Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A historical retrospective (1961 - 2011) of Vietti Barolo Rocche di Castiglione with Antonio Galloni and Luca Currado (Winemaker)

Antonio Galloni described his May 10, 2016 Vietti Barolo Rocche di Castiglione retrospective as a "once-in-a-lifetime vertical tasting ... going back to the inaugural 1961." All of the wines for the tasting (with the exception of the 1982 vintage) were acquired either from the Vietti cellars or the personal collection of the Currado family (The 1982 was secured from the the San Francisco restaurant Acquerello).

Used with permission. Courtesy of Vinous, LLC.

In his opening remarks, Antonio described this as a night of firsts. The attendees were drinking 2008 Pierre Péters Champagne at the reception and this wine remained unreleased at the time of the tasting. Antonio had brought it back from France in his suitcase in March. In addition, Luca Currado (Vietti winemaker), and his wife Elena Penna, were present, making their inaugural visit to one of these tastings. The 1961 Vietti Barolo was one of the foundations on which Barolo single-vineyard wines were built and the estate is honoring that event with a 50th-anniversary celebration, of which the Galloni retrospective was an integral part. The 1961 vintage was to be tasted tonight.

The wines were presented in five themed flights. This approach, according to Galloni, breaks up the palate and keeps everyone fresh. The wines had been opened at 4:30 on the day of the tasting and double-decanted. The younger wines were decanted first while wines from the 1980s were served out of decanters. The tasting was organized as shown in the table below.

Flight Nomenclature Inclusive Vintages
Reception 2008 Pierre Péters Brut Cuvée Spéciale Les Chétillons
To Start 1986, 1988, 1995, 2011
Years of Transition 1996, 1999, 2001
Modern Icons 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010
The Classics 1982, 1985, 1989, 1990
Back to the Beginning 1967, 1971

To Start
The first wine tasted was the 1986. Luca was attending enological school during this vintage when the area was hit by hail on a late morning in early May, causing the loss of 2/3 of the crop. If the hail occurs early enough, you can still make good wine. And they did. This was the wine of the flight. Balsamic, stewed fruit, iron, tea, dried rose petals, herbs and a savoriness on the nose. On the palate intense red fruit along with olives, mushroom, leather, licorice, and white truffle. Balanced with a long, elegant finish.

The 1988 exhibited dark fruit, earth, forest floor, and mushrooms on the nose. Short, sweet, and slightly porty on the palate. Brooding. Not as focused as the 1986. Antonio said that when this wine was introduced it did not attract a lot of commercial attention. The press was in love with the 1985 but old timers like the 1988. Luca indicated that this was his first harvest experience as winemaker with his father.

The 1995 had the longest maceration of any wine they have ever produced. Herby nose initially. Young, with a slight balsamic note. Very young wine on the palate. Antonio remarked that it was almost grape juice.

The 2011 showed an elegant nose with blue fruit, dark fruit, and herbs. Licorice and youthful on the palate. Non-complex but pleasant. Luca likes this vintage. He likes  a wine with acidity and he finds that even though this wine is opulent, it has great acidity. He thinks it will be good in the long term.

Grilled Spanish Octopus with Chickpeas and

Years of Transition
The 1996 was the wine of this flight. Balsamic, dried rose petals, and dried herbs on the nose. Tight focus. Elegant. Engages all elements of the palate. This wine will age forever. According to Luca, Rocche likes cool vintages and such conditions prevailed for this wine. Luca likes it because of its freshness. He called it "super classic."

The 1999 was restrained and elegant on the nose with hints of anise and licorice. Dried tamarind. Perfect balance. Great weight on the palate. Luca liked this wine a lot. It was a difficult wine to sell when he first delivered it to the market. He had been afraid that it would never mature but it started to open up three years or so ago.

The 2011 was the most opulent of the wines tasted to date. Dried fruits with a strong balsamic note. Young and fruity. Luca described it as monolithic while Antonio saw it as having a faster evolution than he had expected. According to Luca, the "most different" of the wines that we had tasted. If he had to do it over, he would harvest this wine earlier. It has more of a modern feel and does not have enough acidity. This wine can be drunk now.

Épaulettes: Rabbit & Reblochon Cheese Ravioli,
Black Truffle

Modern Icons
The 2004 exhibited spice, red fruit, lead pencil, and licorice. Unctuous. Sweetness on the palate along with great acidity, tar, licorice, and anise. Weighty. Rich, long finish. A long growing season and the first vintage of finesse in Barolo (Antonio Galloni).

The 2006 exhibited tar, earth, and licorice on the nose and licorice and anise on the palate. Virile and powerful but with silky tannins.

Herbs, earth, and intense red fruit on the 2008 nose. Sweet red fruit on palate. Medium complexity. Antonio described this as the most surprising vintage. Continues to improve.

Rich red fruit on the nose of the 2010 along with rose petal, mint, and tar. Rich red fruit and anise on palate. Powerful. Lengthy, tart finish. According to Antonio, has been fantastic from the beginning.

Lotte Rôtie: Roasted Monkfish, Foie Gras
Stuffed Morels, Potato, Red Wine

The Classics
According to Luca, these wines were all made by his mom and dad. They inspired him when he was a kid but the family never had the wherewithal to keep stocks of these wines in the cellar.

The 1982 showed Granny's attic, balsamic, soy, and a little maderization. Dried fruit on the palate. Mineral finish. Luca's dad liked this vintage and it is also a favorite of his. If he encounters it on a wine list, he buys it.

The 1985 had an aromatic nose. Hints of pumpkin, truffle, and sweet, bountiful red fruit. Balanced on the palate with a slight portiness. Pleasure to drink. First climate change vintage in Barolo, according to Antonio. Luca has it at its peak.

Sweet red fruit and licorice on the nose of the 1989 and earth, red fruit, and silky tannins on the palate. Lengthy finish. Luca terms this a "super classic."

The 1990 showed balsamic notes, red fruits, dried rose petals, and curry on the nose. On the palate sweet, concentrated red fruit accompanying good acid levels and a distinct curry flavor. Long finish.

Selle d'Agneau Grillée: Grilled Colorado Lamb
Loin, Mushrooms, Spring Onion, Mint Lamb

Back to the Beginning
In this flight, some of the earliest Rocches. Beginning with the 1967 which showed dried herbs, portiness, and a stewed character. Not much on the body or finish. Appearance as of colored water.

The 1961 was salmon colored. Maderized with dried out lemon, bitter lemon, and orange rind. Good acid levels. Could be anything.

According to Luca, drinking these wines is like dancing with an old lady -- you have to be careful.

Selection de Fromages


This had been an amazing night. The depth and breadth of the wines on offer was truly amazing and to have Luca and Elena present for this event added a level of authenticity and local knowledge that took the tasting to another level.

The dishes that accompanied the courses were excellent and the choice of locale continued Antonio's thrust to show that these Italian wines can thrive in non-Italian-cuisine settings

As a part of the 50th Anniversary Celebrations, Vietti had had 200 memorabilia gift boxes made to mark the occasion. Each attendee at the event left with one of those boxes which the estate had had shipped in for the event.

One of the interesting points of note was the performance of the oldest Rocches versus the 1958 Bartolo Mascarello which we had tasted in London three weeks prior to the Vietti tasting. The Mascarello had been tasted out of magnum and I had described it as pungent with a razor-sharp nose and focus and drinking younger than expected. This wine was vibrant in comparison to the 1961 and 1967 Rocches which both were (relatively) lacking in color intensity and varietal integrity. While storage conditions may play a role in the differences, it should also be remembered that the Mascarello is blended while the Rocche is not.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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