There are wines that burn their way into your taste memory and turn rational analysis on its head. Somewhat like the magic of a great work of art, or the heartbreak of an exquisitely performed opera. Try to bear this in mind because we are about to encounter one of those wines.
The Line Up
1962 Bersano Barolo, 1964 Giovanni Scanavino Barolo, 1978 Mauro Barolo, 1979 Bolla Amarone, 1981 Fontafredda Barolo and 1980 Brunello de Montalcino.
There were two more wines from the collection added to the list by popular vote: a 1981 Casa Vincola Nino Inferno and a 1984 Sassicaia.
The guests for the evening were as follows: two WSET Instructors with decidedly different teaching techniques, a Chef who also imports Italian wines amongst his other myriad endeavors, the wife of one of the WSET instructors, a very charming lady in her own right, and a knowledgeable wine geek with no verbal inhibitions. We also had a friend with us whose wine knowledge basically consists of knowing what she likes, possibly not why, but who is never impressed by labels. Add to the mix myself and, of course, Wendy, who shares most of the wine I drink and definitely all of the good ones.
1962 Bersano Barolo
I had only two bottles of this wine left in the cellar. The labels were scuffed and torn. Ullage was good, very high shoulder. I had high hopes for these; Barolos, produced before Barolo became a Doc. One bottle was the first to be opened and was decanted for most of the evening. The second bottle was opened later and also decanted and aerated. The nose never came around. To put it in wine geek terms, they ended up being DNPIM and PDTS. Do Not Put In Mouth and Pour Down The Sink. So sad.
1978 Mauro Osvaldo Barolo
Typical old Barolo. Orange rim, light red colour . A little past its prime sadly, but still drinkable. Lots of sediment, still some tannins left, but soft. Still an enjoyable wine.
1981 Fontanafredda Barolo
There was a lot of bottle variation between these two bottles. Both bottles were quite acceptable and drinkable. Bottle number one still had quite a bit of floral, rose notes while bottle number two had not as many aromatics. Both bottles had high amounts of volatile acidity, but in a juicy, lip smacking way. Clear, garnet coloured with an orange rim. Clean on the nose, but not a lot of intensity. Tarry with a tiny hint of sherry notes. Tannins were smooth, medium minus. This wine was full bodied with more on the palate than the nose. At its outside edge of being drinkable.
I foolishly made a comment that I would open two more wines from my collection to be determined by a popular vote. Democracy is a terrible thing. We do not have any Infernos available here and, of course, we needed to try another nebbiolo. The nebbiolo character was there, but the Inferno lacked the power of the Barolos. Not a lot of aromatics remained, but this wine was still interesting on the palate. The nose was clean, but a little tired. The tannins in this wine were still much in evidence, as with the Barolos, but the refinement was lacking.
The Sassicaia was another one of the wines that everyone wanted to taste. I thought that it would be a good benchmark wine for the Barolos. Different region, different style. Wonderful wine, but the Barolos muscled it into the background and kicked sand in its face. It should not have been tasted with the Barolos. I have had this wine before and it was remarkable when experienced on it's own. I thought the Cabernet would stand out more when compared with the Nebbiolos. That supposition turned out to be utterly and completely wrong.
1980 Brunello di Montalcino
Quite frankly, I did not intend to open this wine for this tasting. But, we had run out of wine. And...when you have a room full of wine geeks clamoring for more, it is definitely in your best interest to keep them entertained. This is one of Wendy's favorites. "The Girl on the Label Wine". This Brunello also outdid the Sassicaia. It has aged well, always lots of aromatics and fruit. As this was one of the wines tasted later in the evening, there were not a lot of detailed notes from anyone, just a lot of head nodding and lip smacking. It was picked as the second best wine of the evening. Every bottle of this wine that I have been privileged to experience has amazed me with its freshness and ability to persevere. Tannins like silk.
1964 Giovanni Scanavino Barolo