I turned 40 yesterday. The 40th birthday is a big deal for most people, celebrated with a big party, black balloons, lots of jokes about being ‘old’, etc etc. For wine, 40 can mean a couple of things. Most often, it means the wine is not just old but dead - oxidized, vinegary, sour, and essentially dead. For great wines, from great producers, great regions, 40 is like meeting your most elegant friend, who tells the best stories, and gives the best hugs. This year did not see a big celebratory party (although Mary promised me one later when the time is right), but rather an incredibly full day of auditions, rehearsals, and then coming home to just be with Mary and her mom Marie as we progress through Marie’s own journey as an 80 year old. At Mary’s instruction, I reached into the cellar and pulled whatever inspired me most. I love to have wine’s from my birth-year, but actually don’t have any at the present time. So, I decided to go for a wine that is not just 40, but rather 55, accompanied by ‘gas station pizza’ (Casey’s General Store - extra cheese and pineapple!).
1964 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco
I purchased this wine from Zachy’s in NY some time ago, and thought I would open it for some big dinner with great friends. Turns out this simple night was perfect. I poured the wine gently into a decanter to eliminate the bits of cork and loose sediment (not to actually decant!) and was astonished by the color - a beautiful pale violet with hints of amber – almost translucent even in the bottom of the glass. The bouquet was fascinating. SMOKY! Mary asked “was this bottle near a fire?” It was wild. Not overpowering like a campfire actually, but a smoky pepperiness that had hints of tobacco and the lightest hint of lavender. In the mouth, it was so silky, so soft. A bit thin (which is totally expected), it felt like being wrapped in a light silk robe. Elegant and sexy. The smokiness was evident as well in the taste, as were the remnants of the fruits that likely were in front when this wine was young – plums, apricot, strawberries. There were also lovely earthy flavors of dried herbs and mushrooms. The wine was definitely old, definitely not in its prime, but had so much to say. This wine was like a beautiful, elegant, movie star arriving at the Oscar’s in a vintage gown and stealing the show from all of the young starlets. This was a memorable bottle that will be kept in its empty state along with other favorite wine memories.
Produttori del Barbaresco (http://www.produttoridelbarbaresco.com/) is tremendous and historic producer in Barbaresco that Mary and I had the opportunity to visit back in 2010. The are a cooperative that takes grapes from throughout the Barbaresco region in Piemonte, ferments the juice in enormous and fantastic cement tanks, and then ages in large Slovenien oak barrels. There base Barbaresco, blended from lots of different hills in the region, remains one of my favorite and go-to wines. I prefer it with 8-10 years of age at least, and this was certainly the oldest bottle I have had from them. Below is a photo of one of the winemakers signing a bottle for us on our visit in 2010.