Two expert selections from Garrett Kowalsky
Bruno Giacosa is where my love of wine started—and not just Italian wine, but the whole wide wine spectrum, wine from all corners of the earth. I grew up around wine; my parents owned a wine shop and my brother was a Burgundy fiend, but my love for it was not immediate. It took years of sweet drinks, bad beer, good beer and more before my palate finally came around. It was New Year’s Eve 2010 at La Pizza Fresca on 20th Street when a 1989 Barolo from Bruno Giacosa switched the wine light on. It’s been a love affair ever since and I see no signs of my passion slowing.
I’ve chosen two wines from the iconic Giacosa estate to celebrate my wine epiphany—and to deepen your wine love.
Barbera is one of the most widely planted grapes in Italy but it’s mostly known for being the little brother to Piemonte’s Nebbiolo-based Barolo and Barbaresco. Nearly all of the producers who make these great wines also grow and make a Barbera because, realistically, you can’t have a Barolo every night. This Giacosa Barbera is bursting with sweet fruits, a lively acidity, and a surprisingly long finish. Feel free to pair this with pasta, risotto, burgers, pizza—nearly any dish under the sun. You’ll end up smiling each and every time. Drink now to the end of the decade.
While the Barbera is all about sweet fruit and accessibility, the Barolo Riserva or “Red Label,” as it is known at the Giacosa estate, is an absolute powerhouse. In its youth this wine’s Nebbiolo fruit is tight and foreboding, but as time passes and the tannins integrate, this bottle becomes a wine of extraordinary elegance and remarkable complexity. This bottle will never hit you over the head with bombastic flavors; it would much rather seduce you over a long, long time. Drink 2018-2035.
Two expert selections from John Camacho Vidal
As my palate evolves and my understanding of wine increases, I have grown to appreciate the secondary and third flavors that a bottle of mature wine can provide. I’m amazed that in some cases after 60 or 80 years in a bottle a wine can still smell and taste like the fruit that made it. It’s as if the wine is expressing itself at sublime levels. Whenever possible I try to include a wine with some age in our Saturday tasting series so that our clients are able to experience old vintages.
Nowhere in Italian winemaking is mature wine more important than in Barolo. Over the past three decades, a new wave of Barolo producers has worked to show different, non-traditional characteristics and to make more modern expressions of the Nebbiolo grape. Some of these winemakers have made Barolo more approachable through more modern vinification methods, but Barolo remains a wine of patience, and there is a division between modernist winemakers and those who protect the traditional way of making Barolo. I’ve chosen mature wines from two producers who make wines that are traditional, age-worthy, and great. Both of these mature bottles are unique expressions of a time that we’ll never see again.
Damilano 1978 Barolo $199.99
Making wine since 1890, the Damilano estate is one of the oldest wineries in Barolo; run by the fourth generation, Damilano continues to make excellent Barolos. This 1978 Barolo is a perfect example of perfectly mature Nebbiolo. The palate has just enough fruit that the wine is elegant, but the secondary and tertiary notes of orange peel, leather, earth, wet leaves slight tobacco and minerals make it very interesting. The palate is silky with some bitter notes that give way to sweet tannins and a nicely acidic finish that lingers with its secondary flavors. Drink now.
Giuseppe Mascarello 1968 Barolo $425.00
Giuseppe Mascarello was a vine-grower before he started the family estate in 1881 in the village of Monforte d’Alba. This 1968 Barolo is a traditionally made Barolo with grapes sourced from three vineyards, each one imprinting specific aromatics, structure and fruit. At this stage, this wine is ethereal showing a nose full of secondary aromas—loads of truffle mingled with remnants of dark red and black fruit flavors, some spice and wet leaves with notes of tobacco. The palate is very elegant with silky tannins that lead way to a soft mineral finish. Drink now.
Two expert selections from Michael Adler
Pio Cesare 2004 Barolo $79.99
Two expert selections from Garrett Kowalsky
We wine-lovers are always looking for value—those wines that give us the most bang for our bucks, or those superb bottles that should cost more than they do. I get asked about value a lot. Sometimes value is a wine that over-delivers on a relatively expensive price point, but other times it’s a wine doesn’t cost much yet still explodes on the palate.
Regardless of whether you’re a big-time collector or an enthusiastic novice, chances are you’ll sometimes want to drink a wine that’s easy and delicious. This kind of wine, the bottles that don’t require much thought often fit most neatly into the value category. Last week, I enjoyed two wines that fall into this easy-going value category: a Fiano from De Conciliis and a Nebbiolo from Renzo Seghesio. I expect these wines, favorites of IWM founder Sergio Esposito, will become your favorites too, once you give them a shot.
De Conciliis has long been an IWM staple. This estate produces a superb lineup of wines that includes a sparkler, whites and reds from Campania in the South of Italy. This Fiano offering is a bright, golden and complex white from along the Campania coast. Fiano, an ancient grape that for many years teetered on extinction, has made a resurgence thanks to producers like De Conciliis; this complex ’13 Fiano feels ready to burst with citrus fruits, honey, minerals, nuts and fresh, palate-cleansing acidity. Drink to 2020.
The Seghesio family has been producing wines in the Barolo region for more than a century—with a 100 years of experience I am not surprised that this estate has nailed down the intricacies of the Nebbiolo grape to produce some stellar wines. Seghesio’s Barolos are traditional, elegant and long lived, but they can be difficult to approach in their youth. That is why this Nebbiolo Langhe, sourced from the younger vines and refined in steel as opposed to oak, is such an important play. This Ruri Langhe Nebbiolo allows you a chance to appreciate the freshness and cherry fruit that Nebbiolo offers, but without the overwhelming tannins. It’s definitely a reward for those on a budget and for those without patience. Drink to 2022.
Two expert selections from John Camacho Vidal
I like different wines for different reasons but I have my favorite producers, the ones that I get excited about when I see the bottle and know that I’m in for a treat. This week I was lucky enough to taste wines from two of my absolute favorite producers, a Barolo from Bartolo Mascarello and a Merlot blend by Josko Gravner.
I like Old-World wine, wine that has been made the same way for generations, and when it comes to Piemonte and Barolo, Bartolo Mascarello is a name that is synonymous with that tradition. Although a slew of modernist winemakers emerged in the area showing different personalities of the majestic and noble Nebbiolo grape and wanting to make Barolo more approachable, Bartolo Mascarello believed that “Barolo is a wine of patience and it has an ancient, glorious past that cannot be forgotten.” The estate is now run by his daughter Maria Teresa, who has also resisted the temptation and pressures of commercialization and continues along the traditional path, making gorgeous wines that would make her esteemed father proud.
Many people believe that clay amphorae were the first vessels ever to hold and age wine, and historians have verified that winemakers have used this ancient practice for more than 4,000 years. Josko Gravner is a producer who has turned his back on vinification equipment like stainless steel, temperature controls, and barriques, tools that he himself helped pioneer in the area of Friuli. Now he has embraced working with ancient techniques, using amphorae for aging and combining bio-dynamic winemaking with more traditional methods like extended maceration on the grape skins.
This wine greets you with a nose full of red fruit mixed with violets and eucalyptus, and with some twirling in the glass, spice, licorice and a slight tarry earthiness come out. The palate is tight right now with a silky mouth feel and bright acidity that come together mid-palate, leaving a nice, clean, lingering finish. Drink 2018-2038.
Gravner Rujno 1985 $399.00
This wine is still fresh and vibrant. The color is deep ruby purple with a slight orange tinge on the rim that is barely noticeable. The wine is bright and elegant, with black cherry, spices, hints of cocoa and tar, sour cherry and leather all making appearances. The palate is silky with tart, fruity acidity. Woodsy tannins start to sneak in on the mid-palate. It climaxes in a beautifully sweet finish with a bit of heat, and lingering herbal and chocolate notes. Drink 2016-2024.keep looking »