Barolo from an off vintage, especially with a couple of extra years in the bottle, can make an amiable table companion. That was the case with Michele Chiarlo Barolo Tortoniano 2003, which I recently found on the list at Acquerello in San Francisco for $42 in half-bottle, perfect for our table of two.
My wife and I love half-bottles of good wines in a restaurant setting, so that when it’s just us, we can enjoy more than one wine at dinner without wasting any.
The 2003 may not provide the grand experience of a great vintage. A Barolo from 2000 or 1997 would have dramatically higher tannins and extra complex aromatics, but the softer texture and approachability of the 2003 worked with a variety of foods. The Nebbiolo wrapped its pretty plum and spice flavors, with gentle hints of tea and dusky spices, around our two different dishes—grilled steak and braised veal. I would rate it 88 points, non-blind.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind tasting review for Michele Chiarlo Barolo Tortoniano 2003 (87, $47).