Saturday, July 10, 2010

1998: Barolo Retrospective

With a cellar full of young vintages of Barolo, from the last 15 years, 1998 stands out as a vintage that is not just entering its drinking window but also doing it with style. The 1997 vintage is not really my speed as many of the wines come off to me as drinking well but uninteresting. The 2000 vintage provides me with a good amount of head scratching as I’m still trying to figure out if they are too soon or just not aging as well as I had hoped. Then there’s 1998, a hot vintage, marked by drought and a vintage that’s often overshadowed by the big vintages surrounding it and has been for many years at an odd stage that was ungiving to the taster.

However, within the last year or so, 1998 has begun to really shine and most bottles are now entering early maturity. The top shelf is utterly stunning and the mid-level bottles are highly enjoyable. At this tasting, it was remarkable, how each of the bottles were in pristine condition and coming along well into their maturity. Each was giving and a delight to drink and the best part is that, with a little searching, each can still be found at market. I listed my favorites first but this, by no means, is intended to dissuade you from trying any of the latter.

And so, on to the notes:

  • 1998 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Le Rocche del Falletto di Serralunga d'Alba - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (6/28/2010)
    The bottle of the night for me as this beauty wafted intense aromas into the air. The wine showed a classic nose of rich red fruit, accentuated by florist shop, tar and menthol. The palate revealed full-bodied sour cherry and anise with a sweetness to the mid-palate that finished with roses in a soft, velvety tannic finish. Give this another three to five years and I think it will be even better.(94 pts.)

  • 1998 Paolo Scavino Barolo Bric dël Fiasc - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (6/28/2010)
    My number two wine of the night, the Bric dël Fiasc initially showed cherry and potpourri dust but with time transformed into something more with cherry compote, allspice, hard red candy, roses and cooking sausage. The palate showed a good amount of structure and intense cherry fruit with herbal tea and mushrooms. The finish presented silky tannin that lent to a brilliant aftertaste of sour red fruit. This bottle is drinking wonderfully now but will undoubtedly continue to improve with time.(93 pts.)

  • 1998 Luigi Pira Barolo Marenca - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (6/28/2010)
    My number three wine of the night and honestly it was a close call against the Scavino, Bric dël Fiasc. The nose of the Marenca, draws you in with dusty red fruit, topsoil, undergrowth and sweet tar. On the palate, I found ripe strawberry with savory mushroom and tobacco that lead to a clean red fruit finish with silky tannin. This wine is drinking great right now with proper decanting. (93 pts.)

  • 1998 Domenico Clerico Barolo Pajana - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (6/28/2010)
    The nose showed dusty cherry and cranberry with rose petals and slight sour cream note. On the palate I found velvety red fruit leading to a sweet mid-palate with cinnamon and dark chocolate. This bottle showed underwhelming at first but with a good amount of time in glass it truly filled out and revealed multiple layers that weren’t seen in my initial tasting notes.

    Also, important to note, is that a small amount of this wine came home with me that night and was absolutely wonderful with even more time exposed to air. In the end, I believe this bottle may have vied for second place if it was given more time.(92 pts.)

  • 1998 Albino Rocca Barbaresco Riserva Vigneto Brich Ronchi - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco (6/28/2010)
    Modern but very interesting as the the nose showed cherries and cranberry with sandalwood, dried meats and dark chocolate. On the palate, the wine was soft as velvet with dark cherry and tobacco but faded into a drying red fruit finish. (91 pts.)

  • 1998 Conterno Fantino Barolo Riserva Sorì Ginestra - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (6/28/2010)
    On the nose, red fruits fade into undergrowth and tar. The palate showed strawberry with cinnamon, rose petal and a hint of honey. However, the finish closed down with rough tannin that made it hard to judge. Out of everything i tasted this evening, I'd say this one certainly needs a little more time to come around. (90 pts.)

  • 1998 Elio Altare Barolo Vigneto Arborina - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (6/28/2010)
    The nose came off as restrained to me as if I was smelling Barolo through a veil with light notes of red fruit and roses. On the palate, I found cherry with old cedar, which lead to a soft tannic pull on the finish.

    This bottle did not receive the same decanting and the others in the flight and may have really come around with more time. (89 pts.)

  • 1998 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto di Serralunga d'Alba - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (6/28/2010)
    Slightly muted on the nose with red fruit, crushed fall leaves and potpourri. On the palate, I found sour red fruit and savory broth with a slightly elevated amount of acidity. Having tasted this bottle in different vintages, young and mature, I have to believe that this is in a odd stage of it’s life and may show better with more time or a longer decant. (89 pts.)

  • In closing, I would love to drink any of these wines again. The showing was amazing and points don't do these bottles justice as I was hard pressed to decide between them. The Paolo Scavino, as my number two bottle of the night, is an amazing value since Wine-Search shows you can purchase bottles as low as $80. It was a great evening and I strongly suggest that anyone, who loves Barolo, should seek out some '98's to try in the near future.

    Lastly, I want to give credit to the staff and Chef at Paprika restaurant. The food, mostly northern Italian, was amazing and the ambience made for an excellent moment in time for tasting fine wine. Their pasta menu is sure to please and the Chef's specials were simply exquisit. Give them a try at 110 St. Marks Place in the East Village or check out their website at: Paprika


    1. We just received a 1998 Sandiliano Barolo. Have not opened yet and cannot find info on it. Are you familiar with this one?

    2. We just received a 1998 Sandiliano Barolo. Have not opened yet and cannot find info on it. Are you familiar with this one?


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