TN: 1989 Piedmont Retrospective

1989 PIEDMONT RETROSPECTIVE - New York (2/2/2019)

A group of good friends and nebbiolo lovers were joined by Manuel Buergi visiting from Switzerland to enjoy a great home cooked meal and some terrific wines the evening following the Festa dal Barolo morning seminar. I think they have been outed already Ken, so I will share names: Ben and Wendy opened their beautiful home to us and prepared a thoughtful, delicious meal that was a terrific complement to the wines. All the wines were double decanted in the morning.

We started with a bottle of '96 Deutz Cuvee William Rose that upon opening had almost no gas, and while it was good, was not a correct bottle.
Served with assorted salumi and then homemade mushroom “43 egg yolk” tajarin

Soy, porcini, decaying leaves, iron and tar on the nose. Much more advanced than it should be with toffee/ caramel notes. I suspect heat damaged. NR

Youthful pure deep nebbiolo fruit nose. Roses, perfumed, tar and balsam. Deep and powerful yet refined on the palate with more tar, roses, and balsamic notes. Very long. Outstanding. 95+ (95 pts.)

Fresh and brighter cherry fruited than the Rabaja. Excellent tension and acid lift. It is mid weighted, graceful, yet with hidden depth. A focused, understated Barolo with fresh fruit, perfume, and a sense of clarity. This is a wine that spoke quietly, and not a wine that showed well in its company. Much less impressive than my last bottle that was drunk by itself. I suspect would have been an outstanding dinner companion served alone. I really liked it, but I feel it was lost in the crowd. 92 (92 pts.)

Served with homemade mushroom “43 egg yolk” tajarin
The salumi was excellent quality. The tajarin would make any Langhe restaurant proud.

Cherry and roses on the nose. Very perfumed. Darker and app fruited, yet broader stroked than many of the wines tonight. There was leafiness, savory side that I enjoyed as well. It has a little soy on the back end and has softer, rounder edges than most of the wines tonight. Outstanding, but in tough company.

Deeply perfumed with an intoxicating nose of roses and tar that draws you in. On the palate there is terrific lift and balance to this subtly powerful wine. Great tension and freshness give it a sense of gracefulness and youth. More roses, tar, red licorice, subtle balsam, and some savory notes as well. There is palate intact and depth without weight. A wine with seeming contrasts that create a greater whole. This is a wine that draws you in. Seamless and drinking at early peak. Effortlessly terrific. Thank you JW. (97 pts.)

From magnum

A hugely deep and wonderfully perfumed nose. Lung filling. Tar, violets more than roses, balsam, and dark nebbiolo fruit and spice. Expansive, yet focused on the palate. It is broad, ripe, and texturally rich, yet displays incredible precision and focus. It is still youthful in this format. Rich on the palate, with sap and density. power and grace. with inner mouth perfume and incredible length. For me this wine embodies what I hope for in nebbiolo. Compelling, archetypal Barolo. A tribute the man who made this wine and to his family. Thanks for sharing TM. (98 pts.)

Served with braised short rib and polenta
The short ribs and polenta were as good as I could ask for and a greta complement to the wines.

Soy and caramel. Orange in color. Heat damaged along the way. NR

Darker fruited, with great spice, roses, balsam notes, and Serralunga perfume. Rich and broad. this is an unctuous ripe, richly textured and layered Barolo that comes right at you with palate impact and depth, yet retains balance and poise. Youthfully powerful. (96 pts.)

Dark fruited with alit caramel and balsamic notes. Ripe fruit, some nettle, tar all with good sap without heaviness. It is clipped on the back end and I wonder if this saw some heat along the way. Still outstanding, but I suspect there are better bottles out there.

Served with braised short rib and polenta

Roses, cherry fruit, nettle, olive, and some Grand Marinier on the nose. On the palate an outstanding mix of fruit perfume and savory with a sweetness and sap to it. There is great lift on the palate. Power and grace. It has an elegantly delivered powerful palate presence with tension and a textural precision to it. It grew with more air and continued to improve over the evening. A great bottle of wine. Thank you DT. 97 (97 pts.)

More floral and subtly perfumed compared the the more overt and fantastic Falleto Riserva. A nose that is truly lung filling with roses, white truffle, spice, balsam, and redder fruit compared to the Falletto Riserva. A tremendous nose. On the palate, this embodies power without weight. It has incredible depth yet objectively, it is a mid weighted Barolo. Incredible grace and cohesion. There is a sweetness to the fruit, almost hard candy feel, but in no way cloying or candied (if that makes any sense at all). Red fruited nebbiolo, licorice, and huge inner mouth perfume on the near endless palate. A supremely elegant, effortless wine of impossible balance and harmony. Lung and soul filling. A wonder to experience. Perfect. Complete. Thank you MB! (100 pts.)

A hugely perfumed nose Intoxicating. I could smell this all night (and did). Balsam, tar, roses, and dark fruited Nebbiolo. Wonderful, archetypal Serralunga perfume. On the palate, it is bottomless with lung and palate filling perfume. In spite of the power, there is a sweetness to its fruit and elegance. Power delivered with grace. Like tidal surge pushing everything in its way. Rich, concentrated, and broad yet perfectly detailed. Fresher than a bottle a few months back. It’s impossibly well balanced. This was the more obviously incredible of the two red labels tonight. An incredible showing for this wine. Damn near perfect, and was poured right next to perfection. Wow. Thank you KV (99 pts.)

Overall a wonderful evening with great company and some truly memorable wines. It was great to meet you Manuel. Someone joked at the end of the night that you are welcome any time you bring an '89 Collina Rionda, but you would be welcome bringing anything. A pleasure to meet you.

Regarding 1989, I can’t think of another vintage that is consistently more delicious at this point in time. The wines have power coupled with grace, great depth, wonderful fruit, and most of all, a sense of harmony. It’s not really news, but this was tasting was further substantiation that 1989 is a truly wonderful vintage in Piedmont, and seems poised to stay in peak form for a long time coming. Wonderful stuff. Thank you again to Ben and Wendy for a wonderful night.

Thanks for reading
Posted from CellarTracker

Wonderful report of what appears to have been a fantastic evening! Thank you!

Great report Todd. So wish I could have been there. Unfortunately I was stuck in a rather forsaken part of the nether regions.

Thanks for reading everyone.

Kelly you were missed, and the wines were pretty good.

Hope all is well with you



It DOES make sense Todd! At least it does to me. I’ve grappled with how to describe this trait that I’ve only ever seen with Nebbiolo. I’ve found it in both Giacosa Barolo and Barbaresco as well as G. Mascarello’s Monprivato. I’ve always struggled with regards to how adequately describe it. In October 2018 I wrote in the “TNR: 2013 Mascarello Monprivato” thread:

I find G. Mascarello Monprivato often displays the same “transparent shell” on the palate that Giacosa does. I’m not quite sure how else to describe it, but there’s a lift and signature to these wines that I find positively fascinating.

It’s like a hard candy shell, transparent but bound up. It almost “pops” when it hits the palate. The first Giacosa I ever had was a 2004 white label Barolo and it had this characteristic. It blew me away. It’s what keeps me buying Giacosa and G. Monprivato annually.

Thank you so much for this note. Historically sometimes I’ve felt like I was an outlier, I’d talk about this (albeit in very nebulous terms as I wasn’t sure exactly how to describe it), and be met with blank stares in response.

thats a heck of lineup!

Thanks for the kind words Andrew. I think you said it better than me though.

Also, I’d never thought about it, but you’re right on Monprivato. The '89 Monprivato has it in spades. It is a hauntingly wonderful characteristic. Thanks for getting me thinking of Monprivato having it. I’d never thought about that before.