Flight 1: Ready to Drink
This flight included the vintages 2000, 2003, 2005, and 1995 and was paired with a Crab Tortellini (Miso Broth, Spring Onion, Toasted Garlic).
The year had been a hot one with 40 days of temperatures over 40℃. It was thought that the wines would be jammy; but, according to Antonio, this was not the case for Mascarello.
This wine exhibited tar, roses, and red cherry on the nose. Ripe fruit on the palate along with tobacco and tar but a certain reticence on the mid-zone. Not as refreshing as some of the other wines in the flight. In my opinion some vintage effects shone through.
According to Antonio, this vintage was saved by technology. As harvest was approaching, radar showed a 7-day rain front in the offing. Many producers chose to pick early so the tannins on these wines can be aggressive.
Restrained tar and roses along with a cherry component. Not as knife-edged on the palate as I would have liked but balanced. And the fruit carries through to a robust finish.
According to Antonio, made in the older style.
I had tasted this Mascarello vintage three years ago and at that time had described it as having "a bouquet of dried cherry, soy, and sandalwood. Medium length with red fruits, leather, and mushroom." I found the wine at this tasting to be elegant on the nose with evidence of sweet flowers, tar, asphalt, and dark fruits. Intense red fruits on the palate with some stemminess. Dried rose petal, mushroom, and tobacco on the palate. Long sour finish with a drying towards the end.
Antonio had asked that we taste this wine last in the flight, even though it was the first wine listed in the program. He indicated that, by this vintage, we had seen a dramatic transformation in the winery, a transformation that had been ongoing for 10 years. When this particular wine was first released, it was "barnyardy" and that barnyard character mutes the fruit.
Unfocused. Leather, smoke, and faded roses. Perfumed. Hint of sweetness and spice. Earthiness on the palate.
The bowl in which the Tortellini was presented was too deep and made it difficult to get to the contents. In addition, the broth was salty, a theme in all of the dishes. Nothing special here.
Flight 2: Great Vintages in Barolo
This flight included the vintages 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2001 and was paired with a Pea Risotto (Preserved Lemon, Marjoram, Parmesan Cracker).
According to Antonio, great vintages in Barolo are considered cooler vintages because Nebbiolo likes the associated long growing seasons and fall diurnal variation. The great vintages experience gradual late ripening into October.
This wine exhibited the classic tar and roses but, in addition, an intense spiciness. Great structure and acidity. No rough edges on the palate. Long sour finish. Best wine tasted so far. Antonio had similar sentiments, remarking on the sensuality, roundness, and harmony of the wine. He thought it was the best wine of the flight.
High-toned rose and tar, dried prunes, phenolic note, dried herbs, cigar, cigar box, leather, and espresso. Unfocussed on palate. Antonio remarked that, while chronologically one year older than the 1997, it was tasting 5+ years older.
Black and red fruits, spice, earth, and leather. Young. Antonio saw this wine as having a laser-like focus. It had been widely ignored for years. He thinks it is still not yet ready.
Porty with a phenolic note. Dried bark, dried herbs. Fruity on the palate but unfocused but palate delivers beyond the promise of the nose. Not many years ahead. Antonio saw this as having density and weight, spices, clove, and leather. He thought it was good but not great.
The Pea Risotto was very salty. It was light and airy and only a few salt grains away from being a truly phenomenal dish.
Flight 3: Classic Vintages
This flight included the vintages 1988, 1989, 1998, and 1996 and was paired with a Pan-Fried Cod (Broad Beans, Morels, Lemon Potato, Spring Onion Vinaigrette)
Leads with Grandmas closet followed closely by dried rose petals, tar, and spice. Brightness on palate. Tamarind, spice and light tannins. Antonio got orange peel, quince and spice and remarked on the silky tannins. Lengthy finish. Antonio said this vintage had been highly touted but they age unevenly and never truly developed into a refined wine.
This wine had the mustiness that is a fruit killer. Rose petals, tar, and spice. I did not find this wine appealing. Antonio was even less thrilled. He felt that this bottle was not as good as this wine can be.
Classic nose plus spice. Perfumed. Leather and tobacco. Sensation of sweetness on the palate. Excellent acid levels and long finish. The first of the climate change vintages, according to Antonio, and it was showing well.
Spice and rose petals. Undrinkable due to heavy sedimentation. No additional wine available to replace the junk in the glass. Antonio indicated that, in his view, this was one of the great vintages of the '90s and will be great for another 20 years. My loss.
The Pan-Fried Cod was salty.
Flight 4: Greatest Four Wines of Recent Vintages
This flight included the vintages 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010 and was paired with an English Ribeye (28-Day Aged, Bearnaise Sauce)
Tar, roses, green herbs. Young, balanced, focused, round. Sensation of heat. One of the first great vintages that Antonio had reviewed and he sees it as a vintage of incredible pedigree.
Not very expressive on the nose. Cherries. Red fruit on the palate. Tannins present. Rich with a hint of molasses. Long, sour finish. I loved this wine. This, according to Antonio, was a vintage of structured Barolos, masculine and brooding. These wines will be long-lived.
Hints of roses, tar, cigars, tobacco. Antonio saw it as having incredible aromatics and being light and delicate on the palate. He described it as being Pinot-like.
Young. Spice and high-toned red fruits. Not very expressive of traditional Barolo aromas. Structured. Rich. Powerful. Brooding. Antonio considers it the greatest vintage of his time.
The Ribeye was the best dish plated that night. It was still slightly salty but the meat accommodated it better than any of the other previous dishes could.
Flight 5: Magnum Flight
This flight included the 1986 and 1958 vintages in magnum.
A very special vintage in Piemonte, according to Antonio. This vintage was under the radar. No one had paid any attention to the vintage because of hail. Few producers actually made Barolo in that year. When he speaks to producers who made wine in 1986, they consistently tell him that they prefer the 1986 to the 1985. This magnum was sourced directly from the winery.
Dried rose petals, tar, sauvage, dried herbs, leather, cigar box, and spice. Ripe and lively on the palate. Balanced. Long, sour finish. A beautiful wine. Antonio described it as powerful and pungent.
Antonio thinks that tiis is the greatest wine ever made at Mascarello. The magnum is actually 1.9 L so that it could be used to fill two .750s while leaving the sediment in the wine remaining in the bottle.
Pungent, piercing nose with laser-sharp focus. Tar, roses, cherries, peeled green mangoes, and coriander. Savoriness. Hint of sweetness. Drinking younger than expected.
|Used with permission of Vinous Media LLC|
This was a great opportunity to taste with, and learn from, one of the notable Barolo experts of our time. And in this regard, the tasting was a success. Antonio's knowledge of the region, producers, and vintages were of inestimable value to the attendees as they worked their way through the wines.
The wines that are on my radar screen coming out of the tasting are 1995, 1996, 1997, and all of the wines in Flights 4 and 5. Of course, the 2010 will not be drinkable for quite a while.
The most disappointing facets of the evening for me was the food and not getting to taste the 1996. There was no standout dish and some of the dishes, in my view were seriously compromised by excessive salt. The glass of 1996 that was brought to my table should not have seen the light of day.
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