A Private Home outside NYC (10/9/2010)

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The Kinights got together to taste 1990 Barolo, focusing on a comparison of so-called modern producers vs. so-called traditional producers. All wines were tasted single blind. That is, we had discussed what each of us was bringing ahead of time, but we did not know which wines were which.

The wines were served in pairs in the beginning, but over time there were all kinds of patterns and wines were saved over time where possible and interesting. So I have lumped these wines into one flight. The order is the order of original service.

As you can see from the photos, we were served a wonderful meal including lots of white truffles to complement the wines.

A few bad bottles did create some disappointment (notably the Bartolo and the Cascina Francia), but the best bottles were glorious.

It's hard to draw conclusions from one tasting, especially considering that bottles of several key producers were off in one way or another. There were clearly great bottles of both types: traditional and modern.

Unfortunately, there were also bad bottles of both types:

Traditional wines that didn't show well (imo) included: Brovia Barolo Monprivato, Bartolo Mascarello Barolo, Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia.

Modern wines that didn't show well (imo) included: Scavino Barolo Bric del Fiasc, Altare Langhe Nebbiolo Vigna Arborina, Corino Barolo Vigneto Rocche, Manzone Barolo Le Gramolere, Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis.

Given that one stated purpose of the modern movement was to reduce funky flavors, it's not clear that it does this. Of course there is no way to know for sure when, where or how these bottles were damaged. I have had great bottles of the Corino and Scavino before, in fact this Corino was from the same case as those bottles.

Back to the best wines, here is a list of my top 1990s from this tasting:

  1. 1990 Cappellano Barolo Otin Fiorin Collina Gabutti
  2. 1990 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Riserva Falletto di Serralunga d'Alba (magnum)
  3. 1990 Gaja Barolo Sperss
  4. 1990 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Riserva
  5. 1990 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Riserva Brunate
  6. 1990 Roberto Voerzio Barolo Brunate (magnum)
  7. 1990 Giuseppe E Figlio Mascarello Barolo Monprivato
  8. 1990 Elio Altare Barolo Vigneto Arborina
  9. 1990 Podere Rocche dei Manzoni Barolo Riserva Vigna d'la Roul
  10. 1990 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis
  11. 1990 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Villero di Castiglione Falletto
  12. 1990 Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Cicala
  13. 1990 Cavallotto Barolo Riserva Vignolo

You can see modern wines among the top wines (e.g. Gaja Sperss, Voerzio Brunate, and Altare Arborina). So, this tasting proves (to me) that great wines can be made by thoroughly modern methods, even in a fairly ripe vintage like 1990.

What is less clear to me is whether the source of the greatness is in the vineyard or in the winemaking. What this tasting cannot answer is whether these wines would be as great (or even better?) had they not (for example) seen so much new oak?

Moreover, as great as these wines are, do they lack the authenticity of true Barolo? To me, ultimately there is a truth in the Cappellano and the Giacosa that is lacking in the Gaja.

The Gaja is a great wine. The Cappellano is a great Barolo.


If you have a subscription to eRobertParker.com, you can read Antonio Galloni's notes on this dinner here (along with a few of my photos).



All original content © Ken Vastola