Wine of the Vintage?

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To be frank we think the concept of “Wine of the Vintage” is marketing bs. Even under lab-like conditions, each time a truly great wine is tasted, we’re only provided with a snapshot of that wine at that moment. It’s artificial and even annoying that one wine must be anointed Wine of the Vintage; it’s certainly as subjective a judgment as any other of the imponderables and variables that we attempt to pin down by using points and authoritative bursts of droning adjectives.

For pure objectivity, It might be better if we did taste in lab-like conditions, but we taste huddled around open barrels in freezing cold dark cellars, and we taste comfortably seated in warm and brightly lit tasting rooms. We taste from Zalto, and from (to be polite) rather imperfectly clean café wine glasses. We taste with nary a crust in sight, and we taste at groaning boards. We taste early and late; we taste bright-eyed and we taste exhausted, and sometimes all of the above come into play on the same day. We think that our tastings are at least slightly affected on a daily basis by barometric pressure and other elements of the weather. Very often when we consult the biodynamic calendar after tasting, it synchs-up with our impression of the day’s wines (of course, we know people who swear by their horoscope too, so go figure).

We’re going to settle here for: ‘Some Favorites of the 2009 Vintage in Piedmont, Based on Our Really Quite Extensive Recent Tastings”. It’s not a very long list; although there are quite a few good wines in 2009, we seem to consistently prefer the slightly cooler, more ‘classic’ years, as in 2008. Nonetheless, there are some knockouts which merit your consideration – wines which should certainly be included in any vertical or budding vertical of the producers in question. Here are our candidates:

1) Brovia Barolo Rocche di Castiglione. The Brovias are on a roll. As always, the whole line-up is a lesson in Barolo terroir. The Rocche is great, and it might even be our wine of the vintage, if it wasn’t for

2) Burlotto Barolo Monvigliero, which is fantastic wine. The Barolo Acclivi, an old-school blend of fruit from several vineyards is also superb in 2009.

3) Canonica Barolo Paiagallo has become one of our perennial favorites; in 2009 the wine is expressive of the vintage without sacrificing balance and freshness.

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Brovia 2009 Barolo Rocche dei Brovia

Very aromatic with beautiful fruit – raspberry, wild strawberry, and herbs, and mineral/clay; all of those on the palate and gorgeous ripe tannin – there is plenty of structure, and this looks like benchmark Rocche – chalky, a little austere now, with great depth and promise — presently a little somber in character, but with beautiful balance, and very elegant and fine. A great wine. JW

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Burlotto 2009 Barolo Monvigliero

A very aromatic and terroir-driven wine, with the chalk of Monvigliero showing bright and citrusy. There are fine truffle aromas too, and wild strawberry fruit; a long and vivid finish – terrific wine. Quite ripe but with cut and softer tannin – as with many 2009s not hard to drink now, and perhaps not a wine for the really long haul. Also a really fine value for the very high quality of the wine. JW

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Canonica, Giovanni 2009 Barolo Paiagallo

Gianni Canonica has just a couple of acres of Nebbiolo vines in Paiagallo (there’s a drop of very good Barbera, but he saves that for his family and friends). His backyard borders on Bartolo Mascarello’s, and Bartolo (and Maria-Theresa) and Giuseppe Rinaldi  are his wine mentors and friends; if you can imagine them making a very small volume of wine then you begin to understand Canonica.

The 2009 shows some softness associated with the vintage, but the wine is pretty powerful with intense fruit and freshness.  Spice, mint, fennel on the nose – very appealing actually – along with some earth and early truffley-ness. Tons of lovely rich cherry fruit on the palate along with clean earthiness make for real complexity and intensity; somehow the final impression is one of real elegance. Way above expectations for the vintage and a wine for the cellar. JW

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