Above: 1971 Prunotto at the wine bar at I Trulli.
Do you remember 1971? I turned four-years-old that year. Who knew then what life had in store?
The above wine was one of the finest I’ve ever had: very much alive with earthy flavors and aromas, gorgeous fruit in the mouth and a finish that I’ll never forget. It was a superb example of traditional winemaking and the longevity of Nebbiolo when vinified and aged in botti (large oak barrels).
The 1971 vintage in Piedmont is considered by many to be one of the greatest of the twentieth century.
That same year marked a major crossroads in the history of Italian wine: in 1971, the Antinori winery bottled the first vintage of the now famous Tignanello, creating what would become the second — after Sassicaia — ground-breaking “Super Tuscan.” Conceived in 1970, Tignanello — a modern-style, “declassified” Chianti — proved to be one of the greatest marketing coups in the wine industry. Unlike the limited-production Sassicaia, Tignanello flowed into the market and changed the way the world (and Americans in particular) viewed Italian wine. I remember well drinking 1985 Tignanello in the late 1980s, when it had already become a highly coveted wine in the U.S. I don’t care for Tignanello, nor the Super Tuscan style, but there’s no denying these early vini da tavola (table wines) paved the way for the Italian wine renaissance we are experiencing today.
Few outside the wine industry know that in 1987 Antinori purchased Prunotto and in the mid-1990s, the Antinoris introduced barrique aging and began to change the style of the house’s wines. Danilo Drocco, now winemaker at Fontanafredda, worked at Prunotto during this period of conversion and he remarked to me (the other day at the Fontanafredda vertical tasting in NYC) how he watched the wine go from a traditional- to modern-style wine.
Today, Prunotto makes a concentrated wine, with forward fruit flavors, a wine that can be drunk at an earlier age but a wine that I doubt will age as gracefully as that ’71.
If we had the chance to do it all again, tell me, would we? could we?
In 1971, just before I turned four-years-old, my family moved from Chicago, IL to La Jolla, CA.
Can it be that it was all so simple then?
Or has time re-written every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me, would we? could we?