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.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

1990 Nebbiolo

Our NY Vinous wine group met recently at the North End Grill in lower Manhattan.  Our theme for this dinner/tasting was the 1990 vintage of Barolo and Barbaresco.  The North End Grill is a Danny Meyer restaurant that showcases Chef Eric Korsh's rustic, French inspired cuisine.  The menu is not extensive but the food, as one would expect, was excellent.  I began with a delicious Country Pate, Confit Onion, House Mustard, Grilled Miche.    Served with toasted rustic bread to spread the pate on, I enjoyed each bite.  I have always heard that Danny Meyer restaurants do great justice to the Hamburger, so I ordered the Short Rib Beef Burger, Grilled Onions, Spicy Mayo on a Brioche Bun.  This was served up with a side of Duck Fat Fries.  While the burger was good, it did not make it into my top ten.

We kicked off the tasting with a bottle of 2014 Domaine Didier Dagueneau Blanc Fumé De Pouilly.  Lauded by many as the world’s best producer (and probably the most expensive also) of Sauvignon Blanc wines, this cuvée had a crisp, fresh palate, but was a bit tight.  Great pedigree here, but could use a year of two in the cellar.  Using the techniques favored by the old-timers of the village, the yields are kept low at 45 hl/ha, only 75% of that of his neighbors. They employ twice the number of workers than a conventional winery to give extra attention to the vineyards, and they use a horse to plow certain parcels where they feel that the compacting of the soil by the tractor’s wheels would hurt the vines. Weather posts are placed strategically throughout the vineyards to help determine the best treatments and minimize the usage of copper sulfate, ideally less than is permitted in both organic and biodynamic farming. All the grapes are picked manually and completely de-stemmed.

Along with the 1989 vintage, the 1990 Nebbiolo vintage is an extraordinary vintage in both Barolo and Barbaresco. The hot weather yielded rich, sometimes-opulent wines. Flowering and crop set were much more even than in 1989, and consequently yields were quite a bit higher. While my experience with the vintage is limited, I have liked what I have tasted.  Antonio Galloni wrote a terrific article on the vintages in 2010. If you are a member of his Vinous web site you can access the report here 1989/1990 Piedmont.  The eleven wines for the evening were organized into four flights

Flight One

1990 Paolo Scavino Barolo Bric del Fiasc.  I am not a buyer of Scavino wines as I find them very oaky and modern.  While the oak was in check in this bottle, to me the wine lacked freshness.

1990 Paolo Scavino Rocche Annunziata Barolo Riserva.  I found the fruit to be fresher and the palate softer than in the BdF, but other than that not a style that excites me.

Photo courtesy of Eric Guido
Flight Two

1990 Azienda Bricco Rocche (Ceretto) Barolo Brunate.  While the bouquet was glorious on the nose, the palate was dead.  In my opinion this wine has past its prime.

1990 Elio Altare Barolo Vigneto Arborina.  A more modern styled Barolo, this showed very well. The wine started with a lovely nose of cherries that were echoed on a soft palate.  I liked this more than I thought I would.

1990 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis.  I love Sandrone wines.  They lie somewhere between traditional and modern, but they are magnificent expressions of Nebbiolo.  This was one of the wines of the night in my opinion.  It was firing on all cylinders.  Earthy bouquet, complex, balanced and elegant palate with a monster finish.

Photo courtesy of Eric Guido

Flight Three

1990 Gaja Sperss Barolo.  While I am not a Gaja fan, this was very good indeed, starting with a tantalizing earthy Piedmont bouquet and a soft beautifully balanced palate and lengthy finish,.  For a few in the group it was the WOTN.

1990 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia.  There was something amiss with this bottle.  It wasn’t anything like previous bottles I have had.

1990 Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Riserva Granbussia.  A wine I have had on two previous occasions and once again it did not disappoint. Another terrific showing for this wine.  Silky palate with terrific balance and a lengthy and elegant finish.

Photo courtesy of Eric Guido
Flight Four

1990 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Gallina di Neive. What a superb Barbaresco.  Silky palate with beautiful fruit, balance and elegance and a lengthy and spectacular finish.  One of the wines of the night.

1990 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Pora.  Another one of my wines of the night.  Simply spectacular showing.  Terrific structure and balance and a long and elegant finish.

1990 Gaja Barbaresco Costa Russi.  While this drank nicely it was completely out classed by the Giacosa and the Produttori.

Photo courtesy of Eric Guido
As you can see it was a terrific evening.  Sharing great wines with this very generous group of knowledgeable guys is one of the highlights of my wine drinking experience.

Thanks so much to Eric Guido for organizing the flights and the dinner.  Please be sure to check out his notes on the wines in his report Prelude to the Modern Vintage.



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