If you think you’ve nothing left to learn then it’s time to leave the party. We at BI never stop going those extra yards to keep up to date with developments and pursue our studies with vigour....
Last night’s homework was particularly interesting it being a lesson in mature nebbiolo in a variety of styles and from myriad producers and vintages. The evening was bookended with a spot of mature Chardonnay to frame the main events and, in fact, turned out to be something of a master class all of its own.
1995 Chablis Montee de Tonnerre – Raveneau
Oooh I do like a wax cap – but it doesn’t half make a mess… The pulled cork is in fine fettle but the colour carries a distinct orange hue – could it be the light? – we've had our share of oxidised white burgundy but Chablis is rarely affected... The nose appears to be fine and the palate, initially, just about okay – swirl the BI stemware* – and the aromas and flavours start to develop – let’s see what happens…
1981 Barolo Bussia Soprana – Aldo Conterno
What a beautiful bottle! – those Italians do know how to design a label, don’t they? – and this number comes from an Italian merchant’s private collection with pukka provenance. Oops – disaster!? – the corkscrew pushes the cork into the wine – ho hum – we’ll decant the wine and see what’s what and… wow, as we pour the wine the fragrance leaps into the air – nothing quite matches mature nebbiolo, those rose petals, sweet tar – glorioso!
This is 35 years old with a dodgy cork (or maybe blame my cack handedness) but the wine itself shows only traces of the orange-brown rim you might expect from this less than exceptional vintage – who knows but this is definitely nebbiolo and it definitely confounds expectations. Excellent substance, vigour and freshness and it just oozes pleasure – wow, what a find.
“I suppose this is, what, a couple of hundred pounds a bottle?” asks our guest – well no, in fact, this doesn’t even hit three digits. But you’re right, this tastes like a wine several times its market value – another unexpected find from the wilds of Piedmont.
1990 Barolo Cerequio – Roberto Voerzio
This one ticks all the boxes – brilliant producer, amazing vintage, wonderful vineyard – and the wine does not disappoint. A glorious expression of nebbiolo from this warm vintage – a firm crowd-pleaser now and doubtless for many years to come.
2004 Barolo Cannubi / Ravera – Giuseppe Rinaldi
Cult traditionalist extraordinaire this is Beppe’s Chambolle next to his Vosne Brunate. Ethereally scented red fruits and flowers with an intense, explosive mid-palate and beautifully fresh finish – power and elegance in spades. This displays the joys of Beppe Rinaldi and nebbiolo in one amazing bottle – reaches those parts few others ever get a sniff at – and you’ve gotta love that label...
1998 Barolo Cannubi Boschis – Luciano Sandrone
A forward vintage next to, say, the 1999s from a more modernist producer (whatever that means!) – so this should be mature, open, ready to drink up…? Er…not a bit of it – tightly wound and opens up slowly in our Burgundy glasses – promises of future delights but feels like this one was only bottled yesterday. Oxygen reveals the dark fruits and perfume and spice and that real purity of fruit Sandrone delivers. Give this a few hours with the cork pulled if you’re thinking of broaching a bottle
1999 Barolo Monprivato – Giuseppe Mascarello
“One more, just one more?” – er – oh go on then – I’m sure this was magnificent and (reading Antonio Galloni’s effusive notes) so it ought to have been. But frankly this one got a little lost in the fog – one study exercise too many – even we at BI know when we’ve taken on too much work – though at the time, of course, it made absolute sense. Looks like we’ll need to add this to the homework schedule for next year.
1995 Chablis Montee de Tonnerre – Raveneau
Oh yes – still have half a bottle left of this do we? My god! – this is magnificent – intense ‘caramac’ – who said that? – acacia honey, nuts, explosive mid-palate fruit wonder and rapier acidity with force and power to the finish. And this is only a 1er Cru... What a way to end.
The diligence and industry they used to impress upon me at school all those years ago - well, I like to I think we displayed those virtues effortlessly. Lessons duly learnt and ready for the next class.
Our thanks to Hix Oyster & Chophouse for their magnificent beef, amazing chips and excellent service under trying conditions.
*and if you do take your own to Hix be sure to ask the staff for those BI glasses.
Right, now how do I get home?