Back to the point at hand. So 2001 it was, and a blind tasting it was to be. I built the fights in particular to include the modernist producers about whose wines I have some doubt. It was also designed to offer as broad and inclusive a tasting as possible in order to gain some insight into the evolving 2001 vintage. Another factor in favor of 2001 as a vintage for this tasting is the fact that most of the modernists had finally settled on style and technique by then, pulling back from the generally recognized excesses of the late 1990s. To a large extent these are the wines these producers are producing today.
Before we get into the tasting here’s a few thoughts on 2001. When the vintage came on the scene it was met with much fanfare. Following on the heels of two important vintages, the 100 point miracle of 2000 and the greatest vintage of the decade, 1999 which together seemed like they might just be putting a cap on an unprecedented string of terrific vintages in Piedmont. This might account for some of the hyperbole that accompanied the 2001s. No one would ever have guessed that 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2011 were to follow. They just knew that 2002 was going to be weak and 2003 a tough sell so they might as well have made as great a deal as possible over what they had.
Which is not to say that 2001 is anything less than a great vintage. It is in fact a classic vintage, marked by a cool and slightly difficult October that extended the vintage, slowed down the ripening process and produced fruit that was ripe and fresh. That, along with a certain elegance ascribed to more modestly scaled wines is what one should expect from the vintage. Balanced, long and refined, these were never going to be fruit bombs or tannin monsters. They did in fact play right into the strengths of the modernist camp. A vintage that could benefit from a bit of fruitier-ness.
It’s easy for me to pull that card to help explain away the results of our tasting, but at the same time it is very true. The results of the tasting, flight by flight, also helped to support this conclusion. Brunate, the most overtly fruity of the flights was also the preferred flight of the evening while Monforte and Cannubi where the most difficult. Excluding the problems with some of the wines from Castiglione.
So the vintage is turning out to be elegant, and just a touch austere. That cold harvest seasoning leaving its mark on the wines. It’s also following a pretty classic ageing curve and I expect will evolve along the path of the 1982s that helped me select them. For the top ten wines tasted this evening, and four of those in the middle, the prognosis is excellent. It was too early to try these wines, as so many will be happy to tell you. However, the only reason we know that it is too early is because somebody like myself is willing to actually try them! I don’t think these wines will make particularly old bones, but two decades more years of positive evolution is certainly in the cards.