Thursday, November 23, 2017

Germany’s Nail-Biter Vintage: 2016

2016 German Riesling Review

By Eric Guido

Better Late Than Never

In the past, I’ve shared my insights on Germany’s newest vintage releases in the late spring or summer, as I would wrap up my tastings of wines that were brought over by producers to taste with the media and industry, but something about the 2016’s gave me pause.  As I tasted the wines, I couldn’t help but feel that they hadn’t quite reached the point that anyone should be tasting them.  They were like unruly teenagers, with all of the anxiety, self-conscious mood-swings, and over compensation when in the spotlight.  Most of the wines seemed disjointed and some even seemed hollow.  Many of the wines from my favorite producers left me feeling unsatisfied--which is what really gave me pause.  

I made the decision that I needed to taste these wines again, when they had more time in bottle to settle and get their footing, so to speak.  In the end, I’m glad I waited, because what I’m tasting now has me smiling from ear to ear.

What to Expect from 2016 German Riesling

The 2016s are in many cases very immediate wines with rich textures and an acidic spine that takes a back seat compared to vintages like ‘14 and ‘15. Yet these are wonderfully balanced wines and so hard to resist already, and for those who love minerality--there’s plenty to spare.

The 2016 vintage in Germany was a nail-biter for winemakers. The season started with a warmer-than-average winter that accelerated budbreak, and was followed by spring frost through much of the country and even into Austria. Flowering was late and yields looked to be down, but this didn’t deter growers from remaining positive. It wasn’t until the rains came--and didn’t stop until into July--that most producers realized that there may be reason for worry. Then came the heat, which started out as humid, causing bacterial infections and rot in the bunches. The humidity left, but the heat did not, as it remained throughout August. Growers who worked the vineyards, trimmed bad fruit and sprayed survived through these conditions, but some vineyards lost their entire crop.

Then September came and with it the only weather that could save such a vintage--warm dry days and cool nights. The well-manicured vineyards were able to recover health, yet yields were down by up to 30% across the region. Growers suddenly went from biting their nails to realizing that they could harvest at their leisure. Mother Nature had saved the day, but it would remain a small vintage with wines that spoke more of a winemaker's prowess than anything else.

Where To Look and What to Buy

For my tastes, I’ve found the most pleasure in the feinherb style of Riesling--those with just enough residual sugar to balance out the intense acidity and minerality. These wines are already drinking beautifully.  A good example is Peter Lauer’s Senior, as my household has gone through six bottles, yet I only have one tasting note, because the wine is so easy to love that it just disappears before I can pick up a pen.

As for the dry wines (Trocken) and Grosses Gewächs, it’s apparent that these are in need of some time to truly stretch out and begin drinking well.  My experience with the Julian Haart Wintricher Ohligsberg was a testament to that, as the wine was so tense that it nearly sizzled on the senses.  I would place these in the mid-term aging department, with five years in the cellar as my best guess to when they’ll start to really show off.

Then there are the Pradikat wines, Kabinett, Spatlese and Auslese.  From my tastings the category of Kabinett shows beautifully in this vintage with amazing delicacy and sweet fruit flavors, which, when balanced with heightened minerality, (think Weiser-Künstler Wolfer Sonnenlay) creates a stunning display.  It’s also worth mentioning that this specific wine has an alcohol level of only 7.5%, yet it’s impeccably balanced.  

In my opinion, It would be a huge mistake to pass on the 2016s.  Not only are so many of them drinking amazingly well already, but many of them also have very bright futures ahead of them.  Frankly, I can’t wait for my next taste.  Below are some of my favorites to date.

On to the tasting notes:

Peter Lauer Ayler Kupp Stirn Fass 15 Feinherb 2016 - The nose was mineral-driven and intense with crushed limestone giving way to ripe peach, granny smith apple and fresh green herbs. On the palate it was medium-bodied and soft, backed but vibrant acidity which was nearly hidden beneath notes of ripe mango, lime and a spritz of penetrating, sweet, vibrant minerality. It finished on tart citrus tones and zesty acid with caking stone dust minerals on the senses. Very nice. (93 points)

Julian Haart Wintricher Ohligsberg Riesling Großes Gewächs 2016 - The nose was intense with crushed limestone, wild herbs, tart lime citrus, and spicy floral tones. On the palate, I found soft textures, yet with understated tension, as saline minerality, lime citrus and zesty acidity barreled their way across the senses. It finished long and tart with lime citrus and inner floral tones. (93 points)

Weingut Keller Riesling Westhofen -KR- 2016 - Of all of the '16s I've tried to date, this is the most tightly wound and in need of serious time to come around. Here I found an austere, almost Burgundian bouquet of white pit fruits, wild herbs, (I swear there's a hint of vanilla), almond skins and grapefruit. On the palate, it was focused like a saber, precise and intense with a tart apple, pineapple, lime and a mineral mix. The finish was long with saturating minerality, green citrus tones and cheek-puckering acidity. I'm not sure where this is going, but I can't wait to find out. (93 points) 

Weiser-Künstler Enkircher Steffensberg Riesling 2016 - The nose was almost savory in it's display of floral undergrowth, saline-minerality, rosemary and lime zest, as notes of honeysuckle and ripe apple came forward with time in the glass. On the palate, I found a zesty expression, yet ultimately with soft textures, showing salty citrus, wild herbs, green apple and wonderfully balanced acidity. It finished on saturating minerality, with ripe apple and an almost oily texture coating on the senses. (92 points)

Weingut Keller Riesling von der Fels 2016 - The '16 Von der Fels was gorgeous, with an almost savory bouquet, displaying provencal herbs up front, followed by notes of green apple, lemon, and crushed seashell. On the palate, I found weighty textures, yet nearly imperceptible; the result of a mix of intense tart citrus, zippy acidity and saline-minerality with a spring of lemon zest and savory herbs that revisited toward the close. The finish was fresh with a lasting buzz of mineral-strewn citrus and minerals. The longer this wine sat in the glass, the more it seemed to grow. (92 points)

Peter Lauer Ayler Riesling Senior Faß 6 2016 - Here I found wonderful inner florals, with savory spice and lemon tones. It displayed great density for the vintage with rich textures offset by saline-minerality, ripe apple and zesty acidity. The finish was long with gorgeous inner floral tones and hints of citrus. (92 points)

Schäfer-Fröhlich Riesling Vulkangestein trocken 2016 - The nose was intense, savory, almost briny, yet so pleasurable, as notes of olive, seafoam and crushed stone were offset by green apple, melon and fresh herbs.  On the palate, I found soft textures contrasted by stunning minerality and a zing of vibrant acidity with notes of tart apple, lemon rind and spice.  It seemed to buzz of the finish, as zesty acidity lingering among citrus tinged minerals. (91 points)

Weiser-Künstler Riesling Wolfer Sonnenlay Kabinett 2016 - The bouquet alone is making me hungry with a savory, saline and mineral burst, followed by lemon rind, crushed seashells and yellow flowers. On the palate, I found a zesty expression of tart acid and lemon-lime intensity mixed with ripe apple and spices. It lingered long on the finish, with a tart mineral-driven display as saturating citrus tones slowly faded. (91 points)

Julian Haart Piesporter Schubertslay Riesling Kabinett 2016 - The nose showed intense minerality with crushed stone, lime, and sweet florals. On the palate, I found soft textures with peach, apple and hints of lemon, sweet inner florals and refreshing acidity. It finished clean with lasting ripe peach and hints of citrus rind. (91 points)

Weingut Keller Riesling Limestone 2016 - The nose showed intense lemon citrus with masses of crushed stone minerality, hints of mango, and savory herbs. On the palate, I found soft, weighty textures with a coating ripe lemon and green apple acidity that saturated the senses, forcing the mouth to water. It finished on cheek-puckering minerality, inner florals and citrus pith, yet through it all a note of ripe green apple resonated. This is so good that it’s almost impossible to put down. (91 points)

Dönnhoff Roxheimer Höllenpfad Riesling trocken 2016 - The nose showed sweet florals, young peach, and a hint of lime. On the palate, I found soft textures with ripe lime citrus, minerals and exotic tropical tones. I wanted more energy in the finish, yet that’s splitting hairs and the Hollenpfad is highly enjoyable for current drinking. (90 points)

Gunderloch Riesling Rothenberg Spatlese 2016 - The nose was wonderfully floral with airy minerals, hints of citrus and kiwi.  On the palate, I found silky textures lifted by stunning acidity with notes of ripe apple and mango.  It finished long with a sweet and sour display of stone fruit and tropical tones, all the while providing a sensation of energy and verve.  Very nice. (92 points)

Schäfer-Fröhlich Riesling Felseneck Spätlese 2016 - The Felseneck Spatlese was gorgeous, with a display of crushed stone minerals with ripe apple, and sweet citrus tones.  On the palate, I found a weighty-silky textures offset by vibrant acidity mixed with intense minerals and hints of green herbs before a mix of ripe pear, apple and peach washed over the senses.  It finished long, layered and complex showing amazing balance and lingering acids.  This is one for the cellar, and a standout of the vintage. (93 points)

Schloss Lieser Riesling Brauneberger Juffer Kabinett 2016 - The nose was incredibly fresh with minerals and notes of post-fermentation funk in the foreground, followed by dried flowers and ripe peaches. On the palate, I found soft textures with sweet and sour apple, floral peach and hints of spice.  It finished long with notes of ripe apple, contrasted by a sour-patch lemony sensation of acid and sweetness.  It’s more of a fun wine that a showstopper and really packs a punch. (90 points)

Schloss Lieser Riesling Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett 2016 - The nose was intense with a display of minerals, crushed stone and dried flowers up front, ripe apple and peach tones followed shortly after.  On the palate, I found great textural depth with gobs of minerality to offset, leading to peach and tropical fruits with inner floral tones providing lift.  It finished long and textural, as it’s ripe fruits seemed to slowly melt away from the senses.  This is a Kabinett?  I’d think more Spatlese--but I’m loving it all the same.  (92 points)

Schloss Lieser Riesling Niederberg Helden Spätlese 2016 - The nose showed crushed stone minerality with with dusty florals and ripe peaches. On the palate I found silky textures with notes ripe peach, a zing of brisk acidity, lemony citrus, and nectarine.  The finish was incredibly long with a hint of spiced orange and ripe stone fruits.  (92 points)

Schloss Lieser Riesling Niederberg Helden Auslese 2016 - The nose was remarkably fresh and feminine, displaying sweet florals, peach and more peach with sweet cream.  On the palate, I found silky textures with green apple, tropical citrus and caking minerality.  The mix of minerals and acid gave this an almost dry sensation going into the long finish, where saturating citrus and tart apple tones prevailed. (93 points)

* Originally published at The Cellar Table Blog

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Aglianico del Vulture Returns to Collisioni

Article, Photos and Tasting Notes: Eric Guido

When heading back to Collisioni this year, the number one question on my mind was if I would have a chance to conduct a focused tasting of Aglianico del Vulture. To the average consumer, this may not seem like the tasting that I would be looking forward to the most as I packed my bags for a stay in Barolo, but it was. Why? Because in my opinion, this is a region and a variety that is on the rise in Italy. One that deserves its day in the sun, but through the sins (or let’s just call it lazy winemaking and overproduction) of the past, it had its momentum slowed over the last ten years.

Aglianico del Vulture is a DOC in Basilicata, a region of Southern Italy which borders Campania, and it is one of the few regions that has a coast on two sides of the boot. It is also well known for Monte Vulture, an extinct volcano, that gives its name to Aglianico del Vulture.

First and foremost because of the variety, Aglianico, which is renowned for its use in creating Taurasi in Campania. Add to that the diverse volcanic soils throughout its five delimited growing zones, Maschito, Ripacandida, Barile, Ginestra, and Rionero. The climate of each of these is moderated by influences from two seas, a large range of altitudes and degrees of elevation–it all adds up to having the ingredients to make a great wine.

I recall my early inquiries into Italian wine, and the writers of the time commenting on the potential of the Vulture–unfortunately, that potential was never realized. In some cases this was due to the lack of a champion, a producer that consumers and collectors could relate to, who would show them what was possible beyond the status quo. Don’t get me wrong, the region had its big names, such as Paternoster and their consistently high-scoring Don Anselmo. However, there was no face or name behind the brand that was out in the world and speaking to collectors. This may seem petty compared to the quality of what is in the bottle, but without a face behind the brand, it was just another Italian wine that most consumers didn’t understand.

Today, the producers in Aglianico del Vulture are determined to change that. Much of this is the result of the new generation that is taking on more responsibility in the wineries, or taking over completely. The simple fact that these producers have put so much energy into a large showing of wines and personally attending Collisioni is a huge point in their corner. They have attended the event with ears and minds open to change, taking in all of the criticism and compliments that our board of wine writers, somms and professionals were eager to give.

We spent the better part of a day tasting Aglianico and talking through the wines, and I can say with certainty that the bar has been raised yet again. Last year I found a mixed bag of some excellent, others inspired (but not quite there yet), and a few downright poor examples of Aglianico del Vulture–but this year, there was a marked change.

First there is a new emphasis on place, which I’d like to see displayed more on each label, instead of the fantasy names that many producers choose to use. When you hear that a wine is made from grapes sourced from a vineyard in the crater of a volcano, it adds a story and urges you to search for the terroir in the glass. To think that a producer would choose not to market this information is beyond my comprehension–this is the kind of information that we wine lovers thrive on.

Next is the cleaning up of the wineries, and a smaller dependence on old, old… old barrels that needed to be retired many years ago. There’s no question that most tasters preferred large, neutral barrels, but when that barrel is leaking and dirty–you end up with a dirty wine. Last year, I found a number of wines that suffered from this. This year, only one wine showed signs of old barrels.

Lastly, it’s the goal to establish Aglianico del Vulture as a competitor against Barolo, Brunello and Taurasi as one of Italy’s great wines of longevity. The truth is that the timing couldn’t be better, as we watch the prices of Barolo and Brunello soar–and Taurasi seems comfortable to rest on past laurels. If Aglianico del Vulture can refine and elevate its reputation in time–it may just end up as the new “Barolo of The South”.

In the end, the producers of Aglianico del Vulture wanted to know about how they can begin to be profitable in the face of all of this change, and that will be the most difficult part. We were all asked to give them a dollar range that we each believed their wines could be worth, assuming they continued to move in the right direction. In nearly every case, these wines are currently undervalued. But first, Aglianico del Vulture needs to prove to consumers they they are worth the tariff.

The day will come (possibly sooner than you think) that these wines will sell for twice, if not three times their current cost. My advice is to stock up now, because this is not only a region on the rise, it’s an organization of producers who are determined to prove themselves to the world.

All of my tasting notes are below, both good and bad. As for my recommendations for those looking to take advantage of this region on the rise, look to Cantina del Notaio La Firma, Donato D’Angelo and Laluce to lead the way. It’s an exciting time to be following Aglianico del Vulture.

On to the tasting notes:

2012 Cantine del Notaio Aglianico del Vulture La Firma – The nose was dark and layered, showing black cherry, plum, sweet violet tones, clove, dried orange, and dusty black earth. On the palate, I found silky textures offset by notes of plums and spice, lifting minerality and fine saturating tannin. The finish was firm and drying yet extremely long on violet-inflected black fruit. This is a wine to bury in the cellar. (93 points)

2008 Azienda Agricola Michele Laluce Aglianico del Vulture Le Drude – The nose showed crushed black fruits, savory spices, dried flowers, and undergrowth. On the palate, I found soft textures with stunning, vibrant acidity, dark red and black fruits, wild herbs, and savory spices. Tannin mounted throughout the experience, yet it’s already quite enjoyable, showing mature earth and charred meat tones. The finish was long, showing savory herbs, dried meats and spice. (93 points)

2012 Donato d’Angelo Aglianico del Vulture – The nose showed incredible depth with mineral-laced cherry, violet floral tones, dried orange peel and peppery herbs. On the palate, I found silky textures offset by fine tannin and balancing acidity, as dark red fruits began to saturate the senses and hints of spice and inner violet notes formed. It finished long on tart cherry and fine tannin, yet it maintained freshness and lift. In five to ten years, this should be just entering a long and lovely drinking window. (93 points)

2011 Colli Cerentino Aglianico del Vulture Masqito – The nose was beautiful yet dark, showing spiced cherry, plum, dried orange, and crushed violets. On the palate, I found tart black fruits, inner floral and herbal tones, with energizing acidity matched by fine tannin. It finished intensely structured on dark fruits, undergrowth and hints of ash. This needs time, but I’m already loving it. (92 points)

2012 Azienda Agricola Michele Laluce Aglianico del Vulture Zimberno – The nose was dark and earthy, showing mineral-tinged black fruits, volcanic ash, spicy herbs, and undergrowth. On the palate, I found soft textures counterbalancing tart black fruits and savory herbs. The ash and minerals from the bouquet seemed to translate perfectly onto the palate, adding a saline quality to the experience. It finished long with clenching tannin and tart black fruits. (92 points)

2005 Tenuta le Querce Aglianico del Vulture Vigna della Corona – The nose showed mature notes of undergrowth, crushed cherry, plum, dried flowers and dark earth. On the palate, I found soft textures, plum and crushed cherry, savory minerality and sous bois. On the finish, I found unbelievably youthful tannin with bitter black fruits and spice. (91 points)

2013 Terra Dei Re Aglianico del Vulture Nocte – The nose was dark and spicy with violet inflections, showing intense black cherry, cinnamon, anise, hints of undergrowth and ash. On the palate, I found soft textures with blackberry and plum fruit, savory spice, saturating fine tannin and balancing acidity. It finished structured yet with good energy and lingering spices. (91 points)

2012 Cantina di Venosa Aglianico del Vulture Carato Venusio – The nose showed depths of crushed black cherry, with notes of cedar, sweet herbs and minerals. On the palate, It displayed energizing acidity with silky textures, ripe cherry, sweet spices and herbs. Medium-tannin lingered on the palate, along with black cherry and undergrowth. (91 points)

2012 Terre degli Svevi Aglianico del Vulture Re Manfredi – The nose was lifted, showing violets, blackberry, tart plum and minerals. On the palate, I found lean textures with peppery black fruits and a combination of zesty acids and saturating tannin. It finished long and structured with concentrated tart black fruits coating the senses. (90 points)

2015 Paternoster Aglianico del Vulture Synthesi – The nose showed bright mineral-tinged black cherry, rich ginger spice, hints of violet florals and peppery herbs. On the palate, I found tart red fruits and lean tannin on a medium-to-light bodied frame. It finished tart, yet still quite fresh with lingering tannin and hints of blackberry fruit. This is a fresh style for Vulture, yet with a beautiful purity of fruit. (90 points)

2011 Tenuta I Gelsi Aglianico del Vulture – The nose was intense with dark red and black fruits, both savory and sweet spices, and hints of minty herbs. On the palate, I found soft textures with a savory and almost-saline personality, showing tart cherry, plum and saturating minerality. Its firm tannin came on late, drying the fruit throughout the finish and leaving an impression of youthful austerity–bury some in the cellar for at least five to ten years. (90 points)

2012 Tenuta I Gelsi Aglianico del Vulture – The nose showed intense dark red fruits, anise, dried violets, moist ash and pepper. On the palate, I found silky textures on a medium-bodied frame offset by tart black and red berry fruits, spice and leather. It finished structured with saturating tannin, tart dark red fruits and black earth tones. (89 points)

2013 Cantine del Notaio Aglianico del Vulture Il Repertorio – The nose showed intense crushed raspberry with notes of clove, anise, and spice. On the palate, I found medium-bodied textures with intense dark fruit, giving way to wild herbs and peppery spice. It finished medium in length with fine tannin and savory spices lingering on. (89 points)

2013 Cantine Strapellum Aglianico del Vulture Piano Regio – The nose was holding back, yet with coaxing, it revealed dark red fruit, violets, clove, wild herbs and crushed stone. On the palate, I found lean textures with tart red and black fruits, dark soil tones and spice. It finished long with saturating tannin violet inflections and lingering tart red berry fruit. (89 points)

2008 Colli Cerentino Aglianico del Vulture Masqito – The nose was dark and brooding, showing savory charred meats, black earth, cherry, herbs, and crushed stone minerality. On the palate, It was unexpectedly youthful and complex, displaying tart cherry, saline-minerality, and spice. The finish was long with saturating gruff tannin that dried the fruit despite the wine’s age, making me wonder if the fruit can hold up to them over time. (88 points)
2011 Cantine Strapellum Aglianico del Vulture Nibbio Grigio – The nose was fresh and floral with light blackberry, minerals and spice. On the palate, I found soft textures with a mix of red and black fruit, yet this lacked persistence, as fine tannin saturated the senses. It finished structured yet still fresh with medium length. (88 points)

2015 Cantina di Venosa Aglianico del Vulture Verbo – The nose was perfumed with spicy red florals and notes of crushed raspberry, orange peel, and crushed stone. On the palate, I found vibrant red fruit with juicy acidity and hints of spice. It finished with zesty red berries and a coating of fine tannin. This may be simple, but it’s undeniably enjoyable today. (87 points)

2013 Terra Dei Re Aglianico del Vulture Vultur – The nose showed crushed violets, black fruits, ash, fall leaves, and peppery herbs. On the palate, I found lean textures with herbal black fruits and saturating tannin. It finished on drying tannin and tart red fruits. (87 points)

2011 Terre degli Svevi Aglianico del Vulture Re Manfredi Vigneto Serpara – The nose was brooding and dark with notes of plum, undergrowth, ash, chalk dust, and sweet violets. On the palate, I found silky textures with concentrated ripe black fruits, peppery herbs and spice. Hints of pepper lingered along with earthy undergrowth and bitter herbs. I can’t help but feel like part of its profile is the result of old (unclean?) barrels. (86 points)

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Evolution of Flaccianello: A Vertical History

 A 30 Year Retrospective

By Eric Guido

Fontodi has been on my short list of Italy’s top producers for quite some time now, starting with my first taste of the 1999 Vigna del Sorbo back in 2011.  Having tasted younger vintages prior to that, I simply didn’t understand that they could mature into such majestic wines of importance.  That one taste put me on the path to exploring deeper and trying to understand what it was about Fontodi that set them apart.

I came to realize that it was a combination, not just of terroir, but also of the forward-thinking--constantly evolving--owner and winemaker, Giovanni Manetti.

The History

With a long history in Tuscany, known for their manufacturing of terracotta amphora, the Manetti family decided to enter the wine business in 1968 when they took ownership of the Fontodi estate and vineyards in Panzano.  The location was perfect, nestled in the amphitheatre-shaped “Conca d’Oro” (the golden shell), at high altitudes with calcar--clay schist soils. However, bound at the time by the rules of the Chianti Classico consortium, they produced a selection of wines that were very different from today’s portfolio. The biggest change came with Giovanni Manetti, who took the reins of the winery in 1980.  It was his passion for Sangiovese which drove him to experiment and finally arrive at the elevated position which Fontodi enjoys today. 

You see, even going as far back as the 1985 vintage, Giovanni wanted to show the world that a 100% expression of Sangiovese could produce a world-class wine. It’s because of this that he created the highly-regarded Super Tuscan, Flaccianello.  However, this success wasn’t gained overnight, and is very much the result of Giovanni’s relentless work to perfect Flaccianllo’s blend and aging regimen.

The Evolution 

The original source of fruit was a single-vineyard of the same name, “Flaccianello della Pieve", until the 2001 vintage when the decision was made to create a blend of the estate’s best fruit.  This was largely the result of acquisitions that Giovanni made of choice parcels within the Pecille district of Panzano.  Also, going back to 1985, Flaccianello was aged only one year in barrel (50% new) until the 1990 vintage.  Since that time, the aging has been slowly extended, with today’s vintages seeing up to 100% new oak in Troncais and Allier barrels for 24 months.  However, when you put your nose to the glass, new oak is the first thing that comes to mind.

Having recently tasted through eleven vintages spanning 30 years, I was not only impressed by the evolution of Flaccianello, but also by how much I enjoyed every stage of that evolution.  For one thing, I had always thought of this an an Internationally-styled wine, due to the new oak, yet when tasting on this day, the prominence of Sangiovese came through, especially as the wine enters it’s fifth and sixth year in bottle.  What’s more, Giovanni remains determined to continue the evolution of his portfolio, and in the case of Flaccianello, that means adding a refreshing quality to the young wines.

This was a remarkable tasting with a number of killer vintages, and the best part is that many of these wines can still be found.

On to the tasting notes

2016 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve - The 2016 Flaccianello della Pieve is alluringly dark, spicy and floral, with crushed stone, giving way to blackberry, savory meats, animal tones and wild herbs. Here I'm finding silky textures offset by zesty acidity with saturating spices and mineral-infused dark fruits cascading across the palate in a wonderfully fresh expression, before fine tannins settled in. The finish is long, almost salty and savory with tart blackberry and minerals soaking the senses with grippy tannins. Wow, a totally different expression of young Flaccianello, and I like it a lot. In fact, I’m noticing that Flaccianello has been impressing me a bit more than Vigna del Sorbo in recent vintages. 2024-2038 (97 points)

2015 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve - The 2015 Flaccianello della Pieve is intense, showing dark red fruits and crushed plums, with exotic spices, sweet grilled herbs and dried flowers. This is wonderfully soft on the palate, as it envelopes the senses with zesty cherry, crushed blackberry, sweet and savory spices, and minerals, all kept in check by a mix of brisk acids and fine tannin. It finishes long and spicy with saturating minerality and youthful, slightly angular tannin. I can only imagine what this will mature into, but I’m very excited to find out. I have officially upgraded my score to 96 points. 2022-2032 (96 points)

2014 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve - The 2014 Flaccianello della Pieve remains one of the prettiest examples I’ve ever seen of Flaccianello.  Here I'm finding a dark bouquet with dried black cherries, hints of sandalwood, spice and savory herbs. On the palate, it displays lean yet focused red berry fruit, a mix of cherry and raspberry, with silky textures giving way to inner floral tones and spice in a pretty and lifted expression.  The finish is medium in length and a bit lighter than expected with a mix of tart red fruit and minerals. 2021-2028 (94 points)

2013 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve - The bouquet of the 2013 Flaccianello della Pieve is intense, with spicy, ripe black cherry, crushed stone, dusty spice and sweet florals.  On the palate, you'd expect a bruiser, but instead this treats you to the silkiest of textures with tart cherry-blackberry fruit, balsamic tones and savory herbs. Grippy tannins linger long into the finish, along with dark red fruits, which seemed to go on and on. That is an absolutely beautiful showing. 2021-2033 (95 points)

2010 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve - The 2010 Flaccianello della Pieve is absolutely gorgeous with a nose with dark red berries, spice box, dried herbs, balsamic tones and black earth. It nearly coats the glass with dark red, verging on purple viscosity. This is undeniably elegant, silky and refined, yet vibrant too, as youthfully lean red berry fruit is offset by brisk acidity and fine tannin. The finish is persistent and structured as the fruit leans more to the black spectrum, joined by hints of savory herbs and minerals.  This is one for the ages. 2022-2036 (96 points)

2007 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve - The 2007 Flaccianello della Pieve shows crushed cherry, dusty florals and undergrowth in a performance that seems more mature to me than expected. Here I'm finding silky textures complemented by lifting acidity with mature red fruits, hints of cedar and spice. The finish is medium in length, showing light tannins, dried cherry, undergrowth and floral tones. I can't tell if this showing is more about the wine or this specific bottle, but I'll be on the lookout to taste the 2007 again soon. 2021-2027 (92 points)

2006 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve - The 2006 Flaccianello della Pieve is a dark and beautiful beast, with ripe black cherry, dark wood tones, plum, sweet florals and spice, as it seems to gain richness the longer it spend in the glass. This is a soft and silky expression with ripe black fruit in the foreground, leading to spices and sweet herbs.  The finish is long with fine tannin coating the senses, yet never overwhelming, due to a gorgeous display of mint, orange peel and sweet herbs.  Anyone with the 2006 in their cellar should be quite happy with what’s in store for them down the road. 2021-2036 (97 points)

2004 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve - The 2004 Flaccianello della Pieve wafts up with dark red fruits complemented by nuances of undergrowth, minerals and olive tones, which seem a bit more wood inflected than terroir. On the palate, soft textures give way to tart black fruits with grainy tannins and a recurrence of briny olive. The finish is long and grippy with hints of dark red fruit and spice. It appears to me that the wood used in 2004 may be overpowering the fruit of the vintage, but only time will tell. 2021-2026 (92 points)

1999 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve - The 1999 Flaccianello della Pieve is simply gorgeous, even hauntingly beautiful, displaying rich black cherry, plum, sweet dried spices and herbs. Here I'm find soft, silky textures, yet it's still so youthful for its age as vibrant acidity provides lift.  Dark red fruits, sweet inner florals and herbs add a savory edge, giving way to fine tannin in the onset of resolution. The finish is long with black cherry, minerals and spice.  It was hard not to drink this wine, instead of taste, which I hope I will one day experience.  What a beautiful Flaccianello. 2021-2029 (96 points)

1995 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve - The 1995 Flaccianello della Pieve shows crushed black cherry, brown spices, sweet herbs and a hint of olive. This boasts soft textures with a mix of red and black fruits, and mature tannin. There is something missing on the mid-palate, yet this is beautiful for a 25 year-old wine.  It finishes with medium length, residual acids and tart blacks fruits. Drink (91 points)

1986 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve - The nose on the 1986 Flaccianello della Pieve is beautiful in its maturity, showing dusty earth, savory sous bois, cedar, and dried herbs. It displays wonderfully soft textures, with dark-dried red berries, minerals, inner florals and a hint of iodine, and then tapers off with medium length, brisk residual acids and minerals that linger on. Drink (93 points)


Originally published at The Cellar Table Blog

Article, Tasting Notes and event photos by: Eric Guido

Visit the official Fontodi Website

Sunday, October 29, 2017

1990 Barolo & Barbaresco Retrospective

The Prelude to The Modern Vintage

Six years ago, a group of friends and collectors–myself included–assembled a 1990 Barolo retrospective tasting. I honestly didn’t know what to expect at the time because, only six years ago, the average Barolo collector looked down on the 1990 vintage, disregarding it as a warm, ripe year that wouldn’t deliver wines that could mature well in the cellar–boy, were we wrong.

The results of our tasting were positive nearly across the board, with only one wine showing poor development and with a few of them verging on epic. When the time came for me to write up my review and to begin to market it to my community of readers, I was met by a number of negative responses. Some people even went as far as calling my opinions incorrect, completely convinced that these wines couldn’t possibly be as good as I said. With time though, opinions began to change as more and more collectors re-tasted the wines themselves and found something they didn’t expect–something they liked a lot.

My opinion was that 1990 wasn’t a poor vintage. It was a ripe vintage, of that there is no doubt, but the wines maintained a freshness and liveliness through balanced acidity, and a purity of ripe fruit that is hard to resist. I mused that they would continue to age beautifully for many years in the cellar.

That brings us to September 27th at the North End Grill

The 1990 vintage in Barolo and Barbaresco started with an unusually turbulent winter, as weather patterns fluctuated between unusually cold to unusually warm through April. Yet the bigger issue was the lack of precipitation. The region was graced with neither rain nor snow until April, and warm weather that lasted into May. The flowering and crop set was variable across the region, yet, in the end, most producers found the set to be generous. With June came the lasting heat, which remained through most of the summer and sped the maturation of fruit. However, with September the weather became much more seasonal, and although the harvest was early by 10-15 days, it was done under optimal conditions. The fear was that the fruit lacked the necessary time on the vine to develop depth and ripe tannin.

Some people immediately disregarded the vintage as ripe and not worthy of the cellar. The funny part is that by today’s standards, it would have been considered a much better year.

From the start, the 1990s drank beautifully and continued to drink well for a decade. Many people thought of it as a restaurant vintage, meaning that a sommelier could buy the wines and open them for their customers upon arrival. Vintages that we might say the same for in the recent past include 2011, 2009, 2007 and 2003. This isn’t the best company to keep in a Barolo collector’s opinion, but 1990 has something very different from these vintages–balance.

There are many theories about why wines age in a positive manner, and with Barolo most people associate it with tannin alone. However, in the time that I’ve been collecting wine, the theory that I’ve come to believe more than any other is that a wine matures on its balance. Fruit, acid and tannin in balance will allow a wine to go the long haul. In my opinion, if the conditions of the 1990 vintage were repeated today, then the wines would have been much better-received in their youth. I see it as a prelude to our modern vintages.

When tasting through the 1990s on our table, balance was the repeating theme in nearly all of them. The fruit was ripe on the nose and palate, only verging on tart in some cases, and they were all carried gracefully across the senses by vibrant acidity. The tannin lurked in the background, only showing itself early in a small number of wines. However, in most of them, their tannin could be perceived only on the tail end of the finish. When you consider that these are 27 year-old wines, then you would expect the tannins to be taking a back seat.

The 1990s we tasted are defined by their consistency and the wide drinking window that they’ve enjoyed. Six years ago, they were gorgeous–maybe coming across as a touch riper. Today they are just as beautiful, a bit more refined, and in no danger of decline.

If you can find 1990 Barolo or Barbaresco from your favorite producer that has been well stored, then my advice is to buy it and enjoy.

On to the tasting notes:

1st Flight: Paolo Scavino Barolo

Paolo Scavino Barolo Bric del Fiasc 1990 – The ‘90 Bric del Fiasc provided a fantastic start to our tasting, being one of the first times that I’ve tasted this wine and found the development of more tertiary aromas and flavors. The nose was gorgeous, displaying crushed fall leaves, tar and undergrowth up front, as notes of black cherry, brown sugar and a hint of iodine developed in the glass. On the palate, I found silky textures offset by zesty acidity with mineral-drenched tart cherry fruit that saturated the senses. It finished long on dark red fruits, undergrowth and iron-borne minerality. (94 points)

Paolo Scavino Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata 1990 – Upon serving, the ‘90 Rocche dell’Annunziata was much warmer (temperature-wise) than the Bric del Fiasc, which hurt its initial performance, but as the evening wore on, I was able to taste it again on its own with much better results. The nose was hauntingly dark and intense with baked cherries, exotic spice, marine-minerality and hints of sweet herbs. On the palate, I found medium-bodied textures yet still lighter than I expected, with dried black cherry and strawberry fruits. Hints of tobacco, sweet herbs and inner florals lingered on the palate long into the finish, with an earthy-mineral tinge. (91 points)

2nd Flight: Modern Leanings

Azienda Bricco Rocche (Ceretto) Barolo Brunate 1990 – The bouquet was gorgeous with spicy ripe cherry, cigar box, hints of orange citrus, and menthol. It entered juicy on the palate, with pretty ripe cherry and sweet spice tones, yet falling off toward the mid-palate, and ultimately becoming muddled with an odd note of rotten fruit. It finished with medium-length and hints of fine tannin, but it appears that the Ceretto Brunate may have already seen its day in the sun. (90 points)

Elio Altare Barolo Vigneto Arborina 1990 – The nose was dark and intense, showing black earth, minerals, hauntingly dark floral tones, dried black cherry, cedar, and savory herbs. On the palate, I found unbelievable silky textures and medium-to-full bodied weight, with vibrant red berry fruits, spices, minerals and vibrant acidity that added great energy to the mix. It was so easy to like that you could easily find yourself drinking it instead of tasting. The finish was long with a display of dark red fruit, saturating sweet spice, tobacco and dried roses. (93 points)

Luciano Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis 1990 – The ‘90 Cannubi Boschis was at first dark and brooding in the glass, taking time to unfurl, yet once it did–what a beautiful display it was. Here I found a dark and meaty bouquet with minty herbs and bright cherry adding freshness. As it sat in the glass, notes of dusty spice and dried rose appeared, yet there remained a note of beef blood, which grounded this in the earth. It was silky on the palate, yet structured and still youthful, showing tart cherry, orange peel and tobacco. The finish was long and saturating to the senses, with lively tannin and dried red berry tones. (96 points)

3rd Flight: Serralunga and Monforte

Gaja Barolo Sperss 1990 – The ‘90 Sperss was remarkably fresh for both the vintage and what I expected from the wine. Here I found a gorgeous bouquet of dried violets offset by dark earth, leather, red licorice, dusty old spice box and crushed stone. On the palate, soft textures were complemented by an undercurrent of ripe dark red fruits, with hints of dried citrus, minerals and brisk-energizing acidity. It finished long and floral with lingering hints of undergrowth, spice and dried red berry fruit. (97 points)

Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia 1990 – The nose displayed an overwhelming mineral, metal and sawdust note, lacking in fruit but also not showing any aromas that I associate with cork. On the palate, it was one dimensional, showing dark red fruit but without any energy or drive. I’m sure this was an off bottle, but I’m not exactly sure of how it arrived at such an odd state. I declined scoring it as a result. (NA)

Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Riserva Granbussia 1990 – This is further evidence that when an Aldo Conterno Barolo is on, that there is little else that can compare. The ‘90 Granbussia was Monforte-fruit personified. It was dark, viral, and brooding, with dried black cherry giving way to iron-like minerality, dusty florals and earth. On the palate, it was silky but with an underlying current of dark tannic structure and mineral earth tones, as black fruit saturated the senses. It was powerful and still tense, showing further potential for the cellar as it finished long on dried berries and tobacco. (94 points)

4th Flight: Barbaresco

Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Gallina di Neive 1990 – The bouquet was gorgeous with sweet florals and exotic spices, followed by dried strawberry, tobacco and hints of floral undergrowth. On the palate, I found a silky expression made vibrant through juicy acidity with mineral coated dark red fruits, and spices. It finished long and floral with hints of sweet herbs, lasting minerality and mouthwatering acidity. It’s amazing how juicy and fresh this 27 year-old barbaresco is, as well as how Giacosa could create so many consistently beautiful wines across so many vineyards and vintages. (95 points)

Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Pora 1990 – The Produttori Pora Riserva was so perfectly balanced and mature on this evening, showing a floral bouquet, yet rich with dried cherry, hints of olive, minerals and undergrowth. On the palate, I found saturating deep red berry fruit tones with zesty acidity providing freshness, and earth and tobacco adding depth. The finish was long and still lightly structured, and dried cherry and strawberry seemed to slowly melt from the senses. (94 points)

Gaja Barbaresco Costa Russi 1990 -The Costa Russi was a model of purity and nebbiolo refinement on the nose, as notes of pine and mint rose up from the glass, joined by hints of tar, dried rose, strawberry, potpourri and minerals. On the palate, I found zesty textures with nearly imperceptible weight, as the wine seemed to hover on the senses with lively notes of tart red berry, spice, citrus and fresh herbs. It’s amazing how youthful this felt, yet also perfectly mature, as it finished on dried berries, hints of cedar and inner floral tones. (93 points)

Also tasted in April 2017

Vietti Barolo Rocche 1990 – The ’90 Vietti Rocche is showing beautifully tonight. The bouquet was gorgeous and intense, with black cherry, mint, tobacco, sweet spice, dried flowers, and hints of undergrowth. On the palate, I found silky textures with a kick of acidity adding bite, while crunchy tannin added grip. Tart black cherry, dried citrus, wild herbs, and intense minerality saturated the senses. It finished fresh with biting acids and tannin, but oh so good and drinking wonderfully. (95 points)

Article, Photos and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido

For more impressions on our evening, visit: Wine Without Numbers

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Queen to Piedmont's King; Time To Talk Barbaresco

I often talk about Barolo, and I am quick to add in a Barbaresco note or bottle to a tasting whenever I see fit. However, what you will hardly ever see in these pages is a tasting centered around Barbaresco. The reason for this, much like the reason why Barolo is more well-known than Barbaresco, is that as collectors get to know the region, there has always been a certain bias against Barbaresco, placing Barolo in their minds as the better wine. First, let’s put that idea out of our heads, because it simply isn’t true, but unfortunately it took me many years of tasting–and something of a paradigm shift–to realize it.

The change started over many years of tasting, as once in awhile we would throw a Barbaresco into a blind Barolo lineup. It didn’t take long to realize that these wines were finishing with top ranks. Keep in mind that I’m not just talking about Gaja and Bruno Giacosa. Produttori del Barbaresco and their portfolio of Riserva wines have long been the Barolo collectors’ secret love affair with Barbaresco, and they are perfect examples of how affordable a great Barbaresco can be and how well they can age.

What we’ve also seen in the last decade is an awakening of producers in the region. Some producers who had contributed their grapes to the Produttori parted ways to start their own labels and perfect a unique style, while others suddenly realized that the ground beneath their feet was worth showcasing, and they decided to clean up their cellars or take new oak out of the picture. Cigliuti, Paitin and Sottimano quickly come to mind as a new breed of winemaker that is changing what people think about the region.

Speaking of producers, it also pays to note that compared to Barolo, Barbaresco is more dominated by small family-run wineries (many of which contribute to the Produttori del Barbaresco), and these families produce only a small amount of wine. What this means for collectors is that we see much less Barbaresco in the market, giving Barolo yet another leg up and much more facetime with consumers.

There is one other important point, and that is how the wines mature. For the longest time, Barbaresco was thought of as a softer version of Barolo, and one that couldn’t age as well. While I will agree that the tannins in Barbaresco generally require less time to mature than the average Barolo, the fact is that they can age just as well. Much of this has to do with terroir, which shares many similarities with Barolo but also a few drastic differences. The soils in both regions are mainly calcareous marls, yet in general, the soils of Barbaresco are richer in nutrients, and in some locations, they contain deposits of sand. There’s also the moderating effect of the Tanaro river, which is one of the key elements thought to be responsible for the superior wines produced by Gaja, whose vineyards benefit directly from the river’s warming breezes by day and cooling breezes at night. Lastly, there’s the required aging regimen in wood, 18 months for Barolo versus 12 months for Barbaresco, yet you’ll find many of the region’s producers aging their top wines longer.

What it all comes down to is that Barbaresco is not just worth a Barolo lover’s attention, it should be required, and anyone who ignores these wines is simply doing themselves an injustice. Barbaresco provides all of the classic flavor and aromatic profiles that we love from Nebbiolo, often maturing a little earlier, but also lasting in the cellar for decades–and all of this at what is often a better price.

This brings us to our most recent tasting at RiverPark in New York City. The theme was simply Barbaresco, but the producers were the top names of the region. Produttori del Barbaresco, Gaja, Bruno Giacosa and Roagna all filled the table. As is usually the case with this group (a bunch of Barolo lovers who met and organized on Antonio Galloni’s Vinous forums), the big gun always come out. The best part is that it’s never about showboating or trying to one-up each other; with this group it’s simply about sharing great wine with good friends.

On to the Tasting Notes:

Our first flight was originally intended to be a showcase of older wines, but due to a corked bottle of ‘65 Cappellano, it turned out to be more of a Produttori del Barbaresco flight. What is there to say? This was the flight for the true lover of mature Nebbiolo. Both bottles were completely mature, and unfortunately the Ovello was a bit over the hill (possibly not a perfect bottle). With that said, I still enjoyed it. As for the ‘67 Pora, it showed all the hallmarks of perfect maturity and an unexpected richness and meatiness that made it the wine of the flight. I simply love mature Barbaresco.

1967 Produttori del Barbaresco Pora Riserva Speciale – At first, the nose was dark, damp and almost moldy, yet the ‘67 Pora came around quickly in the glass to reveal dried flowers, strawberry, hints of mint, forest floor and minerals. On the palate, it displayed a dark and meaty character with savory, almost salty minerality, dark red fruits and hints of smoke. It finished on dried berries and plum, with a touch of light tannin. (93 points)

1971 Produttori del Barbaresco Ovello – The ‘71 Ovello was completely resolved and on the decline, yet I still found something to like with its bouquet of dried roses, cinnamon, orange peel, and amaro. On the palate, I found light textures with hints of strawberry and a zing of acidity, which added much-needed liveliness. It finished short on dried fruit and flowers. (NA)

The Gaja Flight was a real treat. The best part about it was to see just how enjoyable the entry-level Gaja Barbaresco can perform and mature. No Gaja is ever cheap, but it is a breath of fresh air to see the most affordable wine showing this well with age. Both ‘82s were gorgeous, and you could sense the stamp of the producer between the two of them. However, in the end, the Costa Russi simply had a depth that the ‘82 normale couldn’t touch. That said, I’d take either wine any day of the week. Then there was the ‘85, which was so pure and wonderfully drinkable in its maturity that it stopped me in my tracks. Lastly, the ‘89, one of my top three wines of the night, was simply gorgeous. I strongly urge readers to pay attention to these wines when they show up in the market, because they represent great relative value.

1982 Gaja Barbaresco – Tasting this next to the ‘82 Costa Russi was a fantastic experience, as the vintage and Gaja style was evident between the two of them. Granted, once I moved on to the Costa Russi, it was hard to come back, but I absolutely adored this wine all the same. The nose was dark and rich with sweet herbs, moist soil and minerals. On the palate, I found silky textures lifted by vibrant acidity, as pure red fruits gave way to savory mineral tones. It finished on dried cherry, red florals and a bite of lively acidity. (92 points)

1982 Gaja Barbaresco Costa Russi – The Costa Russi took everything I loved about the ‘82 Barbaresco tasted next it and took it up a notch. Here I found masses of depth in its dark, rich red fruits with sweet spices, undergrowth, and minerals. On the palate, I found silky, almost chewy textures contrasted by zesty acidity with notes of black cherry and dark chocolate, which slowly morphed into a savory expression of dried inner florals, minerals and earth. The finish was wonderfully long and vibrant with spicy sweetness and dried strawberry. (95 points)

1985 Gaja Barbaresco – What a beautiful and pure expression of Barbaresco! The ‘85 was in a perfect place on this night. The bouquet was a mix of crushed cherry and strawberry with hints of sweet tea leafs and herbs. With time, a savory mineral note came forward, adding even more depth. On the palate, I found a vibrant and fresh expression with zesty acidity adding verve to its dried cherry fruits. Inner florals and earth tones lingered through the finish, along with dried wild berries. (93 points)

1989 Gaja Barbaresco – Showing all of the hallmarks of this great vintage–dark, deep and still reticent–there’s still so much going on beneath the surface. The ‘89 Barbaresco displayed the most inviting bouquet of pine nettles, menthol, sweet herbs, spicy dark red fruits, and brown spice. On the palate, I found deep silky textures with dark red fruits, iron-born minerality, tea leafs, brisk acidity and lingering fine tannin. It finished firm and youthful with dark red fruits, sweet herbs, and hints of tobacco. I can imagine that another five years will put this in a perfect place for drinking. (96 points)

The Bruno Giacosa flight was, as always, highly anticipated and quite a revelation. I must note that I added my note for the 1970 Santo Stefano, which was not at this original tasting, but was tasted only days later with the same preparation as all of our other bottles. In this flight, I witnessed the feminine elegance of Santo Stefano first-hand. The ‘98 was a gorgeous wine and, in the end, the wine of the night for me. To be able to taste the ‘70 only days later and revel in the similarities of the two of them was also a great opportunity.

We also had the controversial ‘11 Asili, which I found to be a good wine, but far from what I’d expect from a Giacosa Barbaresco. Lastly, the 2000 Asili, a wine that I believe needs more time to truly show its virtues. In the end, this was a tremendous flight.

1970 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano – What a treat. The nose on the ’70 Santo Stefano was much richer and darker than you’d expect, with smoky sweet herbs, dried strawberry, exotic spice, orange peel, and crushed flowers. On the palate, I found lifted, feminine textures with brisk acidity enlivening mineral-infused dried cherry with wonderful inner sweetness. It was shorter than I hoped, but how can you hold that against this 47 year-old wine–it is simply stunning. (94 points)

1998 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano Riserva – Wow… simply wow. The ’98 Santo Stefano is pure beauty, grace and elegance on this night. Lifted and feminine with a complex mixture of dusty spice, dried flowers, minerals and a dark and savory hint of undergrowth. On the palate, it was soft and caressing to the senses with a stunning mix of brisk acidity and saturating red berry fruit. Fine tannin lingered on the finish, but this wine is so enjoyable already, as the overall expression is fresh, lifted and spicy. (97 points)

2000 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva – The nose was dark and rich with earth tones offset by brown spice, as crushed strawberry and rosy floral tones mingled. On the palate, I found velvety textures lifted by balanced acidity with notes of dried black cherry, ripe strawberry and crunchy minerals, yet it lacked the depth of the best vintages. The finish showed a light coating of fine tannin with remnants of dark fruit lingering. (94 points)

2011 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva – The nose was intense, yet seeming more new world than old, showing sweet spices and a toasty quality to its cherry and raspberry fruit. On the palate, I found textures of weighty velvet ushering in floral-tinged red fruits and hints of dried orange with tannins that were almost completely enveloped by its fruit. The finish was long, with dark fruits lingering along with a coating of fine tannin. Others at the same tasting enjoyed this more than I did, and in some cases they have more experience with the wines. Personally, it’s hard for me to imagine the ‘11 maturing into a great Giacosa Red Label. (92 points)

The Roagna flight was most memorable for just how different yet equally enjoyable the ‘96 Paje was from the ‘96 Crichët Pajé (made from vines at the crest of the Pajé cru with extended time in barrel and late release). From the collector’s and wine lover’s standpoint, I couldn’t be happier about this, as the former costs a quarter of the price of Crichët Pajé. However, neither wine was better; instead they were simply completely different. Numerically, I scored them nearly the same, but in the end I had only a small preference for the Crichët Pajé, and mainly because it possessed more richness, while the straight Pajé was all about energy.

1996 Roagna Barbaresco Pajé – This was an outstanding showing for the ‘96 Pajé, especially served next to the Crichët Pajé of the same year. The nose showed sweet herbs, savory earth tones, smoke, brown spices and crushed strawberry. On the palate, I found zesty, grippy, energizing textures with vibrant acidity giving way to pure red fruits, minerals and hints of orange peel. It finished long, with dried berries and hints of tannin, yet energetic and spicy. (94 points)

1996 Roagna Barbaresco Crichët Pajé – Much more approachable than I would have expected, the ‘96 Crichët Pajé showed a bouquet of dried roses, sweet crushed berries, moist soil, exotic spices, and dark wood tones. On the palate, I found silky textures offset by zesty acidity with tart red fruits, exotic spice and mineral tones. It finished long with saturating red fruits and youthful tannin, but much less than I would have expected. It was gorgeous, but served next to the ‘96 Pajé, it shows the aging regiment over the vibrant fruit. (95 points)

Article, Tasting Notes, and Photos by: Eric Guido