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Archives: May 2015

Pontet-Canet—A Ten-Vintage Retrospective & Evolution

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Pontet-Canet CorksPontet-Canet may just be the hottest Chateau in Bordeaux today. The fact that it is not a second growth, third, or even a fourth makes no difference. Alfred Tesseron, who took ownership in 1994, is determined to make Pontet-Canet one of the top Chateau in Bordeaux. At a recent tasting, guided by Alfred Tesseron himself, we explored ten vintages of this amazing wine. What was most interesting was to witness first-hand how the property, the wine and the man behind the scenes have evolved over a 12-year period.

pontetcanet1

Located just south of Mouton Rothschild, Alfred Tesseron saw great potential in the vineyards of Pontet-Canet.  With the help of director Jean-Michel Comme, who Tesseron speaks very highly of, they set off to establish a “hands-off” approach, which has now grown into a fully biodynamic operation.  This didn’t happen overnight, and as you taste through the vintages of 2000 through 2012, the differences become quite obvious.

One of the major changes during this time was a steady transition toward Biodynamics, which started in 2004 with just 14 hectares. As of 2005, this approach spread to a total of 24 hectares. The only vintage where they were forced to spray (to prevent rot) was in 2008, yet Pontet-Canet immediately picked up the ball in following vintages and are now both organic and Biodynamic-certified.

canetAlfred Tesseron credits most of his success to the changes in the vineyards.  Today, the vines are all tended by hand with an entire workforce, which is employed year-round, to assure a consistency of knowledgeable workers with a connection to the land.  What’s more, Alfred Tesseron uses horses, which have not completely replaced the use of machinery in the vineyards, yet plans are underway to assure that they one day will.  The use of horses benefits the soil, hence the vines and cover crops, by not impacting the soil, which allows for more oxygenation and promotes the growth of beneficial microorganisms.

In the winery, a focus is being set on purity of fruit, and allowing the terroir of Pontet-Canet to continue its affect on the wine throughout the aging process.  As of the 2011 vintage, as much as 33% of the unfinished wine was being aged in Amaphore, which was made using the soils of the vineyard, a mix of gravel, and limestone. According to Alfred Tesseron, this percentage will continue to rise, as he’s been incredibly happy with the results. What’s more, the goal is to make the wine that each vintage provides them, and not to use any winemaking wizardry, which might block vintage characteristics.

Pontet-Canet lineupIn the end, all eyes are on Pontet-Canet.  It’s the fifth growth that often rivals the top houses of Bordeaux. Their pioneering methods are being adopted across the appellation, and as we’ve seen from recent great vintages, there seems to be no limits to what this house is capable of. My impression of Alfred Tesseron is that he may be one of the most open-minded producers of Bordeaux that I’ve ever encountered, and remains firmly set in his new mission to keep Pontet-Canet one of the top Chateau in Bordeaux.

On to the tasting notes:


Pontet-Canet 20002000 Château Pontet-Canet – The nose was dark yet very pretty, with crushed red berry, hints of herbs, savory reduction, and airy citrus notes providing lift. On the palate, I found soft yet engaging textures with notes of tart cherry, autumnal spice, and slight bitter berry tone. This was wonderfully fresh, while remaining smooth and fun, finishing with a hint of tannin with lingering notes of cherry. (93 points)

2003 Château Pontet-Canet – The nose was, at first, dark and brooding, but it came to life with time in the glass to reveal dried red fruits, balsamic tones, dark soil and minerals with a hint of undergrowth. On the palate, it was unbelievably smooth, with medium-bodied textures giving way to ripe red fruits and a hint of sweet herbs. The finish showed remnants of tannic grip with notes of cherry liquor and red licorice, yet a slight lingering heat detracted to a small degree. (91 points)

2005 Château Pontet-Canet – The nose was dark and rich, showing intense red berry, minerals, soil, herbs, cedar and tobacco. Still incredibly youthful on the palate with firm textures moving in dense waves across the senses, giving only a brief glimpse of this wine’s massive dark red fruits, spice, herbal tea tones, minerals and soil. The Ponet Canet’s structure remained in control throughout the finish, yet there’s so much balance and intensity here, hence its potential. (95 points)

2006 Château Pontet-Canet – The nose showed dusty soil, hints of spice, minerals, cedar and crushed dark berries. On the palate, I found brilliant red fruits with contrastingly dense textures and building tannin. Fruit saturated the palate throughout the finish, yet it was kept in check by youthful tannin. I’m very interested in seeing where this wine will go with time in the cellar. (93 points)

Pontet-Canet Corks2007 Château Pontet-Canet – The nose showed tart red and blue fruit with floral tones, a hint of bell pepper and dusty soil. On the palate, I found lean textures with a slight green character to its red fruit. A mix of acid and tannin buzzed across the senses, leaving notes of bitter cherry and minerals on the finish. This is not a bad wine, and it would have probably shown better if not surrounded by so many superior vintages; but on this day, it came across as the weakest wine of the tasting. (90 points)

2008 Château Pontet-Canet – With an intense nose that hinted at both the sweet and savory, the ’08 Pontet-Canet showed notes of red and blueberry, sweet spice, rich reduction sauce, and hints of moist soil tones. On the palate, I found silky textures with a medium-weight frame and a veil of ripe red and black berry fruit, which seemed to nearly mask its youthful tannins, while notes of spice, graphite and a hint of citrus saturated the senses. This lasted long throughout the finish, as its fruit slowly faded into fine tannin. This is a dark beast of wine, yet elegant and in need of time in the cellar. This should be amazing in 5-10 years’ time. (93 points)

Pontet-Canet 20092009 Château Pontet-Canet – This is a truly stunning young Pontet-Canet, with its large, dark persona, yet it somehow remained cool toned and wonderfully fresh. The nose displayed crushed dark berry, floral tones, and a hint of pine, minerals and smoke. It was like velvet on the palate, with underlying sweet tannin, showing rich dark fruits, balsamic tones, spice and baker’s chocolate. The finish was long with saturating fruit, which slowly faded to reveal a zing of acidity and young tannic spine. (97 points)

2010 Château Pontet-Canet – The nose was beautiful, with cool, restrained dark fruits, floral perfumes, earth tones and a hint of menthol. On the palate, I found silky textures with a dense, massive wave of dark red, blueberry fruits and minerals, which seemed to envelope its youthful tannins. The finish was almost completely shut down with dried-out dark fruits held tight by imposing structure. I imagine 2010 Pontet-Canet may outlive me. (94 points)

Pontet-Canet glass2011 Château Pontet-Canet – The nose was dark, almost sappy, with intense pine, cedar and menthol, followed by floral perfumes and crushed raspberry fruit. On the palate, it was rich with silky textures, giving way to young tannin. A mix of tart wild berry saturated the senses with a gorgeous sense of balance throughout. The fruit here lingered long upon the senses with hints of inner floral tones and tannin. (91 points)

2012 Château Pontet-Canet – The nose came across as compact, yet aching to explode, showing rich black fruits, airy spice, violet florals, a hint of grapefruit and bell pepper. On the palate, I found firm, palate-staining wild berry fruits and herbal tones with silky textures giving way to tannin. The finish was long with lean dark fruits and inner floral tones in a very chiseled expression—yet the slightly green characteristics here reminded me more of a cool-climate Cabernet, not Pontet-Canet. (91 points)

Click HERE, for multiple vintages of Pontet-Canet available at Morrell Wine.

Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido

The Icon vs. The Iconoclast: An Epic Barolo Tasting

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Monfortino Barolo group 5-14-15 (1 of 1)

Who would have thought to put a producer known for being one of the bastions of traditional winemaking in Piedmont against another producer who is famous for eschewing the old ways, being one of the most forward-thinking, often labeled “Modern,” winemakers in the region? Our tasting group, of course.

However, it’s important to understand, that even as the “Modernist” movement was in full swing, Sandrone was aiming more for a Burgundian style of Barolo, not an internationally styled wine. While Roberto Conterno was using large neutral botti to age his Barolo, Sandrone preferred 400 to 500-liter French oak barrels, of which only 20% were new. The largest difference between the two of them was the actual handling of the fruit in the vineyard, and a drastic difference in maceration and fermentation.

tasting book Barolo group 5-14-15 (1 of 1)We were all looking forward to seeing how these two wineries, both at the top of their game, would compare. The date for our tasting was set nearly three months in advance, with the idea of creating two verticals of both Giacomo Conterno’s Cascina Francia and Luciano Sandrone’s Cannubi Boschis. Yet what was originally intended to be an eight-to-nine bottle lineup instead turned into a tour de force of the top wines from some of the best vintages of the nineties—totaling 14 bottles.

Glass Barolo group 5-14-15 (5 of 5)The location couldn’t have been better. With the balcony of the Morrell Wine Bar and Café set for this private event, we were able to spread out and take our time working through each of the wines. The name of the game was “Blind Tasting,” as all wines were decanted into burgundy-shaped bottles, with capsules completely removed and placed into numbered bags. Along with each flight, tasters received advice on the vintage and the wines within the flight, but it was up to them to pick which was which.

10421555_10152688476686292_6145988729635423135_nEveryone in this group is an experienced taster, having all met through Antonio Galloni’s Vinous Media, and it’s hard to imagine a Giacomo Conterno Cascina Francia being confused for a Sandrone Le Vigne, but it happened. Some of us were spot on, but there was no shame here, as when judging on the quality of what was in front of us, it started to become very difficult to tell some apart. If anything, the biggest difference I found was in the focus on fruit in the Sandrone wines. Seldom did I find the textbook roses and tar that most Barolo lovers are looking for. Another interesting moment was the ‘99 Monfortino being confused for the ’99 Cascina Francia and vice versa. But hey, this is what blind tasting is all about, and it was a blast.

group shot Barolo 5-14-15 (15 of 25)


Flight 1 – Something of an oddball flight that ended up with wines from two highly-acclaimed vintages which simply haven’t lived up to the hype. It’s amazing how, to this very day, people will try to sell me 2000 and 1997 Barolo on the vintage hype. It makes me wonder how often these same people are tasting the wines. The fact is that both of these were probably beautiful in their day, yet the characteristics of the vintage have taken their toll.

Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis 2000 Barolo 5-14-15 (8 of 25)1997 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia – The nose showed a mix of moist earth, minerals, musky cedar and olive brine. On the palate, I found tart red berry fruit in a sappy, yet somewhat muddled expression. Dried red fruits and musky tones lingered on the finish. The question came up if this is over the hill, or possibly damaged, yet the bottle was stored properly since release. It may just be that some ‘97s are fading fast. (88 points)

2000 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis – The nose was restrained at first, showing dark berry tones; yet with coaxing, it began to release a bouquet of cranberry and minty herbs with a hint of cedar. On the palate, I found radiant, focused fruit with hints of spice in a very pretty and brilliant expression of Nebbiolo. Gruff tannin coated the palate throughout the finish, yet with a lack of balancing fruit and acidity. (89 points)

What’s most telling about this wine is that it was the only one opened at the tasting, while the rest received double decanting and slow-o (decanting in bottle over the course of hours). Yet when this was tasted the morning after, it was severely oxidized, while other wines and vintages from this tasting were still going strong. Quality of the vintage (or lack thereof), I presume.


Flight 2 – 1998 has become known as the Barolo vintage of the late nineties to drink now, and this selection was a great example of why. All three were beautiful, but the Conterno really took the prize for its incredible freshness and purity of fruit. However, I would be remiss not to mention how absolutely stunning the ’98 Le Vigne was on this night. There was a moment when we went back and forth between it and the Cascina Francia, splitting hairs over which was the more beautiful wine. Also, with a hefty dose of Ceretta fruit in the Le Vigne, it showed many of the Serralunga qualities we were looking for in the Cascina Francia.

1998 group Barolo 5-14-15 (16 of 25)1998 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Le Vigne – The nose showed black cherry with soil, minerals, sweet floral tones and a hint of sawdust. On the palate, it showed smooth, almost creamy, medium-weight textures with stunning purity of fruit, as notes of cherry, spice and minerals cascaded across the palate. A note of hard red candy lingered on the palate, with hints of still-youthful tannin providing grip. (93 points)

1998 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia – The nose was dark and earthy, showing wild berry with olive, minerals, woodland tones and animal musk. On the palate, it displayed stunning purity with tart black cherry and soil-laden minerality, kept lively through a brisk wave of acidity. A mix of dark fruit, minerals and tannin coated the palate throughout the finish. This may be one of the best ‘98 Cascina Francias I’ve ever tasted. (94 points)

1998 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis – The nose showed rich, dark fruits with hints of spice, herbs, cedar and salty brine. On the palate, it was broad and dark, as dried red fruits turned to dry cocoa and coffee grind. Gruff tannin clenched the senses throughout the finish, drying the remaining fruit. This came across as smaller in scale than the ’98 Le Vigne yet lacked depth and definition, and didn’t improve over time. (91 points)


Giacomo Conterno 99s Barolo 5-14-15 (18 of 25)Flight 3 – Last year, our group revisited the 1999 vintage in a horizontal of some of the best wines of the region. The diagnosis was that ’99 represents one of the most classic years from the Barolo vintage streak of the late nineties. Tonight was yet another example of just how amazing this vintage is. The ’99 Monfortino was epic to say to the least, yet we did go back and forth between it and the Cascina Francia, trying to decide which was which–showing that the ’99 Cascina Francia is a gorgeous wine and should be in all of our cellars, even at its current price.

1999 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva – This was a thrilling wine to be sure, as a bouquet of intense rich fruits, masses of rose and tar, leather and earth came forward along with hints of mushroom and balsamic tones. On the palate, a dark mix of fruits washed across the senses, turning to cranberry and spice with deep, silky textures over a spine of fine tannin. The finish showed palate-saturating cherry with contrasting hints of dried citrus and inner floral tones. This was amazingly drinkable on this night, and some tasters wondered if it was the Cascina Francia, yet the bouquet alone gave it away. (98 points)

1999 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia – The ’99 Cascina Francia opened with a dark and brooding bouquet of earth, animal and fruit, showing soil-laden minerals up front, leading to dried flowers, animal musk and dark berry tones. On the palate, it showed brilliant, yet tart, wild berry and strawberry fruits, minerals, and fine tannin that saturated the senses. It finished clean and youthful with hints of dried fruits. This is so young today, and it should continue to evolve into something very special over time. (96 points)

1999 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Le Vigne – This was a gorgeous wine, crashing down many of my preconceptions. The nose was massive, yet refined, showing black cherry, charred meat, sweet herbs, dusty soil and balsamic tones. On the palate, it showed velvety textures with dark red fruits, sweet spice and saturating minerality, which carried fine tannin across the senses. It was palate-coating and intense on the finish with hints of cranberry lingering long. (94 points)


Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis 1996 Barolo 5-14-15 (8 of 25)Flight 4 – Where do you go after 1999 in Barolo? You go to 1996, of course. The ‘96s represent a vintage which comes across as impossibly young. The better modern producers seemed to have hit gold in ’96 (Domenico Cleric CMG and Azelia Bricco Fiasco come to mind), as the wines have been drinking beautifully. However, as modern ‘96s go, on two occasions, I’ve found the Sandrone to be good, but far from great. However, as far Giacomo Conterno is concerned, I believe these wines may be immortal, especially the Monfortino, which was as tight as a drum. Unfortunately, the word is out on these wines, and acquiring them can be costly.

1996 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis – The nose was rich and intense, showing dark red fruits, sweet spice and dusty soil tones. On the palate, it showed more mature than I would have expected, yet wonderfully smooth in texture with notes of crushed berry, plum and minerals. Tannin coated the palate throughout the finish, yet maintained the presence of ripe fruit. (93 points)

Giacomo Conterno 96s Barolo 5-14-15 (18 of 25)1996 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia – The ’96 Cascina Francia displayed a gorgeous bouquet of bright cherry, fresh minty herbs, rose and tobacco with a slight medicinal note to its fruit. It entered the palate with silky textures, yet quickly firmed up by fine tannin, releasing notes of tart berry, dried strawberry and minerals. It finished firm with lingering minerality and dried fruits. This was a very pretty, even if tannic, expression of ’96 Cascina Francia. (95 points)

1996 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva – Still a brick wall of a wine, giving hints of mint and eucalyptus with dark soil and mineral tones lurking in the glass, yet still not ready to show us its gifts. Intense, dark, brooding—but so far from ready on the palate, showing focused dark red fruit on a seemingly taught and wiry structure, with herbal hints in the background. It finished cool and structured, yet not hard or tannic. The balance here is beautiful; I just hope I’ll one day be able to see it in its maturity, which I believe will warrant a higher score. (95 points)


Flight 5 Barolo 5-14-15 (22 of 25)Flight 5 – An epic tasting must have at least one epic flight—at this tasting, there were two. The ‘99s were a revelation for us, but the combination of the two ‘90s and the Conterno ’85 was otherworldly. Rating these wines was a difficult task, and I’m very lucky to have been able to revisit them to watch their evolution. Both of these vintages were considered warmer years, and this was a true testament to how the better producers can make great wine no matter what Mother Nature gives to them. As for the Cascina Francia, I almost shed a tear when I think about my old stash, which has been completely depleted. If you can afford them, buy them!

1985 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia – The bouquet of the ’85 Cascina Francia was everything that I wanted out of a mature Barolo, especially with its Serralunga earthiness and minerals. The nose opened with dark red berries, dried flowers, tea leaves, minerals and exotic spices, becoming sweeter with time in the glass. On the palate, soft, caressing textures washed over the senses, leaving masses of mature red fruits, inner floral tones and soil-laden minerals. It finished with dried fruits and berries, crushed fall leaves, and a hint of iodine. Stunning. (97 points)

1990 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia – The nose was intense, with currents of black cherry and dark soil tones wafting up from the glass. Digging deeper, I found sweet herbs, mushroom, tobacco, balsamic notes, black olive and minerals. Dark red fruits seemed to saturate the entire palate in a silky shroud, along with flavors of savory meat, minerals, and dark inner floral notes. The finish showed youthful tannin, with dried strawberry, minerals and tobacco leaf. This is an amazing wine. (96 points)

1990 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis – The ’90 Cannubi Boschis was a great way to end an epic tasting. The nose was so amazingly rich and lively with black cherry, sweet spice and balsamic tones. On the palate, it was a smooth as silk, yet seamless and finessed. The fruit entered sweet yet quickly turned to tart berry with hints of mint, tobacco and cedar box. The finish was long and saturating to the senses, as its tannin resolved to reveal spice and a hint of wood. (96 points)

Group shot 2 Barolo 5-14-15 (25 of 25)


In closing, I must admit to having fully enjoyed the Barolo of Luciano Sandrone. Having been a fan of Giacomo Conterno for over a decade, I had expected to come away from this tasting confirmed in my notion that the Sandrone wines would pale in comparison, yet they truly held their ground. What’s more, even for the lower-scoring wines, I can only image that they would have fared better if not placed next to some of the giants on our table this night. My eyes have been opened, and I have a feeling that I’ll be drinking more Sandrone down the road.

Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido

Tasting with other discerning palates is the best way, check out these other perspectives on this fantastic tasting:

The Fine Wine Geek Ι Wine Without Numbers



Click HERE, for a selection of Giacomo Conterno available from Morrell.

Click HERE, for a selection of Luciano Sandrone available from Morrell.

Springtime Cravings: A Traditional Italian Seafood Stew

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CiZ22Every spring, as the temperatures start to feel a little more like summer, I crave seafood. In fact, it’s one of my favorite times of the year, as Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc start to return to my table and a seemingly unending selection of fresh mussels, clams, prawns, scallops—and of course, calamari—call to me, while I’m perusing my local market.

Usually, it’s the simplest recipes that do the trick, and I find that turning to traditional Italian preparations always provides something special that my family will enjoy. Frankly, it’s amazing how different traditional Italian food is from what most Americans grew up to believe it to be. The Sunday sauces and everything parmigiana are a far stretch from what you find throughout Italy. From north to south, the cuisine of Italia changes just as much as its geography, traditions and wines.

CiZprepHowever, for the most part, one thing remains the same, is that the cuisine is based on simple recipes made great through the quality of the ingredients and the deft, passionate hand of the person who is making the dish. Calamari in Zimino is a perfect example of this.

Calamari in Zimino is seafood stew made from a short-list of ingredients and prepared so simply that you’ll almost feel like you’re cheating. However, sourcing the best ingredients will make the difference between making this good and making it great. The most important part of this dish is the calamari itself, which needs to be as fresh as possible because it’s the flavor of the squid that makes this dish utterly amazing.

2013kellervonderfels

The Perfect Match: Lively with intense citrus, slate, hints of undergrowth, and moist minerals. Vibrant on the palate with intense citrus and grapefruit leading to a cleansing wave of acidity, which left a coating of minerals with a hint of sweet stone fruit. It finished on tart citrus, lime, inner florals and a hint of roasted nuts.

Framing the flavor of the calamari is the Swiss chard, which lends a sweet buttery flavor, and the onions, tomatoes and celery, which literally dissolve in the cooking process and become part of the broth. Can you tell I’m in love? It’s because of preparations as flavorful, yet simple as this, that I became so enamored with Italian cuisine.

I would suggest serving this with slices of toasted baguette brushed with a hint of olive oil, because as you’ll quickly come to realize, the broth is delectable and each of your guests will want to make sure that it has been completely sopped up.

As for a wine pairing, Riesling is a fantastic choice. You can go with an Italian white, such as Verdicchio or Vermentino, but recently I’ve found that a dry Riesling with that core of vibrant minerality, is the perfect complement this this dish. My recommendation is the 2013 Weingut Keller Riesling von der Fels. (Morrell)


Calamari in Zimino
Serves 4

2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped fine (or 12 oz of canned San Marzano tomatoes without juice)
2 oz extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, fine dice
1 celery stalk, fibrous portion peeled and cut into a fine dice
salt and fresh cracked pepper
1 ½ lbs Swiss chard, washed and sliced into 1-inch stripes
1 lb squid, cleaned and sliced into ½-inch rings
1 tbls parsley, minced for garnish

tomato prepHere’s a simple trick I use to peel tomatoes. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare a bowl with ice water. With a sharp knife, slice an “X” into the bottom of the tomato. (Be careful not to cut deep into the tomato; just pierce the skin). Drop the tomato into the boiling water for 45 seconds. Immediately remove from the boiling water and place it into the ice bath for another two minutes. When you pull the tomato from the ice bath, the skin should literally peel right off. For this recipe, you should now slice the tomato and remove the seeds. Once removed, cut the tomato into a fine dice.

Pour the olive oil into a large pan over medium heat and bring up to cooking temperature. Add the onions and celery with a generous pinch of salt and allow to sweat, in the pan, for 5 minutes. Add the tomato, Swiss chard, another pinch of salt and cracked fresh pepper. Cover the pot and turn the heat to low. Cook for 10 minutes and return to the pot to stir, making sure to mix all ingredients together well. Cover the pot again and allow to cook for another 25 minutes. Remove the lid, turn the heat up to medium and add the squid. Allow to cook uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and

Plate onto warmed plates by spooning a mound of the stew in the center of the plate with a generous amount of broth around it. Sprinkle with parsley, clean the rims of the plates and serve.

Article, Recipe and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido
CiZplated

1989 Barolo & Barbaresco: The Benchmark Vintage

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barologlassIt’s been twelve years now since I first started down the path to better understanding wine. It was simply a passion at first, which somehow turned into a never-ending quest for knowledge. In that time, there are specific “truths” that I’ve come know. The first is that price doesn’t always dictate quality, which is a valuable lesson to learn. However, just as important is that there will always be another “greatest vintage ever,” according to somebody. These days, that tends to happen quite often.

Bruno Giacosa 1989 Barolo (1 of 1)Granted, I understand that farming practices have improved, that wineries work cleaner and more efficiently, and that global warming has given producers more good vintages to work with. But here’s another truth; because of all of these changes and improvements, the Barolo being made today will never become the wines of yesterday. They might become something totally different, which in retrospect may be considered better. But we won’t see another 1974, ’78 or ’89. The fact is that all of the technology today is simply trying to recreate what a great vintage provided to us in years like 1989.

Which in my opinion is the best—most classic—vintage of Barolo in the last 37 years.

Barolo vineyardsWe’re talking about a time when great vintages only came along once in a decade, and it was the result of what Mother Nature gave them. Green harvesting wasn’t regularly practiced in 1989; instead it was a wet, cool spring resulting in irregular flowering, which initiated the short crop. What’s more, severe hail in June left its mark on many vineyards. The summer was warm, but not hot, and temperatures dropped near the end of the growing season with wide fluctuations between day and night. The result was a small, late harvest with perfectly ripe grapes.

When I think back to the first time I tasted ’89 Barolo, the quality struck me. All of the other vintages I had tasted seemed to pale in comparison. The ‘89s were rich in fruit and powerful, yet bright and focused with a structure that I can best describe as “noble.” They weren’t ready to drink yet, which at the time intrigued me greatly. However, even though the structure of these wines dominated, you could still sense the tension of fruit that was just waiting to bloom.

1989 Barolo mixSo here we are, at 26 years-old, and 1989 Barolo are just starting to enter early maturity. Yet, I can assure you that there’s something more waiting down the road, and I won’t be surprised if we are still enjoying the best of them 30 years from now. This is why I love ’89 Barolo..

At our recent tasting, a set of ’89s wowed the entire group. If you have them in your cellar, then you should count yourself as lucky. If don’t—then even at today’s prices, they are still worth buying. 1989 Barolo has not yet reached its peak, and as current vintages continue to gain praise from the media, vintages like ’89 will soon become impossible to obtain.

On to the Tasting Notes:


Aldo Conterno 1989 Barolo (1 of 1)1989 Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Cicala – The bouquet was simply classic in every way. Sweet aromas of red berry, with cedar box, dried roses and tar lifted from the glass. On the palate, it showed savory notes of dark red fruit with saline minerals, balsamic tones and spice. The ’89 Cicala is rich and focused for its age, closing with cedar and balsamic tones lingering long. (94 points) E.G.

1989 Domenico Clerico Barolo Bricotto Bussia – The ’89 Bricotto was one of the most accessible Barolo of this lineup, showing a seductive bouquet of dried red fruits, exotic spices, dark wood and undergrowth. On the palate, it showed silky-smooth textures with vibrant acidity adding verve, while displaying dark fruits, wet leaves and soil with salty minerals. The finish was soft with its lingering dark fruits, hints of spice and cedar. This is showing its age but drinking well. (92 points) E.G.

Gaja 1989 Barbaresco Sori Tildin (1 of 1)1989 Gaja Barbaresco Sorì Tildìn – The ’89 Sori Tildin was gorgeous on this night and another testament to Gaja’s abilities to balance new wood with Nebbiolo. The nose showed deep red fruit, tobacco, espresso bean, a hint of fresh dill and animal musk in a sweet and savory mix of aromas. On the palate, I found silky textures contrasted by brisk acidity and a mix of tart berry, dark spices and cedar. It finished long, still showing youthful tannin with inner floral tones and spice. This is Gaja to be sure, and it is truly enjoyable. (94 points) E.G. | Morrell

1989 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Villero di Castiglione Falletto – This was classic Giacosa to the core with undeniable elegance and balance. The nose was forward yet finessed, showing bright red fruit with sweet florals, undergrowth and spice. It opened on the palate with silky textures and a slight grip of still youthful tannin, followed by ripe cherry, spice and cedar, seeming to touch upon all of the senses. The finish was elegant with ripe dark fruit and still showing hints of structure. This is enjoyable now for its sheer class, balance and poise, yet it should continue to improve for years in the cellar. (96 points) E.G.

Produttori Barbaresco 1989 (1 of 1)1989 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Ovello – The nose showed ripe berry with dried flowers, spice and crushed fall leaves. On the palate, it displayed soft and silky textures yet remained fresh throughout with flavors of red berry, tobacco and dried floral tones. Dried cherry and floral notes lingered on the finish with a hint of still-youthful tannin. (92 points) E.G.

1989 Azienda Bricco Rocche (Ceretto) Barolo Bricco Rocche – The nose was big and rich with dark red fruits and spice. On the palate, I found dried red fruits, crushed leaves and spice. The finish showed dried red berry tones and a hint of cedar. (90 points) E.G.

The Rocche 1989 Barolo (1 of 1)1989 Fratelli Brovia Barolo Rocche di Castiglione – Closed is the best way to describe this classic, and possibly immortal, Barolo. The Brovia Rocche was so close in aromatics to the Vietti of the same vintage that you might mistake the two in a blind tasting. Here, the fruit was a dark red with hints of dusty spice and floral undergrowth. On the palate, intense, dried cherry and floral tones developed yet were held back by a still youthful structure. Tannin mounted on the finish, but the fruit here is focused and in no danger of fading. This was a beautiful wine but nowhere near ready to drink. (94 points) E.G.

1989 Vietti Barolo Rocche – The ’89 Rocche was stunning with a bouquet of dried red fruit, plum, cedar and gorgeous floral tones. On the palate, it was as soft as silk with stunning notes of red berry, earth and floral tones, which carried over from the nose. This finished classic and refined with an elegant feel, as the tannin here has finally backed off enough to permit enjoyment. I was ecstatic about this night’s performance, as I feel that I’ve been waiting over a decade for this wine to open up—oh, wait a second, I have waited a decade. It was simply gorgeous. (96 points) E.G.

Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido

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