The FINE+RARE ‘Four Decades of Barolo’ Dinner


Last week fourteen of FINE+RARE’s customers joined us for a very special dinner at Alyn Williams. The theme: Four Decades of Barolo. We’ve been making as much noise as possible about this region of late, and much of this noise has been focussed on the recently released, and quite brilliant, 2010 vintage.  We thought we’d open a few bottles with some age on theme…..

1985 Bricco Roche Barolo Brunate, Cerretto

A cracking start, and a wine of its time.  1985 was the first hot vintage for modern Barolo, and Cerretto one of the pioneers of the modern style.  We are great fans of the current Cerretto style and I was intrigued to see how this wine showed: a wine made at the beginning of the Barolo revolution. For fans of fully mature wines, this was arguably one of the wines of the night: soft, elegant and silky smooth, it begged to be drunk and showed just how well these wines last.  It didn’t taste overtly “modern”, though did have a slightly Bordeaux-like edge to it.

2001 Barolo Runcot, Elio Grasso
2001 Barolo Falletto, Bruno Giacosa

These two were the very essence of the modern vs traditional argument.  Grasso the modern, Giacosa the traditional.  We tried the Grasso first: immediately seductive with a glossy perfumed nose that just said: “drink me”. Lovely.  And it didn’t disappoint.  For lovers of maturity this is just starting to drink, though the consensus around the table was that this was spot on: “a point”.

The Giacosa was a different wine entirely.  Initially it seemed a little austere when compared with the more flamboyant Grasso, though with time the wine came into itself and the class shone through. This was the essence of Barolo, and tasted of Piedmont Nebbiolo more than anything else. This is not to denounce the Grasso as over-done; it’s just that the purity of the Giacosa and its indisputable sense of place won me over.  Excellent wine.

1996 Barolo Arborina, Elio Altare
1996 Barolo Cannubi, E. Pira & Figli

In theory this was going to be less of a battle of styles though in practice these were the two “most different” wines in terms of style.  Both at their plateaux of maturity and drinking superbly well, they split the room in terms of their style.  Or at least they split me with the rest of the room….

To my palate the Altare was just a little bit too much.  A little too much gloss, a little too much barrique.  To say that it could have come from anywhere would be extreme, though it was the winemaking, rather than the wine, that dominated.  That said, there is a seductive edge to the wine and it was very popular around the table – my taste buds can be a little puritan.

Chiara Boschis’ Cannubi was the wine of the night for me.  Sweet, seductive, soft and lovely.  Feminine.  And, as Steven Spurrier would say: a sense of place.  I often describe Cannubi as the Musigny of Barolo and in this respect the wine was spot on.  You could taste the terroir.  A very special wine.

1971 Barolo Riserva, Prunotto

The last wine, 1971 Barolo, Prunotto, had sadly seen its best days.  I was very much looking forward to it: I’m a 1971 myself and I do show the mileage.  I’ve had a few decent 71s, one excellent bottle, and a lot of what was simply very old wine.  One bottle of the Prunotto was good, one less so, and one a dodo so it more or less fitted the profile.  A shame, but you do just have to pull the corks on these bottles to find out.

All in all this was a great evening.  If any evidence as to why one should be buying young Barolo now is needed, an evening like this does the job.

If you would like to hear about future F+R tasting dinners, please email us to register your interest.