Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Whole New Problem Begins to take Shape

In the past few weeks I had the opportunity to drink 3 old Nebbiolo wines, all courtesy of my old pal Deetrane. These wines were fascinating, and they were incredibly delicious, even if in one case, only for a short window. Friends, I have a whole new problem now. I must have more, I absolutely must.

The first wine was from the 1978 vintage, a Barbaresco Asili. We think the wine was by Ceretto, although the label said Azienda Bricco Asili. My hopes were not high, as the cork was a crumbly dried out mess. We decanted and let it sit for 15 minutes or so, and the wine was not impressive, with acidic red fruit jutting out and a somewhat musty finish. But another half hour in and the wine had harmonized and the aromas were gentle with truffles, spices, and earth. The wine was well balanced and still showed good youthful acidity. But this lovely window lasted for only about 15 minutes, and then the wine unraveled and became a bunch of rather tired component parts. Could be a storage issue, or it could simply be what happens with some old wines. You get a short window, especially if you decant.

The following week we opened a great bottle of wine from one of Barolo's step-children, Gattinara, the 1971 Le Colline Gattinara Monsecco Conte Ravizza Riserva Speciale. (Bad photo, sorry) Deetrane bought a few of these bottles and after drinking one, he was excited to share. Before and as we opened it I harbored suspicions, based on the perfect condition of the bottle and the cork, that this wine had been re-conditioned, perhaps topped up with young wine. Who knows? I loved this wine. We did not decant and the wine was great immediately, with earthy truffle smells that hinted at orange peel and cherry. The nose on these things! Truly intoxicating. The wine built in intensity over the hour it was open, becoming more and more vibrant in its flavors. This was beautiful wine and I want to drink it again, this time with a plate of noodles dressed with butter and white truffles. Actually, I don't care what I eat with it. I just want to drink it again.

And then, on a recent evening in which I was feeling a bit gloomy, Deetrane decided to open a ridiculously special bottle to share, the 1962 Gaja Barbaresco. These iconic bottles sometimes scare me, especially when I am lucky enough that they are opened to share specifically with me. What happens if I don't love it the way I'm supposed to? Nothing to fear here, as this wine was utterly majestic, one of the finest wines that I have ever drunk, and I say that with absolute conviction, like GW Bush in 2003 declaring the end of the war in Iraq on that aircraft carrier. Only I'm right about this - the wine was fantastic.

The color was a very pale rose petal/orange, much lighter than it looks in the photo. Vibrant and energetic on the nose, truffles, roses, spices, orange peel, youthful (!) cherry fruit, and the smells were so well defined and pure. Perfectly balanced and harmonious, it really spread throughout the mouth and nasal cavities, leaving this truffle and rose scent in its wake. It was growing as we finished it too. This was the kind of wine that makes you re-evaluate your own wine cellar.

So now what. I need to start cellaring Nebbiolo now? This could be a problem...

9 comments:

Do Bianchi said...

wow, what a fantastic flight of wines.

Do you have a photo of the Asili?

I've never tasted the 62 Gaja. We'll have to write to Gaia Gaja and see if she can get her father to give us vintage notes (not a great vintage for that wine and very early in Angelo Gaja's career, when his father was still making the wines).

The Gattinara: long before Barolo and Barbaresco were as famous as they are today, Gattinara was king!

I'll send this to Gaia and see what she says...

King Krak, I Drink the Wine said...

I've never had an old Gaja. In fact, I've never had young ones either, except at a Gaja tasting 10 years ago.

Very good Nebblio from the late 50s and early 60s are now in their prime. I never, ever enjoy younger ones nearly as much. 78s from lesser producers are probably your best bargains.

deetrane said...

Neil - as good as the '62 Gaja was, I don't think it's really worth bringing the entire Sicilian Mob apparatus down on our heads over. Let me be clear to everyone that sees this that far more miraculous thing than the taste of the wine, was the fact that it came from a parcel of 13 bottles, all of which but this very one were DOA. The broker in Italy was kind enough to refund the cost of all 13 bottles, since only this one showed any signs of life. At the time we had assumed it was a goner.

Iron Chevsky said...

Wow, the 71 Gattinara and the 62 Gaja. The description of Gaja sounds amazing. Gattinara is totally underrated (like Roero). Most old wines are overrated IMO, but sometimes they are mind-boggling. Thanks for sharing (the notes:)!

Keith Levenberg said...

Those old Monseccos can be absolutely glorious.

Peter said...

Last week a friend of mine alerted me to some pictures she had posted on Facebook of her tasting dinner where they drank '61 Gaja Barabresco and then a flight of Giacosas from the '80s. I assume that this post is part of the same conspiracy to make me off myself with jealousy.

Wicker Parker said...

I would not trade my friends for anything in the world. That said, if any of them had a stash of aged nebbioli, I'd be over the moon. You're a lucky man, Neil, and I'm sure you'll enjoy sharing these kinds of experiences with your daughters when they're of age (i.e. yes, start cellaring now!).

Ken said...

"We think the wine was by Ceretto, although the label said Azienda Bricco Asili."

Azienda Bricco Asili is the name of Ceretto's winery where their estate bottled Barbarescos are made.

They also have one in Barolo named "Bricco Rocche".

A while ago, I put together a presentation on their labels (which I need to update). You can find it here:

http://www.finewinegeek.com/

deetrane said...

Sure, ok, the 62 Gaja was a bit over the top. But with all the Kieth Richards publicity swirling around everywhere, and the cheer-me-up conditions, the situation called for a Rockstar bottle. Lucky for us, we had one handy!