Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The best wines tasted in 2016: Part I, Antonio Galloni events

This year, I am going to present this topic in two parts: the wines tasted at Galloni events and the wines tasted everywhere else. As the title indicates, we begin with the Galloni-events wines.

I attended a total of four Galloni tastings during the course of the year:
  • Bartolo Mascarello: A Historical Perspective (1958 - 2010), a tasting dinner held at the 28º - 50º Maddox Street location (London, April 26th)
  • Soldera: Brunello di Montalcino Through the Ages (1981 - 2006), a tasting dinner held at maze Restaurant in London, on April 27, 2016. 
  • Vietti Barolo Rocche di Castiglione: A Historical Retrospective (1961 - 2011), a tasting dinner held at Vaucluse in New York City, May 10th, 2016
  • Ornellaia and Masseto Retrospective (1995 - 2010), from Magnum, a tasting dinner held at Bouley Test Kitchen, December 5, 2016.
The Bartolo Mascarello Tasting

Used with permission of Vinous Media LLC
The wines that were on my radar screen coming out of the tasting were the 1995, 1997, and all of the wines in Flights 4 and 5.

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.

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 up to that time. Antonio had similar sentiments, remarking on the sensuality, roundness, and harmony of the wine. He thought that it was the best wine of its flight.

Flight 4: Greatest Four Wines of Recent Vintages
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.

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 this 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.

The Gianfranco Soldera Tasting

The tasting was organized into five thematic flights with the intent of allowing attendees to "trace the evolution of the wines and house styles all the way back to 1981." The flights were named and ordered as shown in the table below.

FlightNomenclatureInclusive Vintages
The Early Years1981, 1982, 1987, 1988
Sleeper Vintages2000 Riserva, 2003 Riserva, 2005 Riserva
The Mid-1990s1993 Riserva, 1994 Riserva, 19995 Riserva, 1996 Riserva
Reference Points1997 Riserva, 1999 Riserva, 2001 Riserva, 2004 Riserva
The Icons1993 (Magnum), 1983 Riserva (Magnum), 1990 Riserva, 2006 Riserva

After this tasting, it was clear to see why Antonio had fallen under the spell of this wine. High quality across the board and basically variations on a theme. Even in the years when vintage effects significantly affect the quality of his competitors' products, Soldera manages to produce wines that are clearly recognizable as his. I kept all of my glasses during the course of the tasting and went back at the end to taste all of the wines. Even with some of the wines being in the glass for well over three hours, they had all retained their integrity.

As it would be impractical to reproduce the notes for all of the wines in this post, I encourage you to follow the link in this title section to get to the tasting notes. Each one of these wines fall into the category of the best wines I tasted in 2016.

The Vietti Barolo Rocche di Castiglione Tasting

Used with permission. Courtesy of Vinous, LLC.
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 its 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 1996 was the wine of its 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 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.

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.

The Ornellaia and Masseto Tasting

The 2006 Ornellaia was the first of the wines tasted to exhibit any noticeable acidity. Rich and intense, with juicy acidity surrounded by a beautiful core of fruit. Good levels of fruit and acidity in the 2006 Masseto. Rich, structured, powerful, and balanced. This wine is a buy.

The 2004s were the first wines to show really well on the nose. This illustrated the relative youth of the previous wines. The Ornellaia had floral notes along with tea, licorice, and olives. Full-bodied. Heavier than the earlier vintages. The Masseto was a beautiful wine. Classic older Merlot. Granny's attic, spice, and a dankness. Weighty and structured.

The 1998 Ornellaia was a beautiful wine. Cigar box, tobacco leaf, and black fruit on the nose. Textured and structured. A "come-hither" wine. The Masseto presented cigar box, tobacco, orange peel, and spice. Textured and balanced with a long finish. Axel remarked on the "smoky tobacco leaf character" of both of the wines in the 1998 vintage.
The 1997 Ornellaia was a desirable wine with still a lot of life ahead. A little green pea and coconut on the nose along with a restrained orange peel. Fresh on the palate. Fine-boned and elegant. Long finish. 

The 1995 Masseto showed tobacco and Granny's attic. Great acidity and sharp red fruit. Lengthy finish. An excellent wine.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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