I had dinner last night with some top red producers from Piedmont, including Luca Currado Vietti of Vietti, Alessandro Ceretto of Ceretto, Pio Boffa of Pio Cesare, and his nephew Cesare Benvenut.
Much of the conversation was about the U.S. market and how distribution continues to be a problem for all of them. They say that they have the demand, but distributors are so consolidated in key states that it’s hard to get their wines into the hands of wanting consumers. I don’t want to get into it now. But I feel for them as well as for the consumer.
Anyway, we drank three wonderful 1997 Nebbiolos, including the Vietti Barbaresco Masseria, Ceretto Barbaresco Asili and Pio Cesare Barolo. I had never tasted the former but the other two I have on a consistent basis. All were excellent and still very young with very ripe fruit and long caressing tannins. They were open and enjoyable but they had a long life ahead of them. Everyone just shook their heads when I reminded them that many people, including Piedmont wine producers themselves, said that 1997 was a vintage for early drinking and would not age.
Here are my non-blind tasting notes on the three wines. We drank them during a very good, simple dinner at a fun restaurant. called Osteria del Vignaiolo, in Santa Maria in the Barolo region:
1997 Vietti Barbaresco Masseria: Lots of plums and spices with a lightly toasted oak undertone. Full and velvety with a dense palate and lots of ripe, almost raisin fruit character. Layered and very enticing. Drink now or hold. 94 points, non-blind.
1997 Ceretto Barbaresco Asili: Love the aromas in this wine, which have evolved into white truffles and black berries. Full and very racy with fine tannins and a long, fruity, beautiful finish. Yummy. 95 points, non-blind.
1997 Pio Cesare Barolo: This was the magazine’s No. 7 wine in the Top 100 in 2001. And it is holding on beautifully. It shows aromas of tar and black berries with an underlying minerally character. It’s full bodied, with ultra-fine tannins and a long finish. Gorgeous. And they made over 6,000 cases of this! Drink now or hold. 95 points, non-blind.
Boffa also bought a bottle of his 1978 Barolo, which was a real eye-opener. The other producers nearly feel out of their chairs when they tasted it. The wine was so fresh and so complex. It was dark colored ruby with blackberry, white truffle and citric character. It’s full with black fruit and licorice on the plate, with big, thick and velvety tannins. Very long. 96 points, non-blind.
It’s very rare to come across great bottles of old Barolo like this. It’s much easier to find wines with decades of age from France. But that’s another column.
The interesting thing is that Pio Boffa thinks that the 2000, 1997 and 1978 all have a lot in common and that “they were all from very hot years.” I think his 1997 will age as well, if not better, than the 1978 and the 2000 might be better than the two.
I am really looking forward to a horizontal tasting of 1997 Barolo and Barbaresco this year ...