Having relocated to Prague relatively recently, I’ve been on the lookout for restaurants with great wine lists. My biggest discovery so far has been Monarch, a steak-house in the Old Town, whose owner is also a wine importer with some serious allocations.
To give you an idea, the wine list includes Liger-Belair, Groffier, Duroche, Roulot, PYCM, G. Conterno, Bartolo Mascarello, Roagna, Thierry Allemand, among others - usually at great prices.
Needless to say, I took advantage of this with a friend for an extended Piedmont-themed lunch this week. We started with a 2016 Schafer-Frohlich Felseneck GG, which I’ve had many times before and is always a joy to drink. Such a distinctive and complete riesling and still such great value.
We then followed this up with a 1990 Elio Grasso, Barolo Case Mate, which I was worried would be over the hill but actually performed wonderfully. Just a classic old Barolo with a hint of decay but still enough fruit to make it glide across the palate.
Having warmed up our palates, we took it up several notches with a 2001 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Rabaja Riserva red label. I’ve had this wine many times over the years and it never fails to disappoint. It was quite simply awesome and a big step in complexity, with white truffles, wild strawberry and glycerine-infused balsamic notes, all in a fully-resolved package that still has plenty of life ahead of it. While I have seen some reports of variable bottles out there, I have yet to experience any problems.
Having got into our stride, at this point the only thing left to do was try and find some stiff competition, which we more than found in a 2013 Giacomo Conterno Monfortino. Now this was really something. I’ve always been a bit hesitant about 2013s because I have found many to be austere and needing tons of time. My experience with Monfortinos has also been mixed - even ones with decades of age have often felt forbiddingly young, making me wonder if they will ever come around. But somehow, all of this became meaningless in the face of the dazzling, kaleidoscopic masterpiece that is the 2013 Monfortino. Yes, the structure was there and yes, it was young. But wow. It was just off the charts good, perfectly enjoyable now but with unbelievable potential. I would rank it up there with the top 2 or 3 barolos I’ve ever tasted and easily able to hold its own with the best wines of any region. It just reinforced the theory that great wines are always great…
So was there a winner? Tough call because the Giacosa was in such a perfect spot now and besides, the styles were obviously quite different… But the Monfortino was a towering masterpiece that seems likely to outshine all competition as it continues to develop even more complexity. A clear 100-point wine in my opinion.