The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Popping Corks

Posted on | December 14, 2009 | Written by Christy Canterbury | No Comments

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been popping corks on some older wines—in spite of my desire to let them age.  My wine refrigerator has long been maxed to capacity, and professional wine storage in New York isn’t cheap.  Wine is made to enjoy, I’ve been reminding myself, and I’ve been wondering if some of my wines were ageing as well as I thought they might. Thus far there hasn’t been one that I’ve opened much before its time; it has been exciting to see that my palate and instincts served me well.  Unfortunately, I only bought one or two of most of them (I’ve aimed for breadth, not depth, of selections), so I’ll not have the chance to truly “follow” the wines as they age.  Interestingly, they’ve all been Italian wines that I purchased when I first worked at IWM.

The first I reached for was the 1999 Palari Faro, a Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio blend from Sicily.  Still deeply colored, the nose was fairly closed until it woke up after half an hour in the decanter and showed dried plums, dusty earth and spice rack deliciousness.  Then I popped the 1997 Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico Riserva. The warmth and concentration of the red cherry fruit so typical of Sangiovese impressed me. This was the most fruit driven of the wines, something I’d expect from a warm and sunny year, and I was surprised how the usually sandy tannins of Sangiovese were so ripe and well-integrated.

Then there was the 1998 Fanti San Filippo Brunello di Montalcino that I took to Apiary last Monday (check out their corkage fee-free Monday nights!).  No brick notes had edged into the rim, and the aromas were just giving up the first whiffs of development with leather and dried leaf.  Comparing the 1997 to 1998 Tuscan wines, I still prefer the more reserved 1998s.

Finally, there was the stately 1998 Rocche dei Manzoni Barolo Cappella Santo Stefano.  This is a wine I carried back from my visit to the winery in 2002, when I hauled the original wooden case right past the customs officials. This single-vineyard Barolo was probably the most promising of them all, yet it is still reticent to express all its aromatic nuances and its firm tannins have yet to fully meld into the structure. I think I’ll put the rest of these bottles at the back of the fridge and forget them for four or five years.

The reward of cellaring has paid off so far, though I admit it’s tough to resist the temptation to fill up the space I’ve freed up in my storage.  Still, I think I hear some 2005 Barbaresco clamoring. Nature abhors a vacuum—it’s only space, and I might as well fill it.

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