Thursday, November 17, 2011

Garantito Igp - Barolo Vigna La Rosa Vertical: 2007-2004-1999-1996-1982 and 1967

This time Luciano takes the stand:

It's not often that one can combine the technical requirements of a tasting with drinking pleasure. Quite the contrary, it's ever rarer due to conflicting appointments, the press of time, and the anxieties of wanting to know. But it does occasionally happen. For example, if we find ourselves in a historic estate, Fontanafredda in Serralunga, enjoying a pleasant evening seated around a table with a dear friend, Monica Tavella, a dynamic winemaker such as Danilo Drocco, and a few Promising Youths, for example Carlo Macchi, Kyle Phillips, and Pasquale Porcelli.

There we were, after tasting the latest Mirafiore wines in Oscar Farinetti's avant-garde tasting room, in the dining room of the villa, enjoying a classic Piemontese meal: a cold chopped antipasto, a hot antipasto, agnoletti al plin with the sauce from a roast, meat, and dessert. And during the hours we enjoyed, we chatted of this and that, of icy harvests, of plans for the future, and as we sipped an unexpected Barolo vertical developed, leaving us with no choice but to accept Barolo's immortality.

You understand: We're at Fontanafredda, our base for the IGP in Langa Tastings. A hundred hectares of vineyards, planted in 1878 by King Vittorio Emanuele for his Bella Rosin, then property of the Monte dei Paschi Bank for 72 years, and since 2008 one of Oscar Farinetti's jewels.

We never tire of repeating it, This Is How Great Wines Should Be Tasted: Giving to them at least some of the time they gave us by enjoying them, with food, and if possible while talking with those who know them. It's a humanist tasting, one in which the notes taken, while indispensable, are only the key with which to gain access to the spirit in the glass, and, more importantly, to the spirit of the land and those who lived on it.

I always make this comparison: the aristocracies of Piemonte, Tuscany and the Veneto maintained solid ties to the land, investing and promoting innovations, whereas the Neapolitan aristocracy consumed their estates in the construction of palaces designed to rival those of the King. One of the reasons for the Neapolitan's defeat and ultimate collapse may be this differing approach to agriculture. Cavour and Ricasoli thought about wine, while Nicotera made pacts with the Mob to govern Naples after the fall of the Bourbons.

And this echoes down the paths of history, weighing upon the blameless generations that followed. More than to be or to have, the anthropological and psychological dichotomy is that which sets production and consumption in opposition.

2007 - We begin with a vintage I detest, because it brings me back to the concentrated fruity style of the 90s, which continues to do great damage in regions such as Calabria, Sicily and Puglia. It's not a deft vintage, even when a winemaker as good as Danilo does his best to maintain elegance, and succeeds in preserving freshness. The wine is perfect, and almost ready. Now, and that's the rub.

2004 - We step back three years; Monte Dei Paschi was still on the scene, though Danilo's hand was already on the wines. Our negative Kantian prejudice flips to positive when 4 replaces 7. A vintage that's always great and climbing, no matter the wine: From Barolo to Taurasi, passing through Gaglioppo, Amarone and Brunello. Intense, fresh, ample, dynamic, I'd almost say it's my favorite.

1999 - The vintage we all agree on: winemakers, enologists, wine lovers: a fullness of expression that began in the vineyard and ends in the glass. I won't talk to you about the wine's integrity after 12 years, because with Barolo it's what one expects. The nose still has considerable fruit and a nice spicy cast, while the attack on the palate is unhesitating, and perfectly balanced, with all the components at a very high level; the freshness is no longer distinct, but very long, and sustains it all. A long, intense, persistent finish that sends ripe cherry fruit up to the nose.

1996 - Here the audience is divides. Neither Carlo nor Pasquale find it exciting, whereas Kyle and I like it. Its strongpoint is certainly its acidity, which takes power in a leaner context, but the wine is on its toes and dynamic, without the least sign of failure; it opens with authority and closes cleanly. With respect to the 1999 and the 2004 it lacks complexity, and is thus considerably less seductive.

1982 - We're before the methanol scandal. A vintage justly considered great, and the quality of the wine emerges clearly. I mention integrity because I must, but know that in doing so I'll pass for a schoolboy: the nose is dominated by mature aromas, leather, ash, wood toast, but also wild and brandied cherries, hints of licorice, very pleasant rhubarb. Excellent acidity that is slightly separate from the wine, finesse, and delightful drinkability for and exciting, satisfying wine.

1967 - At this point Danilo, caught up in the moment, said the unexpected: "I want to taste the 1967 with you." Good, think I; when I was 10 I didn't drink, so here's an opportunity to make up for lost time. An excellent vintage according to the official Barolo vintage classification, and called "Convincing" by Giancarlo Montaldo in his summary la Langhian history for those drinking today. The wine is indeed perfectly fresh, no slippage after 44 years, nor sediments; the color is brilliant and lively, perhaps a little deeper than usual. The mature nose displays flashes of fruit; it's supported by alcohol, close to 14%, and by vibrant acidity. A drinkable Barolo, worlds apart from the styles in vogue in the 90s, and precisely because of this it displays an irresistible allure.

Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.

We Are:
Carlo Macchi
Kyle Phillips
Luciano Pignataro
Roberto Giuliani
Stefano Tesi

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