Last Hurrah (in 2013) for Old Piedmont Wine

12/12/13 - 


This is most likely our last offer of old Piedmont wine this year; there are some interesting wines we want to draw your attention to:

Barolo Chinato is a ‘digestivo’ – something you usually drink after a meal, although in Piedmont some people like it as an aperitif. It has a base of Barolo, with sugar added and herbs and quinine, which gives it a distinctive and very appealing taste. In the past most producers made it for their own use, and perhaps sold small quantities. This has mostly stopped as winemakers are no longer allowed to distill at home, although Levi Dalton writes that there are now about 30 Chinatos on the market. He's very diplomatic in ways we're not, so we'll share the fact that most of the newer Chinatos are not very good. One of my all-time favorites was a taste of a very old bottle at Cavallotto – it turns out that Chinato ages in interesting ways. Cappellano was the first to make Chinato in real commercial quantities, and theirs is still one of the very best Chinatos. The bottles in this offer were all purchased before 1980; many of them appear to be considerably older based on the style of their wonderful labels, but we have no real way of knowing for sure. We also don’t know for sure what the difference is between Chinato and ‘Vino Aromatizzato’ – perhaps the latter is made with Barbera? Just a guess, but we bet it’s good; it’s certainly very rare.

Barisone was a wine shop in Torino, now closed for some years. The owner of this wine (who bought it from Barisone in the 1970s) told us that Barisone had purchased wine in bulk (in glass demijohn) from Francesco Rinaldi. It would be interesting to taste Rinaldi and Barisone together – we thought the Barisone was very good, perhaps a bit less focused and concentrated than our memory of the Rinaldi, but a very fair bet at the price.

Lorenzo Accomasso (heir to Giovanni Accomasso, whose name appears on the label) is a kind of hero for us. He’s a member of Bartolo Mascarello’s generation and so a link to a rapidly receding past, but we particularly admire him for his uncompromisingly traditional wines. They are very hard to find, and we haven’t tasted them many times, but we really like the 1974 and 1978, a lot.

Rocchette is a sub-zone of Rocche dell’Anuziata – “a highly prestigious vineyard, which Renato Ratti classified as a first growth” (A Wine Atlas of the Langhe).

The Oddero 1999 Barolo Vigna Rionda is a real treat. I think it could easily last another 20 years, but it’s beginning to drink really well now, especially once it’s gotten a couple of hours to breathe. It shows classic Nebbiolo aromas – chalky earth and tar, spice, soy, orange peel, rose… it opens in the glass, smoothing out beautifully and showing great balance and elegance with some real depth and power. A very fine wine, with great future potential.

Rionda is a big deal vineyard. The old Giacosa bottles of Rionda are perhaps the most sought-after wines in Piedmont, as though they were Chambolle Amoureuses. The analogy could perhaps be extended in terms of the character of the best wines from Rionda – finesse, unsurpassed depth and complexity - something magical. JW

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