One used to be able to count on Barolo, that exceptionally fine Piedmontese red wine made from Nebbiolo, being exceptional maybe 3 times a decade. In the past 10 years however we have been blessed with an string of vintages that has been unparelled in history. 1998 had the distinct misfortune of falling after the over acclaimed 1997s and the equally frothy enthusiasm that accompanied the 2000s. The 1999’s also got lost but that is material for another email
Born of the second warm vintage in a row the 1998’s lacked both the structure and the explosive fruit of the best 1997’s but from release they exhibited fine harmony and balance. These wines are uncharacteristically approachable today and while they are not among the highest expressions of Nebbiolo they combine ripe fruit with a scaled down structure that allows for earlier consumption than is the norm here. As a recent blind tasting showed, there are some great wines here.
The greatest wines of the vintage
While I loved the Giacomo Conterno Cascina Francia (http://www.snooth.com/wines/1998+ca...), a classic in any vintage, the Luigi Pira Marenca (http://www.snooth.com/wine/l-pira-b...) was my favorite wine of the tasting. It is simply one of the finest Barolos from 1998 with exceptional depth and balance. A joy to behold from a producer that rarely gets the attention they deserve. Both of these wines belong in every aficionado’s cellar.
Great wines nearing their drinking windows.
One of the great things about the 1998 vintage is that many wines are still affordably available. The Marcarini Brunate (http://www.snooth.com/wine/marcarin...) is approachable and thoroughly infused with the terroir of this famed vineyard in the commune of La Morra. Also from La Morra, yet with a bit of more powerful Monforte juice in the blend, the virtually unknown Cascina Ballarin (http://www.snooth.com/wine/cascina-...)served notice that they have gotten serious about offering great, age-worthy wines at modest prices. Perhaps the highlightof the tasting in a quality to price sense was the Brovia Rocche (http://www.snooth.com/wine/fratelli...). A candidate for solid improvement in the cellar, it is drinking well already.
An easier way to experience great Nebbiolo.
While the majority of wines in the tasting performed very well, expectations were fairly high. These are, after all, Barolo and come with commensurate prices. In the future I will have a tasting focusing on the greatest wine values on earth. Nebbiolo d’Alba. If the wines featured in this tasting intrigued you but you’re not quite ready to plunk down the $50 plus most are going for, I suggest you try Langhe Nebbiolo from the great producers featured here. Other favorites that are widely available are the Vietti Perbacco (http://www.snooth.com/wines/vietti+...) and the Produttori del Barbaresco. (http://www.snooth.com/wines/vietti+...) Both offer an amazing Nebbiolo experience as well as a super value!
Other recommended wines
If we haven’t gotten your attention yet perhaps one of these bottles, a selection of our most searched wines, will hit your sweet spot and turn the day into a Piedmontese celebration! Happy hunting and if you don’t see the wine you’re looking for here, join us at Snooth where you are a click away from finding your wine of the night!
1998 in Piedmont - A lost Vintage
- Reply by Eric Guido, Oct 25, 2008.
Some great info here, I only recently tasted a series of Marcarini Baroli and was blown away. The Brunate is a gorgeous wine deserving of some serious time in the cellar and these are affordable compared to much of the Barolo out there these days. I may end up on a spree for Marcarini once financial things settle a bit. Have you ever tried the Chinato? I'm really courious.
I have only a few 98's and most I'm a little afraid to open out of hope that they might start showing better in the future. My biggest fear is the Scavino Rocche Del Annunziata that I paid such a premium for and now I'm afraid to touch.
- Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 26, 2008.
Marcarini rocks. perhaps what is so impressive, and why the gat over-looked as well, is the fact that the wines just have not changed style at all. They were at the very top of la Morra years ago, the have been surpassed by other producers today but the wines, well the vineyards were replanted in 1991. The Brunate of today tastes and smells exactly as the brunates of the past did. The La Serra shows even more terroir. They are wines of subtlety and elegance. killer values. I'll dig up my notes about a brunate vertical I put together a few years back, fantastic wines that really spoke of each vintage. I've not had their Chinato.
As far as your Scavino goes, well it might be great. It's not a style I appreciate since it doesn't fulfill my expectations for barolo but it certainly has a very strong and loyal following. Wine is a very personal matter, sort of like sex and politics!
- Reply by Eric Guido, Oct 26, 2008.
Yeah, I picked them up back when wine buying was more about scores and hype than anything else. I've learned a lot since then and if it were today I'd probably have skipped the Scavino Rocches. Either way, one day in the not so near future I'll do an offline and open the 96 - 2001 and I'm sure it will at least be enjoyable if not true to type for Barolo. I've found that the traditional styles are what I truly enjoy most as well.