This tasting was held at one of the leading importers of Italian wines into Benelux. There were mainly big, chocolaty wines in a “modern” or “international” style which quite out-gunned in sheer weight, if not quality, some Aussie wines tasted on the same afternoon at another importer (I intended to post notes on these too but they mysteriously disappeared from my computer as I was transferring them from Word to WLDG). Nevertheless they were mostly good examples of that kind with a special mention for the two Barbarescos from La Spinetta. I think that woody flavours and certainly malt after-tastes were less marked that at the same importer’s tasting three years or so ago and the weight, in spite of the difficulties of the predominant 2003 vintage, and “modernity” were not so overwhelming as to mask fully terroir differences and the extra class, IMHO, of the Nebbiolo based wines. One wine which stood out for more classical balance and elegance whilst retaining power was Aldo Conterno’s Barolo Bussia Soprana.
The organisation was excellent (including a shuttle bus from a parking lot at the expressway exit to the tasting premises) but the large tasting room was very crowded necessitating elbow work to get to the tables and spittoons; it was sometimes difficult to hear the presenters and note taking was a contortionist exercise. An impressive range of wines from top estates was available for tasting. I therefore made a severe selection: those which I noted probably represent less than 10% of the whole range on show.
ARNALDO CAPRAI –Montefalco - Umbria
Having very recently passed through the Montefalco region and opted to visit the traditional estate, Adanti, I was delighted to have the opportunity of tasting these wines from the local standard bearer of the modernists. In general the wines had a smoother patina and were bigger and more powerful but less classically balanced and less flavoursome and more closed right now than the Adanti range (whose leading reds were 2001). After having been warned about Caprai’s style, I was agreeably surprised by the absence of dominating wood flavours. This is a fine range.
The MONTEFALCO ROSSO 2004 (EUR 13,46) showed tangy savoury aromas with more firmness and more closed than the delicious Adanti which I had drunk the evening before. SAGRANTINO DI MONTEFALCO COLLEPIANO 2003 (EUR36,97) was a powerfully brooding closed wine with tar notes and some dark plum fruit coming through and monolithic tarry tannins; I will wait some years before opening my bottle but expect it to be fine/very fine. SAGRANTINO DI MONTEFALCO 25 ANNI 2003 (EUR 67,76) was even bigger and longer but at present disfigured for me by malt touches on the finish; should become very fine if the malt note tones down.
ALTESINO – Montalcino (“A”)
CASTELLO DI AMA – Gaiole in Chianti (“CA”)
AVIGNONESI – Montepulciano (“AV”)
I found nothing really stunning in this group. A’s basic BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2001 (EUR 33,96) and the cru BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO “MONTOSOLI” 2001 (EUR 59,90) were both quite closed and inexpressive but showed impressive length, particularly the latter. CA’s CHIANTI CLASSICO 2003 (EUR 24,99)(? the tasting sheet did not specify the appellation?) was more expressive with aromas initially chocolaty but with fruit taking over on swirl and with the authentic Chianti savoury acid edge and rich body; very good. AV’s VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO 2003 (EUR 17,97) showed a chocolaty and rich fruit cake character which was balanced by a nice savoury tang and their DESIDERIO 2003 (EUR 42,30), a Merlot dominated Bordeaux blend, showed even more chocolate and fruit cake without the savoury tang.
CASTELLO DI FONTERUTOLI
I had already tasted this excellent range in early October when I visited the Castello’s enoteca in Tuscany, so I did not try them again. However it is interesting to note that the Benelux importer’s price, which were much higher than those in Italy for most other estates, were in Fonterutoli’s case almost identical to those offered by the estate ex-cellar; this indicates something about the estate’s commercial policy.
LE PUPILLE – Grosetto – Tuscany
The must striking thing here was Elisabetta Gepetti, the owner, who is a very intelligent and handsome woman exhibiting that day a distracting décolleté. The wines are good, too. Ms Gepetti was very dismissive of the basic MORELLINO DI SCANSANO 2004 (EUR 8,44) but I found it attractively fruity and spicy; I drink a lot of this sort of wine with simple food particularly in tomato based sauces. MORELLINO DI SCANSANO “POGGIO VALENTE” 2003 (EUR 27,35) was, of course, deeper and more expressive with soft fruit and good body though wood notes are still prominent. I found the famous SAFFREDI 2003 (EUR 65,52)(Cab.Sauv. 50%, Merlot 35%, Alicante 15%) too jammy for my taste (as if the Merlot/Cab.Sauv. proportions were the other way round) but there is no denying its impressive depth and richness. I suggested to Ms Gepetti that the jammy richness may be partly attributable to the hot 2003 vintage but she said it was typical!
TUA RITA – Suvereto- Tuscany
I found this range impressive with a very sharp varietal differentiation between the cuvées. PERLATO DEL BOSCO ROSSO 2004 (EUR 21,45)(70% Sangiovese, 25% Cab.Sauv., 5% Syrah) showed savoury fruit, good grip and intensity with some chocolate notes; very good. GIUSTO DI NOTRI 2004 (EUR 49,97)(55% Cab.Sauv, Bordeaux blend) showed much brighter fruit allied to a complex, not jammy, richness and good structure; fine. SYRAH 2003 (EUR 72,60) showed complex aroma with sour cherry notes and a long rich palate with some ivy notes and good acidity; fine.
ARMANDO PARUSSO – Monforte d’Alba
ALDO CONTERNO – Montforte d’Alba
The BAROLOs from PARUSSO were typical of most of those on show being quite approachable and exhibiting complex rich fruit, ripe tannins and sometimes hints of chocolate. A good range. VIGNA FIURIN 2000 (EUR 38,92) had cherry and balsam aromas and quite soft rich texture. RISERVA “ARGENTO” 1999 (EUR 49,97) was more complex and structured on a basis of similar aromas with great finesse and class. BUSSIA 2001 (EUR 59,90) was more closed with wood not yet fully absorbed but hinted of similar elegant tannins and class.
BAROLO BUSSIA SOPRANA 2001 (EUR 49,97) from ALDO CONTERNO is very different. More austere now and classical in style and aromatically somewhat closed but hinting of elegant complexity, balance, structure and length. Great class. Potentially very fine.
LA SPINETTA – RIVETTI – Castagnole Lanze
DOMENICO CLERICO – Monforte d’Alba
GIOVANI CORINO – La Morra
The presenter at this table sought to demonstrate to me the difference in character between the wines from La Morra and those from Monforte d’Alba, the former more tender and quicker maturing and the latter deeper and more brooding. However this difference seemed subtle to me whereas the stylistic difference between Aldo Conterno and the other estates and aromatic difference between Barbaresco and Barolo do seem very marked.
The three wines from LA SPINETTA were very impressive. The basic BARBARESCO 2002 (EUR 40,61) showed wonderful aromas with bright raspberry notes and body, whilst fairly lighter than the others, had enough depth for elegant balance; a lovely wine from a difficult year. BARBARESCO STARDEN 2001 (EUR 75,46) showed similar bright aromas but on a much richer, deeper and longer body; a wonderful wine. BAROLO CAMPE 2001 (EUR 85,67) was much more austere, brooding and deep with marked tannins and tar and balsam notes; should become very fine.
CORINO’s BAROLO VIGNA ROCCHE 2000 (EUR 46,37) showed cherry brandy notes and approachable round fruit and his BAROLO RONCAGLIE 2001 (EUR 44,95) was also rich and approachable but with chocolate notes and more power and structure.
CLERICO’s BAROLO PAJANA 2000 (EUR 55,96) was quite closed but exhibited a rich tannic structure with impressive substance.
The presenter was eloquent on how these Langhe wines represented great QPR comparing them to Pétrus, Cheval Blanc, Latour and the like!