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Archives: August 2015

The Ultimate All-Weather Food Wine: Sangiovese

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sangioThis Friday I had the opportunity to have dinner with some good friends. When the question of wine came up, my first thought was the weather; 82 degrees and possibility of thunderstorms. Not necessarily the perfect temperate for big reds–and so, it was Sangiovese to the rescue. In my opinion, Sangiovese is ‘THE’ ultimate food wine and great in both warm and cold weather.

Much of this has to do with Sangiovese’s strict acidity, which is balanced by depths of fruit and gripping tannin. Sangiovese, the grape behind favorites like Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino, is grown throughout most of central Italy, but finds the majority of its popularity in Tuscany. You can find expressions that are light and juicy, or stern and in need of considerable cellaring. On this evening, we enjoy more of the latter.

ls.jpgThe food was incredible as usual at La Vigna, in Forest Hills Queens. La Vigna is a small and comfortable Italian restaurant with a personable staff and an amazing menu. The wines were also excellent. However, I purposely left the notebook at home so that I could really enjoy the company. That didn’t stop me from taking some impressions away from the evening. There was not a bad wine in the bunch and we spent much of the evening in awe of how enjoyable they all were, and in most cases representing great value.

larkmeadsaladBefore moving on to the Sangiovese of the evening, I would be remiss not to mention an excellent Sauvignon Blanc from Larkmead, which we opened the dinner with. Although not available at retail, the Larkmead Sauvignon Blanc is so good that it was one of the main reasons I stayed on the wineries mailing list for half a decade. If you can find it, buy it. It’s one of the best made in Napa Valley today.

2011 Larkmead Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Lillie – The only non-Italian in the dry lineup, but I have been waiting months to pair this wine with a seafood salad, and the day had finally come. There is a truly regal feel to this wine, while still maintaining all of the fresh, citrus, mouth-watering qualities of Sauvignon Blanc. I absolutely love it! (92 points) Only available direct from Larkmead Vineyards.

On to the Sangiovese:

1675192005 Podere Poggio Scalette Il Carbonaione Alta Valle della Greve IGT – My last experience with this wine was nowhere near as good as it was last night. Last night’s bottle showed such purity of fruit and intensity on the palate that it truly makes me wonder how long it will go and what it will taste like 5 to 10 years down the road. The nose alone was worth the price of entry and continued to wow everyone at the table throughout the entire evening. (92 points)

2001 Fattoria del Cerro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Antica Chiusina – The nose was dark and seductive with ripe plum, raspberry, and autumnal spice offset by moist soil, crushed fall leaves and chalky minerals. On the palate, it was built like a skyscraper with vibrant acidity and sweet tannin ushering in masses of intense tart black cherry, and herbs with almost syrup-like balsamic note. The finish revealed it’s youth as firm tannin clung to the senses with flavors of tart berry lingering long. (94 points)

felsinachianticlassicoriserva20012001 Fattoria di Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico Riserva – Another great example of value from Felsina. It’s amazing to think that this bottle cost 20 to 25 dollars on release and drinks this well 15 years down the road. This was truly classic Chianti from the nose, to the palate, to the absolutely wonderful finish–with all the earth, leather and fruit you could possibly desire. What’s more, this held its own against the ’99 Cepparello, which was probably three times the price upon release. (91 points)

1085821999 Isole e Olena Cepparello Toscana IGT – This was a beautiful, mature bottle of Sangiovese. Also a perfect example of how well pure Sangiovese can age in a good vintage from a great producer. Rich, as it fleshed out across the entire palate, yet balanced and still slightly austere–just a beautiful wine in a perfect place. (94 points)

Article at Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido

The Master of Traditional Barolo: Giuseppe Rinaldi History & Retrospective Tasting

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Giuseppe RInaldi Barolo LineupGiuseppe Rinaldi is, without a doubt, one of the most exciting producers in Barolo today. Giuseppe, known locally as Beppe, took control of the family winery in 1992 after the death of his father, Battista. Beppe was a veterinarian by trade, yet taught the principals and methodologies of creating traditionally-styled Barolo from his father. With five generations of grape-growing and winemaking experience in the family, Giuseppe Rinaldi wines were already considered among one the greatest expressions of Barolo, long before Beppe took over the estate.

His father, Battista Rinaldi, a serious man and trained enologist, took over the winery back in 1947. With family holdings in Brunate, Le Coste and Ravera, he brought the Rinaldi name to eminence. Giuseppe RInaldi Barolo Brunate Riserva 1985During this time, he also purchased their parcel in Cannubi San Lorenzo, and from these four vineyards, created two different Barolo. A straight Barolo, which was blended for balance from a mix of the family vineyards, and a single-vineyard Brunate, or Brunate Riserva. It was the Brunate Riserva, which was said to be made only in the greatest vintages and aged for ten years prior to release (think Giacomo Conterno Monfortino), that is a legend to this day.

vinesIn 1992, when Beppe took the reins at Giuseppe Rinaldi, the only real change that was made was to remove the Brunate from the winery’s portfolio and only make two blended Barolo. And so, Brunate – Le Coste and Cannubi San Lorenzo – Ravera was born. It was Beppe’s belief, in the true traditional style, that the greatest heights to which Barolo could reach could only come through blending. Although this was not a popular belief during the ‘90s, as the modern movement swept through Piedmont, Beppe held fast and refused to change.

At the time, the world wanted large-scaled, dark Barolo that was inflected with new oak and could be enjoyed younger, which was everything that a Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo was not. In turn, Beppe Rinaldi was grouped together with Bartolo Mascarello and Teobaldo Cappellano, as the last of old-time traditionalists.

Giuseppe RInaldi Barolo HighlightsIt’s because of this that, as the popularity of Barolo swept across the globe and prices climbed, Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo remained heavily unaffected. Yet, behind the media hype and a new generation of Barolo drinkers who had never experienced the greatest traditionally-style wines, were the long-time collectors who knew better. Giuseppe Rinaldi became one of the greatest under-the-radar producers of the late nineties and early two-thousands. I still recall a time, not so long ago, when a Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo would only cost me $55.

So what happened? To a large degree, tastes changed. However, what was an even larger influence on the public was Italian wine writer Antonio Galloni of Vinous Media, who was an avid fan of traditional Barolo and would regularly seek out and taste the great wines of the past century. As Antonio’s following grew, and from the platform of The Wine Advocate, the public began to experiment, and they liked what they found.

g.rinaldicellarThings have changed quite a bit in the last eight years. Today, the names Bartolo Mascarello, Teobaldo Cappellano, Giacomo Conterno and Giuseppe “Beppe” Rinaldi are on the minds of Barolo collectors around the world. Each are traded at a premium and often allocated to partial case quantities at the retail level. However, through all of this, very little has changed at Giuseppe Rinaldi.

Chemicals are never used in the vineyards, with only occasional manure to fertilize and a limited amount of copper and sulfur. In the winery, Beppe uses spontaneous fermentation with wild yeast, which takes place in neutral wooden vats, and then ages in large Slavonian cask. Beppe learned from his father, who learned from his father before him, and he sees nothing wrong with keeping things just the way they were.

Giuseppe_Rinaldi_2011-1The only change we see today is one that has been enforced by the Barolo consortium, and that is the new MGA labeling laws, which has forced producers to only list one vineyard on a bottle of Barolo, or be left to list no vineyard designation at all. But there is a silver lining, in that a producer can list a vineyard name on a label, yet still add up to 15% of another vineyard to the wine (don’t try to make sense of this; it is Italy). And so, Brunate – Le Coste has now been name Brunate only, with the addition of 15% Le Coste added. Although this is a change from (around) 40% added in the past, it still allows Beppe to blend. What’s more, Cannubi San Lorenzo, has become Tre Tine, with the addition of the Le Coste juice that was once used for Brunate. With the 2010 vintage and with the new rules in place, I can say with absolute confidence that Giuseppe Rinaldi continues to make two of the greatest Barolo in Italy today.

giuseppeRinaldibarolo2008You can imagine that when the time came to participate in a Giuseppe Rinaldi vertical tasting, everyone involved was ecstatic. The vintages assembled represented not only Beppe’s amazing wines from the nineties and beyond, but also a duo of magical Barolo that were created by his Father.

Before digging into the notes and the scores, I think it’s important to list a few of my general impressions, because I believe that they give good insights to the differences between Giuseppe Rinaldi and your average Barolo.

Firstly, we often hear the term “buy the producer, not the vintage,” and this has never been more evident as it was at this tasting. The 2003 Brunate – Le Coste (a hot year that has proven to be very disappointing across the region) was absolutely gorgeous. It was vibrant with grip, drive and freshness to the fruit that is unheard of for the vintage.

Giuseppe RInaldi Barolo 99 03 07The 2007 Brunate – Le Coste (another ripe year that has been aging unevenly for many Barolo) was epic. In fact, had it not been immediately followed by the classically-structured 2008, I may have thought it to be the best of the Brunate – Le Coste post the 1999 vintage. I believe this is a great example of Beppe’s belief in blending different vineyards for balance.

Second, I find it amazing how the fruit and floral profile of Giuseppe Rinaldi is so different from other Barolo. The fruit here is dark, accentuated by minerals, and there is often a violet floral note, especially in the Brunate – Le Coste. It’s quite beautiful.

Third, my personal belief is that the Brunate – Le Coste is “The” wine of Giuseppe Rinaldi. Where each example of Cannubi San Lorenzo – Ravara was gorgeous, and I would never pass up an opportunity to taste, there’s simply something about the classic structure and zesty acidity of Brunate – Le Coste that drives me wild.

Giuseppe RInaldi Barolo 1956That all said, (in order of vintage), on to the tasting notes:

1956 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo – The bouquet opened up in the glass to reveal dried flowers with exotic spice, cumin, brown sugar and savory meats. It was beautifully refined and soft on the palate, showing inner floral tones, dried red fruits and a hint of sweetness. This is a perfectly mature Barolo that’s reached a plateau, which currently provides a lot of enjoyment. (94 points)

1985 Giuseppe Rinaldi Brunate Riserva – The ’85 Brunate Riserva showed a beautiful mature nose of undergrowth, dried cherry and strawberry with dusty soil. On the palate, the fruit was ripe with hints of tart citrus that both caressed and tugged at the senses. A slight note of decay and iron-laden minerals lingered, showing that this may have already seen its best days, yet it is still a wonderful glass of mature Barolo. (91 points)

Giuseppe RInaldi Barolo Ravera San Lorenzo 19931993 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Cannubi San Lorenzo – Ravera – The nose showed dark red fruits, undergrowth and hints of dried spice. On the palate, I found a wiry frame of acidity and unresolved tannin with dried cherry and hints of tart citrus. Its structure lingered on the senses throughout the finish. This unfortunately came across as one of the least enjoyable wines of the evening, yet it was still a decent showing considering the vintage. (87 points)

1997 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste – The bouquet was dark, showing ripe black cherry, licorice, potpourri and hints of undergrowth. It was finessed on the palate with dark fruits and turned more tannic toward the close. This was heavily overshadowed in the company of other vintages, yet showed as an excellent effort, in a vintage that never lived up to the hype. (92 points)

1998 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste – The nose opened slowly in the glass but gained intensity over time, showing dark fruits with dusty spice, menthol and violet floral tones. On the palate, it was still youthful, yet with enough flesh to drink very well. Black cherry and exotic spice dominated and lasted well into the finish. This is a beautiful example of the ’98 vintage, with its open-knit personality contrasted by gripping Nebbiolo tannin and balanced acidity. (93 points)

Giuseppe RInaldi Barolo Brunate 19991999 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste – This showed a classic and highly expressive bouquet of dried flowers, dark fruit, licorice, spice and dusty soil. On the palate, it was dark, ripe and intense, yet perfectly balanced with black cherry and strawberry fruits contrasted by exotic spice, mint and dried floral notes. The finish went on and on with dried fruit accentuated by firm tannin. An absolutely stunning wine that has reminded me once again of just how great the ’99 vintage was in Barolo. It has many decades of life ahead of it in the cellar, yet it can be enjoyed now with a long decant. (96+ points)

2000 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste – The 2000 Brunate – Le Coste was surprisingly closed at first yet blossomed as the evening progressed, revealing ripe dark fruits, mint, floral tones, leather and the slightest hint of heat. On the palate, it was pliant and soft-textured with ripe dark fruits, licorice, brown sugar and hints of medicinal herbs. The finish showed tart blackberry, spice and mounting tannin, yet faded much faster than expected. Still, it’s an excellent bottle of Barolo that would probably drink much better if removed from our vertical tasting. (92 points)

Giuseppe RInaldi Barolo brunate 20012001 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste – The bouquet was pretty but compact, showing black cherry, dusty soil, licorice, sweet spice and undergrowth. On the palate, it was tightly wound up in its structure, with notes of dried cherry, strawberry fruit, tobacco and savory herbs. It finished tight and restrained with dried fruits lingering long. This really showed the classic structure and tannin of the vintage with brilliant, focused fruit, yet remains many years away from its peak. (95 points) @Morrell

2003 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste – The nose was intense with ripe dark fruits, spice, savory herbs and dark soil tones. On the palate, it displayed silky textures with vibrant acidity, showing black cherry, licorice, savory herbs and minerals. The finish was long with dark fruits, a hint of pine and a mouthwatering quality that was completely unexpected. This is easily the best Barolo I have tasted from the ’03 vintage. Rinaldi managed to capture the ripeness of the year yet also maintain vibrancy and focused fruit. (93 points)

Giuseppe RInaldi Barolo 20042004 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste – This showed an absolutely beautiful bouquet of strawberry, minerals, dusty spice and hints of savoy herbs. On the palate, it displayed silky textures contrasted by youthful tannin with both red and black fruits and a hint of herbs. Dried red fruits saturated the palate through the finish as this flaunted its tannic clout. The ’04 Brunate – Le Coste was still youthfully restrained yet you can sense that it’s aching to open up and reveal its charms. It may one day outclass the classic ’01. (94 Points)

2004 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Cannubi San Lorenzo – Ravera – The nose showed undergrowth, dried cherry and minerals, but came across as much more advanced than expected. On the palate, it showed gruff tannin with tart red fruit and a vein of strict acidity. Cloying red fruits lingered on the finish. I don’t believe this was a sound bottle, having likely been exposed to heat at some point during its life. (N/A)

Giuseppe RInaldi Barolo 07 082007 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Cannubi San Lorenzo – Ravera – The nose was dark with depths of ripe black fruit, pine, and spice in an intense display. On the palate, I found silky textures with brisk contrasting acidity and deep, dark fruits, which clung to the senses through the finish. Hints of spice, dried citrus and savory herbs lingered long. (93 points)

2007 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste – The nose was intense, swinging between sweet and savory with dark fruits, herbal mint, rich tobacco and violet floral tones. On the palate, it displayed vibrant textures, ripe dark fruits and black licorice kept in check by classic Nebbiolo tannin with a long finish that remained intense yet perfectly balanced. This is an absolutely gorgeous wine that walks the tight rope between ripeness and austerity, resulting in a truly classic expression of Nebbiolo fruit. (95 points) @Morrell

2008 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste – The bouquet was wonderfully expressive, dark yet refined, with a nose of black and red fruits, herbal lavender, mint, violet floral tones and a hint of exotic spice. On the palate, it was classic to the core and expanded to coat the senses with intense red fruits, spice and savory herbs. The finish was youthfully firm yet enjoyable all the same for its impeccable balance. Wow, this is simply a fabulous wine and utterly classic. As good as it is now, I know it should really be left in the cellar for a number of years. (96 points)

Giuseppe RInaldi Barolo Lineup
Morrell Wine Groups Selection of Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo
Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido

Extreme Winemaking Against All Odds—Just Another Day In Priorat

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prioratblogAs a longtime fan of the southern Rhone, it was only so long before I started to look for Grenache in other regions. However, for the most part, what I found didn’t thrill me.  That is, of course, until I found Priorat.

This actually makes sense since Grenache came to the Rhone from Spain, where it’s known as Garnacha Tinta. The secret to high-quality Garnacha is a warm, dry climate, poor soils and small yields, resulting in a low-acidity, dark-red wine which can obtain high levels of richness and concentration but also alcohol. In the hands of an experienced winemaker, the results can be pure examples of hedonistic pleasure. However, in the wrong hands and terroir, you’ll end up with a hot and flabby wine, lacking any serious depth.

prioratblog4It takes a very special microclimate to tame Garnacha, and Priorat has just that, with its extreme hot summers and warm, drying Mistral winds. The soil here is of volcanic origins, called llicorella, a mix of disintegrated black slate and quartz, which retains heat and forces the vine’s roots to dig deep in search of nutrients. Pour a glass of water on Priorat soil, and watch the earth soak it up in mere seconds.

You wouldn’t expect anyone to want to make wine in such a place; in fact Priorat was all but abandoned in the 1940’s and ‘50s, as its population searched for a better life. What remained were a relatively small amount of vines (numbering only in the hundreds of hectares), which had adapted to the harsh conditions of the region. However, it was in these old vines that a small group of visionary winemakers saw tremendous potential.

masdoixcompThis started with René Barbier, who convinced a group of friends that the region could produce world-class wines. This group of friends started the first wineries in the region, Clos Mogador, Clos de l’Obac, Clos Erasmus, Clos Martinet and Clos Dofi, which is now called Finca Dofi. To this day, these remain the wines that are the most sought after in the region. With time, other passionate growers and winemakers began to make their mark.

Mas Doix was one of my first experiences with Priorat, and the one that set me on the path to digging deeper into what made the region special. Although Mas Doix as a company didn’t arrive on the scene as early as the founding families, what they did have were five generations of vine-growing experience in the region. Going back to the mid 19th century, Juan Extrems Doix was already producing award-winning wines. However, over time, the family’s production of grapes began to be sold off to the local co-operative winery. That ended in 1998 with the creation of Mas Doix.

prioratblog2It’s from their families’ stock of 80-year-old Garnacha and over 100-year-old Cariñena vines that Mas Doix has gone on to create their flagship wine, Doix Costers de Vinyes Velles. What’s even more interesting in the lineup, is the 1902, an extremely rare wine composed 100% of Cariñena planted in, you guessed it, 1902. Yet, the real value in the range is the Salanques, a blend of 65% Grenache, 25% Carignane, and 10 % Syrah, which you could say is their young-vine bottling—even though the vines are between the ages of 70 to 90-years old. Salanques is a very serious bottle of wine, and the one that started it all for me.

What has always surprised me the most about the entire portfolio of wines is their ability to maintain freshness in contrast of their deep and concentrated persona. A young Mas Doix would easily be described as massive, and a question that I’ve heard asked around many tasting tables is, will Priorat age well in the cellar? What better a way to see how well these wines age, then by placing two vintages next to each other in a comparison tasting–which we did. What I can say from the results, is that the answer is a definite yes, and the reason behind their longevity is in their impeccable balance.

prioratblog3Much of this has to do with location of their vineyards, in Poboleda, which is in the North Eastern section of Priorat and protected by natural boundaries on two sides. There, the vineyards enjoy a cooling wind that sweeps through the valley and moderates the temperature of the vines. This results in a longer maturation process and more characterful grapes.

In the end, if you are one of the many who think that Priorat has seen its day, I challenge you to give them another shot. What you find may surprise you, and I believe that the region has only just started to show the world what it’s capable of. Only time will tell, but what I can say with absolute certainty is that Mas Doix is right at the forefront of Priorats’ reemergence to greatness.

Speaking of that comparison tasting–On To The Notes:

masdoixselanques20062006 Mas Doix Priorat Salanques – The 2006 is a testament to the longevity of Salenques, as a bouquet of dried fruits, florals, dusty soil and minerals greeted me. It’s just starting to show beautiful tertiary character. Then on the palate, a juicy wave of silky wild berry, spice and minerals splashed against the senses. It finished delicate and refined, in a beautiful place now, yet far from the end of it’s drinking window. Out of the entire group, the 2006 Salanques really stood out for it’s qualtiy to price ratio, and gorgeous maturation in bottle. (93 points)

2012 Mas Doix Priorat Salanques – The nose was rich with intense dark fruits, herbs and minerals. On the palate, this was surprisingly fresh and lifted, showing wild berry and spice with beautiful balance and poise. It finished long on dark fruit, bitter chocolate and palate cleansing acidity. The 2012 Salenques is a pretty and understate wine that is drinking well now, yet has the potential to develop much further in the cellar. (92 points) Find it @Morrell

masdoixcomp2007 Mas Doix Priorat Costers de Vinyes Velles – The 2007 takes the intensity of Priorat and balances it perfectly with a nose of ripe blackberry, raisin, dark floral tones, tobacco and herbal lift. On the palate, I found silky textures on a mid-weight frame with notes of wild berry, dark chocolate, herbs and hints of tannin tugging at the palate. This was balanced throughout and finished on focused fruit intensity. The 2007 should enjoy a long drinking window and improve for over a decade in the cellar. I hope to taste it again some day. (94 points)

2009 Mas Doix Priorat Costers de Vinyes Velles – The nose was rich and intense with blueberry and raspberry fruits, floral tones, spice and crushed stone. On the palate, I found velvety textures with an energetic wave of acidity keeping things fresh and lifted as sappy dark fruits, cocoa and minerals coated the sense. The finish showed a hint of its warm vintage heat, with rich fruits and a hint of herbs. This may not be the most balanced Mas Doix, yet it is undeniably enjoyable. (92 points)

Click HERE, for Morrell’s selection from the top names in Priorat.

Article and Tasting Notes by Eric Guido

In Defense of Barbera–A Little Known Gem from Italy

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blogger46What if I told you that I know about this amazing wine that wows tasters on a regular basis, yet most consumers don’t even know it exists? What if I also told you that it’s made in multiple styles, from fun and juicy to serious and capable of aging for decades? Lastly, what if I said that you can find amazing examples of this wine in the twenty-dollar range, and that the most expensive and serious examples I know of never cost more that $60-$80 a bottle? Would you give it a try?

Well then it’s time to buy yourself a bottle of Barbera, an amazing wine from Piedmont, Italy that never gets the respect it deserves.

I suppose it’s understandable, as it must be difficult coming from a region that produces two wines as prestigious as Barolo and Barbaresco. Barbera always played the supporting role in Piedmont, being the wine of choice at the dinner table but the runner-up for prime vineyard space. In the end, it’s all about economics: why spend the money marketing a wine from a region that already has its claim to fame, especially when you can charge 200-300% more for a bottle of Barolo? But it goes deeper than that. The fact is that there’s a lot of mediocre to just plain bad Barbera out there. Why? For the same reason cited above: it plays runner-up for prime vineyard space. It fills the low-lying, poorly-exposed parts of Barolo vineyards throughout the region. In many cases, it’s an afterthought or a value wine created to wet the palate at the dinner table.

scarrone vineyard

The Scarrone Vineyard in Castiglione Falletto
A choice spot for Barolo, yet Vietti winery uses it to produce one of the greatest Barbera in Italy.

Don’t get me wrong; there have always been producers who gave Barbera its fair shake (Giacomo Conterno and Vietti immediately come to mind). Yet we are now seeing more and more producers fine-tuning and pushing their Barbera to the world markets. Much of this had to do with the worldwide recession going back to 2008, which seriously slowed the buying power of many collectors. Producers realized it was time to focus more on their entry-level and mid-range wines. Enter Barbera, which is naturally juicy and fresh with bright red fruit, yet can take on a more dramatic and bold profile with the right vineyard management and proper barrel treatment.

barberabarrelSpeaking of barrels, you’ll see two very different styles of Barbera. At one time, many producers were masking these wines with a shroud of new oak in an attempt to make them more “important” and age-worthy (Barbera is naturally very low in tannin). This practice has diminished to a large degree, and the best producers who still practice it have found the right mix of quality fruit and barrel. Then there’s the bright, juicy, woodsy, food-loving style of Barbera, which should be in everyone’s cellar for that night of Bolognese sauce or pizza. I cannot think of another wine which pairs with such a large variety of foods. Both styles are worth your attention. As the Vietti Scarrone below would be the perfect pairing for a Porterhouse, the Sottimano would be my choice for game, red sauce and stews.

A little bit about 2011 versus 2012…

Giacomo Conterno Barbera  (1 of 1)2011 has provided us with some very ripe and downright sexy Barbera. The warmth of the vintage and resulting fruit played right into the contrasting acidity of the variety. These are not “hot” or baked wines. Instead, they are generous with ripe (sometimes candied) fruit on the nose, rich textures and tremendous depth on the palate. They are refreshing yet bold. In some cases they can be dark and moody—but that textbook Barbera acidity keeps it all in line. I believe it’s a great mix, even though 2011s may seem like brutes next to the 2012s, with their lean and restrained yet almost crystalline styles. The 2012s come across as focused and pretty wines with a real classic feel and structure, which is right up my alley.

In the end, 2011 Barbera will likely appeal to a broader audience, while the 2012s will thrill the fan of old school Barbera.  Below are a number of my recent favorites.

On to the Tasting Notes:

Pio Cesare Barbera 20122012 Pio Cesare Barbera d’Alba Fides – The nose showed wild berry, herbs, floral undergrowth, and dry soil tones in a tense and wiry expression. On the palate, a pulse of juicy cranberry and spiced cherry was followed by a core of brisk acidity, which made the mouth water through the finish with a ringing note of dark chocolate left in its wake. (91 points)

2012 Giacomo Conterno Barbera d’Alba Francia – The ’12 Francia Barbera can be best described as a rosebud on the verge of blooming. The nose showed tense aromatics with tart red fruits, spice, floral tones, minerals, mint and a hint of tobacco. On the palate, I found focused red fruits with clenched, acid-driven textures paving the way to secondary notes of wild berry, herbs and inner floral tones. Long with tart berry on the finish, which seemed to coat the senses. This is a wine in need of a few years in the cellar—dare I say another 2005 in the making? (93 points)

Giacomo Conterno Barbera 2012 (1 of 1)2012 Giacomo Conterno Barbera d’Alba Cerretta – Intense dark-fruited nose with tobacco, spice, rich soil and sweet herbs. It was acid-driven with incredible vibrancy and complexity, showing tart cherry and balsamic tones, which seemed to expand across the senses. Ripe yet firm on the finish with a lasting thrust of dark fruit. It’s a truly serious wine that would make a believer out of any Barbera naysayer. (94 points)

2011 Sottimano Barbera d’Alba Pairolero – The nose showed black cherry with sweet spice, hints of new leather, plum and mint. On the palate, it was smooth and round with dark berry fruit and clove complemented by a cooling minty note. The finish was gentle and clean with tart red fruits lingering and hints of tannin tugging at the palate. (89 points)

2011 Vietti Barbera d'Alba Scarrone2011 Vietti Barbera d’Alba Scarrone – The bouquet of the ’11 Scarrone pulls you in with rich, dark notes of plum, blackberry, spice, hints of brown sugar and licorice. On the palate, it’s a large-scaled wine, yet kept in check by brisk acidity. Balsamic tones along with cherry liqueur, exotic spice and dark chocolate seem almost too rich to handle, yet all the pieces fit into place. The mouthwatering finish showed saturating spiced cherry, bitter coffee and hints of herbs. (93 points) Check Out Morrell’s Selection of Vietti Barbera.

2011 Giacomo Conterno Barbera d’Alba Cerretta – The Cerretta was a much darker and richer expression of Barbera next to the Cascina Franica. The nose was rich with intense black cherry, violet floral tones, black soil, dark chocolate and a hint of burnt sugar. In the glass, I found a dark and intense wine balanced by its high acidity with flavors of black cherry, currant, stony minerals and smoky notes. The finish coated the senses in bitter black fruit and then exploded as its acidity kicked in and made the mouth water. Drinking now, but should continue to drink well for many years to come. (93 points)

2011 Giacomo Conterno Barbera d’Alba Cascina Francia – The nose was intense and focused with red berry fruit, balsamic notes, herbs, saw dust and airy floral tones. On the palate, it was center-focused and tightly coiled yet still seemed to touch all the senses with raspberry and black cherry fruit, minerals and herbs with brisk acidity keeping it mouthwatering and fresh. Tart berry saturated the palate throughout the finish with inner floral tones which seemed to last forever. This was regal and elegant yet painfully young and should seriously reward the patient wine lover. (94 points)

Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido