TNs: Despair, then elation. 1978 La Spinona "Bricco Faset", 1982 Prunotto "Bussia"

Ciao Berserkers,

Had my colleague from work over a few nights ago for roast duck, mashed taters and collard greens (an experiment for me, my first time with them).

About three hours before dinner I decanted the 1978 La Spinona, Barbaresco Riserva, cru “Bricco Faset”, a Wasserman stash wine. I have always liked their wine, from the first time I tried it, the 1983 vintage “normale”. “La Spinona” of course is the dog that graces the label of this wine. Some background:

“Sporting the face of a dog, the label is the stuff of local legend. The Spinona is a breed of Piedmontese hunting dog, more common in northern Italy than in America. The story has it that one of the Berutti’s Spinonas saved their only son from drowning in a lake on their property. The act of heroism earned her a spot on every bottle and the son then went on to become a veterinarian.”

Well, I knew I may have trouble as soon as I popped the cork. It was tiny, not very tight, and wet to the end, a bad sign. I decanted - I have never seen a Barbaresco with so much sediment, it was literally a sheet of crust that stayed in the bottle, like a crusted Port. Color seemed ok in the kitchen.

I smelled a sample glass. Damn, oxidized. No, no… I wanted this one to be perfect! I took it outside and checked the color in the natural sunlight - totally brick/orange with yellow rim, and… that tinge of mahogany/caramel of an oxidized wine. I have seen much worse, but it was enough for me to set it aside and descend down the steps again into my caves and choose a replacement.

OK. I picked the 1982 Alfredo Prunotto Barolo Riserva, “Bussia di Monforte d’Alba”, bottle number 4,111 of 21,600 produced, another Wasserman stash wine, which like the La Spinona had been standing up for a few days, letting the sediment settle nicely. I decanted, separating a small amount of sediment from the wine. However, the cork broke apart while being removed, the bottom falling into the wine, so I ran the wine through a metal sieve to catch the cork. No problem.

Color - dark blood red at the center, much darker than the La Spinona, with a touch of oranging at the rim, mature, but healthy. The nose is deep and rich but reticent at first, you have to work it, but as the wine warmed up from cellar temperature and got some air it began to give off the sorts of autumnal essences that mark a classic Barolo of the old school. Dark red fruits surprised me because of the age of the wine, 28 years, normally the fruit is more orange/tangerine at that age. Spicy black raspberry/blackberry/black cherry fruit, smoke, underbrush/earth/herbs and black licorice on the nose. Appears to have many good years ahead of it yet. On the palate it is big, rich dark fruit, spice, herbs, classic structure, medium tannins, juicy acidity, long, long finish. After a bit of duck breast glazed in soy sauce and honey, this wine is heaven. Needless to say both of us were well pleased. No rush to drink it but it is wonderful wine right now. Grade: solid A/A+.

After we finished the Prunotto we went back and finished the La Spinona. It had not improved of course, but there was some spice and fruit hanging on by it’s fingernails on the palate, and it did have alcohol in it, so… , I was glad to incorporate some of the wine’s molecules into my body out of respect for the winery, the vintage and the culture/history of Barbaresco. Grade: B, out of respect for what it probably would have been with a successful cork (guessing a really terrific bottle).

Ciao Berserkers,