Barolos of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s: Notes from a Memorable Tasting
A recent gathering with friends provided the perfect
occasion to open a few special bottles of our favorite wines. The theme was
aged, traditionally made Barolos. The
setting was a beautiful country home set high in the Appenine mountains, on the
border between Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany.
The estate was gorgeous and peaceful, the only sounds to be heard were
the barks of the playful dogs and the gentle trot of the horse. The weather was chilly so we lit the
fireplace. First we tasted the wines,
then we enjoyed them alongside a traditional Emilian menu of tortellini in
brodo and bollito misto. While it is fun
to taste wines like this side-by-side, doing so inevitably leads to comparisons
of the wines. These Barolos are such
idiosyncratic, highly individual wines, that they are probably best enjoyed on
their own, without the presence of other wines.
1964 Giacomo Conterno Barolo—Light strawberry red in
color. Conterno’s 1964 Barolo presents
an incredibly fresh, delicate and perfumed nose that continues seamlessly onto
the palate, showing flavors of cherries and spices, and finishing with very
sweet, soft tannins. I am at a loss to
explain or describe this wine’s extraordinary youthfulness and sheer appeal. This wine is inviting and refreshing beyond
words. My impression is of drinking a
stunning wine at its absolute peak.
Truly exceptional and unforgettable.
Made from a blend of grapes the estate purchased from the Ginestra zone
in Monforte, and Serralunga. 98 points
1974 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino—Intense dark ruby
color that belies this wine’s age. A
massively concentrated and powerful Monfortino packed with flavors of ripe dark
cherries, wet earth, tar, and licorice.
The wine offers layers and layers of flavors that continue to unfold in
a drinking experience that only a great wine can provide, although my sense is
that this Monfortino is revealing only a fraction of its true potential. Roberto Conterno says his 1974s are still
very young. I wish I had known that
beforehand. 95+ points
1971 Cantina (Bartolo) Mascarello Barolo (from 1.9 liter
bottiglione) —The bottle, which I purchased at the estate recently, is
remarkable itself. At Mascarello the 1.9
liter format was used prior to 1980. The
bottle is covered by a layer of dust.
There is no label per se, just the numbers “71” written on the bottle in
chalk. An index card with the estate’s
information is tied and secured to the bottle with a wax seal. The cork is also covered with wax. Following Mascarello’s suggestion, the wine was
stored upright for several weeks prior to opening. The wine was decanted immediately prior to
serving. Needless to say it was a real
treat to drink a perfectly stored example of a great wine from a great vintage.
Medium ruby color with slight orangeish tones at the
rim. The wine is somewhat cloudy. At first it shows overpowering aromas of
barnyard. Fortunately that blows off
with air and the wine opens nicely, with plenty of mature flavors of dried
fruits, balsam, animal, leather and cedar.
The finish is very long and persistent and the wine is exquisite with
food. Tasted the next day the wine was
more even complex and expansive on the palate.
This Barolo has definitely reached maturity although it seems to have
enough structure to keep for a few more years.
The wines of Bartolo Mascarello represent the bastion of traditional
winemaking in Barolo. 95+ points
1989 Aldo Conterno Barolo Cicala—After tasting the 1989
Bussia earlier this year, I was curious to check in on the Cicala. The Cicala is Aldo Conterno’s most masculine
Barolo, as the soils here are extremely poor, and thus yield wines of great
structure. The wine is dark ruby in
color, with no signs whatsoever of age.
The wine is rich and decadent, with generous flavors of dark cherries,
spices, tar, and plenty of tannins. The
Cicala appears to still very young and in need of further cellaring. 95+ points
-- Antonio Galloni