Thursday, July 26, 2012

Home Remedy, Bottle Variation and the Voice of the Master

From the "Two Geralds are better than one" dept.

Upon setting foot on the west coast, the 2nd time in a month, I am in awe of air that isn’t blisteringly hot. The California I knew as a child, the embracing breeze off the Pacific, is a welcome relief. When we talk about the maritime climate of Italy aiding the growth of the vines and making for conditions which the grapes can thrive, I look back to my childhood place, California, and am thankful for the home remedy that it is to me in this time.

The wine god is alive in California. Upon setting foot back here, one of my internet pals, Gerald Weisl, fetched me from the hotel. I am here for a Society of Wine Educators conference, and tomorrow I am giving a seminar, Deconstructing DOCG. Trying to make peeling paint interesting. Wish me luck.

Gerald brought the wines. He oversees a meticulous, small family owned store, one of a dying breed these days, often edged out of the market by mega-stores and wine buyers with Brobdingnagian egos and insatiable desires to be king of all they can grab. Gerald is less interested in how many labels of Prosecco he can stock than how good the Prosecco he stocks can be. A real class act.

We never met in person, but he sensed my tastes. Boy did he ever. A gorgeous white from the Valle d’ Aosta, another white from Südtirol, and an aged red from Piemonte. Very generous, Gerald, grazie tanti.

Whites are my passion. Tonight, over a bottle of Corton Charlemagne, even in this cool zone, was the wine I lurched for. White is my preferred wine. But I don’t shun the reds. No, I don’t shun them. Really.

The red Gerald brought was one I had recently had. I was in Siena, with Laura Brunelli and Francesco Bonfio. Francesco also brought the wine, a 1967 Barolo Brunate from Marcarini.

The wine I had at lunch was showing its age. The color was a very light orange and it had flavors and aromas of a very old Barolo. The wine was still drinkable but was not going to last much longer.

Which provoked animated conversation by Gerald and me. If the wine we had last night was the same as the wine I had in April, why were the two wines so different?

Gerald Weisl writes, “Looked up Wasserman's note on the 1967 Brunate...describes it as brickish and orange in his note written maybe in the 1980s...”

Charles Scicolone writes, “The 1967 vintage received 2+ stars. Wasserman tasted the 1967 Cogno Marcarini Brunate in 1985, gave it 4 stars and said “… expansive, perfumed bouquet; firm tannic vein, texture of liquid velvet, a complex wine, elegant and stylish; very ready but there’s no rush to drink.”

Charles then offers his take on the wine" The wine I had at lunch was showing its age. The color was a very light orange and it had flavors and aromas of a very old Barolo. The wine was still drinkable but was not going to last much longer."

In a Rare Wine Co. newsletter last year they used wine critic John Gilman’s notes to pitch the wine: “95 rating ... one of the greatest Marcarini Barolos ... I have had the pleasure of tasting it at least a half dozen times in the last few years with consistent results. The nose is ... a potpourri of red and black cherries, intense licorice tones, candied rose petals, Gevrey-like sous bois ... lovely sweetness at the core ... This is a great Barolo at its zenith ... it will continue to dazzle for at least another dozen years.”

I haven’t had this wine that many times, but the two (1967 Marcarini Brunate Barolo) wines I have had in the last 4 months were clearly different, if they were even the same wine. The various tasting notes above are all over the map.

Which brings me to a sidebar. Years ago, more than 25, I was in a restaurant and someone asked me if I wanted to taste a 1961 Lafite. Having only read about this legendary wine, I jumped at the chance. Tasted it, remember liking it. And I went on my way. The next day a pal calls me up. “What are you doing tonight?” he asked. “Come on over, we’re opening up a 1961 Lafite.” What?

I go over and taste the wine. The wine was different. Not bad. But maybe the storage, the provenance, who knows, it wasn’t as lively as the one I had the day before. So it can happen.

The problem I have with the Marcarini last night was the color. It was deep. Dark. 45 year old Nebbiolo with no bricking at the edges? Really. Can anyone ‘splain it to me?

We think all those old bottles of wine from Piedmont are the real deal. After all, Rudy preferred Burgundy, yes? But if last night was indicative of bottle variation, methinks there is more to it than that. Just what we need, to transfer the doubt from Montalcino to Alba.

Finally, while procrastinating the finishing of my presentation I dropped downstairs to lunch at the Wine Educators conference and there was Gerald Asher talking about wine and signing books. Gerald Asher is the only (literary) writer inducted to the Vintners Hall of Fame. And he is still alive! He went mystical on us in his lunch chat, wonderful to hear it, close my eyes and listen to a master.

Yes, Virginia, there is a wine god and is very much alive and well in California. I just hope someone on Mt.Olympus still has their eye on Piedmont.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy Wine


Francesco Bonfio said...

Mr. Cevola,
thank you for mentioning the dinner at Le Logge and the 67 Marcarini.
I drunk in my life several old bottles. Not so many, not so few.
I generally can say that bottles older than 20 years show differences from a bottle to another. The differences ca be little as big. But with the ageing the differences become more and more. The reasons are many. Can be the storage, the provenance, the day you are tasting (not only for the subjective palate conditions but also in which season you taste makes a difference) the glass, etc. etc. But even if you take two or three bottles that you bought directly from the producer when he released them and then all these bottles have been cellared together, and they never moved from that shelf, in few words even when those bottles have been treated like twins, even in that case you find difference. The level of the wine (half millimeter higher or lower makes a big difference after 20 or 30 years), the cork, which is never the same even dough coming from the same lot, the cleaness inside the bottle etc.
I am astonish of Mr. Gilman's experience. Very rare and very lucky.

Alfonso Cevola said...

Thanks, Francesco,

words of wisdom and balance..

really appreciate your thoughtful response...

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