The New Paradigm For Barolo?

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Michael S. Monie
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The New Paradigm For Barolo?

#1 Post by Michael S. Monie » May 17th, 2014, 11:36 am

AG recently revisited 8 top end Barolo (or is that Baroli) from the 2008 vintage. He describes a vintage that reflects a new paradigm for Barolo in that many of the wines no longer require decades in the bottle to be both approachable and enjoyable. One of the wines was Bartolo Mascarello and he suficiently motivated me to pull the cork on one and give it a whirl. I have to say that I thought the wine to be both delicious and profound. Anecdotally I agree that many modern Barolo can be enjoyed young, without having to feel that drinking them early was a waste of good wine. What do you think?
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#2 Post by RyanC » May 17th, 2014, 12:01 pm

I have a fraction of the experience that others do on this topic, but I'm not sure I agree. I also pulled a cork on an 08 Bartolo Mascarello recently, and I have to say that while it is absolutely a profound wine, it's still painfully young -- the acids especially are dialed to 11 -- and I don't see it really hitting its stride until a decade or two of aging. And 08 isn't even a long-aging vintage in the style of 06 or similar vintages. The few tastes I've had of '10s suggest to me that they will actually need decades.
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#3 Post by Jim Anderson » May 17th, 2014, 12:10 pm

When we were in Barolo in 2012 every winery we went to, despite knowing who we were/knowing we buy and cellar wine/knowing we are in the business, never once said "these wines age." The theme was that the wines were made in a style that made them approachable and drinkable at a young age. This was repeated like a mantra at the places we went to even in the face of customers who are inclined to age wines. We went through a bunch of 2004 Barolos from a variety of producers while the majority of our 2004 Barbarescos are untouched.
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#4 Post by Gary York » May 17th, 2014, 2:13 pm

Outside of a few producers, mostly the ultra traditionalists, modern Barolo is made to drink at a younger age. And by modern Barolo I don't mean Barolo made in a modern style. There have been many changes in the vineyard and cellar that have moved the wine to the state it is in today. To put it simply, they have better raw materials to work with from the vineyards. Improvements in the cellar along with higher skill level from the winemakers have allowed for the capture and transfer of some very good -great vintages to the bottle. It never hurts to have a great vintage and a little luck also. And I think we need to understand that the wines will still benefit from age and will improve dramatically. But it is certainly no longer a crime and a painful one at that to drink young Barolo. Opened a 2009 E.Cogno Barolo Ravera and 2009 Sperino Lessona last night. And drank them side by side. Both were a little tight. But some really nice complex elements to these wines. And the tannins, certainly present, were not aggressive.
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#5 Post by ky1em!ttskus » May 17th, 2014, 3:22 pm

Gary York wrote:And I think we need to understand that the wines will still benefit from age and will improve dramatically.
I was going to ask this exact question, Gary. Thanks for reading my mind. [cheers.gif]

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#6 Post by Keith Levenberg » May 17th, 2014, 3:40 pm

What exactly is being done differently now?

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#7 Post by steve goldun » May 17th, 2014, 4:23 pm

What exactly is being done differently now?
Not much at the houses owned by those many of us would consider the very best traditionalists. Bartolo Mascarello’s place certainly looks very different these days since his passing and Maria Teresa's succession with a modern new office and cheery lighting but the wines are being made in pretty much the same way as always. Ditto for G. Rinaldi where his daughters (anyone notice how many women are taking over cellars in the Langhe these days?) are in the process of taking over and have so far succeeded in spiffing up the cellar and organizing things. The wines there are being made exactly the same way I can remember since my first visit over 20 years ago though recent legislation is forcing Beppe to change his blends a bit. Same thing at G. Mascarello where the only change in the cellar that I notice has been to clean things up a bit with better, cleaner wine as a result imo. Marcarini, Burlotto, Canonica, G. Conterno... Tinkering with an old recipe yes but no big changes in philosophy. Global warming has certainly had an impact on these wines over the last 20 vintages or so and the same can be said about most every wine region in Europe. Lower acids and hjgher alcohol may be the new paradigm.

As for aging? I’ve never found good vintages of wines made in Barolo or La Morra difficult to drink in their youth, different story in Serralunga and much of Monforte. I’ve also never found that the wines of any but the best sites in La Morra or Barolo are capable of aging and improving as long as those from the Serralunga Valley. These are very different soils from different geological epochs and the resulting wines are very different.
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#8 Post by Michael S. Monie » May 18th, 2014, 7:04 am

AG said on his forum that he intended to open a 2006 Monfortino last night. It should be interesting to hear how it showed.
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#9 Post by John Morris » May 18th, 2014, 7:20 am

Jim Anderson wrote:When we were in Barolo in 2012 every winery we went to, despite knowing who we were/knowing we buy and cellar wine/knowing we are in the business, never once said "these wines age." The theme was that the wines were made in a style that made them approachable and drinkable at a young age.
I would guess they take the ageability for granted, and they have to fight the view that their wines are unapproachable for 20 years.

Who did you visit? I'm curious.
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#10 Post by Doug Schulman » May 18th, 2014, 7:22 am

Even G. Mascarello macerates for about 30 days now vs. 60 days historically. B. Mascarello ferments in concrete to allow temperature control and has shortened maceration times a bit from the old days. These are two of a very small number of the most traditional producers. I don't think anyone makes wines exactly the same way that they did decades ago. Many other aspects are unchanged, but these things must significantly impact extraction and thus the style of the finished wine as it shows in its youth.

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#11 Post by John Morris » May 18th, 2014, 7:24 am

Keith Levenberg wrote:What exactly is being done differently now?
I'd like a good answer to that, too. But I think one key thing is that the wines spend less time in barrels/casks, so there's more fruit left when they're bottled. The true old-style riservas like Monfortino that spend many years in cask can be pretty tough to drink young.

Control of fermentation temperatures also has allowed more control over tannin extraction and keeps more fruit flavors.
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#12 Post by John Morris » May 18th, 2014, 7:25 am

Doug Schulman wrote:Even G. Mascarello macerates for about 30 days now vs. 60 days historically.
And then there's Burlotto, which does a 60-day maceration on their Monvigliero, which is one of the most elegant Barolos around. So go figure.
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#13 Post by John Morris » May 18th, 2014, 7:28 am

Wikipedia says this: "Better canopy management and yield control have led to riper grapes being harvested earlier with more developed tannins in the grape skins."

That makes a lot of sense. I know they are picking barbera and dolcetto later than they were 20 years ago, with (to me) vast improvements in quality, particularly in the barbera.
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#14 Post by Doug Schulman » May 18th, 2014, 7:43 am

I'm glad you mentioned viticulture, John. I've suspected that this is the most major factor in the ultra-traditional wines being far more approachable in their youth, but I didn't know enough about the changes there to comment.

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#15 Post by ky1em!ttskus » May 18th, 2014, 8:08 am

I was going to suggest the same. The actual wove making may not have changed (much), but better vineyard practices and more modern farming can make a lot of difference.

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#16 Post by John Morris » May 18th, 2014, 8:57 am

kylemittskus wrote:The actual wove making may not have changed (much), but better vineyard practices and more modern farming can make a lot of difference.
I think the reduction of the time in wood and temperature control were major factors, and were widespread.
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#17 Post by Michael S. Monie » May 18th, 2014, 9:04 am

Gary: I totally agree that the early approachability of these wines does not in any way diminish their ability to improve with age. I drank the 08 Bartolo over 3 days and it showed the best on day 3.
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#18 Post by Leonard Maran » May 18th, 2014, 9:48 am

I recently opened a 2001 E. Pira - Chiara Boschis Barolo, and while it was possible to have a sense of the wine's integrity, it was shut tight as a drum. I bought
some 2008 Travaglini Gattinara and it is sheer joy, so peppy like a puppy and ready to play.

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#19 Post by Gary Ahearn » May 18th, 2014, 10:58 am

This from Tanzer, 2007:

"More than on any previous tour of this region—and I'’ve been visiting here regularly since 1991—the differences between so-called traditional and New Wave wines have blurred when it comes to the Piedmont’s great nebbiolo wines. For starters, the number of strict traditionalists—those who carry out very long macerations and then age their wines for several years in traditional large old Slovenian oak casks, or botti—has declined to a very small number as the older generation of makers gives way to their sons and daughters. The new kids as a rule are more aware of today’s international market’s preference for immediate gratification, and perhaps are more likely themselves to enjoy wines that don’t need a decade or more of aging in bottle to become presentable. With very few exceptions, they are updating their ancient casks, shortening their fermentation and total maceration times, and bottling earlier. They are also far more aware of the need to avoid volatile acidity and premature oxidation. And, thanks to cleaner winemaking and aging facilities, not to mention the advice of consulting enologists, their wines today are less rustic, and in that sense more modern. (How much of the “traditional” tar and leather taste of Barolo was a function of the years of gunk that accumulated on the insides of giant old casks?) And of course, with global warming, these winemakers are vinifying healthier fruit with much better phenolic maturity: their wines rarely need five or more years of aging in cask to become semi-civilized.

At the other extreme are the so-called modernists who were the first to switch to very quick, hot fermentations in rotary fermenters [or “rotofermenters,” usually stainless steel cylindrical vats in which pigeage is done by means of a propeller that rotates inside the vat; in some cases, the tank itself slowly revolves]. To stabilize the color of their quickly fermented wines, in which color was extracted more by heat than by alcohol, these folks aged their wines in small French barriques, a high percentage of which were often new, and they bottled much earlier. But the modernists too have backed away from their earlier excesses. Today, they’re drawing out the fermentations, doing gentler extraction during vinification even if they still use rotofermenters, and cutting back on their use of new wood, in some cases switching to larger tonneaux (usually holding 500 or 600 liters of wine) or even botti, which now typically hold 10 to 30 hectoliters of wine. Some are even pushing back their bottling times as they allow their wines to evolve in wood at a more leisurely pace. So while there are a few remaining strict conservatives and a few unapologetic New Wave producers, it’s rarely black or white anymore. "

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#20 Post by John Morris » May 18th, 2014, 12:46 pm

Leonard Maran wrote:I recently opened a 2001 E. Pira - Chiara Boschis Barolo, and while it was possible to have a sense of the wine's integrity, it was shut tight as a drum.
Greg dal Piaz organized a big tasting of 01s last fall and that was the story with most of them. (I can't find the thread or I'd link it.) They were not fun to drink, for the most part, even after they'd been open several hours and food was served. This was a mix of traditionalists and modernists -- about 20 wines. So I'm not sure it's accurate to say that today's Barolos are enjoyable much younger. I think it may be more accurate to say that more are approachable for a few years, and enjoyable in that early window because there's fruit there that wasn't in old-style wines a generation ago. Of course, it's hard to generalize.
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#21 Post by Sanjay Nandurkar » May 19th, 2014, 1:51 am

This topic came up when we were discussing modern vs traditional styles with Gaia Gaja when we were visiting the winery two yeas ago.

She mentioned abut the convergence of styles as the traditionalist were using shorter fermentations and also having more cleaner cellars, and also topping up barrels (with loss of oxidative character and less rustic nature). Also more riper and cleaner fruit was brought in now.


I think it is combination of all those small changes put together that is resulting the change.

Honestly, I don't care if the wine made now lasts only for 50 years and not 60 -70years. What I am more interested in is extending the drinking window.

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#22 Post by Michael S. Monie » May 19th, 2014, 6:33 am

AG referred to the 2006 Monfortino opened over the weekend as "simply dazzling". He describes it as having "the most extraordinary bouquet imaginable, followed by bright, explosive fruit". Who knows when it will be when this wine will begins to shut down?
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#23 Post by Michael S. Monie » May 30th, 2014, 10:37 am

I'm wondering if anyone has tried any of the recent vintages of Conterno's Cascina Francia?
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#24 Post by Oliver McCrum » May 30th, 2014, 5:00 pm

Tanzer's quotation may be out of date, big barrels and long macerations are hip these days, thank God, and I am told that used rotofermenters are being sold cheap. This is true in southern Italy as well, I talked to an Etna producer and two Taurasi producers who started with barriques but have moved to botti recently, or are about to.
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#25 Post by Sanjay Nandurkar » May 30th, 2014, 5:42 pm

Michael S. Monie wrote:I'm wondering if anyone has tried any of the recent vintages of Conterno's Cascina Francia?
Yes. 06, 07, 08, and 09.

Nice set of wines. Liked all of them. Even the 'hotter' vintages (07 and 09) have appeal. 06 and 08 are restrained and 'classic'.

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#26 Post by John Morris » May 30th, 2014, 5:45 pm

If you can ignore the sociology jargon (and there is a lot of that), this Stanford research paper from 2010 has a great history of the tug of war between the modernists and the traditionalists and the eventual (partial) convergence, with lots of interviews from the protagonists. It really explains the motivations of the new generation in the 80s and 90s who went the roto-fermenter/barrique route, and the mindset of those who resisted. It's essential reading for any Barolo/Barbersco lover, I think.
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#27 Post by Michael S. Monie » May 31st, 2014, 8:05 am

Sanjay Nandurkar wrote:
Michael S. Monie wrote:I'm wondering if anyone has tried any of the recent vintages of Conterno's Cascina Francia?
Yes. 06, 07, 08, and 09.

Nice set of wines. Liked all of them. Even the 'hotter' vintages (07 and 09) have appeal. 06 and 08 are restrained and 'classic'.
Thanks for the feedback.
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#28 Post by Fred Scherrer » May 31st, 2014, 5:48 pm

I see no reason that any producer (in the world) should have to choose between making earlier 'sweet-spot' bottlings and later 'sweet-spot' bottlings. They could take a look at the material they have at hand, then decide which path suits it best and bottle each kind of wine if they have both types. This can be a variety-specific thing and/or a site-specific thing. Understanding the destiny of the material is one leg of the stool, I think. Being able to optimize that material is the second leg of the stool. Finally, communicating the differences to the public is the third leg.

I agree that extending the happy zone of any wine is a good thing. Selling out the soul is not.

We should all look around, learn and then adapt or continue a reasoned course. It sounds like some of that is going on in Barolo. What is hard on the folks that value long-term wines is that it takes many years for changes to prove their appropriateness and consistency to the goal. The long-term view is seldom rewarded during the short-term and gives few opportunities for adaptation over the producers' life-spans.

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#29 Post by Michael S. Monie » May 31st, 2014, 6:21 pm

I find it interesting who it is that didn't participate in this thread. (I found it interesting who didn't participate in a thread I originated on AG's board asking whether one can equally enjoy both traditional and modern producers.) It makes me wonder whether it's a question of the validity of the premise, or just that the concept is simply inconceivable to some.
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#30 Post by John Morris » May 31st, 2014, 7:33 pm

Fred Scherrer wrote:I see no reason that any producer (in the world) should have to choose between making earlier 'sweet-spot' bottlings and later 'sweet-spot' bottlings. They could take a look at the material they have at hand, then decide which path suits it best and bottle each kind of wine if they have both types.
You think "the material" answers the question of what style of wine is best? I don't think it's that self-evident.
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#31 Post by John Morris » May 31st, 2014, 7:36 pm

Michael S. Monie wrote:I find it interesting who it is that didn't participate in this thread. (I found it interesting who didn't participate in a thread I originated on AG's board asking whether one can equally enjoy both traditional and modern producers.) It makes me wonder whether it's a question of the validity of the premise, or just that the concept is simply inconceivable to some.
I don't understand what you're getting at. Were you expecting an argument? You feel your thread is being ignored?

I think the premise you threw out -- that even traditional Barolo is more approachable young today -- isn't that controversial. As for "new paradigm," I'm still not sure what that's supposed to mean.

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#32 Post by Fred Scherrer » June 1st, 2014, 10:15 am

John Morris wrote:
Fred Scherrer wrote:I see no reason that any producer (in the world) should have to choose between making earlier 'sweet-spot' bottlings and later 'sweet-spot' bottlings. They could take a look at the material they have at hand, then decide which path suits it best and bottle each kind of wine if they have both types.
You think "the material" answers the question of what style of wine is best? I don't think it's that self-evident.
Actually, I do think that 'the material' determines the style is most appropriate for it. What do you think answers the question best?

Producers should strive to refine their work thru experimentation. However, this does not mean changing EVERYTHING they make as the experiment. The same producer could conceivably have both earlier and later maturing bottlings of Barolo if they had material that lent itself toward both.

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#33 Post by Gregory Dal Piaz » June 1st, 2014, 2:18 pm

Try the 2010s and see if you think there is in fact a new, easier drinking paradigm.
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#34 Post by John Morris » June 1st, 2014, 3:06 pm

Fred Scherrer wrote:
John Morris wrote:
Fred Scherrer wrote:I see no reason that any producer (in the world) should have to choose between making earlier 'sweet-spot' bottlings and later 'sweet-spot' bottlings. They could take a look at the material they have at hand, then decide which path suits it best and bottle each kind of wine if they have both types.
You think "the material" answers the question of what style of wine is best? I don't think it's that self-evident.
Actually, I do think that 'the material' determines the style is most appropriate for it. What do you think answers the question best?

Producers should strive to refine their work thru experimentation. However, this does not mean changing EVERYTHING they make as the experiment. The same producer could conceivably have both earlier and later maturing bottlings of Barolo if they had material that lent itself toward both.

F
And in fact many producers in the region age some crus in barrique and others in botti, so they can offer different styles to different buyers.

I guess I think the style is much more of a choice by the winemaker. I doubt I'd find any vineyard that I thought was better with a very short maceration and heavy new oak treatment, for instance. You can say, "Oh, this fruit can handle more oak or longer barrel aging," but I don't think it dictates those choices.
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#35 Post by Roberto Rogness » June 1st, 2014, 4:05 pm

Re that Stanford paper, I NEVER thought I would read THIS in an article about wine:


Fuzzy-set theory allows partial memberships in sets. A fuzzy set is defined by a grade-of-membership (GoM) function, which maps objects in some universe of discourse to the [0,1] interval. An object’s GoM in a category (or degree of typicality as a member of a category) from the perspective of an audience member tells the degree to which its perceived feature values fit her schema the category.
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#36 Post by Bob Hughes » June 1st, 2014, 4:27 pm

Yeah, IMO that is a very tough read - John's a writer by trade, so maybe he is more comfortable with the scholarly bent used in this paper, but I struggled to get through it.

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#37 Post by Roberto Rogness » June 1st, 2014, 4:40 pm

You have to realize that they are not really talking about wine but actually about tribal identity including "insider defectors" and "opportunists".

PS: I think the de Grazia inspired cold soaking and rotary fermenters were at LEAST as important a dividing line as barrique or botti.
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#38 Post by John Morris » June 1st, 2014, 4:51 pm

Bob Hughes wrote:Yeah, IMO that is a very tough read - John's a writer by trade, so maybe he is more comfortable with the scholarly bent used in this paper, but I struggled to get through it.
I skipped over academic BS -- a pathetic attempt to make abstract what is basically just a great human story -- and just read the interview parts.
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The New Paradigm For Barolo?

#39 Post by John Morris » June 1st, 2014, 4:52 pm

Roberto Rogness wrote:Re that Stanford paper, I NEVER thought I would read THIS in an article about wine:


Fuzzy-set theory allows partial memberships in sets. A fuzzy set is defined by a grade-of-membership (GoM) function, which maps objects in some universe of discourse to the [0,1] interval. An object’s GoM in a category (or degree of typicality as a member of a category) from the perspective of an audience member tells the degree to which its perceived feature values fit her schema the category.
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The New Paradigm For Barolo?

#40 Post by Cristian Dezso » June 1st, 2014, 5:42 pm

Gregory Dal Piaz wrote:Try the 2010s and see if you think there is in fact a new, easier drinking paradigm.
So you are saying the 2010s will peak at 20 years of age or so and will be tough (like the 01 we tried) at pretty much any age before then? (Of course not all of them, but still...)

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The New Paradigm For Barolo?

#41 Post by Gary York » June 1st, 2014, 7:14 pm

If anyone wants to dump their 01s I will be happy to take them off of your hands.
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The New Paradigm For Barolo?

#42 Post by John Morris » June 1st, 2014, 7:49 pm

If you'd attended that tasting Greg ran, you might not extend that offer. One has to have faith....
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The New Paradigm For Barolo?

#43 Post by Gary York » June 1st, 2014, 8:39 pm

Ohhhh I do. Barolo - Yesterday, Today and Forever.
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The New Paradigm For Barolo?

#44 Post by Gregory Dal Piaz » June 3rd, 2014, 11:41 am

Cristian Dezso wrote:
Gregory Dal Piaz wrote:Try the 2010s and see if you think there is in fact a new, easier drinking paradigm.
So you are saying the 2010s will peak at 20 years of age or so and will be tough (like the 01 we tried) at pretty much any age before then? (Of course not all of them, but still...)
Yup. More like 1996 than 2001, and we'll have to wait for these wines to come around.
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The New Paradigm For Barolo?

#45 Post by Michael S. Monie » June 3rd, 2014, 11:43 am

I guess that means old guys should go lite, with the 2010's, right?
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The New Paradigm For Barolo?

#46 Post by Gregory Dal Piaz » June 3rd, 2014, 4:26 pm

Who are you calling old? [thumbs-up.gif]

Seriously though. I'm closing in on fifty and while I'm going long on 2010s my enthusiasm for 2011 is precisely for that reason. I'll enjoy the 2011s in my 50s. The 2010s in my 60s if i'm lucky but more likely in my f*cking 70s and I doubt I'll enjoy much in my f*cking 70s. Except selling you kids my 2010s for multiples of what I paid for them.
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The New Paradigm For Barolo?

#47 Post by Mark Y » June 3rd, 2014, 4:33 pm

Gregory Dal Piaz wrote:The 2010s in my 60s if i'm lucky but more likely in my f*cking 70s and I doubt I'll enjoy much in my f*cking 70s.
skimming that line i thought you wrote "I doubt i'll enjoy much f*cking in my 70s"..
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The New Paradigm For Barolo?

#48 Post by Roberto Rogness » June 4th, 2014, 10:40 am

Mark, we have plenty of regular customers who still enjoy wine well into their 70's and one who's 91.
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Re: The New Paradigm For Barolo?

#49 Post by Claus Jeppesen » March 26th, 2020, 11:25 am

Well I am just enjoying a 2015 Fratelli Alessandria San Lorenzo di Verduno and it fits the description
Painfully enjoyable
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Re: The New Paradigm For Barolo?

#50 Post by Andrew M » March 27th, 2020, 5:45 am

Claus Jeppesen wrote:
March 26th, 2020, 11:25 am
Well I am just enjoying a 2015 Fratelli Alessandria San Lorenzo di Verduno and it fits the description
Painfully enjoyable
Very enjoyable wine. I have a half a case and am trying hard as possible to not buy another, instead saving for the 16s.
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