I had the pleasure of sharing quite a few bottles of old and older Barolo with several friends recently and while I fell behind slightly in my note taking these two sets are easily reported as one so don’t be under the impression that I was over indulgent one night last week. In fact I have been over indulgent for two weeks, and my soon to come Madeira notes will stretch that to three!
1988 Gaja Sperrs - Not surprisingly this has a rather assertive oaken sheen on the nose with a smoky, pickle barrel character. Under the wood there are fine notes of leathery, strongly floral fruit that verges into the almost Cabernet Franc-like vegetal zone. Airing helps moderate the wood and notes of thyme; wild black berry, subtle funghi and minerals emerge slowly. In the mouth there is big black cherry fruit supported by good acidity and tons of polished tannins yielding a rather slick mouth feel. The end result is a shiny, friendly wine that is big and simple with a bit of heat and toughness to the tannins obvious on the finish. This could very well improve with further cellaring but doesn’t seem to be going my way - 87pts
1988 Giacomo Conterno Cascina Francia - This opens very slowly with impressively layered aromatics, tight and very mineral driven at first with river stones drying in the sun, then the fruit pops with a seared cherry note, tarry and slightly smoky with a subtle note of crushed rose petals accentuating the red berry, currant fruit. Turns progressively sweeter smelling with grace notes of lemon blossom and white mushroom adding a sense of emerging complexity. Like on the nose, this starts off very tight, acid driven on entry with a lean and spare architecture that slowly fills out with earth tinged black cherry fruit. Notes of licorice and medicinal spice creep in around the edges and a sweep of black tea emerges on the backend and leads to the moderately long finish with a strong, over-arching top note of licorice and fine amarena cherry fruit. This is still relatively youthful and a smashing success for the vintage. Needs another 3-5 years to really emerge but even so a winner tonight 93pts.
1978 Produttori del Barbaresco Rabaja - This offers up deep and muscular notes of earthy macerated cherries, charred campfire, insinuations of porcini and adds a light prosciutto element, a touch of black pepper and fresh cane clippings with a menthol top note to the remarkably fresh nose. Youthful in the mouth with sweet, tarry fruit that is dense and chewy but very fresh. Really fine and perfectly mature preserving the balanced and slightly rustic style of the vintage that pairs so well with the earthy, dark fruit. Another testament to the greatness that is the Produttori Coop. 92pts
1978 Rocche dei Manzoni Riserva - There are lots of bottles of this wine floating around. I have had bottles that were revelations, bottles that had been cooked to death, and bottles in-between. This was a bit in between tonight. A touch flat and shallow on the nose with nice elements that recall amaro with cinnamon and mint tones. In the mouth the wine retains a sweet core of fruit up front but the palate toughens considerably and while the solid acids maintain a level of freshness and brightness in the fruit, there are dark coffee tones that matte everything down a bit. The tannins smooth out with air but the wine remains short and chunky, and compact though with decent slightly roasted black raspberry fruit. The finish ends with a solid blast of cold coffee. Drinkable but uninspiring 83pts.
1978 Oddero Barolo - This opens with a bit of animal funk, penetrating and fairly intense with limestone, red cherry and leather notes dominating though there are nice grace notes of Red Hots and a light underlay of Golia candy and animal fur. This is surprisingly silky and elegant in the mouth though the tannins are a touch rustic, particularly across the midpalate. Good acids and fine focus if a bit restricted in the mouth. Here again is a touch of coffee but it’s a sweetish espresso crema note to the dark fruits. This is lovely tonight, authentic and pure Barolo that speaks of its time. Fine drinking but with a long life ahead of it. 2008-2025 91pts
1988 Bartolo Mascarello - As is so typical of Bartolo’s wines, this opens slowly revealing very little at first. The notes of earthy, dusty cellar floor slowly yield to citrussy wild berry fruit, dried thyme, fresh funghi and a classic cinnamon spice element. In the mouth this offers up a fresh minerally midpalate with excellent supporting acids and adds weight with airing. Fine length on the finish and great evolution in the glass as the wild berry/ golden raspberry fruit gains complexity and richness yet remains deceptively youthful. This requires one to think a bit more than many other wines but the exercise is greatly rewarded. 2008-2020 92pts
1971 Giacomo Conterno Barolo - This is such a monumental wine and I don’t think I’ve ever had a finer bottle. Deeply fruited and still singing on the nose with insinuations of tar, licorice, and truffle but such a core of dark, sweet, earthy cherry fruit. In the mouth the balance is very fine, the tannins have melted away but there are still plenty to keep the fruit in check and feel full in the mouth. Again the richness of the fruit is impressive with fantastic sottobosco nuances that show it’s evolution yet the fruit is so sweet, full and precise. Real impressive length on the finish, which shows no rough edges or exposed structural elements. Great wine. 96pts
I typed up to here before my notes were misplaced. These last three are from memory.
1958 Borgogno Barolo There are many versions of this wine, this being a true red capsule original release showed beautifully resolved but still with a solid core of red fruits. The acidity is just beginning to be a touch prominent, especially on the finish but there is solid length here and real finesse. 90pts
1982 Vietti Villero Riserva - A particularly fresh bottle of Villero, Vietti’s first from the Villero vineyard. This started out with a bit of evolved, cellar floor sandiness over the bright fruits and fine nuanced anise, salted caper and dried floral tones. This rolled across the palate with admirable density and perked up as the wine opened revealing a freshness that was irresistible. The finish grew in length as well and the darker, meaty fruits of the mid-palate yielded to dried cranberry and cherry tones with lovely spice tones. 92pts
1990 Brovia Rocche - Still very young this is approaching it’s peak drinking plateau and offers up an impeccably balanced mid-palate, really superb tension in the mouth with brooding, broad, tarry fruit. This is muscular and sinewy and really deserves additional time in the cellar or decanter but was just so captivating even at this stage. The fruit has just a hint of the roasted tinge found in many 1990’s and is one of the freshest wines of the vintage that I have had. Can’t wait for my next bottle. 93pts.
Some recent notes on not too recent Barolo.
- Reply by Nicolai Soegaard, Oct 21, 2008.
Thanks a lot for the excellent and very inspiring notes. I was particularly glad to see notes on Cascina Francia 88 and Brovia Rocche 90 as I have these bottles resting in my cellar. Later this year or in January, I will taste the Rocche dei Manzoni Riserva 78 and I sure hope that it will belong to the "revelations" category.
I find it interesting that you write that CF 88 is still youthful. I had the same experience when I had a bottle in January. However, I have since then seen several people stating that Monfortino 88 has entered its peak drinking window with lots of tertiary development. Do you think that it could be a vintage in which Monfortino will mature before Cascina Francia? (note: I have never tasted 88 Monfortino)
I'm not surprised to see such a positive review of the Brovia Rocche. I had the 89 Brovia "normale" a few months ago and I really loved it. Just fantastic classic Barolo.
Wow, I would love to taste such a pristine example of the 71 Conterno Barolo. It really sounds like an amazing bottle.
- Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 21, 2008.
I think you may be right. The 1988 Monfortino may have suffered in this vintage from the extra time in barrel. I have only had it once recently and it does indeed seem to be more advanced than the Cascina Francia.
Brovia consistently produced great wines. They are very classic and so can be underwhelming in their youth but in great vintages look out, the positive development can be breath taking!