Saturday, May 25, 2013

There's No Instant Gratification in Barolo...

But some things are worth waiting for.

By: Eric Guido

Patience is something that has been lost in the world of wine. I remember reading that the majority of wine purchases are consumed within 20 minutes of being purchased. It's a scary thought, yet I remember those days in my life. However, what I also remember was that I received significantly less satisfaction from wine back then. In fact, it wasn't until I tasted wines that had been cared for with time, temperature and proper decanting that I truly caught the wine bug. Before that time, I found myself disappointed often and blaming my own palate for not being sophisticated enough to enjoy wine.

Don't get me wrong; most wine is created with near-term drinking in mind, but those tend to not be the wines that inspire me. What truly inspires me is what a wine can become and the stages it goes through to get there. A perfectly-aged wine is where the bouquet has become like a rose, unfurling slowly in the glass, and with each petal comes another addition that slowly builds into a crescendo of aromas. On the palate, the tannins have resolved, allowing the fruit to shine through, and the youthful wood has somehow transformed into dark leathery, earthy and soil tones. I've often found a perfectly-aged bottle to remind me of childhood, picking ripe cherries or strawberries, with the smells of soil and stems compounding the vibrant dark fruit.

Barolo is an excellent example of one such wine; there is no instant gratification with Barolo. It's a wine that can be as hard as nails, with biting acidity and drying tannins for the first decade of its life. Yet, something lurks beneath it all. You can sense it, and sometimes you can almost smell or taste it, yet it eludes you. With 15 to 20 years you begin to see its qualities; sometimes they are still masked by the wine's structure, but many bottles will drink well at this time. From there, it's all about timing and tasting; it's when the fun really begins, and all that time you spent aging and caring for your bottles pays off.

Many people have asked me, "why do you cellar wines?" This is the reason why, to have bottles like these in your cellar. Perfectly stored, waiting just for that right moment. These are bottles that were bought in a different time and evoke nostalgic memories of those times, with prices that sometimes boggle your mind; like a tattered $25 price label on a bottle that now fetches $350.

I was recently fortunate enough to taste through a number of beautifully aged wines. They were gorgeous, and if you're willing to pay the price, then you'll be in for a real treat.

On to the Wines:

1974 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo – This showed a deep red color in the glass with an initial note of green peas giving way cherry, tobacco, herbs and soil-laden minerals. On the palate, it started smooth, giving way to acidity yet remaining in balance with notes of tart, dried cherry and minerals. The finish faded slightly with remnants of dried fruit and floral tones. This wine will not improve, but it is beautiful today, all the same. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

1985 Prunotto Barolo Bussia – The nose showed rich cherry tobacco, hints of green stems, dusty spice and minerals. On the palate, it was deep and rich with dried, dark cherry, and minerals laced with vibrant acidity, keeping it fresh and youthful. The finish was long with palate-saturating tones of dried red fruits. (91 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

1959 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo – An impossibly youthful, deep ruby red color, leading to a drop-dead gorgeous bouquet of dried cherry, dusty dried floral notes, plum, soil tones, cinnamon and a hint of undergrowth. On the palate, it was energetic and youthful with brisk acidity paving the way to rich dark-red fruits, tobacco and tar with inner floral tones that played out with seductively balanced and soothing textures. The finish stayed true to cherry and soil tones with a hint of mineral. This wine was beautiful from first pour and only gained complexities in the glass. What a way to start a Barolo tasting. (93 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

1978 Cappellano Barolo – What a treat this wine was as it sat in the glass and gained momentum throughout the evening. Starting fresh and lively, it turned darker and mysterious with time in the glass. The nose showed potpourri, tobacco, and hints of roses, licorice and dried strawberry—classic. On the palate, it was elegant and structured with cherry, metallic minerals and smoked meats. The finish was unrelenting, as dried cherry, tobacco and herbs seemed to linger infinitely from sip to sip. (94 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

1990 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino – This wine was truly born of the earth, showing a classic, dark Serralunga profile. The nose was brooding with floral potpourri, balsamic notes, mint, macerated cherry, and rocky minerals, yet fresh and lifting throughout the entire experience. On the palate, it was perfectly balanced, showing earth-infused, dark red fruits and rocky minerals with rich yet fresh textures that simply wouldn’t relent. A single glass of the 1990 Monfortino is just not enough, as this wine says “drink me, “ while still asking for a number of years forgotten in the cellar. The finish lingered with tannic hints adding complexity to its dark earth and mineral-soil tones mixed with dried red fruit. (96 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

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