Tuesday, July 17, 2012

1999 Barolo and Barbaresco: Right on Track

One of the most common discussions among Barolo drinkers are which vintages from the 1995 through 2001 vintage streak will rise to the top. It’s a debate that has been going on for years, and for quite some time, ’99 seemed to be a big question mark--until recently.

A recent experience with a '99 Aldo
Conterno Colonnello, truly peaked
my interest in revisiting these wines.
This time last year, I would have worried about opening a ’99 Barolo. It was a fear that it would be too broad yet too tannic and far from maturity. I’d say you should be drinking ’95, most ‘97’s, and some ’98’s. I would have gone on to say that ’96 was more structured but classic with fruit that would last the test of time. Then I’d explain that ’01 was still a baby in need of more time, but that it appeared to be a great vintage in the making. But with ’99, I had feared that it wouldn’t come around while the fruit was still intact. However, Barolo has a way of surprising you, and ’99 has done just that.

1999 had a great start, being a year that saw favorable conditions throughout the entire region. A warm summer with cool nights lent the grapes that much needed push and pull of heat to ripen, and a break at night retained balance and added aromatics. Maybe I was at a disadvantage, having never tasted these upon release. For me, most of these bottles were at least seven or eight years old before my first taste and may have been in a dormant stage. However, after this tasting, I can see that they are right on track.

Most of these wines are just entering their drinking window. I wouldn’t put them in the same league as ’96 for ageability, yet I would say there’s at least a decade of improvement in store for the majority of wines we tasted. What was troubling was the number of bottles that appeared to be suffering from unusually high amounts of volatile acidity. Lastly, there was the revelation that our wine of the night wasn’t a Barolo—It was a Barbaresco.

In my opinion, ’99 is a vintage to sample over the coming years--and buy, if the price and provenance is right.

On to the notes:

La Morra and Barolo

1999 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate / Le Coste – The nose was highly expressive with black cherry and raspberry fruits, followed by soil, slate dust and earthy minerals with a hint of V.A. On the palate, it was silky with a full body, showing rich red fruits, sweet spice and saline minerals. It’s structure seemed to creep in with the second sip as drying tannin coated the palate, yet still managed to close with flavors of cherry and wild herbs. (92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

1999 Michele Chiarlo Barolo Cerequio – On the nose, I found cherry fruit with oak influences of sawdust, cinnamon with an odd note of raw beef. On the palate, it was soft and juicy with sweet red fruits, coffee notes and spice. The finish was staying with red fruit, cinnamon spice, inner floral notes and cheek-puckering tannin. (89 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

1999 Brezza Barolo Cannubi – The ’99 Brezza Cannubi was a gorgeous Barolo with crushed red berries, roses, mineral dust, and tobacco on the nose. On the palate, it was elegant and finessed with ripe cherry fruit and minerals, which turned darker and more dramatic over time to reveal sweet balsamic notes. The finish showed red berries made tart by cheek-puckering tannin. This wine was youthful, with many years of development ahead of it. (94 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!


1999 Produttori del Barbaresco “Torre” – The ’99 Barbaresco “Torre” from Produttorri del Barbaresco makes a serious case for the quality of their normale. The nose showed cherry fruit, dried roses and earth tones of soil, a bit of green stem and raw chestnut. On the palate, a rush of intense red berry fruit was followed by earth and mushroom with a chewy texture that gave way to tannin. The finish showed dried red berries with gruff tannin that was fine on this night but may one day overpower the fruit in this wine. (90 points) Find in on Wine-Searcher!

1999 Produttori del Barbaresco Moccagatta Riserva – The Produttori Moccagatta was classic in every way, and having tasted it blind, was easily confused for being a Barolo. The nose started out muted, but with a short time in the glass, a bouquet of dried cherry, potpourri, menthol and dark, dark chocolate filled the senses. On the palate, intense tart cherry washed across the senses with notes of cedar but was quickly subdued by fine tannin. Penetrating red fruits stayed through the finish in good balance against this wine’s tense structure. The Moccagatta was dark, mysterious and truly seductive on the nose with a truly classic feel on the palate. (95 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

1999 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano – The nose showed spiced red fruits, cherry pipe smoke and notes of acetone. On the palate, it showed an abundance of aggressive acidity with ripe red berries that coated the palate yet seemed to drop off in the middle. The finish was drying with penetrating red fruits. It would appear that this bottle was flawed. (NR) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Monforte d’Alba (Important to note that the ’99 Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Colonnello was tasted separatly but with similar treatment before tasting.)

1999 Attilio Ghisolfi Barolo Bricco Visette – The nose was unexpectedly advanced, showing damp soil with cherry, herbs, floral rose and minerals. On the palate, it was soft with ripe cherry and hints of iron like minerals. Stern tannins showed through on the finish with notes of cherry and cedar staying through the close. (87 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

1999 Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Colonnello – The nose was dark and seductive with cherry tobacco, plum, dusty potpourri a hint of musk and medicinal herbs. On the palate, it was velvety and perfectly balanced with masses of fruit. Sour cherry sauce and a hint of cedar filled the senses and warded off the silky tannins that were still present but not out front. On the finish, the fruit turned dry yet still intense with hints of sweet spices. (94 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! 

Castiglione Falletto

1999 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato – The nose showed sweet dark cherries and roses with spice and licorice. On the palate it was balanced and feminine with ripe cherry and spices, all driven by juicy acidity that brightened up the palate and nearly masked its underlying structure. The finish was fresh and juicy with inner floral notes lingering throughout. (94 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!


1999 Massolino Barolo Vigna Rionda Riserva – The nose was restrained, yet found its center with time in the glass, showing a bouquet of bright spiced cherry, tobacco, sandy soil and saline minerals. On the palate, it was lean in body, showing notes of dried cherry, earth and mushroom with teaming acidity and a broad structure that took control and lasted throughout the finish. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

1999 Schiavenza Barolo Riserva – The nose showed intense cherry but was followed by sweet acetone and plastic notes. On the palate, it showed tart cherry, minerals and rust with drying tannin that dominated the finish. This wine was marked by V.A. (NR) Find it on Wine-Searcher!


  1. Great notes, thank you! I agree with you on the two Produttori. Superb wines in this vintage. I think the riservas have been drinking well since release, but haven`t had the Moccagatta for a while. I better open a bottle soon.

  2. Keep up the best work guys, nice posts are here to get more benefits.
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