Thursday, November 27, 2008

Rivetto dal 1902: A Barolo Vertical Going Way Back

Rivetto, as its name implies, was founded in 1902, by Enrico Rivetto's great grandfather. In the course of this year's Alba Wines they very kindly offered us a vertical going back, well, not quite that far, but quite far enough.

We began with some wines from the 1960s, which were macerated for months -- they racked them off the skins before Christmas. Now, by way of comparison, maceration is much less, on the order of 2 weeks.

The 60s vintages we tasted were similar, but the yields were quite different. The 61 produced much more than either the 64 or the 67, and as a result it was considered a better vintage than the others.

The Wines:

Rivetto Dal 1902 Barolo 1961
Moroccan leather with orange rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with savory accents and warmth mingled with tanned leather and some leaf tobacco, and pleasing brown-sugar-laced spice. Quite nice. On the palate it's ample, with rich brown sugar laced acidity that supports dried prune and carob fruit, while the tannins are very smooth, with a slight burr. Bright, and quite rich, and will drink well with foods. Great depth and intensity, and a pleasure to drink. To be honest it's old to score, though if pressed I would say 88-91.

Rivetto Dal 1902 Barolo 1964
Almandine with pale brownish green rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with pleasant spice and some acidity mingled with some plum fruit and hints of carob, and elegant well-aged saddle leather mingled with some brown sugar -- residual sugars from the fermentation and elegant slightly greenish spice as well. On the palate it's ample and rich, with powerful cherry plum fruit supported by deft acidity and silky smooth tannins that flow into a warm clean fairly tart finish that lasts and lasts. Beautiful interaction between savory accents and acidity, with some sweetness as well -- a great pleasure to drink, and is one of those wines that is best far from the table. Scoring doesn't make much sense with a wine this old, but if pressed I'd say 91-2.

Rivetto Dal 1902 Barolo 1967
This is the first year Enrico's father made the wine wine -- a dry vintage with very low yields, and as a result the production was extremely limited. They waited 10 years to drink it because of its aggressiveness. Pale almandine brown with almandine and orangeish reflections and rim. The bouquet is elegant, with brandied berry fruit mingled with spice and hints of brown sugar, all supported by deft acidity and well aged saddle leather. A great lot going on, and it is one of the wines that one can have a long conversation with. On the palate it's rich, with clean bright berry fruit supported by warmth and brown sugar sweetness -- some residual sugars here -- while there is still brisk acidity to hold it up, and the tannins are very smooth, silky even, and it flows into an intriguingly sweet finish. Beautiful wine, and one of those one can converse for days with. A score? About 90.

Rivetto Dal 1902 Barolo 1978
Enrico was born this year. Now it's brownish almandine with almandine in the rim; it's slightly cloudy too. The bouquet is fairly intense, with quite a bit of alcohol supported by acidity and old saddle leather with leaf tobacco and underlying underbrush. On the palate it's ample, with clean rich sour berry fruit supported by brisk berry fruit acidity and smooth sweet tannins that flow into a very long warm finish. Great elegance, and though it's not a wine I would drink with non-wineloving friends far from the table -- a bit too aggressive for that -- it will be spellbinding with a steak or a roast.

Up until 1978 they harvested in late October, before the Day of the Dead (Nov. 1). In 1983 Enrico's father recalls returning with the grapes, in their baskets, covered by several inches of snow.

A big leap forward:

Rivetto Dal 1902 Barolo 1995
This was on the heels of three bad vintages, and was therefore greeted with considerable enthusiasm and rated higher than it might have been had it not followed 92and 93. It's garnet with some arrange in the rim. The bouquet is fairly intense, and quite mature, with Moroccan leather and leaf tobacco mingled with underbrush and mentholated spice with some sweetness as well. Interesting. On the palate it's full, with rich slightly brandied cherry fruit supported by deft acidity and by ample smooth sweet tannins that flow into a clean warm tart finish with some sugary notes too. Quite nice, and clearly draws much more from the grape and larger wood (as opposed to barriques) than the 2001; it displays considerable depth, and will work very well with foods, though one could also sip it with friends.

Rivetto Dal 1902 Leon Barolo 2001 Riserva
This was aged for 5 years. Almandine with black reflections and some orange in the rim. The bouquet is powerful, with quite a bit of alcohol mingled with spice and some goudron. It's in mid-stride and seems annoyed at being disturbed; with more swishing and concentration (on my part) some green leather and berry fruit also emerges. But the alcohol is very much present. On the palate it's full, and again quite angry, with bright alcohol and angry wood-laced tannins that have a considerable peppery burr and lead into a long warm peppery finish. It's a bit over the top, and though not overextracted with regards to fruit, I find the wood use to be excessive, at least at this stage. Personal preference, but I don't think it's anywhere near ready to drink -- it needs at least 5 years, and will age well for many, many more. The score reflects the present.
2 stars

Fred, a fellow journalist, says that these are more mineral and less fruity than some other older wines that he has had. However, from 1995 back he finds a common thread, and I would tend to agree. The 2001 is a step in a different direction.

In any case, they are all wines that work best with foods, and are not particularly easy. In short, wines to serve wineloving friends.

Want To Know More About Rivetto? Their Website.

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