One of the most stunning wines I drank this year was a 1974 Barolo by Bartolo Mascarello.
It was generously shared with me back in May by my good friend Francesco Bonfio (below), a leading Italian wine retailer, former winemaker, and co-founder of the newly launched Association of Italian Wine Shop Professionals, known as AEPI (Associazione Enotecari Professionisti Italiani).
The bottle’s provenance was nearly impeccable: it came from the cellar of Gianni Bortolotti, the famous Aosta Valley cheese expert and wine collector who passed away — I believe — in 2010.
As he poured the last glasses, you could clearly see the sediment in the bottle’s neck (and that’s when he stopped pouring).
Despite his expert care in pouring, the wine — from the first glass he poured — was still cloudy. And that was a bad sign. Clearly, the wine had begun to “disassociate,” in other words, some of the wine had returned to solid form.
We were doubtful but still hopeful when we first tasted. And then, wow, a miracle: the wine’s fruit was rich and vibrant and the acidity was still very much alive. In spite of the obvious defect, we enjoyed it thoroughly with our meal. Its rich red fruit flavors eclipsed the classic Barolo earthiness that you expect in a wine like this (especially from Bartolo Mascarello) but it drank beautifully. The fact that we drank the whole bottle was evidence of this!
Moral of the story: an old wine like this doesn’t have to be perfect to be great.
Thanks again, Francesco, for sharing this extraordinary bottle with me!