Few weeks ago, we had an ad-hoc blind-tasting Italian wine dinner.
We started off with Oddero Barolo Vigna Rionda 1999. While it presented a sense of Nebbiolo, it was rather muted at the beginning of the dinner on both the aroma and palate. Some of us had even mistaken this as a Barbaresco rather than a Barolo. This bottle was opened just when we were starting the dinner at 8pm and its true potential didn’t come out till after 2 hours in glass.
The second Barolo we had was Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Riserva Granbussia 1995. Our friend that brought this bottle came in late, but we noticed that the cork was already pulled. When the juice flows into the glass, oh man, what a classic Barolo! It was powerfully structured, dense and sweet, with a long and solid finish. Quickly, I asked my friend, “did you open this in the afternoon?” He said, “yes, at 3pm.” He opened the wine 6 hours beforehand.
What a contrast between the two! We can’t help but wonder how the Oddero would turn out if it had received the same treatment.
Both Oddero and Aldo Conterno are considered one of the best traditional Barolo makers. They both aged their juice in large vasks (3,000 litre) as opposed to barriques (225 litre) commonly used by modern Barolo makers. The large volume of the vask means slower oxidation for the juice inside, which represents traditionalists’ belief – Barolo should take its time to age and we shouldn’t rush it. Granbussia is actually kept in the cellar for 8 years before releasing to the market (and only made in good vintages). Oddero’s Barolo, starting in 2006, will be kept in cellar for 10 years before commercialization.
Exactly because we are dealing with these stubborn beauties, patience is required. For Granbussia, my friend poured half a glass at opening, and let the remaining breathe in bottle for 6 hours before serving. Some others would simply decant the wine for 3 hours. Of course, if you ask the Barolo makers, they wouldn’t like decanting as most likely none of them even owns a decanter. In the mind, they would think: if you don’t have patience, don’t drink Barolo!
The final wine is not a Barolo but a rare Super Tuscan. Avignonesi & Capannelle 50 & 50 1999, was a nice modern addition to the two traditional Barolos. Some call this the “Opus One” of Super Tuscan. This wine, as important and special as it is rare, is the collaboration between Avignonesi and Capannell. The Sangiovesse (50%) originates from the Capannelle Estate in Gaiole, Chianti, while the Merlot (50%) was selected from Avignonesi's Estate in Montepulciano. It was aged for 24 months in French barriques.
This wine required half an hour of breathing in glass and easily lasted through the dinner. It was well-crafted and everything was simply in great balance - Bright aromas, full-bodied, velvety tannins and a long finish. It is at a perfect place to drink now. The silky elegance of Merlot simply marries well with the rustic charm of Sangiovese.