Like most people who write about wines, I often receive samples to taste – two of each kind the winery makes, lest one of the bottles be corked. The open bottles get drunk or given away, as do the lighter second bottles, whereas the bottles one might call “substantial” or “important” – Riserva, Brunello, Amarone and so on, tend to accumulate, because though they are good, they are more difficult to pair, as they require equally “important” foods of a sort we don’t eat daily.
I was therefore delighted when Elisabetta’s Aunt Adriana called to say that the local hunting club had given her some freshly killed wild boar, and were we interested in coming for pasta with wild boar ragù followed by stewed boar and grilled chicken?
We were, and I hastened to select three wines
Lo Locco Carmignano Riserva DOC 1991
Lo Locco was a tiny winery, with less than a hectare of vineyards, that I visited the first time I went to Carmignano almost 20 years ago. Though an Internet search will still turn up results – on business white pages type sites – the winery doesn’t present wines under the Lo Locco label at the annual Carmignano vintage presentation, and I am not sure if they still make wine for other than private consumption or not. In short, a unique bottle; once drunk there would be no more.
Garnet with some orange in the rim; it’s clearly mature but not aged. The bouquet is elegant, with dried flowers, some savory notes, spice, slight dried leaves and fairly intense tobacco, and slight herbal notes underlain by sour cherries. A lot going on, and both very fresh and very much alive. On the palate it’s ample and silky with more sour cherry fruit and sour berry fruit acidity supported by tannins that are savory and silky with slight leaf tobacco accents and flows into a fairly long savory finish. Quite elegant and very pleasant to drink, with a great many facets that emerged in the glass. Carmignano is a long-lived wine, and this bottle, made quite traditionally, aging in larger wood (not a huge cask, but larger than a barrique), revolved around the grapes, especially in terms of acidity and the tannic structure, and was as a result all the more interesting, a voice from the past one rarely encounters in more recent bottles.
Prunotto Barbaresco DOCG 1996
1996 was one of the finest vintages in recent memory for the Langhe, yielding wines that couple power with supple finesse, and to be honest, were someone to tell me I could only drink one Piemontese vintage from the 90s, this would likely be the one I selected. I have always found the wines from Prunotto, which is large by Piemontese standards, to be solid and well crafted, in a fairly straight forward key – there’s not as much complexity as with some others — and was therefore quite curious about their 1996 Barbaresco base.
Deep garnet with some orange in the rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with rosa canina and savory accents supported by sour cherry fruit and slight greenish vegetal notes of the sort that are more common in Northern Piemontese Nebbiolo, but do occasionally occur in Langa too. Deft in a fairly straight forward key; the Italian that comes to mind is Tutto d’Un Pezzo, hued from a solid block. On the palate it’s full, with rich bright sour cherry fruit supported by smooth silky tannins that have a sight underlying bitterness and flow into a clean rather bitter sour berry fruit finish. It’s quite approachable and still very young, and while it’s not a wine one would necessarily sip, swish, and plumb for hours, it is a very solid expression of Nebbiolo and a wine that will work very well with foods, supporting what it’s served with handsomely and leading – assuming the dish is up to it — to a sum that’s greater than the parts. Adriana’s stewed boar certainly was.
Aldigheri Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 1997
1997 is probably the most heavily hyped Italian vintage of all time; I remember people at wineries telling me the coming vintage it would be huge when I visited them that year, and indeed it was, yielding wines that had tremendous power and concentration, and that scored remarkably well in wine guides and articles. In short, a critic’s darling. Unfortunately, with time it has become evident that the enthusiasm was excessive; 1997 was powerful, concentrated, muscular, and exceptional, but it was also over the top and a bit much, rather like a weight lifter who has made over enthusiastic use of steroids, and while the initial picture was nice (if one likes that sort of thing; lovers of finesse had doubts about the vintage from the outset), it hasn’t stood the test of time as well as vintages that were less extreme. I was therefore curious to see how Aldegheri’s Amarone might have developed.
Deep black cherry ruby with some orange in the rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with sandalwood and spice mingled with some peppery accents, vegetal notes, alcohol, and some leaf tobacco, with an underlying sweetness and metallic hints. Not much fruit. On the palate it’s ample, and rich, with fairly sweet cherry fruit supported by alcoholic warmth and tannins that are fairly silky, and flow into a fairly long finish in which spice and sweetish cherry fruit are mingled with slight metallic accents.
It is very much a child of the vintage, with power and structure in abundance, while there isn’t as much complexity as I might have liked in an Amarone that’s entering adulthood – it’s still quite young – and this is the lack of balance displayed by the vintage, which also, I think, contributed the metallic accents I noted on nose and palate. In short , Aldegheri took what Nature provided in 1997 and worked with it, obtaining a wine that is quite satisfactory but without the depth one would obtain from a more balanced vintage. It is worth noting that this is my impression; a number of my relatives were much more enthusiastic about this Amarone than I was.