Sunday, December 11, 2011

2001 Piedmont Retrospective

Barbaresco, Barolo and Castiglione Falletto
A classic vintage (part 1)

Wine of the Night
In the world of wine writing, there's always going to be somebody who's touting the next perfect vintage.  However, what's unfortunate is that this praise is usually created to sell wine.  What's more, the wines that are loved by the majority of today's critics, don't necessarily share anything in common with classic wines of the past, other than the name.  How do we know that a 2007 Barolo will age into something similar to the great vintages of the past?  We simply don’t.   What we do know, is that the Nebbiolo grape possess the remarkable ability to age, and that even in “off” vintages or ripe vintages, the best producers can create good wine, that should age well. 

My top three picks
2001 was not an “off” or ripe vintage.  In fact, it was quite the opposite.  To me, 2001 is a true classic vintage, which provided intense, structured wines with balanced acidity and the capacity to age for decades.  Often grouped with great vintages like ’89 and ’96, most wines tasted from ‘01 show a level of refinement and balance, that you can actually sense the quality in the glass, even as your mouth is wrapped in tannin.  In general, the aromatics are layered and truly stunning and the core of intense, pure fruit promises that these wines will last the test of time.  With that said, we have now reached the 10 year mark for 2001, and they are right where you’d expect them to be in their evolution—young and full of potential. 

The best part is it’s not too late to find many of these wines, as long as you take care to source them from reputable retailers.

Fight 1

Flight one consisted of two of the biggest names and three of the most esteemed vineyards in Barbaresco.  This flight truly showed the benefits of tasting double blind, as we worked through the wines and formed our conclusions.  A point of note is that the consensus of the group placed the Produttori Asili against the Giacosa Asili in a tie for third place wine-of-the-night (important to consider since the Produttori can be had for half the price).  I also found the Giacosa Santo Stefano to be far more interesting than the majority at the table.  The Asili came across as a little too earthy and with aromas that I don’t associate with great Barbaresco, however the Santo Stefano was simply classic to my palate. 

Lastly, I was saddened by the performance of the Produttori Rabajà, since the last time I tasted it, I felt there was much more potential in the glass.  In the end, the Giacosa Rabajà Riserva was my wine of the flight, as well as my wine of the night (and yes, this was all tasted double blind); it’s simply a great bottle of Barbaresco.

2001 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Asili – The nose showed dusty cherry and strawberry with notes of orange, rich mulling spices and the slightest whiff of old library books.  On the palate, it showed silky black cherry fruit and minerals with vibrant acidity providing an airy lift.  On the finish, notes of tart red fruit and mushrooms lingered through this wines tight, drying structure.  (93 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2001 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Rabajà – The nose was elegant and showed dark strawberry, floral stems and herbs with notes of tar, crack black pepper and moist earth.  On the palate, it first showed soft, sweet red fruit and an earthy funk with tongue curling acidity, yet as it traveled across the palate, it seemed diluted and somehow hollow.  The finish showed this wines structure with lingering notes of red fruit and earth. (91 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2001 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano – The nose showed rich sweet raspberry and herbs but with time in the glass it turned to tart cherry, orange peel and the slightest hint of shoe polish.  On the palate, it showed a solid core of cherry fruit, which was zesty with acidity, yet full in body.  An impression of balance and focus struck me as I sipped this wine, which should mature into something magical.  The finish was clean with dried cherry and fine tannins. (94 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2001 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili – The nose showed earthy funk, black cherry, breadcrumbs, and hints of green vegetables.  On the palate, I found black cherry fruit, floral notes and minerals in a soft and juicy style.  The finish showed cranberry but was short and drying. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2001 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Riserva Rabajà – The nose showed deep, ripe strawberry fruit, crushed leaves, potpourri and sweet spices, yet bright and clean.  On the palate, it showed elegant, ripe red fruits with beautiful structure and balance.  The finish was long and structured.  This wine showed so much balanced mix with intensity that it’s easy to imagine great things in its future. (97 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Flight 2

Flight two was painful.  It was designed as a flight of wines that all came from the commune of Barolo.  However, we weren’t aware of this information while tasting.  The consensus of the Giuseppe Rinaldi was that it was a modern styled Barolo and one taster even felt that it was cooked.  The intense aroma of acetone (or nail polish remover) made me think of VA.  I decided to withhold a score until I can taste this wine again.  Following that was a corked wine (which turned out to be Bartolo Mascarello).  Then the last two wines, which were very similar on the nose and even convinced me that they might have been from the same producer.  Again, from the performance on the nose, these wines came off as modern in style.  In the end, it was Giacomo Borgogno Barolo Storico Liste that was my favorite wine of the flight.

2001 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate Le Coste – The nose showed a whiff of initial heat, followed by rich cherry lollipop and notes of acetone.  On the palate, it was almost port-like, without the sweetness with notes of black cherry fruit.  The finish was rough with tannin and almost sticky.  One taster thought this was cooked, however, I felt it suffered from VA.  Either way I’ve reserved scoring the wine, as it may have been faulty. (N/A) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2001 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo – Corked (N/A)

2001 E. Pira and Figli (Chiara Boschis) Barolo Cannubi – The nose showed sweet red and black fruits with floral, menthol notes and a hint of black truffles.  On the palate, it was big, rich and palate staining on entry, yet a wave of acidity on the mid-palate gave the impression of focused, airy red fruits.  The finish was woody with drying tannin. (89 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2001 Giacomo Borgogno and Figli Barolo Storico Liste – The nose showed tart cherry, medicinal herbs, menthol and tobacco leaf.  On the palate, it showed sweet, soft strawberry fruit with a balance of structure and acidity that kept it focused and fresh.  The long finish was laden with spicy red fruit. (91 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Flight 3

Flight three was a perfect way to end the evening.  For one thing, it turned up the 2nd place wine-of-the-night with the Cavallotto Barolo Riserva Bricco Boschis Vigna San Giuseppe.  But what’s more, the entire Cavallotto lineup was a pleasure to drink (I had my issues with the Riserva Vignolo, but no one else seemed to mind it so much).  What was a let down was the performance from the Monprivato.  Call it backward or say that they never perform well in their youth.  I think we’ve all heard the excuses made for this wine when young and I will be very happy if my bottles mature into something wonderful.  However, at the moment, it comes across as out-of-balance and shows vegetal notes that I don’t find attractive.   The Cavallotto Barolo Riserva Bricco Boschis Vigna San Giuseppe was my wine of the flight and the Cavallotto Bricco Boschis was no slouch either.  These are great wines, especially for the money.

2001 Cavallotto Barolo Bricco Boschis – The nose on the Cavallotto Bricco Boschis showed bright cherry, sweet spices, roses and hard candy.  As it sat in the glass an aroma of espagnole joined the bouquet and added masses of complexity.  On the palate, it was juicy and rich yet balanced, showing sweet red fruit mixed with baking spices.  The finish was long and concentrated, showing dark chocolate and black cherry. (92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2001 Cavallotto Barolo Riserva Vignolo – The nose showed ripe red fruits with minerals, a hint of rust and a sweaty note that detracted greatly from the experience.  On the palate, I found silky sweet cherry, and a dusting of dark chocolate, which turned lean on the mid-palate and stayed through the finish with dried red fruits and rough tannin.  (89 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2001 Cavallotto Barolo Riserva Bricco Boschis Vigna San Giuseppe – The nose showed deep, rich red fruits, poppy and menthol with a zesty, almost tropical note of tangerine.   On the palate, it was velvety and rich with sweet, spiced red fruits.  The finish was intense, structured and long. (95 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2001 Giuseppe E Figlio Mascarello Barolo Monprivato – The nose showed dark, almost dank strawberry fruit with minerals and a vegetal note.  On the palate, it came across as round but missing focus with soft red fruits with a vegetal note.  The finish showed dried out fruits and burnt sugar. (88 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!
The 2001 lineup.  Served double blind.

Other recent tastings of 2001 Baroli:

2001 Parusso Barolo Bussia – The nose on the ’01 Parusso Bussia was gorgeous, showing ripe cherry, cola, tobacco, potpourri and cedar spice box. On the palate it was rich yet firm, with black raspberry and hints of wood spice. The finish was remarkably long, showing refined structure and a lingering note of pure cherry. (95 points)

2001 Elio Altare Barolo Vigneto Arborina - The Altare Arborina showed a classic Barolo nose of red fruits, plum skins, roses, tar, a hint of animal musk and undergrowth. The nose pulled me in and reminded me somehow of a childhood Autumn day with dried leaves and pine nestles. On the palate, it showed an elegant, full body, backed by a balance of tannin and acid. The fruit was rich but not over-ripe, with sweet spice and an airy, refreshing note of menthol. The finish was long with red fruits, tobacco and a hint of brown sugar. (95 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2001 Elio Grasso Barolo Rüncot - This wine was painfully young, but there was such potential in the glass, and after time in decanter, a glimpse of what it may become shined through. At first, the nose was full on oaky vanilla and even a hint of nail polish, but this faded over the course of three hours, and what remained was dark red fruit, a dusting of brown sugar, and menthol. On the palate, I found an elegant and more feminine structure than expected with lush cherry fruit, herbs and cinnamon. The long finish showed fine silky tannin that left my palate dry but not fatigued. I’m very excited to think what this may be in another ten years. (93 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!


  1. Eric, we drank the 01 Cavallotto Bricco Boschis very recently. The wine was decanted for at least 8 hours. Found the wine to be brilliant. The wine was huge. Prob had at least 10-20 years ahead of it. The nose was classic Nebbiolo. Dark cherry, rose with a bit of tar beginning to emerge.

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