One of our true Wandering Palates, Matthew Wilson, finds himself buried in Barolo and Barbaresco spanning 50 years with an intoxicating melange of history, the intriguing nuances of aged wines and great Italian food, Melbourne style.
The Piedmont region of Italy comprises two of the most stunning and profound wine regions of the world – Barolo and Barbaresco. When one of Australia’s best importers of Italian wine (Anthony D’Anna from Mondo Imports – http://www.mondoimports.com.au/ ) began planning a dinner which would showcase five decades of Barolo and Barbaresco, I was immediately interested. Then when he announced it would be held at one of Melbourne’s most authentic and passionate Italian restaurants (Scopri – http://www.scopri.com.au/about.html), a guernsey was a must.
This evening did not disappoint.
On arrival, Ca’ Del BoscoFranciacorta ‘Anna Maria Clementi’ 2001, was poured as we anticipated the evenings treasures. Zeppole Al Formaggio (Parmesan Fritters) accompanied the bubbles … which showed a smooth well rounded palate, lemon sherbet with nuts, a touch of fennel and bright acidity with great length.
Then on to the good stuff …
Bracket one was the oldest and from arguably the best producer in Italy, Giacomo Conterno. While Mussolini and Hitler joined forces to conquer Europe in World War II, Giacomo Conterno was toiling away amongst the vines crafting another sublime Monfortino. The 1941 was clearly old, fruit cake and truffles splashed with oloroso. Acid still present, nebbiolo obvious and wonderful length. Will I ever drink this wine again? The 1952 was more alive, better clarity, classic nebbiolo structure and length, roses, nuts, mocha and honey. Wow, an awesome wine. Matched perfectly with an earthy and gamey Quaglia Arrostita con fichi in Pancetta (Pan Seared Quail with Figs wrapped in Pancetta). This bracket set an extraordinary benchmark.
A pair of Borgogno Barolo Riserva’s followed … 1955 showed leather, a touch of varnish and that honey character which prevailed in many of the nights wines. Firm acid, tannin and super length. 1962 moved us from browns and ambers to the more familiar brick red. It was darker and richer. Again, acid structure, tannin and a touch of iodine. Splendid stuff. Well matched with smoke tinged Spiedini di Cervo con Marmelata di CipollaRossa (Roasted Venison skewers with Red Onion Jam).
A 1964 Mario Minutofu Giovanni Barbaresco Riserva ‘Fascetto’ moved us from the masculinity of Barolo into the more feminine Barbaresco bracket. Leather, honey and chocolate with a touch of sour fruit, that firm acid and tannin. Then a Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva ‘Rabaya’ 1967, a touch of bottle stink soon blew off to reveal black truffles, earth, nuts and vibrant acid and tannin. Perhaps partnered with the dish of the night – Rissotto al Radicchio, Vino Rosso e Provola (Risotto with Radicchio, Red wine and Smoked Provolone) – seasonal and perfectly executed.
The wines of Produttori continued, surely the best value house in Italy, great vineyards vinified by the passionate Aldo Vacco. A 1967 Canale (specially released for the1976 Alba Truffle Festival) blossomed with caramels and honey. Classy acid and tannin. The 1970 ‘Ovello’ was corked, but fortunately a second bottle was opened to show tar and roses and a touch of orange peel. The pasta course arrived … a Scopri signature dish – Tagliatelle al Ragu Leggero di Vitello (Tagliatelle with light style veal ragu) … provided a subtle foil to the acid cut.
Bruno Giacosa entered the fray with a 1976 Barbaresco, leather and spice, chocolate richness, a tad of balsamic and quintessential tar and roses. But the initial wow dissipated in the glass. Drink up. The Borgogno Barolo Riserva 1976 was more rustic, perhaps a tad dirty, but interesting, spiced mead, butter on hot toast. Brasato di Agnello al Barolo (Roasted Lamb neck glazed with Barolo and Polenta Mantecato) arrived … wow, up there with the risotto, sticky, succulent lamb melted away to leave richness and comfort.
Cerretto Bricco Rocche Barolo ‘Brunate’ 1986 was for me the weakest vino … a scent of off milk, sour fruit, maybe tinned corn preceded blocky hard tannins and an tough finish.
We finished the reds with an absorbing comparison … same wine – Produttori del Barbaresco 1974 – but two formats … the standard bottle (720mls) and the rare Jerobaum (3,780mls). The larger format outshone with barnyard, mushroom and primary fruit. Great structure, fresh acid and firm tannin. A delight to drink and a reminder to buy more large formats. Testun di Barolo (Testun Cheese, aged in Nebbiolo skins, with accompaniments) soundly escorted the wines.
A palate cleanser brought this marvellous evening to a conclusion, SaraccoMoscatoD’Asti 2011 (Magnum) showed sweet acid and vibrant fruit, perfect with Crostatina al Frutti di Bosco (Mini Vanilla Custard tart with Fresh Berries).
Wow … what an evening. A rare treat and a vivid reminder of why we love wine, particularly with age and class, and cherish the craft of fine cooking with fresh seasonal ingredients.