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Barolo Dinner


A group of fellow wine lovers recently gathered at Paese Restaurant in Toronto to drink some delicious Nebbiolo – Barolo, specifically. A selection of a half dozen bottles ranging from 1996-2000 were put together to contrast and compare and determine how they were evolving. It was very interesting to compare vintages that are generally deemed to be more “classic” (such as 1996 and 1999) to hotter, more “forward” vintages such as 1997 and 2000.

In having a small group of six people, it allowed for the opportunity to follow the wines over the course of the evening and see how they changed with air. All the notes included below mention how the bottles were handled. At one point, each person had six Burgundy stems in front of them, something that isn’t possible in many restaurants due to a lack of appropriate stemware.

Significant thanks must be given to Paese’s sommelier Bruce Wallner and the rest of the staff for taking care of not only all the wines and stemware, but the table in general.

In an attempt to stick with a Langhe theme, a nice Chardonnay from Aldo Conterno started off the evening. One of the few wines to see barrique at this address, the Bussiador was quite rich and delicious, even if the alcohol was a little too prominent at times.

  • 2005 Poderi Aldo Conterno Langhe Bussiador– Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Langhe DOC (4/15/2011)Barolo Dinner (Paese Restaurant, Toronto): Bright honey/gold colour. Aromas of hazelnut butter, toast, marzipan, mango, passionfruit. Full-bodied, unctuous, with replays from nose and a good minerality. Moderate-long finish, ~40s. Alcohol was a little too prominent in this bottle at times, and therefore the rating can’t go higher. Drink now. (91 points)

The first flight of Barolo was from Paolo Scavino. Bottles of 1996 and 1997 Carobric contrasted classic and hot vintages. I found it interesting that the wines were very similar in profile, proof that terroir shines through even in more challenging vintages. Much discussion was had at the table as to which vintage was preferred. Initially, the 1997 captured peoples’ attention, while later, the 1996 came to the fore. Ultimately, trying to select between the two wines is like splitting hairs. The consensus was that the 1997 was the wine to drink now, whereas the 1996 will be the better wine with age. I don’t think you can go wrong with either.

  • 1996 Paolo Scavino Barolo Carobric– Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (4/15/2011)Barolo Dinner (Paese Restaurant, Toronto): Decanted 30 minutes. Medium-garnet colour. Aromas of cherry, mint, plums/prunes, tar, dried flowers, leather, and dried herbs. Medium-full bodied, with cherry, tar, dried herbs, leather, tar, orange peel. Great acidity and solid tannic structure that follows through to a moderate-long finish, ~40s, with more dried cherry and leather notes. A delicious wine that can easily go another 15 years. Drink now-2026+. (93 points)
  • 1997 Paolo Scavino Barolo Carobric– Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (4/15/2011)Barolo Dinner (Paese Restaurant, Toronto): Slow-ox’d for three hours, then decanted for 30 minutes. Medium-dark garnet colour. Aromas of white truffle, kirsch, sottobosco, mint. Full-bodied, more rich, forward, and integrated than the 1996 at this time. On the palate, the wine shows notes of sottobosco, prunes, and mushrooms. Moderate-length finish, ~35s, with dark fruit and earth. Should drink well for another 10-15 years, depending on how developed one prefers Barolo. Drink now-2026. (93 points)

Barolo always shows better with food, so a pizza of roasted mushrooms, thyme, fontina, and a drizzle of truffle oil was sent to the table. The earthiness of the roasted mushrooms played quite well off the Nebbiolo and made for a nice start to the evening.

Pizza with roasted mushrooms, thyme, fontina, and truffle oil

Pizza with roasted mushrooms, thyme, fontina, and truffle oil

Two wines from a classic vintage were paired with our first courses. The 1996 Cerequio from Michele Chiarlo was quite closed and not showing much on this evening. I would like to revisit this wine with additional cellaring to see what will develop. The 1999 Giuseppe Mascarello Monprivato, on the other hand, was simply stunning! What a gorgeous representation of Nebbiolo from a structured vintage. The wine showed incredible finesse for a wine that is just a baby and I can only imagine what it will become with age. Anyone that has this wine in their cellar should be very, very happy. Along with the 1997 Luigi Pira Vigna Rionda, it was my wine of the night.

  • 1996 Michele Chiarlo Barolo Cerequio– Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (4/15/2011)Barolo Dinner (Paese Restaurant, Toronto): Decanted 30 minutes and served. Very closed on the nose and palate. Revisiting after a couple hours in the glass, the wine was still restrained, but showed hints of herbs and olives as well as a very firm structure. If this bottle is representative, it needs more cellaring in hopes that something blossoms with age. Judgment reserved. Revisit in 2014-2015.
  • 1999 Giuseppe E Figlio Mascarello Barolo Monprivato– Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (4/15/2011)Barolo Dinner (Paese Restaurant, Toronto): Decanted 1 hour. Medium-garnet colour. Aromas of cherry, talc, leather, rosemary, potpourri, mushroom, sliced plums, mint. Full-bodied, delicious, with cherry, leather, sliced plums, truffle, earth, and mushroom. Moderate-length finish, ~40s, with red fruit and earth. This is just a baby, but man is ever delicious. Additional cellaring will allow this wine to develop into something truly special. 96+ points. Drink 2015-2025+. (96 points)

I ordered potato cavatelli with wild boar ragu to match the second flight of reds. Not heavy in the least, cavatelli is a worm-shaped gnocchi of sorts. The ragu was quite good and the green olives were an unexpected success.

Potato cavatelli, wild boar ragu, green olives, shaved pecorino

Potato cavatelli, wild boar ragu, green olives, shaved pecorino

The final flight of Barolo paired two wines from recent hot (and contentious) vintages, 1997 and 2000. While some Nebbiolo enthusiasts might take issue with the perceived lack of potential longevity, I have found them to be approachable sooner and therefore something to be consumed while more structured vintages are resting quietly. That said, I still get plenty of Nebbiolo character and structure and am happy to drink them when the opportunity presents itself.

Pira’s 1997 Vigna Rionda was stunning. The fact that I was even able to taste this wine is special onto itself. Its first vintage in production, only a single barrel was made. But, oh, what a barrel it produced! Drinking wonderfully right now, I can see it going another 10-15 years at a minimum, but why wait?

The 2000 Aldo Conterno Riserva Granbussia was a treat as well. The first time I tasted this wine was at the estate back in 2006 from a barrel sample. It was exuberant and delicious then. Outrageously delicious, to be honest! The wine has closed down some over the years and lost some of its baby fat, but the pedigree of the wine is clear. It’s very,very young at this point in time but should benefit from another 3-5 years in the cellar, after which it should drink well to 2022+.

  • 1997 Luigi Pira Barolo Vigna Rionda– Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (4/15/2011)Barolo Dinner (Paese Restaurant, Toronto): Slow-ox’d for 3 hours, decanted for 2 hours. Medium-dark ruby colour. Aromas of coffee, chocolate, truffle, smoke, earth, mushroom, rosemary. Full-bodied, rich, with amazing texture, finesse, and power. Sottobosco, truffle, and chocolate is present on the palate. Long finish, ~50s, following through from the palate. A truly gorgeous wine, one I feel very lucky to drink considering only a single barrel was made in this inaugural vintage. Will drink well for another 10-15 years. 96+ points. Drink now-2026. (96 points)
  • 2000 Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Riserva Granbussia– Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (4/15/2011)Barolo Dinner (Paese Restaurant, Toronto): Decanted 2 hours. Medium-garnet colour. Nose of cherries, roses, tar, earth, leather. Medium-full bodied, with black cherries, orange peel, and red plums. Moderate-length finish, ~30s, with more red fruit and earth notes. Very interesting to try this wine again, as I tasted it from a barrel sample back in 2006. This wine is clearly still very, very young, and needs additional cellaring. 94+ points. Drink 2015-2022+. (94 points)

With the last group of wines, I ordered chicken saltimbocca. While I traditionally think of veal in this preparation, the kitchen did a fantastic job with the dish. Beautifully seared and well seasoned, the chicken was perfectly moist, the sage wasn’t overpowering, and the pan jus was excellent. The strong flavours played nicely with the more opulent wines from 1997 and 2000.

Chicken saltimbocca with sage, prosciutto, buttermilk mashed potatoes, and chicken pan jus

Chicken saltimbocca with sage, prosciutto, buttermilk mashed potatoes, and chicken pan jus

Overall, it was a fantastic evening with great wines and great people. I’m looking forward to more great meals at Paese in the near future.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 2011/05/09 6:32 PM

    Sounds like a great night of food and wine. The last time I had the 1996 Michele Chiarlo Barolo Cerequio, it was totally ready for business. I’m thinking that bottle may have been slightly off or maybe just in need of more time. If I’m not mistaken, we had our bottles double decanted at 2pm for a 7pm dinner.

    The 1997 Luigi Pira Barolo Vigna Rionda sounded fantastic. I’ve never had this wine but I’ve become a fan of Luigi Pira over the past couple of years. I’ll have to seek it out.

    And, I know we’ve recent spoke about the 2000 Granbussia. I give this wine a little more credit than you. It’s good to see that it’s performing well and I agree that it has a long future ahead of it. My last three bottles will sleep for many years before I touch another one.

    Thanks for the great blog post, I enjoyed the read.

    • futronic permalink*
      2011/05/10 12:30 PM

      Thanks Eric. It was definitely a very enjoyable night.

      It would have been nice to give more air to the wines, or at least handle them in the manner you outlined (which is my preference, including a slow-ox in the morning), but unfortunately BYO laws in this province do not allow bottles opened outside the establishment to be served. Draconian, I know. I don’t doubt that the Chiarlo Cerequio would have benefited from additional air.

      As for the 2000 Granbussia, I think the wine will merit a better score with additional age. When I tasted it at the winery from in 2006 from a sample, I gave it a loftier 97 points.

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