About this Blog

The blog focuses on the essence of wine and food, not how many points or stars it receives. The opinions are mine and should be taken only as that, an opinion not gospel.

Like many collectors, initially I was very much influenced by wine ratings. I purchased wines based on points, even if I had never tasted the wine. And it was much worse than that. I would drink a wine with a high rating, not like it, yet since it was highly rated I’d rationalize that I did not yet appreciate the wine, or that my palate was not sophisticated enough to understand the wine. How’s that for lunacy? As a result my cellar grew in all directions while my palate narrowed. By the time I realized the style of wine that I enjoyed, my cellar abounded with wines whose styles I did not enjoy. All of these wines were very highly rated, just not my cup of tea, or glass of wine to be more accurate. Fortunately I was able to sell many of these wines to those who either enjoyed them or wanted highly rated wines. Don’t misunderstand, I am not against wines with high ratings, in fact I own many. It is just that I now purchase wines based on the producer, the style and my palate, not the rating. Nor do I shun reading reviews. I very much respect Antonio Galloni, Alan Meadows, Eric Asimov and John Gilman and read their reviews routinely. I pay attention to what they write, not the points they award.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

1989 Barolo - Blind Tasting

The 1989 vintage for Barolo and Barbaresco is amongst the very best vintages ever.  If you are a lover of Nebbiolo and classic old world wine making, then it is a vintage you must try.  Yes it will be a bit pricey, but worth the indulgence to experience the vintage.

I had the privilege to be invited to a BYOB dinner of 1989 Barolo in NYC a couple of months ago. Eric Guido, a private chef and wine writer from NYC, organized the event.  I met Eric, along with the other attendees at the dinner, on Antonio Galloni’s Vinous website.  We met at I Truli Ristorante in NYC.  The food was delicious and complemented the wines beautifully.  Not only did Eric do a terrific job in organizing the evening, he captured the event beautifully in his blog on The VIP Table.  Ken Vastola, who I finally had the opportunity to meet, is one of the most knowledgeable Nebbiolo people in on the planet; also did a fantastic job in capturing the event with sensational photos as well as insightful comments.   Check out his blog, Fine Wine Geek.  As both did such a great job I will only include a photo of the wine line-up.

It was decided by the group to conduct this tasting blind.  I believe I was the only one who voted against doing the tasting blind.  In my opinion blind tastings distract from tasting and more importantly experiencing the wine.  In the end they always seem to devolve into comparing wines to one another and picking the wine or wines of the night.  Supporters of blind tasting say that by not knowing the wine you preclude the possibility of someone being prejudice, especially with the wine her or she brought.  The idea of being prejudice is absurd in my opinion, especially at a tasting like this where everyone present is obviously prejudice to the Nebbiolo grape.

Let’s get to what I consider the nitty-gritty.  Wines are dynamic and living.  It is rare that two bottles from the same vintage are going to taste exactly alike, especially if time has elapsed between tastings.  We have all had bottles of wine that were magnificent on one occasion, and yet on another occasion, it was “off”.  It is the nature of the beast.  However when one knows what one is drinking, it is possible to compare it to a previous bottle, be it a week, month, year or years before that the same wine/vintage was tasted.  It provides the information I want, which is about this wine, not how it compares to other wines. 

Famed wine importer and renowned wine writer, Kermit Lynch says of blind tasting, “Blind tastings are to wine what strip poker is to love”.  Okay I have had my say so let me get on to the food and wine.  

All of the wines were opened at about 1 PM and allowed to slow-ox for 5 to 6 hours.

Our antipasti consisted of 4 small and spectacular plates of Antipasti Misti, Carne Crudo, Polenta with Wild Mushrooms and Vitello Tonnato. 

First Flight

1989 Pruduttori Ovello Barbaresco –  I am a big fan of the Produttori Riservas, and this certainly did not disappoint.   The fruit was still quite young and the palate had that wonderful feminine elegance and balance so typical of these wines.

1989 Roagna Riserva Barbaresco – Great earthy bouquet, but alas the wine was corked.

1989 Bartollo Mascarello – Classic old world Barolo.  As much as I enjoyed this, it lacked the vibrant fruit, complexity and elegance of a bottle I had a few months before, which was simply magnificent.   This bottle brought to mind the Hugh Johnson quote, "There are no great wines, only great bottles of wine."
1989 Cavallotto San Giuseppe – Corked.

Second Flight

1989 Aldo Conterno Cicala - Beautiful translucent red hue, sensual bouquet, young vibrant fruit, tons of complexity and impeccable balance.  Finish was long and elegant.  A wine with real soul!

1989 Elio Grasso Gavarini – Earthy, with dark, ripe fruit.  Excellent balance and nice lengthy finish.

1989 Aldo Conterno Colonnello – While a terrific bottle of wine, on this night it was not, in my opinion, up to the Cicala, although most thought it the other way around. 

1989 Rocche dei Manzoni Riserva – Another classic old world Barolo that drank beautifully.

For our entrée there was a magnificently prepared Brasato al Barolo: Short Rib of Beef Braised in Barolo Wine. 

Third Flight

1989 Brovia Rocche – Corked

1989 Vietti Rocche – This was superb.  By far the most youthful wine of the evening.  The wine simply soared from the glass.

1989 Vietti Villero – A small step behind the Rocche on this night.  Gorgeous bouquet, color and balance.  Finished with considerable length.

1989 Giacosa Villero – corked

Dessert consisted of Fontina and Toma cheese, with Maraschino Mostarda.

Fourth Flight

1989 G. Conterno Cascina Francia – Absolutely gorgeous from the translucent red hue to the youthful, complex and balanced palate. From a great winemaker, a classic wine from a classic vintage. 

1989 Cascini Bruni Vigna Batistot – New producer for most of us.  It was delicious and had a soft, velvet finish.

1989 Prunotto Cannubi – This drank beautifully.  I don’t have a lot of experience with this producer, but based on this, I would buy some in a heartbeat.

1989 Giuseppe Rinaldi Brunate Riserva – Drank on a par with the G. Conterno.  A simply round and delicious wine and another great example of a great wine in a great vintage from a great winemaker.

In my opinion, I thought that the Cascina Francia, Rinaldi Brunate Riserva, Vietti Rocche and A. Conterno Ciacala were the wines that delivered the best experience of this great vintage, at least to my palate.  In reality it really did not make a difference to me that the tasting was blind. The evening was spectacular.  I got to make some new wine friends, eat great food and drink great wine.  Thanks again Eric for coordinating the evening.

Photo compliments of Eric Guido
One final comment, if you love Nebbiolo, like those of us who attended this dinner and you do not own any 1989s, seek them out asap.  You will be glad you did.


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