Wednesday, 11 July 2012

A look back at 96 Barolo & 01 German Riesling

Posted by Giles Burke-Gaffney, Buying Director
Last week got off to a great start with an invitation I simply could not refuse. A tasting and dinner with friends in the cosy surrounds of the Traveller's club library, the focus of the evening was 1996 Barolo and 2001 Riesling from Germany. These areas being two of my great loves, after Burgundy, I grabbed the chance with both hands.

After a solid, reliable glass of Pol Roger Brut Reserve I attacked a flight of Kabinetts and Spatlesen. The tastebuds were well and truly tantalised, perhaps more than at any other point in the evening. Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett from JJ Prum pleased immediately with its powerful savoury and gold-flecked fruit character, the Spatlese was of course richer but even livelier and beautifully seamless, Muller's Scharzhofberg Spatlese was typically smoky and searingly intense, an electric wine, however the wine of the flight, and indeed the whole evening was Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Spatlese from Fritz Haag. Though I was not the only one, neither was it everyone's top choice. The extremely high slate content of the vineyard means it won't ever be as forthright and powerful as JJ Prum and Muller's will always be more vital than almost any other Riesling. What the Haag offered, however, was great refinement, beauty and poise. We were lucky enough to continue with the wines over our starter, and it was the only glass I kept going back to.

The next course was a daunting flight of 1996 Barolos. La Serra & Brunate from Marcarini, Bric del Fiasc Scavino, Cannubi Boschis Sandrone, Monprivato G Mascarello, Barolo Falleto di Serralunga red label Giacosa and Barbaresco Santo Stefano Giacosa. 1996 is a vintage I have always loved, its sheer intensity and almost austere classicism but its not for the faint hearted. The wines proved that many 1996s are still babies, so open any you may have with caution (and hearty food!) The Falleto di Serralunga was, sadly, faulty and La Serra impossibly young, the rest, though, did all show glimpses of their excellence. The pick of the bunch for was the Bric del Fiasc, aromatic with a touch of oak and very ripe fruit, it has a sweetness to offset the structure that no other wine quite matched. It was, like the Sandrone, obviously more modern than the other wines but that not to the point of hiding its own unique character, it was just beautiofully crafted and perfectly balanced. Not far behind was the Santo Stefano from Giacosa, still very young, but loaded with fruit and savoury character, bound together by suave, noble tannins.

The (wine part of !) the evening came to a close with Auslese and Goldcap Auslese from JJ Prum and Haag. They were all clearly well crafted and had all of the necessary elements to them, but just seemed to fall a little flat. I felt they were even more adolescent than the 1996 Barolos, to my mind top Auslese only gets really interesting at 15 - 20 years of age, so I am sure more will eventually come from these....