TNs: 2001 Barolo & Barbaresco Ten Years After Retrospective

A truly great night of Nebbiolo interwoven with moments of sheer grandeur and others of mind-boggling disappoint. If one conveniently eliminates Flight Three they end up with an impressive level of consistency, but, the level of flaw and awkwardness of that pesky Flight Three remind us that some of the 2001s wines remain in an awkward stage of development while others are victims of wine making flaws that often mar our experiences with wines that by all counts should be other worldly. This is a seriously structured vintage and there wasn’t a wine I would characterize as entering its prime drinking window for a bare minimum of an additional 7-10 years in the cellar, most taking longer. Reminiscent of the seriously structured 1996 and 1989 vintages, but overall one can easily understand the far higher level of average winemaking skills that existed in 2001.

Recalling the recent controversial Decanter article in which they did a Ten Year Retropspective on the ‘01s, which significantly writes off the vintage characterizing many of the wines as going into decline (aka Over the Hill), our impressions could not be more different. Best we can say is that 2001 is shaping up to be an extraordinarily classic vintage delivering superb balance of ripeness, structure and verve; a vintage for the ages.

With the exception of one bottle (Conterno Fantino~Sori Ginestra), all of the wines were uncorked first thing in the morning and single decanted into clean wine bottles where they spent the day Slow O’ing. They were served directly from those bottles. This method proved very successful in allowing the wines to show all they have to give at this young stage of development, without exposing them to the risk of excessive oxygenation (think wine bottomed decanted with a large surface area of wine exposed to O2 = bad dog) which can, of course, trigger young Nebbiolo to close in on itself. The Sori Ginestra was uncorked the night before and allowed to SO until the next morning at which time it was decanted into a clean bottle. From that point it was handled the same as the others wines.

While there were a few wines that showed elements of small barrel oak aging, there was not a single bottle that stank of oak. Clearly the winemaking stylistic move toward reduced small barrel aging that was taking hold in this vintage had positive results.

Flight One
Overview: Right out of the starting gate all of the wines of this flight were expressive, opulent and delivering at a very high level. Inspiring Flight!

Giacomo Borgogno~Barolo~Storico/Liste (Barolo)
Liste’s bouquet is built on a darkly fruited, thumping bass note with soprano notes of cedar & balsamic resin, pure, clean and complex. In the mouth it is enveloping and broad in its fruit bandwidth, but with time shows increasing delineation cut in a classical, traditional character. Firm and tannic on the finish, this was a great surprise for everyone who had not previously had a bottle of Borgogno’s single vineyard Liste, but those in the know already understood this is a great, under-appreciated bottling, one that deserves a place in every hard core Nebbiolo addicts cellar. Stunning wine with artful oak integration, while it may have started with a certain reliance on its heft, it certainly opened with time in the glass to reveal a convincing level of elegance and detail. 94+

Conterno-Fantino~Barolo~Sori Ginestra (Monforte d’Alba)
If there was a chameleon of the night, it was this, a wine that morphed and ebbed and flowed in notable fashion throughout the course of the evening. Classic in its expression of the Ginestra vineyard with firm red cherry and rose petal fruit, a fine streak of limestone minerality and wisps of Fall forest scents that lend depth of character. Another categorically beautiful bottle, but marked with a bit more approachability than the others, likely due to it having been opened earlier than the other bottles. Paul David commented that it was more advanced than other bottles he’s recently had. Others, especially Brad Vanderpool (his WOTN?), liked this more than I, but make no mistake, I thought it was absolutely terrific and am very pleased to have a nice stash in the cellar. Gorgeous oak integration, fabulous depth of fruit and complexity, a very fine Sori Ginestra. 94+

Aldo Conterno~Barolo Riserva~Granbussia (Monforte d’Alba)
Full Monte Elixir! Action packed with a level of succulent fruit that transcends any of the other wines this evening. The density of fruit is accentuated by incredibly bright, fresh acidity and a firm finish, yet the amazing amount of fruit all but hides the firm, fine grained tannin finish, moving it from foreground to background. Showing the youngest/least developed of the first flight (perhaps even the youngest feeling wine of the night), with time in the glass the fruit darkens, becoming richer, more provocative and laced with anise seed and dark red fruits, showing an almost liqueur-like texture. I find myself very attracted to this great bottle, but this will require another decade+ in the cellar to show its true potential. 95+ (big upside?)

Last minute addition to Flight One:

Produttori del Barbaresco~Barbaresco Riserva~Rabaja (Barbaresco)
This was both the lightest in hue along with the lightest in body weight of Flight One (and of the night), showing elegant strawberry fruit and dried rose petal, a surprisingly light palate weight, and a fierce finish defined by mouth puckering tannin and bracing acidity. Firm n’ fit with nary a single gram of excessive palate weight, this Rabaja needs a whole lot of cellaring to put a few pounds on its currently anorexic skeletal frame. Time will reward, but for now I suggest steering and saving it for a better day. 91+

Flight Two
Flight Two brought another wave of impressive consistency:

Scavino~Barolo~Bric del Fiasc (Castiglione Falletto)
Once again Bric del Fiasc makes a major league showing with its dark, eucalyptus laced fruit and a profound frame of crushed limestone minerality. The level of consistency with this bottling is impressive and with the 2001 Scavino has once again smacked it out of the park! With time in the glass deep, black cherry fruit echoes though the wine as an acidic embrace and a firm tannic French kiss remind one just how bright the future is for this bottling. Total Rock Star, but you guessed it, it needs lots of time! 95+

Cavallotto~Barolo Riserva~Vigna San Giuseppe (Castiglione Falletto)
The character of the VSG is defined by superbly transparent, opulent, richly nuanced, mentholated fruit, dark, rich and showing hints of meatiness. Super focused and delineated, the echoing dark fruit builds a strong sense of purity. Reminiscent of the equally impressive 1999, a seriously firm finish completes this very powerful Barolo. In need of at least another 8-10 years to reach early peak drinking, patience will reward at a level just short of winning the Lotto. Damn fine! Fab! 94

Vietti~Barolo~Rocche (Castiglione Falletto)
Yowsah, what a turn of events with its brooding black fruits and mocha woven into a fabric of crushed rock. Very mineral, perfectly ripe and layered with precise layers of complexity, this is definitely not a wine for fruit flies. Every dimension echoes greatness, it would appear this underrated wine continues to gain momentum from additional cellaring. Graceful in every measure with super silky, firm tannin on the finish and invigorating acidity. Very serious and very impressive, my favorite wine of the Flight and one of my top three of the night. 96+

Flight Three
We entered this flight with some very serious expectations only to be bitch slapped! Ffffraaaack, but it was not to be! It wasn’t by design that all three of the bone jobs of the night were lumped into a single flight, it just turned out that way. What a serious disappointment and a complete write-off. Tough love knows no bounds.

Giuseppe Mascarello~Barolo~Monprivato (Castiglione Falletto)
The lightest hued Barolo of the night, super mentholated, high toned and laced with chalky, shrill notes. No matter how much time in the glass, this puppy never fleshed out, nor gained an iota of interest. Hard, closed and defiant. Judgment deferred for a number of years down the road. Those who follow Monprivato know it is a wine with a reputation of being fickle in its youth, especially in structured vintages. I remain confident we found Monprivato to be in that very off mood this night, it just needs lots of time. It may just rival the superb ‘89 or ’90 someday, but that day is a long way down the road, a long and winding road. NR

Pio Cesare~Barolo~Ornato (Serralunga)
Despite the initial impression of ripe dark fruits with a spicy earthiness, impressive depth and great character, Ornato shows a knarly streak of out of whack volatile acidity that seriously distracts from the overall quality. Clearly a flawed bottle, judgment reserved. NR

Giacomo Conterno~Barolo~Cascina Francia (Serralunga)
And as if to add insult to injury, Cascina Francia shows almost nothing on the nose but high tone, uber harsh volatile acidity. Absolutely horrible, obviously a very off bottle, for which we all groped for a reason. Off bottles happen! I had one on release and it was stunning, every bit the wine Antonio wrote about, yet here we were left in despair. Pretty much undrinkable, judgment reserved, NR

Flight Four
Thankfully the final flight of the night closed on a grand high note as the trio of Giacosa delivered the goods on all counts!

Bruno Giacosa~Barbaresco~Santo Stefano (Neive)
A total sex machine with its Giacosa signature brown sugar n’ caramel notes taking center stage. The more time it spent in the glass, the more alluring it became. Almost irresistible in its appeal and very hard to keep one’s hands off the glass, this just kept getting more and more exciting with time, but toward the end the wine’s structure began to take over, with firm tannin and acid making its presence known. Stunning, I liked it a good bit more than the Asili that followed. 96+

Bruno Giacosa~Barbaresco~Asili (Barbaresco)
Where the Santo Stefan showed accessibility to its decadent fruit, the Asili starts off in an awkward place, showing absolutely none of the elements that made the SS so attractive. A bit stern and showing mostly mineral and structure; with time in the glass it bright, firm bright red fruit begins to emerge with notes of chalkiness making it to the front. While the purity of fruit is impressive, I can’t help but think we didn’t quite catch this youngster in the showy mood the SS is currently in. Still, great potential and I think others like it more than I. 94

Bruno Giacosa~Barbaresco Riserva~Rabaja (Barbaresco)
And finally the star of the night, the already legendary Rabaja Riserva shows up in full celebration mood. Like a Testarosso that has just pulled in, one can simply not ignore the captivating allure of its extravagance and persona. It’s a Nebbiolo magnet; ripe, delineated, layered with intensity and complexity, and always showing those classic brown sugar n’ caramel notes that routinely define Giacosa’s Riservas. “Once you go Red You’ll find no Dread”. Seemed fitting to say that after the Crash n’ Burn of Flight Three. Amazing in every measure, like hitting the Power Ball, well, almost. If you’ve got this in the cellar you’ve got bank. If you don’t, find some friends who do or buy some! 98+

End of the last flight gave us a chance to go back and retaste the previous flights and there is little doubt at this point in the evening, that with the exception of Flight Three, the wines were showing a stunning level of intrigue and expressiveness. 2001 rocks it!

We closed with a wonderful 1963 Croft Port (thank you Paul David) , which was drinking superbly.

Uber Kudos to all the attendees: Brad Vanderpool, Rick Halterman, Paul David, Dan Foote and especially to hosts Paul & Crissy Faraci for another most gratifying night of youthful Nebbiolo Narcissism. Faraci’s food including the braised short ribs and all the other stunning stuff we stuffed ourselves with was fabulous and paired perfectly!

We decided that next year’s TYA celebration, which will focus on 2002, will include just two wines: a double mag of Monfortino (or two mags) and Roagna’s Paje Crichet (if we can find some). Salute’!

What an amazing tasting – sounds like a great time, great wines (mostly) and chronicled with great notes.

I was lucky enough to own a couple of bottles of 01 Scavino Bric del Fiasc back in the day before I knew anything about Barolo, and I seriously regret drinking them when I did, especially when I see tasting notes like this one…


Nice to see you. Thanks for the write up. Glad you had that fantastic fourth flight after the crazy third. Recently we had a 2001 Conteno CF that was very young but was bursting with potential.


Awesome notes. Any experience with the 1999 Giuseppe Mascarello Monprivato recently? I was considering opening it for a truffle dinner next week but after reading your notes on the 2001, I’m really having second thoughts. Are the 99s more accessible than the 01s?

Great to see you joining this board.Look forward to your great insight into Italian wines.

Kevin, Bric del Fiasc has terrific aging potential and this 2001 is barely coming out of the starting gate. It’s a virtual baby with and 15-20 years of superb drinking ahead. If you can squirrel away a few (not sure what current market $ is looking like) and revisit in a decade or longer I think you’d be a very happy man!

Paul, as for the flawed bottles, they were just that. And when flaws show up they’re often in spades. The first bottle of Monprivato I opened the morning of the tasting was hideously corked. Strike One. The second, along with the Cascina Francia (these were the two wines I brought to the tasting) were both sound upon opening, but, with O2 and time to open up, the flaws reared their ugly heads. Strike Two AND Three! I did have one btl of CF on release and it was stunning. Great potential for both wines, just a bad coincidental showing this night.

Fred, we had a btl of the ’99 Monprivato a couple years back for a 1999 B & B Retrospective and it was terrific, showing all the depth and class of a truly great vintage of Monprivato. I’m of the opinion that the ‘99s are showing more accessibility than their ’01 counterparts at the current time, but I’d be cautious not to over oxygenate the ’99s.

And great to see you too Richard. I should have joined a couple years ago at the time of the launch, too many balls in the air! Give my best to our mutual friend Carl Steefel and coax him to come back out next summer for more fly fishing in the Colorado High Country!


Really great tasting and good to see you posting here, Rico.

Clearly lots of time needed yet for many if not all 2001’s. Interesting that AG felt that the 2000’s if anything are maturing quite rapidly. What has your experience been vis-a-vis the two vintages? I haven’t sampled enough of either of them to form an opinion.


Thanks, Rick.

Interesting that you had so many off bottles. I had a very underperforming bottle of the Cascina Francia a month ago, with Greg dal Piaz present, who went very long on that wine. I had one other prior experience like that – nothing like the glorious bottles tasted when this was young.

I’m not sure I ever had the Monprivato, but Mauro Mascarello seemed to have some concern about it when I visited the cantina in late 2005. He didn’t let us taste it, though we spent a long morning there and tasted probably 20 wines, including other 2001s.

Ciao Rico,

Thanks for the excellent and entertaining notes, and your well known passion for Nebbiolo. Glad you are here! dc.

'bout time you guys drank something good down Denver way!

Epic stuff, Rico, thanks for the write-up…

Has any classic Piedmont vintage has been ready to go at age 10?

The Aldo C’s of that era were some MONSTER wines - akin to what Sparky Marquis might [hypothetically] have made if he had grown up in the Langhe [instead of in the Outback].

And if those Aldo C’s can absorb their oak, then they might last a century.

I don’t know if you consider 99 classic, but many of them have been drinking very well. I had a Brovia Ca’ Mia last night that was silky.

Doug, been a while, great to catch up with you again. Right on, lots of development time ahead for ALL of the 2001s we tasted. I have no idea how Decanter Mag came to the conclusion they did regarding this vintage. Regarding the 2000s, we did a 2000 Retrospective a year ago and did not find a single wine in the group that was even close to what I would characterize as in its peak drinking window. Perhaps some are tracking along a little more quickly than their 99 or 01 counterparts, but there’s no rush to drink them and all had an excellent future. Granted, the line-up was cream of the crop including both Giacosa Riservas, but our experience did not in any way suggest early maturing, all things being relative in Nebbiolo terms. Perhaps I’ll post those notes here to see if they align with what others have experienced.

John, great to catch up with you again. I’m somewhat relieved to hear someone else had an underperforming bottle of 01 CF, but it does hit a nerve since like Greg, I too went long on it including a number of mags. Curious what Mauro was concerned about with the Monprivato? Any more info? As for the ‘99s, you’re spot on, the TYA tasting we did two years ago revealed some impressively expressive wine, albeit still very primary, but none were closed in on themselves.

Dave, psyched to see you here as well. Lot’s to talk about, let’s get busy! :~)

Patrick, let’s get together over the next couple weeks and bend elbows.

Paul, we do these zany Ten Years After deals purely in the name of science and to monitor progress. Nothing more than that is ever hoped to be gleaned.

Nathan, curious if you’ve visited any of those Aldo Cs you’re referring to lately? What specific wines are you referring to and what “era” in terms of vintages is this time period you reference?

Vintages circa 1999 to 2001, tasted about four or five years ago.

Haven’t seen any since, but wow - those were some HUGE wines.

And lip-smackingly good [in a caramel elixir of frappuccino/chocolate milkshake kinduva way].

Speaking of which, has anyone had a Valdicava Madonna del Piano lately?

MdP [like Aldo C. Granbussia] was also brewed in that big, over-the-top style, which seemed to dominate Italian pointy wines, back in the day.

With that approach, it always seems like it’s gonna be a flip-of-the-coin as to whether the fruit will be able to absorb the oak over the long haul - and when those big wines go bad, they go really REALLY bad.

uncle Rico,

Remember my alarming post on 03 CF? it appears you had the same thing happen to you: 1 bottle, showed extreme VA from the get go while other bottle showed great upon opening and then downhill after 30 min+ aerating. Were the aromas just acetone like or sherry like too? in my case and it looks like in your case too, the longer the wine aired the free so2 blew off and with presence of oxygen the acetic bacteria grew and all sorts of bad things started to happen…

i checked with summer land wine research station and with our winemaker and got same msg from both: nebbiolo is an oxidative grape, prone to high VA levels, traditional producers have loooong aging in barrel were VA has the chance to increase before bottling. with keeping free so2 levels in 35ppm+ one can maintain the VA levels so they don’t get out of whack but after looong cellaring or decanting they will all eventually succumb to acetic bacteria.

the concern with 03 and now with this 01 is that, VA isn’t exactly something that is bottle related. less than stellar corks or less than great storage will allow the bacteria to grow faster but even if the wine since inception was kept at 50F and great upon opening after time in glass or decanter it will have the same faith. Either the entire production has it or it doesn’t.

:frowning: i have a case of 01. time to flip…

Rico, nice to see you here. Great notes and a great tasting. Keep 'em coming.

You’d be better off waiting a long time on the 1999, in my opinion. Mauro Mascarello told a good friend of mine a few years ago that he is concerned about how long it will take the 1999 to mature, partly because they did not bottle the Riserva in 1999 and they included all of those grapes into the Monprivato. I tried a bottle a couple of years ago and it gave up nothing at all (if you’ve experienced it, Monprivato before it’s ready is not really the same as most other Barolos that are too young – rather than being tannic, drying and astringent, it tends in my experience to be dull, simple and mute).

If you have a 98, 00 or 03, those would be considerably more ready to drink now than the 1999, in my opinion.

Nice notes,cousin!Good to see you here.As one who has also gone long on 01 Monprivato,I’m not worried about your result,or Mauro’s remark.Remember,he thought of 03 as one of his more stalwart and classic years…go figure.
I was looking to see if you paired the Santo Stefano with the Castello di Neive SS Riserva which I have been enjoying lately.Always enjoyable to savor them side by side.

Mighty fine lineup and looking forward to doing the 03s with you… [cheers.gif]