30th Anniversary of the 1971 Barolo/Barbaresco's

  • Robert M. Parker, Jr.

  • 01 Jul 2001 | Events

What can you say about the amazing cooking of Daniel Boulud? From the opening dish of foie gras and figs, to an amazing Boulud gazpacho of toro of tuna with heirloom tomatoes, followed by veal tongue, white truffles, risotto with mushrooms and zucchini, rainbow trout stuffed with bacon, a remarkable guinea hen stuffed with foie gras, and Boulud's classic, stick-to-the-gut short ribs, it was another tour de force in cooking.

As for the wines, once again Coche-Dury's 1995 Corton-Charlemagne was nearly perfect. Sadly, I consumed my entire stock before it was close to full maturity, but I have no regrets. A gorgeous bottle of young, vibrant 1985 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet Les Combottesexhibited notes of nuts, butter, and an underlying leesy minerality. It was a very strong showing for this wine, which came from my cellar. The most unusual wine of the day was the 1971 Gaja Barbaresco, which, at first seemed completely oxidized and over the hill. One hour later it was better, and two hours later it was an outstanding wine, with the color deepening, and the oxidized notes completely gone. They were replaced by notes of asphalt, dried roses, and sweet cherry fruit. I have seen this happen before with Nebbiolo, but this was one of the more dramatic examples of a wine that completely changed after two hours of airing. The over-achieving cooperative, Produttori di Barbaresco, produced a beautiful, sweet, expansive 1971 Barbaresco. It is fully mature, and not likely to get any better. The 1971 Vietti Barolo Briacca Riserva was, unfortunately, corked. The 1971 Marchesi di Barolo offered sweet notes of fruitcake, truffles, earth, and tobacco. It was very good, but not great. A fabulous bottle ofBartolo Mascarello 1971 Barolo was everything great Barolo should be ... sweet, expansive, light on its feet, but powerful, rich, and decadently aromatic. Nearly as sensational was the deep, rich 1971 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Casteglione Falletto. Both of these wines will easily last another ten years.

Aldo Conterno's superb, opulent 1971 Barolo Gran Bussia offered notes of minerals, cedar, tobacco, mushrooms, and plenty of red fruits. The 1971 Marcarini Barolo Brunate Riserva was less aromatic, but dense, sweet, and not yet close to full maturity. The perfect 1971 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino is still an adolescent in terms of its development. A spectacular nose of red and black fruits, minerals, tobacco, spice, and black tea is to die for. In the mouth, it is full-bodied, vigorous, muscular, and rich, but perfectly balanced. This 1971 tastes like an 8-10 year old wine, and appears to have another twenty years of life. I was surprised by the strong showing of the 1971 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano Riserva. At one time it was a virtually perfect wine, but I never thought it would have more than 25 years of aging potential. Absolutely spectacular, it was more open-knit and expansive, without the weight of the Monfortino, with a gorgeous perfume as well as a seamless palate impression. If anyone doubts that Nebbiolo is Italy's Pinot Noir, taste this wine.

The tasting finished with a tight, closed, but promising magnum of 1985 Aldo Conterno Barolo Bussia Soprano, a good but uninspiring magnum of 1970 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo, and a super-duper, whoop-de-do, magnificent magnum of 1964 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo. The latter wine revealed abundant amber, but extraordinary aromatics, great sweetness of fruit, and a layered, opulent finish. Not a hard edge was to be found. I don't remember much of the Metroliner ride back to Baltimore.

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