Friday, May 8, 2015

Was It Worth All The Hype? A 2005 Bordeaux Retrospective

It’s funny how things can come full circle. I clearly remember the release of 2005 Bordeaux and all the hype surrounding it. I remember Robert Parker raving about the strength of the vintage and how it would go down in history as one of the greatest that Bordeaux had ever seen.

www.winespectator.com
I also recall the Wine Spectator toning in, with James Suckling confirming what we had all been told, and I clearly remember buying that issue off of a newsstand.

I looked at the wines—I didn’t have the option to taste them—and decided not to pull the trigger. Even with a daughter that was born in 2005 (i.e. a great birth year wine option). In the end, it was fear. Fear that I was buying in to the “Hype Machine” of wine critics, fear that I would never enjoy these wines, and fear that they would not appreciate in value, even though all the pros swore they would.

And so, in the end, I did not buy.

Little did I know that, seven years later, I would have a chance to taste so many of these from a perfectly-stored collection. A collection that was bought en premier and stored perfectly up until the very night that they were uncorked and poured for me. Now I look back and feel a great deal of remorse. It was a lesson learned; but even today, as I taste through them, I’m contemplating—should I buy 2005 Bordeaux?

The fact is that Bordeaux as a “brand” is not what it used to be. The escalating prices of wines upon release have pushed many fans and collectors out of the market. This is not because of the great vintages, but because of the ones that were simply good or very good, that stayed at their elevated price points. However, there is another reason as well, and that is how many supposedly “GREAT” vintages have followed since 2005. It’s hard for the average consumer to buy a wine based on what it may one day become, as most Bordeaux isn’t ready to drink upon release.

However, at this time, I can confidently say that 2005 was a great vintage in Bordeaux. At some Chateau, it was probably the best they have ever produced. Even with the 2009s and 2010s being hyped and pushed upon us day after day, 2005 is where my money will likely be spent.

Why? Because it truly is classic.

For the full article, 27 tasting notes and many more photos, visit: The Cellar Table


Friday, March 27, 2015

1996 Barolo--Blind Tasting Retrospective

A while back, I polled a number of experienced Barolo collectors for their choice of the best vintage of the ‘90s. These days, we seem to have a great vintage every year, if not every other year, with ‘06, '08, and '10 being reported as great and '05 tailing close behind. Notice that I didn't really mention the highly acclaimed 2007 vintage, as I've found these wines to be far less impressive than originally expected. However, back in the nineties, Barolo only saw two decent vintages between 1990 and 1995. It wasn't until 1996 when they hit their vintage streak with '96, '97, '98 and '99. These were all good-to-very good years, but there is only one vintage of the nineties that each of these experienced collectors believed to be the best vintage, and that's 1996!

Why? Because of structure and balance.

The Barolos from 1996 showed that perfect unity of tannin, acid and alcohol with a core of rich fruit, that spells "cellar worthy." Most Barolo lovers look for the next 1989 or 1978 that they can squirrel away in their wine cellars and enjoy in their magnificent maturity; it's a big part of what draws people to Nebbiolo, the heights it can reach with proper aging. All signs lead us to believe that 1996 is the next great vintage. The only question is, when do we start drinking them? It was with this in mind that we recently organized a "blind" 1996 Barolo dinner.

The biggest surprise for me was how open each of these wines showed. At all of my recent '96 tastings, the wines continued to display gripping tannin, which would restrain the fruit on the palate. Although their bouquets were developing well, I began to fear that these wines would never come out of their shells. This tasting was a perfect example of how unnecessary those fears truly were.

Granted, this tasting contained quite a few modern-styled wines, which confirmed a different notion that I’ve been toying with—that the structure of 1996 Barolo lent well to the better modern producers of the time. Imagine my surprise when a bottle of Azelia Bricco Fiasco came out on top, a wine that I would have assumed to be clunky and showing remnants of dark oak. But that was not the case. In fact, the Fiasco vineyard within the commune of Castiglione Falletto reigned supreme on this night, as Paolo Scavino’s Bric del Fiasc, found the third place spot.

Another interesting reoccurrence is the inclusion of the Cappellano Barbaresco, which held its own in the company of Barolo. Yet again we find a Barbaresco inserted into a blind Barolo tastings and showing tremendous potential and longevity.

In the end, I firmly believe it’s time to start digging into our cases of most ’96 Barolo. I’m sure the top traditional producers are years away from their peak (possibly our next tasting), yet from the modern camp, there’s no shame in pulling some corks.

Head over to: The Cellar Table at Morrell Wine for more photos and the tasting notes:


Friday, January 9, 2015

Making the Case–for Barbaresco

It’s time to put away the preconceptions and admit to the fact that Barbaresco can be just as great as Barolo.

I’ve been a fan of Barolo for as long as I’ve been into wine. It’s just something about its imposing nature and how Barolo makes you wait for it to blossom. There’s a challenge in loving Barolo, as you have to study and pay close attention to truly enjoy it. You don’t just open a bottle on a whim; instead you spend time deciding which bottle would be best at the moment and for the occasion. When you make the right choice and give Barolo the proper amount of air (in bottle, not decanter), you’re rewarded with an otherworldly experience. Barolo is in many ways about chasing those experiences. You won’t always find euphoria, and oftentimes you’ll be let down, but when you open a great bottle, it’s worth all the effort.

1998 Bruno Giacosa Asili
However, what I failed to understand is that the same experience can be found with Barbaresco, usually for less money and without having to wait as long as we do for our precious Barolo to mature. So you question if it can age as well as Barolo, and my response is a definitive YES! What it took to open my eyes was my involvement with a tasting group of friends who are all Barolo enthusiasts. Often, the evening would call for a blind tasting, and in each of these a Barbaresco would manage to find its way in. Would it surprise you to know that in almost every instance, the Barbaresco came out on top?

To continue reading and for tasting notes and photos, 
visit my new Blog: The Cellar Table