With so much uncertainty in the world right now, we thought it appropriate to try wines that we know we can count on. We can think of few wines more rock solid than Barolo, so we dove into these with delight and confidence that they would not disappoint.
Of course, they came through for us, showing true Nebbiolo character and terrific sense of place, but they were also very different from each other. While there were only four wines (due to social distancing), we felt that these were outstanding examples of the appellation, with complexity and beauty that really holds your interest.
Interestingly, only two producers were featured, a surprising yet happy result of this single-blind format. The top two wines were made by Vietti, and were the same Castiglione bottling, but separated by 12 vintages.
First Place: Vietti Barolo Castiglione 2004. Unfiltered, with a nose suggesting toast, burnt pea soup, cabbage, dust, and clean bathroom. Some green and vegetal notes, with Ali noting "dumpster garbage." Much of these negative qualities dissipated with air, however, and the palate came to life with notes of brown sugar, purple flowers, plums, blueberries, charred wood, and underbrush. Round in texture, with lively acidity. Kristin was reminded of "cigar smell on a man's sweater", and Ali commenting, "It didn't tase like dumpster garbage." This seemed youthful, and we were shocked that this was a sixteen-year-old wine. Ali and Kristin's favorite, with a total of 20 points. David's bottle. About $50.
Second Place: Vietti Barolo Castiglione 2016. Hints of orange at the rim, with scents of roses, dried orange peel, pine needle, bark, and gentle dust or baby powder. Understated, pleasing, and elegant. The palate was much bigger than the nose, showing flavors of burnt caramel on the attack, then dried rose petals and black tea. David was reminded of "rosemary on a grilled steak." Powerful, but not aggressive, with a really long finish. Contemplative. David's favorite. Received 17 points. Andy's bottle. About $56.
Third Place: Paolo Scavino Barolo Bricco Ambrogio 2015. Riper nose compared to the others, like cherries, chocolate cookie, blueberries, baked goods, lemon zest, and something of the sea. A Greek yogurt/live culture sourness quality in the mouth, along with black tea, cinnamon, vanilla, coffee, cranberry, and licorice. A little hot. Andy's favorite. Received 15 points. Kristin's bottle. About $61.
Paolo Scavino Barolo 2010. Very perfumed, suggesting fennel, hay, white mushrooms, seaweed, absinthe, and mint. Kristin was reminded of "clove-studded orange", and Andy found "barn after the rain, a fresh pen", as well as "new shoe insert." More herbal and feminine on the palate, showing flavors of celery, green tea, sun-dried tomato, rusty nail, and beef blood. Cherries on the finish, with plenty of teeth-coating tannin. Received 4 points. Ali's bottle. About $45.