Ch. Palmer and Monprivato

The setting is a very generous dinner invitation, a tour around a ‘cellar’ – that is, a very fine collection of wines, many of them old, in a well-protected garage – and congenial wine-appreciating company.  Ten wines were served with four splendid courses, enjoyed by eight people.  The highlights included Duval-Leroy’s 2000 vintage champagne and a 20+ year old bottle of Blanc de Noir and, at the other end of proceedings, a vin doux naturel from Priorat – yes, they do exist: Nus de Mas d’en Gil, not cheap but concentrated and delicious. But the two stars of the evening were Chateau Palmer 1982 and Giuseppe Mascarello’s Monprivato Barolo 1971

On the blind tasting front, there was as always good news and bad news: I got the old left bank Bordeaux correctly (the general area and style, not the individual chateau and year, I hasten to add) but I couldn’t place the Barolo, which was rather surprising given that I taste far more Italian wines than claret. However, my normal fare is not 40 year old Barolo! What I missed were the tannins … but by the time a wine is this old the tannins are not what they were. 

Both wines were in good or even very good conditions.  The claret was remarkably lively – as Robert Parker told everyone (and made his name) it was a good year: the quality showed particularly in its richness, ripe fruit softened with age, no shouting Cabernet Sauvignon notes as, with the passage of time, all has been melded into a harmonious whole. This bottle didn’t quite make its 30th birthday but it was a tribute to the development of fine and quite assertive claret. 

IMG_0856The Barolo was more difficult to spot but then it was another ten years older.  It showed very fine clovely and red berried aromas, in colour pale ruby with hints of garnet, and a taut palate of real length.  That tautness was what remained of the acidic and tannic structure of the Nebbiolo grape.  It was a very beautiful old wine.  For my palate, I would have liked to try it at 20 and 30 years – I guess that I would prefer this wine with more of the red berries flavour and rose perfume of a younger wine. Monprivato is one of the great historic vineyards of Castiglione Falleto (one of Barolo’s villages), six hectares in all, mid-slope, at 280 metres above sea level, for which there is documentary evidence going back to 1666.

Some guests noticed the slightly unusual bottle shape, that is neither Burgundy nor Bordeaux, while I puzzled over the bottle count given on the label, which counted the numbers produced in ‘Albeise’.  I had forgotten or perhaps never understood that the good inhabitants of Alba – between the Barbaresco, Barolo and Roero wine areas – had created a distinctive bottle for their great wines. It apparently goes back to the eighteenth century and was resurrected in 1973 by the Unione Produttori Vini Albesi – though obviously Mascarello was using it before this. 

Thanks to Lefty and Trish for a great evening … may your bottles age ever more gracefully and us with them! 

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