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A year or more has passed since we last wrote about handling old wine. A happy number of fine bottles have passed across our table since then, and the additional tasting experience has reinforced our conviction that old Piedmont wines need to be decanted, and that they only benefit from time in the decanter. It’s common wisdom to decant old Bordeaux and Rhône for a relatively short time, and old Burgundy at the last minute (or not at all, which is an unfortunate error to make unless you relish your wine grossly compromised by sediment). But no other old wine behaves the way Nebbiolo does, even to the point that bottles that don’t appear to have any life left upon being opened can completely transform over a few hours to become something very special. Don’t despair if the cork breaks, or if the wine doesn’t seem so great at first; as an Italian friend says, you too might need some time to show your best after being cooped-up for decades.
The best way to enjoy these bottles is at home – aside from home comforts, the wine doesn’t have to travel before being decanted. When we do want to bring a bottle to a restaurant or to friends’ home, we double-decant. Wine service in NY restaurants has improved a lot, but the number of sommeliers or waiters who have much experience handling older bottles is still very small; to avoid disaster and sediment in our wine, we decant at home, clean the bottle, and put the wine back in the bottle. This has the added benefit of giving the wine more time to breathe – something your Nebbiolo needs to a surprising extent. If you'd like to read more, here are two short articles about with some technical suggestions on handling old wine and decanting.
After many years of enduring the roller coaster ride that is Burgundy, falling in love with old Piedmont became even easier when we discovered that the wines are remarkably consistent. Of course some wines / bottles are better than others, but overall the ratio of satisfaction has been vastly higher than with Burgundy, and probably much higher when compared with other supposedly age-worthy wines. This extends to off-vintages, which makes Nebbiolo an ideal candidate for your friend born in 1973, the people with the 1987 anniversary, etc.
Please remember that you can see live inventory on our website, and thus avoid any disappointment if a bottle has already been sold.
Not the Riserva, but no slouch, this wine is still alive and drinking. It may even show a bit more fruit that the '67 Riservas. With proper handling (time to rest, and proper decanting) this is a real treat.
1974 was a sleeper vintage for the Produttori, and it has definitely impressed on two separate occasions while tasting vertical flights of the cooperative's normale. Ripe red and black cherry fruit flavors mingle with secondary notes of balsamic, dark chocolate, and spaded earth. The medium body and robustness is supported by a quite lithe texture (1/17/17). Jonas Mendoza
Brambly black cherry with undertones of black raisin and sweet dirt. Quite developed with secondary/tertiary notes of hoisin, dried mushroom, and dried meat. After 40 years, it still has plenty of structure and only started to reveal itself after being double-decanted eight hours earlier (1/17/17)! Jonas Mendoza
I couldn't help but make the comparison initially to older Chianti, with flavors of dried red cherry and dried herbs. As the evening progressed, the wine became richer and weightier with darker fruit notes of black raspberry and brandied cherry with intensity similar to the blockbuster normale bottlings of 1971 and 1978. (1/17/17). Jonas Mendoza