Guiseppe Rinaldi and Brovia Barolo, 2004

10/21/2008 -

Guiseppe Rinaldi & Brovia, 2004

Here you have two of the greatest names in Italian wine; both make traditional Barolo that is understated, elegant, long-lived wine, not flashy but classic expressions of exceptional vineyard sites. Both performed brilliantly in 2004.

Rinaldi has a cult-like following, in part because very little wine is made, and much of that is immediately sold to local customers and restaurants, and also because Rinaldi is a famously irascible character, and a visit there is a bit like a visit to an artist’s studio. First we sit and talk – last May for over an hour – about all things other than wine. At some fairly random point we are invited to the cellar, feeling as though our conversation was a necessary test of our worthiness to taste – phew, we passed again. The cellar itself is murkily lit and rambling in feel, full of old wine, bottles that are empty but too redolent of happy events to be parted with, zillions of other fascinating bottles brought by other visitors; on the tasting table among a fair number of tools and stuff is partial haunch of prosciutto and an iceberg-like piece of parmigiano, along with the current wines to taste – a great Freisa, structured and rich; the usual Dolcetto and Barbera showing much more depth and complexity than most; a crazy Rucche – Rinaldi, smoking a little cigar throughout (a Toscana, I think it’s called), thinks it pretty funny that we want to taste everything. A friend/customer wanders in and joins us, bringing rounds of jokes told in Piemontese and therefore merry but indecipherable to us. I was deep into writing a rave for the Barolo Cannubi San Lorenzo – Ravera when a gust of cigar smoke interrupted me, but the ’04 is a great bottle, with gorgeous Nebbiolo fruit and real elegance. The Barolo Brunate-Le Coste (both Barolos are blends of two vineyards, hence the hyphenated names) is considerably more structured; it will need a good 15 years to really show, but it’s something very fine. Meanwhile the friend is haggling over the number of bottles they will be allowed to buy…

On my first visit to the Brovia’s I had the good fortune to be with their importer Neal Rosenthal, and we had a multi-hour lunch at which I made the near fatal error of having seconds of pasta – ravioli del plin con sugo, who could say no? – oblivious to the likelihood of extraordinary courses still to come, which indeed they did – the moral of the story is: just say no to seconds.

Brovia is very much a family operation, spanning 3 or 4 generations, but now primarily in the hands of the two daughters and their husbands. Here too are Dolcetto and Barbera of real quality, and five Barolos – a blend plus four single-vineyard wines: the famous Rocche, intensely aromatic and refined; Garblet Sué, from old vines, very mineral; Villero a bit closed when young and the most structured and profound, showing smoke, fennel, violet, alongside primary fruit; and the Ca’Mia, with rich tannin, meaty – “piu carnoso”, say Christina Brovia – dark fruit and color, from Serralunga – another wine for the cellar. The straight Barolo is blend of all 4 crus; in 2004 it’s quite rich, structured, already aromatic – tea, red fruit, earth – a real value for the quality.

The Rinaldi wines will be here in 2008; the Brovia wines will be here next week. These are currently priced net – discounted to be irresistible, even if the prose above isn’t.

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