Apparently, 1964 Was a Landmark Vintage For Barolo
I had no idea, and neither did Bradley Wells, father-in-law to the famed Jonny Cigar, aka, moi. For you see, faithful wino, I was given as gift a bottle of 1964 Giacomo Borgogno & Figli Barolo by Mr. Wells over the holiday season. A mere 46 years in existence, the ’64 travelled with me across America in a plane and then lay horizontal at 56 degrees for one month. I stood the sucker up for about four days before I planned to open it to allow the sediment – an entire cups worth – to discover once more the bottom of the bottle. The cork tore in half, but I managed to get it all out and then decanted the goods.
How exhilarating to open a wine that is much older than I. 46 years this good servant of Barolo waited for someone to yank its cork and delight in its living nectar. Well, here’s the old report: The juice was very light in color, had an orange tint, could have been some tropical-inspired cocktail, but was in fact a fantastic old Barolo exhibiting a nose of: orange rind, tar, and forest floor. (Alright, it’s true, I stole those descriptors from several sources, which I will not credit! Hmmf!) I would have said: nose of dippity-do-dah-day and 46-year-old Italian immigrant, subtle thoroughbred, burgeoning on the hilarious while maintaining an air of servility and honor akin to certain Monty Python sketches from their earlier days. I had every intention to down it one gulp, but thought better on it and decided to let it breath. It breathed indeed, and it’s breath was comforting.
I do want to say this: a Gregory Dal Piaz on Snooth said this: “nose of smoky olives before revealing a more classic array of nettles, modeling glue, slightly smoky, slightly meaty, lots of old spicy wood, some match stick, soy, dried beef, and almond nougat.” And he goes on. Impressive wine vocabulary Gregory, you win this round Old Sport. But what I want to point out is the mention of “Modeling Glue” and THIS, THIS, is the exact smell, which I have laid claim to in the past of perceiving from certain Burgundies and Pinot Noirs from California and Oregon. Eureka! I feel vindicated! Well, well played Mr. Piaz.
Listen: opening up an old bottle of wine is thrilling, however, there is the potential for absolute disappointment with myriads of forces acting beyond your control: improper storage or transport, cork-taint, evil stares from jealous onlookers, on and on, but when you do have the luck to experience, to taste, something that was made as many as 46 years ago, and it tastes good, well, you’ve got to sit back and reflect. The hard work and diligence, the commitment to producing a world-class Barolo, by a man named Giacomo Borgogno, who shall remain a mysterious figure for me, has paid off in the most extraordinary way. Grown in Piedmont, the Nebbiolo grapes that made this wine were picked and bottled in Italy, and traveled thousands of miles and many years to arrive at my dinner table this past February 6th.
Before you go, a little history of the vineyard (Courtesy of Italian Wine Merchants):
Bartolomeo Borgogno founded this estate in 1761, but it is a historic document dated 1848 that attests to its first wine sales to the Royal Army of Racconigi. This document would later help protect the family name when the estate achieved international prestige through its worldwide distribution spearheaded by Cesare Borgogno (widely considered one of the key influences in the history of Barolo). In 1955, the French Institut des Appellations d’Origine took legal action against Borgogno, claiming that the name was unfair competition for the wines of Burgundy (Borgogna in Italian). The document was used as an exhibit to testify to the history of the estate and its importance in Barolo.
As at the Mascarello estate, the approach here has been cuvee bottlings, not cru, despite having prestigious vineyard land in Cannubi, Cannubi Boschis, Brunate, Rue, and Liste; blended wines are the tradition here since the unique nuances of each site come together to make a more harmonious and complete wine. Vinification typically follows the formula of long maceration and extended aging in large casks. All of these components contribute to the estate’s reputation for longevity. It is often cited in the wine community that that Borgogno’s wines take 30 years to come around, a testament to the estate’s winemaking.