Italy Piedmont

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Brovia 2013 Barolo

One of the standouts of the fabulous Brovia 2013s is the Barolo; that is, the Barolo Classico; the ‘straight’ Barolo; the Barolo Normale (a term that producers don’t care for). In the classic manner, Brovia’s Barolo is a blend of 5 sites, each of which brings its character and thus complexity to what is a particularly good bottle of wine. The development of single-vineyard bottlings in Piedmont has been hugely important for our appreciation and understanding of the individual vineyards, but we sometimes miss out because we are distracted by their prestige, while there are blended wines that are every bit as good – and in the case of this wine – better than most other producers top wines. This one is very fine, with great lift, lovely subtle fruit, and ripe tannins. It’s medium to full-bodied and showing quite rich; like the other 2013s it’s a wine for the cellar. Jamie Wolff

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Chiesa, Carlo 2013 Nebbiolo D'Alba Manascarda

The Nebbiolo Manascarda from Chiesa exemplifies the qualities I love most in Roero Nebbiolo: it is highly aromatic with an uncommon delicacy on the palate. Produced from 50-65 year old vines planted in sandy soil with a steep eastern exposure, the grapes are fermented with a submerged cap for 20 days followed by a year in old, large botti. The nose is simply seductive; Ripe sour cherries, orange zest, and roses are layered over more autumnal notes of porcini mushrooms and fresh fallen leaves. Medium body with very fine tannins the palate is defined by fresh acidity and bright red fruits with a slightly mineral finish. This is an ethereal expression of Nebbiolo, almost as much fun to swirl and smell as it is to drink. Try it with lighter food like grilled fish, poached chicken, fresh pasta dishes, or to lift through denser dishes like risotto or pan-seared pork chops. Andy Paynter

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Chiesa, Carlo 2015 Langhe Nebbiolo

The Langhe Nebbiolo from Chiesa is a wine that shows lovely characteristic Nebbiolo perfume with softer edges than many other Langhe reds: frankly it is a wine that makes me smile. Produced from a plot of vines planted between 1998 and 2004 on slopes of sandy soil the grapes are hand harvested, fermented in steel with a submerged cap for 12 days, and then raised in steel tank for 6 months to preserve the varietal character of the wine. The nose is quite aromatic and smells of fruity cherries with the scents of violets, dusty earth, and a slight pepper spice coming through. There is a bit of weight on the palate with slightly tacky tannins but overall it is refreshing with great acidity and a lifted taste of orange zest on the finish. Neither high-toned nor too heavy, it straddles a stylistic middle ground and is no less tasty for it. I paired the wine with a simple charcuterie plate but it would be well suited to everything from meatier cuts of fish, chicken and pork dishes, soft cheese, or vegetarian pastas. The 2015 Langhe would be a perfect fit for the Thanksgiving table as well, especially suited to a glazed ham or brussels sprouts with pancetta. Andy Paynter

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Conterno, Giacomo 2009 Barolo Cascina Francia

From the ripe 2009 vintage, Giacomo Conterno's Barolo Cascina Francia avoids the overly rich character of some of the wines of their neighbors. Perfumes of orange oil, earth, grilled meat arise from the glass. The palate while dense and structured shows fine counterpoise between power and elegance, with sweet fruit, soil notes, and savory notes framed by ripe tannins and buoyed by good acidity for the vintage. This is quite pretty and while drinking nicely with decanting, this will benefit from another 10-20 years in the cellar when the fruit and structure should integrate. John McIlwain

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Cordero di Montezemolo 1971 Barolo Monfalletto

A consistently excellent wine — we've been lucky to get to taste this several times in the last few years. It needs a lot of time to breathe, and then it provides a classic example of fully mature Nebbiolo. Jamie Wolff

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Oddero, Fratelli 1995 Barolo La Morra 1.5 L

This was originally purchased by a wine investment fund called Emprimer; we don't like to discourage any motivation for buying wine, but as so often happens with wine investment schemes, Emprimer failed and sold-off their wine, and that's when our friend bought it. All along it's been properly cellared. In any case it's exactly the same wine as any with the Oddero label.

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Principiano, Ferdinando 2011 Barolo Serralunga

Mint, balsam, on top of full Nebbiolo aromatics and a lot of minerality; very ripe and firm tannins. This shows that it’s not all about 2010! It’s made from younger vines in Boscareto (see below), usually harvested rather later than the neighbors. Principiano thinks that his organic viticulture has made a huge difference in the health of the vines, even in difficult growing seasons. The wine gets about a month of maceration and then is aged in 20,000 and 40,000 liter barrels. It’s a harmonious and deep wine with a long future. Jamie Wolff

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Principiano, Ferdinando 2013 Barolo Ravera

The Ravera 2013 is very aromatic with great balance between fruit and savory / floral / herbal. It has pronounced grip, but the tannins are elegant. Another excellent wine for the cellar. Jamie Wolff

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Principiano, Ferdinando 2013 Barolo Serralunga

Ferdinando Principiano is part of the next generation in Barolo who are guaranteeing that our kids and grandkids are ensured a supply of brilliant wines (some of the others on my short list are the Brovia family, Mario Fontana, Giacomo Fenocchio, Elio Sandri, Fabio Alessandria at Burlotto, Gianni Canonica – not kids, but experienced wine makers in their prime). I’ve told the story before about how around 2008 Ferdinando completely changed course from making full-on modern style wine to full-on traditional wines, which is a courageous move under any circumstance, and one which is yielding beautiful wines. And beautiful vines: his vineyards are also gorgeous.The Barolo is a blend of fruit from Boscaretto, Baudana, and Leirano – all Serralunga vineyards. It’s very good indeed, harmonious and balanced, with lovely fruit, fine tannin, and surprisingly accessible (when tasted in May 2017). Jamie Wolff

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Produttori del Barbaresco 1970 Barbaresco

Black cherry and kirsch flavors are underlined by subtle hints of bresaola, dark chocolate, and fresh earth. It's not a powerful vintage, but nevertheless impresses with its lightness, litheness, and elegance (2/28/16).  Jonas Mendoza

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Produttori del Barbaresco 1974 Barbaresco

1974 was a sleeper vintage for the Produttori, and it has definitely impressed on two separate occasions while tasting vertical flights of the cooperative's normale. Ripe red and black cherry fruit flavors mingle with secondary notes of balsamic, dark chocolate, and spaded earth. The medium body and robustness is supported by a quite lithe texture (1/17/17). Jonas Mendoza

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Produttori del Barbaresco 1975 Barbaresco

Brambly black cherry with undertones of black raisin and sweet dirt. Quite developed with secondary/tertiary notes of hoisin, dried mushroom, and dried meat. After 40 years, it still has plenty of structure and only started to reveal itself after being double-decanted eight hours earlier (1/17/17)! Jonas Mendoza

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Produttori del Barbaresco 1979 Barbaresco

I couldn't help but make the comparison initially to older Chianti, with flavors of dried red cherry and dried herbs. As the evening progressed, the wine became richer and weightier with darker fruit notes of black raspberry and brandied cherry with intensity similar to the blockbuster normale bottlings of 1971 and 1978. (1/17/17). Jonas Mendoza

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Produttori del Barbaresco 1980 Barbaresco

Medium ruby color with hints of brick on rim. Black cherry and black tea flavors with prominent notes of hoisin and balsamic. Quite along its development, but still has firm tannins and resonant acidity (1/17/17). Jonas Mendoza

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Prunotto 1964 Barolo

Lovely nose of caramel, wet earth, tar, roses, rainwater and old barrel spice. The color is an octave lighter than the Produttori. Elegant and juicy with vivid cherry fruit and a speherical sense on the palate. Great concentration and gritty tannins. Lovely acidity. Long finish. Totally mature wine. LF

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Rinaldi, Giuseppe 2011 Barolo Tre Tine

Formerly labeled Cannubi San Lorenzo - Ravera, this is close to same blend / same wine. Early on (from barrel in 2014) the Tre Tine seemed closer in style to Brunate than usual, sharing a dark core of ripe fruit, and very ripe tannin. A year later there was more obvious difference, with the elegance of Cannubi beginning to shine. Out of about 120 Barolos, this is one of the very best 2011s we've tasted. Jamie Wolff

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Rinaldi, Giuseppe 2013 Barolo Tre Tine

Allowing for the fact that wine is a very subjective experience, I like to think that I call it as I see it. So I believe I’d know if it was a disaster, but otherwise I’m irrational and unreliable on the subject of G. Rinaldi. When I’m there, I wander around in a kind of stupor of infatuation with the wines. My penetrating notes (for 2013 Tre Tine, for example) say things like “super-great” [full stop]. I suppose if I have to have a wine crush, it might as well be on one of the best wineries in the world. Jamie WolffPS: Please don’t shoot the messenger. We don’t make the prices (neither, so far as I can tell, do the Rinaldis, because the wines leave the cellar at very reasonable prices). We’re well into the world of luxury goods here, and all I can do is sigh and make puppy dog eyes at the bottles while they’re in the shop. I do think it’s an objective fact that these are great wines and even if it’s a gratuitous comparison, they are the superior of many far more expensive wines.

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Sandri, Elio (Cascina Disa) 2015 Dolcetto d'Alba

Last May we tried a ton of Dolcetto in the company of two distinguished tasters who kept saying they didn’t like Dolcetto, which tends to put a damper on the experience. Sandri’s, however, made them sit up and take notice, so I give them credit for staying alert and flexible enough to change their minds. It’s bracingly juicy with wild brambly fruit that’s balanced with savoury herbs and chalky stone. Medium-bodied, very lively and lifted, it’s long and complete. I happen to like Dolcetto, but if they were all half as good as this one I might say I love it. Jamie Wolff

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