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Tim York

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WTN: Some mature Italian classics.

by Tim York » Fri Nov 03, 2006 11:19 am

This note completes a triptych alongside my recent notes on my visit to Italy and on a tasting at an importer of leading Italian estates. The previous two dealt with young wines and this with what they may become with maturity. Once again Jean Fisch was host and the nominated theme was Nebbiolo but in the event two of the best wines were from different varieties.

None of the wines was decanted and this was on balance a pity because they were all, except the 1971 Barolo, only singing with their full voice at the end of the evening. However this 71 would have been broken up by decanting (see below) which highlights how difficult it is to get this right.

SPANNA 1966 – This wine was discarded because on first pour it showed cloudy pale amber colour and varnish nose. It came out of one of those typical old-fashioned twisted bottles and Gert remarked that one could see that the wine had suffered heat damage from the distortion of the bottle!

VERNACCIAI DI ORISTANO RISERVA 1986 from ATTILIO CONTINI of Cabras, Sardinia. At first I wondered whether the Spanna had not undergone some miraculous clarification treatment; if anything, there was more of a pink tinge here. An oxidative wine somewhat reminiscent of Amontillado sherry which displayed fine nutty aromas and a balanced long palate of good intensity; the wine filled out through the evening. Fine/very fine.

BARBARESCO GAIUN MARTINENGA 1990 from CISA ASINARI DEI MARCHESI DI GRESY. First impressions were disappointing. The nose seemed oxidative and the palate subdued, if elegant, but gradually the wine filled out with the aromas veering to nut and tar and with other secondary flavours emerging. Very good.

BAROLO VIGNA LA DELIZIA RISERVA 1971 from FONTANAFREDDA. At first this showed what was missing with the previous ; greater richness, complexity and length but with a perhaps prophetic hint of rotten orange peel on the nose. Within half an hour the wine was breaking up. Fine, at first. May have been great 5 years or so ago.

CHIANTI CLASSICO RANCIA RISERVA 1988 from FATTORIA FELSINA. Astonishingly young and fresh and could easily be taken for a wine half its age. Deep dark red with no bricking. Nose still a little subdued but aromatically open on the palate showing fresh dark fruit, fine structure and length with the authentic Chianti tang displayed with an unusually austere class. Very fine.

CANUA SFORZATO VALTELLINA 1997 from CONTI SERTOLI SALIS. This wine made from Nebbiolo by the Amarone method is quite the opposite of the Rancia. Deep, rich and complex and long, hints of fruit cake and slightly marred for me by an alcoholic finish, but the others thought that the rich fruit covered this well. It definitely has more elegance and class than any Valpolicella Amarone which I have tasted (due to Nebbiolo?) and also outclasses two recently tasted Amarone style Bordeaux blends from JOSEPH South Australia. Another wine which sang fully and more beautifully as the evening advanced. Fine+.

To complete my recent tour of mature Italians, here is a note on a bottle drunk two days later at home with a delicious filet of “barbue” (translation?).

VERDICCHIO DEI CASTELLI JESI VILLA BUCCI RISERVA 1999. A fine beautifully balanced Verdicchio with the usual ingratiating finish allied to good freshness of flavour and body. A touch fuller than the very good basic Bucci from 2004. Very good/fine and very enjoyable but, in spite of its 3 glass award from Gambero Rosso, I would not rate on the same level as, say, the best Rieslings or burgundian Chardonnays.
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Hoke

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Re: WTN: Some mature Italian classics.

by Hoke » Fri Nov 03, 2006 11:27 am

Hey, thanks for bringing back some fine memories!

Re the 1971 La Delizia from Fontanafredda: I had that wine about ten years ago, and it was wonderful. Redolent with the characteristic perfume of 'tar and roses', but leaning toward the roses, it drank very, very well.

Of course, the fact that we were at the royal enclave in Serralunga might have positivley influenced me. That and the guinea hen we were having with it.

Fontanafredda has a remarkable property in that semicircular ridge behind the main facility. Something like nine single vineyards; some of them are spectacular, and each is distinct. I'm always surprised that Fontanafredda has never done better with them in the market.
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Re: WTN: Some mature Italian classics.

by Ian Sutton » Fri Nov 03, 2006 11:40 am

Tim York wrote: here is a note on a bottle drunk two days later at home with a delicious filet of “barbue” (translation?).

Tim
Ta for the notes. Recently got hold of some older Nebbiolo's and will be giving them a bash in the new year.
Fillet of Barbue? I'm guessing here - isn't bue the local Torinese dialect for Beef? or am I barking up the wrong lamppost?
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Re: WTN: Some mature Italian classics.

by Tim York » Fri Nov 03, 2006 12:27 pm

No. "Barbue" is the French name for a very fine sea fish about the same size as a sole. My 1966 edition of Harrap's does not provide a translation. In those days one met many sorts of fish, such as this one as well as lotte, colin, merlan, bar and so on, which didn't then seem to get eaten in Britain, so I never learned the translations.
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Bill Buitenhuys

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Re: WTN: Some mature Italian classics.

by Bill Buitenhuys » Fri Nov 03, 2006 1:06 pm

Great notes there, Tim. I need to stock up on some Felsina.
I recently had the '99 Sartoli Salis Sforzato and it was showing very primary profiles only. But it's structure showed lots of promise for evolution. Have you had older (than the '97) vintages of this wine? I'm curious to learn about how sforzato ages.
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Re: WTN: Some mature Italian classics.

by Tim York » Sun Nov 05, 2006 5:44 am

Bill, I have no experience of the Salis Sforzato in older vintages than 97. If your 99 follows other Italian regions it should be more angular and structured than the ripe 97. I guess that the 97 has a lot more life in it and should continue to improve; witness its continuing opening up through our evening after an already expressive start.
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Re: WTN: Some mature Italian classics.

by Robin Garr » Sun Nov 05, 2006 9:57 am

Tim York wrote:No. "Barbue" is the French name for a very fine sea fish about the same size as a sole. My 1966 edition of Harrap's does not provide a translation. In those days one met many sorts of fish, such as this one as well as lotte, colin, merlan, bar and so on, which didn't then seem to get eaten in Britain, so I never learned the translations.


Tim, the French <i>bar</i> is "bass" (sea bass), or so I've been told; and <i>lotte</i> is definitely monkfish. <i>Barbue</i> is a new one on me, and the coincidence with <i>bue</i>, one of the Italian words for beef, also caught my attention.

I'm thinking it's surely some form of bass, though.
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Re: WTN: Some mature Italian classics.

by Tim York » Sun Nov 05, 2006 1:34 pm

I think that you are right, Robin, about bass and monkfish but "barbue" remains unsolved. I tried several computer translation sites for "filet de barbue" and got the caricaturally precise but wrong answer "net of bearded"!
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Re: WTN: Some mature Italian classics.

by Bob Ross » Sun Nov 05, 2006 2:05 pm

Robin, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says that BARBUE DE RIVIÈRE is an acceptable common name for Channel Catfish, Catfish or Flathead. A footnote says that LaSalle and his party used that name for Channel Catfish in the 1660's.

I've seen "barbue" used to describe brill, or more generally flatfish.

A heroic attempt to give a cross reference to the names of different types of fish can be found at http://www.sea-ex.com/fish/names1.htm .

The only way, really, to identify fish properly is by their Latin names -- local customs, the great variety of fish, the sometimes extreme differences between the same fish in different waters, and the lack of expertise in many dictionary compilers makes this a fascinating and frustrating area of study [i.e. time wasting].

Regards, Bob

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