Every once in a while you come across one of those truly special bottles, like this 1989 classic Barbaresco by Produttori del Barbaresco,* at a price you can afford. I found it the other day in a wine shop in San Antonio (where I’ve been spending a lot of time these days) and although it gently pushed the envelope of my pricepoint ceiling (sorry for the mixed metaphors), I just couldn’t resist.
The 1989 harvest in Langa was one of the greatest in contemporary memory and I’ve had the great fortune to taste a lot of Nebbiolo from both 1989 (a classic, slow-ripening vintage) and 1990 (also a classic, but with slightly warmer temperatures). This gorgeous wine is still very young: the nobility of its tannin and earthy flavors were adorned by delicate notes of berry and red stone fruit, the way Laura’s noble, alpine beauty is dressed by her golden hair and her delicate veil as she sits by the stream in Petrarch’s songs.
Many would fetishize a wine like this but we always open them with food. After all, the people who made them intended them to be consumed with food.
Lattuada doesn’t make it as often into the syllabuses of Italian film studies in the U.S. as does, say, Pietro Germi (with 1960s classics like Sedotta e abbandonata), but he should. His Mafioso is 1960s social-commentary comedy at its best, at once poignant and hilarious, bridging the Messina Straits of the paradox of the country that never was — Italy. Alberto Sordi is a Sicilian who’s moved to the industrial north and has made a life for himself and his beautiful blond alpine wife. Lattuada’s camera follows him has he fulfills his peripeteia in a journey home to visit his family. The backdrop is the “economic miracle” of the 1960s in Italy, where the north flourished while the south continued to languish. I won’t spoil it for you but the final thriller scenes had us on the edge of our seats as we sipped the last drops of that gorgeous wine.
Here’s the great scene where Sordi’s character’s family welcomes him home with a classic Sicilian luncheon. Coppola ain’t got nothing on this baby!
* Many erroneously distinguish the “cru” or single-vineyard bottlings of Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco from the classic Barbaresco (made with fruit sourced from multiple vineyards) using the ignominious qualifier normale. Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco that has been made by blending wines sourced from different vineyards is classic Barbaresco or Barbaresco classico.