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.