This particularly hot Piemonte vintage produced surprisingly charming ripe wines. Lots of heat and sun pushed maturity of the nebbiolo grape to a level seldom attained in Piemonte. This atypical Piemonte harvest, with below average yields, produced «grandi vini» with surprising richness. This high quality 1997 vintage is celebrating its 20th anniversary, the wines display surprising ripe flavours, soft acidity, unusually ripe tannins and great complexity.
Twenty years later, at Les Conseillers du Vin, we decided to revisit this 20 year old Piemonte vintage by tasting a selection of wines from reputed producers to verify its evolution and complexity.
As usual a group of 16 experienced tasters analysed 8 Piemonte reds. At this point we must keep in mind a few important factors: 1-1997 is a hot atypical vintage. 2-three (3) appellations are represented: the «King» Barolo, its sister Barbaresco and the kid from across the Tanaro river : Roero. 3-all wines are made the reputed Nebbiolo grape. Wines from these areas are usually more aggressive and austere, offering higher acidity. They tend to be fresher, leaner and often more elegant. The 97s are riper and softer. But can they age as well?
Results: Is it time to crack open all remaining bottles of 97 Piemonte reds or should we leave some for future drinking? To establish the order of preference of the tasting panel, 3 points were awarded for a first place vote, 2 pts for a 2nd place vote and 1pt for a 3rd place vote.
Most of the participants agreed that the wines were at their peak, and that all of them, except for wine # 4, still had plenty of life. The group’s favourites were #2 Barbaresco Sottimano (19 pts), #8 Barolo Fratelli Revello (18pts) and third #3 Roero, Monchiero Carbone (16pts). There was no clear cut winner in this tasting, Proof of this, six of the eight wines received 10 points or more. The most 1st place votes went to Roero from Monchiero Carbone and Barolo Corino with four each. The Barbarescos (#1 and 2) were typically more delicate wines. The Roero was quite impressive with its deeper colour and richer flavours. For the majority of participants it was obvious that wine # 4 Barbaresco from Elia da Pasquero was quite evolved, from some overly oxidised. In conclusion, these 97 Piemonte reds display richer riper flavours than usual and still have plenty of life for further aging. My top three wines were: 1-Roero Printi, Monchiero Carbone, 2-Barolo La Villa, Seghesio 3-Barolo Carobric, Paolo Scavino. See my tasting notes below.
The wines : Order of blind tasting:
1-Barbaresco Serraboella, Cigliuti (Group score: 11 pts)
This small producer is an overachiever. Evolved nose displaying some lingering ripe fruit with floral and earthy tones. Fresh with some firm but not harsh tannins. Ready for drinking, but should continue to evolve favourably another 3 to 5 years. My rating: 91+/100
2-Barbaresco Fausoni-Vigna del Salto, Sottimano (Group score: 19 pts)
The group favourite. Complex nose, still fruity with forest floor and graphite scents. In a more elegant style typical of Barbaresco. Good balance, still some potential (3 to 5 years). Well structured with good extract. My rating: 92/100
3-Roero Printi, Monchiero Carbone (Group Score: 16 pts)
My favourite wine of the tasting. The most deeply coloured wine. Its lovely nose displays ripe fruit, forest floor and floral hints. Rich ripe flavours with a lovely silky mouthfeel. Quite full and ripe, it’s a charmer. Should remain at its peak for a few (2 to 3) more years. Excellent! My rating: 94/100
4-Barbaresco Sori Paitin (Group score: 0 pt)
Very orangy colour with a browning rim. Evolved/oxidised nose. Seems to be thinning out/declining. Past its peak, could be an off bottle? Tried a few years ago it also showed more evolution than its peers. My rating: 84/100
5-Barolo Vigna Giachini, Corino (Group score: 14 pts)
Charming nose displaying dried fruits, forest floor with some floral overtones. Balanced with ripe tannins and good extract. Well structured, with lots of character. Hint of bitterness on the lingering finish. Ready, but should improve with few more years of aging (2 to 3). My rating: 92/100
6-Barolo Vigna La Villa, Seghesio (Group score : 9 pts)
Quite full and rich, it displays more volume and presence. Lovely complex nose offering ripe fruit with earthy tones. Still some fruit/extract and remains elegant. Good length and complexity. Ready for drinking but can still improve (3 to 5 years). My rating: 93+/100
7-Barolo Carobric, Paolo Scavino (Group score: 10 pts)
Typically well structured wine from Scavino. Quite fresh for this vintage. Complex nose displaying sweet ripe fruit with underlying earthy tones. Remains elegant, with solid tannins and plenty of extract for further aging (3 to 5 years). Good length. My rating: 93/100
8-Barolo Vigna Giachini, Fratelli Revello (Group score: 18 pts)
Very classic with structured tannins and fresh acidity. The fruity and floral nose is quite charming. Some remaining fruit/extract, well balanced with very good length. Should continue to improve over the next 3 to 5 years. My rating: 92/100