Saturday, March 17, 2018

Bruno Giacosa's Falletto di Serralunga: A tasting of selected vintages (La Pizza Fresca, NYC)

The announcement of Bruno Giacosa's death hit higher on the scale for me as I had attended a tasting of selected Giacosa wines at La Pizza Fresca just two weeks prior. That tasting, led by Levi Dalton of I'll Drink to That fame, covered four instances of each of his Falletto MGA Barolo offerings. The wines, and the accompanying dishes, are shown below. A description of the terroir precedes the discussion of the tasting.

The MGA is illustrated in strawberry in the figure below. The Le Rocche del Falletto portion is shown as a golden wedge to the north.

Giacosa made his wines with purchased fruit until he bought the "majestic" Falletto vineyard in 1982. This vineyard, it is widely agreed, became the source of one of his greatest Barolos. The Giacosa formula for great vineyards is: (i) high hill country positioning, (ii) south to southwest sun exposure, and (iii) amphitheatre-like vineyards; Falletto fits this profile almost perfectly.

The Giacosa wines from this vineyard are labeled Falletto (white label) and Rocche del Falletto (from four south-facing plots on the upper slopes of the vineyard. The Rocche del Falletto plots support the crus oldest vines (35+ years) grown in clay and calcareous soils.

The Riservas spend an additional 6 months in wood -- and an additional year in bottle -- over the white labels.

Vintage Conditions
The table below shows the vintage conditions for each of the years from which wines were drawn for the tasting.

Vintage Falletto Le Rocche del Falletto Le Rocche del Falletto Riserva Vintage Conditions (as per Jancis Robinson)

More structure and potential than 1997; some very fine elegant wines


Very good quality. Voluptuous Barolo and Barbaresco; recalls 1997

X Very good partly thanks to a heatwave from mid-August to mid-September. Nebbiolo exceptional with excellent acidity, ripeness, and great flavor definition. For the long term

X Excellent quality from an early vintage. In the mold of 1999 and 1997 rather than for the long term. No shortage of ripeness or structure; an occasional shortage of acidity


Heatwave vintage. Oldest vines managed to withstand the weather and yield some exceptional wines

X Well-balanced wines


Reduced crop of decent but unremarkable wines for medium-term drinking

X Low-yielding year but good quality fruit

The Tasting
After the appropriate amount of social banter, Brad (proprietor of La Pizza Fresca) called us to order. In his opening remarks he mentioned that this tasting had been in the works for several years and that Bruna (Bruno's daughter) could not come due to her father's ill health and her responsibilities. The tasting, however, had Bruna's blessing. He then turned the floor over to Levi Dalton.

Levi then gave attendees a lecture (in the positive sense) on the history of Bruno Giacosa and the Falletto vineyard (he also gave credit to Ken Vastola for being the repository of a lot of the information that he was providing).

Brad and his Nixonian move as MD Savino asks
"What am I doing here?"

Levi asking attendees to go light on him prior
to the start of the event

Paul Tocci (R) thinking about DRC

There were no dogs in the Falletto flight. The 1998 showed violets, florality, red fruits, and baking spices on the nose. Rich, sour finish. Levi said this was a vintage wherein one can find accessibility. He liked it. The 2000 showed spice, red fruit, earth, mushrooms, and a savoriness. Red fruit on the palate. Great weight. Elegant, clean finish. The 2001 had licorice, tobacco, smoke, and sweet red fruit on the nose. Leaner than the preceding wines. Medium-bodied. Red fruit and tar on palate. Lengthy finish. The 2004 showed tamarind, tar, blackberries, spice and a mineral note. Massive. Sour red fruit. Structured. Time is its best friend.

Carpaccio di Manzo

Agnolotti di Zucca

All of the wines in the Rocche del Falletto flight showed well. The 1998 showed tar, roses, strawberry, earth, and soy on the nose. Minerality, balance and a lengthy finish. The 1999 showed dark cherries, roses, tar, earth, and balsamic notes. Dark fruits on the palate preceding a lengthy finish. The 2003 belied its vintage. Ripe fruit, tar, and herbs on the nose but balanced. The 2005 showed dried rose petals tar, and licorice on the nose. Savory with drying tannins. Lengthy finish.

Pizza Margherita

A dark, rich power, along with lengthy finishes, seemed to be the hallmark of the Rocche del Falletto Riservas. In addition, the 2000 showed licorice, herbs, and mint on the nose and well integrated tannins on the palate. The 2001 showed sweet red fruit and an earthiness on the nose, the former of which was evident on the palate along with great texture and balance. The 2004 had similar nasal characteristics as the 2001 along with more traditional Barolo characteristics and herbs. The 2007 was redolent with cherry and tobacco notes.

This was a high-quality tasting both in terms of the wines on offer and the job done by Levi. Bruno Giacosa wines are legendary; and they are legendary for a reason. So there was no surprise there.

This was the first tasting that I had attended where Levi was honchoing and I was pleased. Levi has a self-deprecating personality -- both in terms of speech and mannerisms -- but that disappears once he is in front of an audience and begins to delve into this area which he is obviously passionate about. This was a terroir tasting as presented by Levi. While many presenters see wine dinners as an opportunity to say a few words between dishes, Levi expounded on the terroir of Falletto Bruno Giacosa, and the wines at great length. It was superlative.

Levi was ably assisted by Eric Guido (Morrell) who dutifully held up a map at one point during the tasting but, more importantly, tasted through all the wines prior to the start of the event to ensure that only quality bottles made it through.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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