Monday, April 18, 2011

1995: Barolo Retrospective

When speaking of vintage streaks in Barolo circles, most enthusiasts think of 1996 through 2001. However, what is often overlooked is a vintage that was considered excellent upon release by growers and winemakers but quickly overshadowed by the structure of 1996 and the sex appeal of 1997. That vintage is 1995.

After four years of lackluster vintages (‘91 - ’94), Barolo growers were more than happy with the results of 1995. Generally speaking, the weather cooperated, with the exception of two isolated hailstorms, which caused uneven quality for some growers. However, the majority of the Langhe Barolo harvest, although small, produced big wines with the potential for long aging. The problem is that for how good 1995 was, it was quickly forgotten as vintage after excellent vintage flooded international markets.

What does this mean to today’s Barolo drinker? It means that 1995 Barolo can still be found and normally at good prices. The catch is that one must be careful to only buy from trusted sources since these bottles have had over 12 years on the open market, and the chances of having been mis-stored or abused during that time can be high. Luckily, there is a higher emphasis on sourcing well-stored wine among today’s best retailers.

In the end, a little known secret among long time Barolo collectors is that 1995 Barolo is worth the hunt. These are drinking now Baroli that show well-resolved tannins and masses of fruit balanced by a solid core of lively acidity.

Before I move to the wines, special thanks go out to i Trulli Restaurant in NYC for allowing me to host such a large tasting at a single table. The food at i Trulli is excellent and easily stands tall against the best Italian cuisine in NYC. There were 16 bottles in all, served blind, and in the end (with the exception of one corked and one slightly off bottle), all the wines were fabulous.

On to the wines:

1995 Domenico Clerico Barolo Pajana - The nose showed an initial burst of sour cranberry, which turned sweeter with air. As time passed in the glass, the cranberry turned to black cherry with a dusting of minerals, dark chocolate and menthol. On the palate, the Pajana lost momentum with its full-bodied, yet one dimensional showing of sour cherry and hints of holiday spice. The finish was staying with tart red fruits that clung to the palate. (88 points)

1995 Roagna Barolo La Rocca e La Pira - Initially, there seemed to be a dirty note to the nose, but with time in glass it came to life, showing undergrowth and floral notes with cinnamon and bright cherry fruit. On the palate, it was lush with sweet ripe strawberry and dusty cherry, minerals, and earth on a structured frame with lifting acidity. The finish showed a hint of drying tannin against focused fruit, giving the impression that this wine may be a few years short of its peak. (93 points) Find it: Wine-Searcher

1995 Giuseppe E Figlio Mascarello Barolo Ca d'Morissio Riserva Monprivato - On the nose, I found plum with fresh turned soil, floral notes, cherry and savory herbs. On the palate, notes of menthol filled the senses and gave way to red fruits and cedar. It was structured, showing enough balance of tannin and fruit to expect a number of years before it hits its peak. The long finish gave way to sour red fruits and hints of fennel. (92 points)

1995 Podere Rocche dei Manzoni Barolo Vigna d'la Roul - The rather expressive nose showed animal musk, menthol, mushrooms, saw dust and savory broth. On the palate, it was lush with a full body giving way to flavors of ripe cherry, herbs and spice. The finish was long and staying, carrying spicy red fruits to the close. (89 points)

1995 Vietti Barolo Lazzarito - The nose showed dusty potpourri with bright cherry, cedar and spice box. The palate was firm, showing masses of structure, as rich cherry fruit countered by earthy clay and dusty minerals swept across the senses. The finish was long and revealed crushed red fruits as the wine’s tannins slowly faded away. It was the utter balance and sheer focus of fruit that truly blew me away when drinking the 1995 Vietti Lazzarito. (92 points)

1995 Conterno Fantino Barolo Sorì Ginestra - On the nose, I found dark spiced fruits with plum and hints of sweet vanilla sugar. The palate showed soft cherry with cedar in a feminine expression of Nebbiolo. The finish tapered off with notes of sweet herbal tea. (89 points)

1995 Paolo Scavino Barolo Bric dël Fiasc - The nose showed ripe strawberry with clove, sage and hint of vanilla, yet there were some underlying notes of dank wood which marred the experience. On the palate, it was voluptuous, with ripe cherry and sweet tobacco. The finish was medium long, but the fruit took on a hollow feeling and left me wanting a little something more. (88 points) Find it: Wine-Searcher!

1995 Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Cicala - The nose showed cherry liquor with dusty brown sugar, yet the initial sweet character of this wine was immediately put in check by welcoming notes of fresh earth and broth. On the palate, it was feminine, as dried strawberry and hints of honeyed herbal tea washed across the senses, only to explode into a juicy pure expression of red fruits and minerals on the finish. (93 points)

Even though its not a Barolo, the Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Montestefano, was included and showed that Barbaresco from 1995 is also drinking beautifully and showing amazing quality.

1995 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Montestefano - The nose showed dusty minerals with floral undergrowth, copper penny and sour, soft cheeses. On the palate, it was soft, yet its balanced acidity kept it fresh with flavors of dark red fruit, licorice and cinnamon. The finish was long with red fruits and hints of cedar. (91 points)

1995 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo - The nose showed dusty potpourri with fresh figs, plum and undergrowth. On the palate, I found cherries and hints of white mushroom, in a pretty but very light expression of Nebbiolo. The finish revealed its drying tannins with very little fruit in balance. (88 points) Find it: Wine-Searcher!

1995 Comm. G.B. Burlotto Barolo Monvigliero - The nose showed black olive tapanade with rosemary and sweet cherry. On the palate, it was as soft as velvet with herbs, meaty broth, cherry and black olive washing across the senses. The finish left me satisfied by this wine’s wonderful balance, inner sweetness and remarkably unique profile. (93 points) Find it: Wine-Searcher!

1995 Giuseppe E Figlio Mascarello Barolo Monprivato - The nose showed cranberry, meaty broth, stone, minerals and something I can only describe as blood sausage. On the palate, I found a rich and dark expression of strawberry fruit and mushrooms that turned more angular and structured into the close with earthy notes. The finish was long with staying fruit, yet lacked dimension. (90 points) Find it: Wine-Searcher!

1995 Fratelli Brovia Barolo Rocche dei Brovia - The nose showed stemmed strawberries, cinnamon and roses with a slight vegetal note. On the palate, it was full-bodied with focused black cherry and tobacco. The finish turned to a pretty expression of sour red fruits. (90 points) Find it: Wine-Searcher!

1995 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto di Serralunga d'Alba - The nose showed savory and meaty notes with cherry and hints of acetone. On the palate, it was full-bodied with sweet overripe fruits and notes of green vegetables in butter broth. The finish was long, carrying the same odd flavors of the palate. This bottle was likely off. (reserving score) Find it: Wine-Searcher!

1995 Marcarini Barolo Brunate - The nose showed dark red fruits and moist earth with sweet spice and cedar wood. On the palate, I found a full-bodied expression of ripe, sweet cherry, cedar and herbs against a balanced structure of tannin, leading to a pleasant finish that turned the sweet cherries to sour berries. (92 points) Find it: Wine-Searcher!

For another perspective of this tasting, check out Greg dal Piaz, his review, a and great vintage synopsis at: Snooth!


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