Today I up the ante, including wines that skirt dangerously close to the $100 mark. Truth be told some are close on the wrong side unless you’re lucky or diligent. These are wines from the region I cellar, mostly in the styles I appreciate most, which makes perfect sense since this is what I might spend some of my money on!
Photo courtesy marcella bono via Flickr/CC
Just to recap
These are wines that you should let sleep, the less expensive wines from the previous installments are supposed to help you with that! Just to refresh your memory, here are links to the previous episodes of this ongoing saga.
The $2,500 Cellar Part I
The $2,500 Cellar Part II
The $2,500 Cellar Part III
The $5,000 Cellar Part I
The $5,000 Cellar Part II
With such a limited budget, it’s very difficult to really cover all of one’s bases and so I’ve tried to keep this as balanced as possible. Following this plan won’t fill your cellar with all the great wines of the world, but it certainly is a mighty fine place to start! Just a heads up, most of these wines fall on the rather traditional side of the style spectrum which is of course my preference. If you generally find that you prefer wines that are particular powerful, rich and oaky, this list may not be for you.
Photo courtesy avlxyz via Flickr/CC
This should have been one of the most difficult lists to compile since Barolo is my favorite wine and there are two dozen or so producers I follow to some extent or another. Recent events, such as price changes and style shifts, have made this a bit of a challenge. I would have liked to include a Barbaresco for variety if nothing else, but the two that came to mind have sprinted beyond our budget here. Not really a surprising state of affairs given the wine’s respective quality, but tough to justify the expenditure when titans such as these are still so fairly priced.
The producers listed here represent both the old and the young guard of traditionalism in Piemonte.
Great recent vintages of Barolo to look out for include 2006, 2004, 2001, and 1999.
Tip: 2005 is a bit of a sleeper vintage worth checking out as well as it is generally well priced after being passed over by many collectors.
Photo courtesy TorreBarolo via Flickr/CC
Mauro Mascarello Monprivato is legendary. I would guess that it is soon to pass the $100 a bottle mark, so make an effort to find some. Always a tough wine to decipher upon release, Monprivato tends to be thin, almost insipid at times, and pale in its youth, only to grow and expand in the bottle adding weight, power, depth and complexity with the passing years. By age 10, it begins to show its true self and by age 20, one can grasp the wine’s full potential. It often takes 25 years or more for the full glory of mature Monprivato to be revealed.
Tip: If you can’t find Mascarello Monprivato, consider his Barolo Villero. A sleeper of a wine that gets almost no play but can be fabulous in a very elegant, detailed way that is true to the Mascarello style.
Mascarello Barolo Monprivato $90
The Bartolo Mascarello is now made by daughter Maria Teresa. I am hesitant to use that word as it’s more a bit of observation and gentle guidance that transpires each year in this small Spartan cellar than any sense of manufacturing.
The results speak for themselves in silky harmony that brings together components from four distinct vineyards, a rarity for any Piemontese producer’s top wine in this day and age of single vineyard bottlings, not to mention that producer’s sole Barolo.
This is among the most traditional wines produced in Piemonte,and it does a wonderful job of expressing the Nebbiolo grape in a pure, fragrant and uncommonly red-fruited way.
Bartolo Mascarello Barolo $85
Unlike my first two choices for Barolo, I’ve had a decidedly rocky relationship with the wines of Brovia. By the early 1980s, both Mascarellos (cousins by the way) had long established track records of producing benchmark wines, but Brovia was still finding their feet. In fact it wasn’t until the mid 1990s that the wines of Brovia began their move towards the upper echelon of Barolo producers.
Today, Brovia’s Barolo, and their Rocche and C'a Mia vineyards in particular, are about as good as you can get. The prices continue to be very fair for the quality, amazingly so if you can find the wines of pre-arrival or sale. The Rocche is classic Barolo: powerful, fragrant and complex with a texture that is built on tannins and acid yet somehow gives the impression of being neither particularly tannic nor particularly acidic. That, my friends, is pinpoint balance.
Brovia Rocche $75
I wavered a bit when thinking of including Sangiovese here. Don’t get me wrong I do love Sangiovese, but rarely do I spend this sort of money for them. Rarely of course being the operative word here. It does happen, reluctantly if I must admit, because these wines were much less expensive just a few short years ago.
I really do feel that if you’re going to build a world class cellar you owe it to yourself to include Sangiovese-based wines, by that I do mean wines from Tuscany. To be honest, they are the only wines I can think of at this price point and with this sort of ageing potential.
Great recent vintages in Tuscany to look out for include 2006, 2004, 2001 and 1999.
Photo courtesy dustinhenderlong via Flickr/CC
Azienda Agricola San Giuseppe
I have to admit that I am relatively new to the wine of Stella di Campalto, having been introduced to them only a few years ago by a friend in Italy. At the time they were under the radar gems, relatively affordable and a breath of fresh air amongst many wines that struggled to be more than Sangiovese might naturally prefer to be.
Stella di Campalto is a certified Biodynamic producer who draws from six distinct vineyards to produce one very complete Brunello. This is an elegant style, perfumed and bright in the mouth
Stella di Campalto Brunello $85
Tip: Rosso di Montalcino is often a rather light wine, Stella di Campalto’s is a category killer!