sweet violets. On the palate, I found silky textures with concentrated ripe black fruits, peppery herbs and spice. Hints of pepper lingered along with earthy undergrowth and bitter herbs. I can’t help but feel like part of its profile is the result of old (unclean?) barrels. (86 points)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

1990 Barolo & Barbaresco Retrospective

The Prelude to The Modern Vintage


Six years ago, a group of friends and collectors–myself included–assembled a 1990 Barolo retrospective tasting. I honestly didn’t know what to expect at the time because, only six years ago, the average Barolo collector looked down on the 1990 vintage, disregarding it as a warm, ripe year that wouldn’t deliver wines that could mature well in the cellar–boy, were we wrong.

The results of our tasting were positive nearly across the board, with only one wine showing poor development and with a few of them verging on epic. When the time came for me to write up my review and to begin to market it to my community of readers, I was met by a number of negative responses. Some people even went as far as calling my opinions incorrect, completely convinced that these wines couldn’t possibly be as good as I said. With time though, opinions began to change as more and more collectors re-tasted the wines themselves and found something they didn’t expect–something they liked a lot.

My opinion was that 1990 wasn’t a poor vintage. It was a ripe vintage, of that there is no doubt, but the wines maintained a freshness and liveliness through balanced acidity, and a purity of ripe fruit that is hard to resist. I mused that they would continue to age beautifully for many years in the cellar.

That brings us to September 27th at the North End Grill

The 1990 vintage in Barolo and Barbaresco started with an unusually turbulent winter, as weather patterns fluctuated between unusually cold to unusually warm through April. Yet the bigger issue was the lack of precipitation. The region was graced with neither rain nor snow until April, and warm weather that lasted into May. The flowering and crop set was variable across the region, yet, in the end, most producers found the set to be generous. With June came the lasting heat, which remained through most of the summer and sped the maturation of fruit. However, with September the weather became much more seasonal, and although the harvest was early by 10-15 days, it was done under optimal conditions. The fear was that the fruit lacked the necessary time on the vine to develop depth and ripe tannin.

Some people immediately disregarded the vintage as ripe and not worthy of the cellar. The funny part is that by today’s standards, it would have been considered a much better year.

From the start, the 1990s drank beautifully and continued to drink well for a decade. Many people thought of it as a restaurant vintage, meaning that a sommelier could buy the wines and open them for their customers upon arrival. Vintages that we might say the same for in the recent past include 2011, 2009, 2007 and 2003. This isn’t the best company to keep in a Barolo collector’s opinion, but 1990 has something very different from these vintages–balance.

There are many theories about why wines age in a positive manner, and with Barolo most people associate it with tannin alone. However, in the time that I’ve been collecting wine, the theory that I’ve come to believe more than any other is that a wine matures on its balance. Fruit, acid and tannin in balance will allow a wine to go the long haul. In my opinion, if the conditions of the 1990 vintage were repeated today, then the wines would have been much better-received in their youth. I see it as a prelude to our modern vintages.

When tasting through the 1990s on our table, balance was the repeating theme in nearly all of them. The fruit was ripe on the nose and palate, only verging on tart in some cases, and they were all carried gracefully across the senses by vibrant acidity. The tannin lurked in the background, only showing itself early in a small number of wines. However, in most of them, their tannin could be perceived only on the tail end of the finish. When you consider that these are 27 year-old wines, then you would expect the tannins to be taking a back seat.

The 1990s we tasted are defined by their consistency and the wide drinking window that they’ve enjoyed. Six years ago, they were gorgeous–maybe coming across as a touch riper. Today they are just as beautiful, a bit more refined, and in no danger of decline.

If you can find 1990 Barolo or Barbaresco from your favorite producer that has been well stored, then my advice is to buy it and enjoy.

On to the tasting notes:


1st Flight: Paolo Scavino Barolo


Paolo Scavino Barolo Bric del Fiasc 1990 – The ‘90 Bric del Fiasc provided a fantastic start to our tasting, being one of the first times that I’ve tasted this wine and found the development of more tertiary aromas and flavors. The nose was gorgeous, displaying crushed fall leaves, tar and undergrowth up front, as notes of black cherry, brown sugar and a hint of iodine developed in the glass. On the palate, I found silky textures offset by zesty acidity with mineral-drenched tart cherry fruit that saturated the senses. It finished long on dark red fruits, undergrowth and iron-borne minerality. (94 points)

Paolo Scavino Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata 1990 – Upon serving, the ‘90 Rocche dell’Annunziata was much warmer (temperature-wise) than the Bric del Fiasc, which hurt its initial performance, but as the evening wore on, I was able to taste it again on its own with much better results. The nose was hauntingly dark and intense with baked cherries, exotic spice, marine-minerality and hints of sweet herbs. On the palate, I found medium-bodied textures yet still lighter than I expected, with dried black cherry and strawberry fruits. Hints of tobacco, sweet herbs and inner florals lingered on the palate long into the finish, with an earthy-mineral tinge. (91 points)

2nd Flight: Modern Leanings


Azienda Bricco Rocche (Ceretto) Barolo Brunate 1990 – The bouquet was gorgeous with spicy ripe cherry, cigar box, hints of orange citrus, and menthol. It entered juicy on the palate, with pretty ripe cherry and sweet spice tones, yet falling off toward the mid-palate, and ultimately becoming muddled with an odd note of rotten fruit. It finished with medium-length and hints of fine tannin, but it appears that the Ceretto Brunate may have already seen its day in the sun. (90 points)

Elio Altare Barolo Vigneto Arborina 1990 – The nose was dark and intense, showing black earth, minerals, hauntingly dark floral tones, dried black cherry, cedar, and savory herbs. On the palate, I found unbelievable silky textures and medium-to-full bodied weight, with vibrant red berry fruits, spices, minerals and vibrant acidity that added great energy to the mix. It was so easy to like that you could easily find yourself drinking it instead of tasting. The finish was long with a display of dark red fruit, saturating sweet spice, tobacco and dried roses. (93 points)

Luciano Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis 1990 – The ‘90 Cannubi Boschis was at first dark and brooding in the glass, taking time to unfurl, yet once it did–what a beautiful display it was. Here I found a dark and meaty bouquet with minty herbs and bright cherry adding freshness. As it sat in the glass, notes of dusty spice and dried rose appeared, yet there remained a note of beef blood, which grounded this in the earth. It was silky on the palate, yet structured and still youthful, showing tart cherry, orange peel and tobacco. The finish was long and saturating to the senses, with lively tannin and dried red berry tones. (96 points)


3rd Flight: Serralunga and Monforte


Gaja Barolo Sperss 1990 – The ‘90 Sperss was remarkably fresh for both the vintage and what I expected from the wine. Here I found a gorgeous bouquet of dried violets offset by dark earth, leather, red licorice, dusty old spice box and crushed stone. On the palate, soft textures were complemented by an undercurrent of ripe dark red fruits, with hints of dried citrus, minerals and brisk-energizing acidity. It finished long and floral with lingering hints of undergrowth, spice and dried red berry fruit. (97 points)

Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia 1990 – The nose displayed an overwhelming mineral, metal and sawdust note, lacking in fruit but also not showing any aromas that I associate with cork. On the palate, it was one dimensional, showing dark red fruit but without any energy or drive. I’m sure this was an off bottle, but I’m not exactly sure of how it arrived at such an odd state. I declined scoring it as a result. (NA)

Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Riserva Granbussia 1990 – This is further evidence that when an Aldo Conterno Barolo is on, that there is little else that can compare. The ‘90 Granbussia was Monforte-fruit personified. It was dark, viral, and brooding, with dried black cherry giving way to iron-like minerality, dusty florals and earth. On the palate, it was silky but with an underlying current of dark tannic structure and mineral earth tones, as black fruit saturated the senses. It was powerful and still tense, showing further potential for the cellar as it finished long on dried berries and tobacco. (94 points)

4th Flight: Barbaresco


Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Gallina di Neive 1990 – The bouquet was gorgeous with sweet florals and exotic spices, followed by dried strawberry, tobacco and hints of floral undergrowth. On the palate, I found a silky expression made vibrant through juicy acidity with mineral coated dark red fruits, and spices. It finished long and floral with hints of sweet herbs, lasting minerality and mouthwatering acidity. It’s amazing how juicy and fresh this 27 year-old barbaresco is, as well as how Giacosa could create so many consistently beautiful wines across so many vineyards and vintages. (95 points)

Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Pora 1990 – The Produttori Pora Riserva was so perfectly balanced and mature on this evening, showing a floral bouquet, yet rich with dried cherry, hints of olive, minerals and undergrowth. On the palate, I found saturating deep red berry fruit tones with zesty acidity providing freshness, and earth and tobacco adding depth. The finish was long and still lightly structured, and dried cherry and strawberry seemed to slowly melt from the senses. (94 points)

Gaja Barbaresco Costa Russi 1990 -The Costa Russi was a model of purity and nebbiolo refinement on the nose, as notes of pine and mint rose up from the glass, joined by hints of tar, dried rose, strawberry, potpourri and minerals. On the palate, I found zesty textures with nearly imperceptible weight, as the wine seemed to hover on the senses with lively notes of tart red berry, spice, citrus and fresh herbs. It’s amazing how youthful this felt, yet also perfectly mature, as it finished on dried berries, hints of cedar and inner floral tones. (93 points)

Also tasted in April 2017


Vietti Barolo Rocche 1990 – The ’90 Vietti Rocche is showing beautifully tonight. The bouquet was gorgeous and intense, with black cherry, mint, tobacco, sweet spice, dried flowers, and hints of undergrowth. On the palate, I found silky textures with a kick of acidity adding bite, while crunchy tannin added grip. Tart black cherry, dried citrus, wild herbs, and intense minerality saturated the senses. It finished fresh with biting acids and tannin, but oh so good and drinking wonderfully. (95 points)


Article, Photos and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido

For more impressions on our evening, visit: Wine Without Numbers


Friday, May 12, 2017

The Queen to Piedmont's King; Time To Talk Barbaresco

I often talk about Barolo, and I am quick to add in a Barbaresco note or bottle to a tasting whenever I see fit. However, what you will hardly ever see in these pages is a tasting centered around Barbaresco. The reason for this, much like the reason why Barolo is more well-known than Barbaresco, is that as collectors get to know the region, there has always been a certain bias against Barbaresco, placing Barolo in their minds as the better wine. First, let’s put that idea out of our heads, because it simply isn’t true, but unfortunately it took me many years of tasting–and something of a paradigm shift–to realize it.

The change started over many years of tasting, as once in awhile we would throw a Barbaresco into a blind Barolo lineup. It didn’t take long to realize that these wines were finishing with top ranks. Keep in mind that I’m not just talking about Gaja and Bruno Giacosa. Produttori del Barbaresco and their portfolio of Riserva wines have long been the Barolo collectors’ secret love affair with Barbaresco, and they are perfect examples of how affordable a great Barbaresco can be and how well they can age.

What we’ve also seen in the last decade is an awakening of producers in the region. Some producers who had contributed their grapes to the Produttori parted ways to start their own labels and perfect a unique style, while others suddenly realized that the ground beneath their feet was worth showcasing, and they decided to clean up their cellars or take new oak out of the picture. Cigliuti, Paitin and Sottimano quickly come to mind as a new breed of winemaker that is changing what people think about the region.

Speaking of producers, it also pays to note that compared to Barolo, Barbaresco is more dominated by small family-run wineries (many of which contribute to the Produttori del Barbaresco), and these families produce only a small amount of wine. What this means for collectors is that we see much less Barbaresco in the market, giving Barolo yet another leg up and much more facetime with consumers.

There is one other important point, and that is how the wines mature. For the longest time, Barbaresco was thought of as a softer version of Barolo, and one that couldn’t age as well. While I will agree that the tannins in Barbaresco generally require less time to mature than the average Barolo, the fact is that they can age just as well. Much of this has to do with terroir, which shares many similarities with Barolo but also a few drastic differences. The soils in both regions are mainly calcareous marls, yet in general, the soils of Barbaresco are richer in nutrients, and in some locations, they contain deposits of sand. There’s also the moderating effect of the Tanaro river, which is one of the key elements thought to be responsible for the superior wines produced by Gaja, whose vineyards benefit directly from the river’s warming breezes by day and cooling breezes at night. Lastly, there’s the required aging regimen in wood, 18 months for Barolo versus 12 months for Barbaresco, yet you’ll find many of the region’s producers aging their top wines longer.

What it all comes down to is that Barbaresco is not just worth a Barolo lover’s attention, it should be required, and anyone who ignores these wines is simply doing themselves an injustice. Barbaresco provides all of the classic flavor and aromatic profiles that we love from Nebbiolo, often maturing a little earlier, but also lasting in the cellar for decades–and all of this at what is often a better price.

This brings us to our most recent tasting at RiverPark in New York City. The theme was simply Barbaresco, but the producers were the top names of the region. Produttori del Barbaresco, Gaja, Bruno Giacosa and Roagna all filled the table. As is usually the case with this group (a bunch of Barolo lovers who met and organized on Antonio Galloni’s Vinous forums), the big gun always come out. The best part is that it’s never about showboating or trying to one-up each other; with this group it’s simply about sharing great wine with good friends.

On to the Tasting Notes:


Our first flight was originally intended to be a showcase of older wines, but due to a corked bottle of ‘65 Cappellano, it turned out to be more of a Produttori del Barbaresco flight. What is there to say? This was the flight for the true lover of mature Nebbiolo. Both bottles were completely mature, and unfortunately the Ovello was a bit over the hill (possibly not a perfect bottle). With that said, I still enjoyed it. As for the ‘67 Pora, it showed all the hallmarks of perfect maturity and an unexpected richness and meatiness that made it the wine of the flight. I simply love mature Barbaresco.

1967 Produttori del Barbaresco Pora Riserva Speciale – At first, the nose was dark, damp and almost moldy, yet the ‘67 Pora came around quickly in the glass to reveal dried flowers, strawberry, hints of mint, forest floor and minerals. On the palate, it displayed a dark and meaty character with savory, almost salty minerality, dark red fruits and hints of smoke. It finished on dried berries and plum, with a touch of light tannin. (93 points)

1971 Produttori del Barbaresco Ovello – The ‘71 Ovello was completely resolved and on the decline, yet I still found something to like with its bouquet of dried roses, cinnamon, orange peel, and amaro. On the palate, I found light textures with hints of strawberry and a zing of acidity, which added much-needed liveliness. It finished short on dried fruit and flowers. (NA)

The Gaja Flight was a real treat. The best part about it was to see just how enjoyable the entry-level Gaja Barbaresco can perform and mature. No Gaja is ever cheap, but it is a breath of fresh air to see the most affordable wine showing this well with age. Both ‘82s were gorgeous, and you could sense the stamp of the producer between the two of them. However, in the end, the Costa Russi simply had a depth that the ‘82 normale couldn’t touch. That said, I’d take either wine any day of the week. Then there was the ‘85, which was so pure and wonderfully drinkable in its maturity that it stopped me in my tracks. Lastly, the ‘89, one of my top three wines of the night, was simply gorgeous. I strongly urge readers to pay attention to these wines when they show up in the market, because they represent great relative value.

1982 Gaja Barbaresco – Tasting this next to the ‘82 Costa Russi was a fantastic experience, as the vintage and Gaja style was evident between the two of them. Granted, once I moved on to the Costa Russi, it was hard to come back, but I absolutely adored this wine all the same. The nose was dark and rich with sweet herbs, moist soil and minerals. On the palate, I found silky textures lifted by vibrant acidity, as pure red fruits gave way to savory mineral tones. It finished on dried cherry, red florals and a bite of lively acidity. (92 points)

1982 Gaja Barbaresco Costa Russi – The Costa Russi took everything I loved about the ‘82 Barbaresco tasted next it and took it up a notch. Here I found masses of depth in its dark, rich red fruits with sweet spices, undergrowth, and minerals. On the palate, I found silky, almost chewy textures contrasted by zesty acidity with notes of black cherry and dark chocolate, which slowly morphed into a savory expression of dried inner florals, minerals and earth. The finish was wonderfully long and vibrant with spicy sweetness and dried strawberry. (95 points)

1985 Gaja Barbaresco – What a beautiful and pure expression of Barbaresco! The ‘85 was in a perfect place on this night. The bouquet was a mix of crushed cherry and strawberry with hints of sweet tea leafs and herbs. With time, a savory mineral note came forward, adding even more depth. On the palate, I found a vibrant and fresh expression with zesty acidity adding verve to its dried cherry fruits. Inner florals and earth tones lingered through the finish, along with dried wild berries. (93 points)

1989 Gaja Barbaresco – Showing all of the hallmarks of this great vintage–dark, deep and still reticent–there’s still so much going on beneath the surface. The ‘89 Barbaresco displayed the most inviting bouquet of pine nettles, menthol, sweet herbs, spicy dark red fruits, and brown spice. On the palate, I found deep silky textures with dark red fruits, iron-born minerality, tea leafs, brisk acidity and lingering fine tannin. It finished firm and youthful with dark red fruits, sweet herbs, and hints of tobacco. I can imagine that another five years will put this in a perfect place for drinking. (96 points)

The Bruno Giacosa flight was, as always, highly anticipated and quite a revelation. I must note that I added my note for the 1970 Santo Stefano, which was not at this original tasting, but was tasted only days later with the same preparation as all of our other bottles. In this flight, I witnessed the feminine elegance of Santo Stefano first-hand. The ‘98 was a gorgeous wine and, in the end, the wine of the night for me. To be able to taste the ‘70 only days later and revel in the similarities of the two of them was also a great opportunity.

We also had the controversial ‘11 Asili, which I found to be a good wine, but far from what I’d expect from a Giacosa Barbaresco. Lastly, the 2000 Asili, a wine that I believe needs more time to truly show its virtues. In the end, this was a tremendous flight.

1970 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano – What a treat. The nose on the ’70 Santo Stefano was much richer and darker than you’d expect, with smoky sweet herbs, dried strawberry, exotic spice, orange peel, and crushed flowers. On the palate, I found lifted, feminine textures with brisk acidity enlivening mineral-infused dried cherry with wonderful inner sweetness. It was shorter than I hoped, but how can you hold that against this 47 year-old wine–it is simply stunning. (94 points)

1998 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano Riserva – Wow… simply wow. The ’98 Santo Stefano is pure beauty, grace and elegance on this night. Lifted and feminine with a complex mixture of dusty spice, dried flowers, minerals and a dark and savory hint of undergrowth. On the palate, it was soft and caressing to the senses with a stunning mix of brisk acidity and saturating red berry fruit. Fine tannin lingered on the finish, but this wine is so enjoyable already, as the overall expression is fresh, lifted and spicy. (97 points)

2000 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva – The nose was dark and rich with earth tones offset by brown spice, as crushed strawberry and rosy floral tones mingled. On the palate, I found velvety textures lifted by balanced acidity with notes of dried black cherry, ripe strawberry and crunchy minerals, yet it lacked the depth of the best vintages. The finish showed a light coating of fine tannin with remnants of dark fruit lingering. (94 points)

2011 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva – The nose was intense, yet seeming more new world than old, showing sweet spices and a toasty quality to its cherry and raspberry fruit. On the palate, I found textures of weighty velvet ushering in floral-tinged red fruits and hints of dried orange with tannins that were almost completely enveloped by its fruit. The finish was long, with dark fruits lingering along with a coating of fine tannin. Others at the same tasting enjoyed this more than I did, and in some cases they have more experience with the wines. Personally, it’s hard for me to imagine the ‘11 maturing into a great Giacosa Red Label. (92 points)

The Roagna flight was most memorable for just how different yet equally enjoyable the ‘96 Paje was from the ‘96 Crichët Pajé (made from vines at the crest of the Pajé cru with extended time in barrel and late release). From the collector’s and wine lover’s standpoint, I couldn’t be happier about this, as the former costs a quarter of the price of Crichët Pajé. However, neither wine was better; instead they were simply completely different. Numerically, I scored them nearly the same, but in the end I had only a small preference for the Crichët Pajé, and mainly because it possessed more richness, while the straight Pajé was all about energy.

1996 Roagna Barbaresco Pajé – This was an outstanding showing for the ‘96 Pajé, especially served next to the Crichët Pajé of the same year. The nose showed sweet herbs, savory earth tones, smoke, brown spices and crushed strawberry. On the palate, I found zesty, grippy, energizing textures with vibrant acidity giving way to pure red fruits, minerals and hints of orange peel. It finished long, with dried berries and hints of tannin, yet energetic and spicy. (94 points)

1996 Roagna Barbaresco Crichët Pajé – Much more approachable than I would have expected, the ‘96 Crichët Pajé showed a bouquet of dried roses, sweet crushed berries, moist soil, exotic spices, and dark wood tones. On the palate, I found silky textures offset by zesty acidity with tart red fruits, exotic spice and mineral tones. It finished long with saturating red fruits and youthful tannin, but much less than I would have expected. It was gorgeous, but served next to the ‘96 Pajé, it shows the aging regiment over the vibrant fruit. (95 points)

Article, Tasting Notes, and Photos by: Eric Guido