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Taking a look at the Lauded 2004 Barolo Vintage … A Wicked Retrospective

23 Jul

2004 Barolo 10 years on Retrospective photo by Paul Kaan

Barolo has undergone a revolution of the last few decades. One that we’ve seen occur across many of the great wine regions of the world. Think Burgundy, Tuscany and even Australia. It’s a cycle where tradition gets overtaken by technology and often ends up with those craftsmen who tend vines and make wine finding a balance between the two employing more restraint to let fruit shine and using artefacts like oak only to layer in complexity not dominate a wine.

Clearly there’s personal preference and market driven style decision to consider. Some people like a balls and all red loaded with tree branches. Personally I’ll stick to the former, the zone where wines of intrigue and personality rest!

Anthony D’Anna’s 2004 Barolo Retrospective demonstrated this perfectly with wines from both sides of the coin.

Beyond that it gave us a chance to see how the vintage was holding up. The consensus, blood well, with some ones entering the drinking window and others still a few years away. The more I drink Barolo the more I tend to think waiting 10 years is a minimum and drinking good ones between 15-20 years of age is a good rule of thumb. Scroll on to ready the wine list and reviews.

2004 Barolo 10 years on Retrospective photo by Paul Kaan

2004: CREAM RISES TO THE TOP – Notes below by Antonio GalloniThe

2004 Growing Season and Wines

One of the key attributes of 2004 is that both quality and yields are high, two characteristics that don’t always go hand in hand. After the torrid 2003, during which the vines ceased vegetative development in order to conserve energy, the more temperate conditions of 2004 led plants to unleash all of their stored energy, which in turn produced a large crop. Diligent growers reported making several passes in the vineyard in an attempt to restrict yields, but there is only a certain amount man can impose on nature. A few wines have put on additional weight in bottle, but those are largely Barolos that already hinted at considerable volume when they were younger. I was also deeply impressed with a handful of entry-level Barolos from top growers that showed far better than I would have ever expected. So much of the wine world revolves around the importance of vintages, yet I continue to believe consumers are often best served by focusing on producer first.

What Am I Looking For at Ten Years?

All things considered, though, the 2004s have aged spectacularly well. At the ten-year mark, I am looking closely at how wines are developing, specifically if the elements in a wine are aging at the same pace, which I consider absolutely essential. In other words, are the aromatics, fruit and overall structural profile in-line, or not? This is the eighth comprehensive Barolo retrospective I have done. Of the four vintages I have covered at the ten year mark, 2004 clearly surpasses 2000, 2001 and 2003 in both overall quality and consistency. That applies to 1999 as well, although I tasted those wines at ages seven and fourteen. The pure thrill in revisiting these wines is only equaled by the same level of excitement I felt when tasting through the 1989s and 1990s a few years back. In present day terms, 2004 is similar to 2008 in style, as the wines are perfumed and graceful, and also (with a few exceptions) much less imposing in tannin than either 2006 or 2010, the two powerhouse vintages of the decade. I expect the 2004s will age beautifully for years to come. In general, the wines will open up at a younger age than the 2006s and 2010s and are likely to fade a bit earlier too, although that is of course in relative terms, as Barolo is a long-term ager compared to most of the world’s red wines.

2004 Barolo Festa – The Good!

Make sure you turn up the volume … the tunes are a part of the wine review!

A video posted by Paul Kaan (@paolovino) on

Cavallotto Riserva Bricco Boschis Vigna San Giuseppe – Stunning perfume sappy herbs great mid palate. Stunning balance. Needs time to open. Closed nose. Core of fruit on palate. Big front mid palate oak.

Bartolo Mascarello*Wine of the Night* Made from fruit from Cannubi, San Lorenzo, Rué & Rocche. Beautiful secondary development, oppulence, great tannin balance, even long, incredibly rich, poised violets, yumminess. Stunnning. Second time I’ve had this in the last 12 months. Both bottles were superb!

Capellano – Closed looking an edge reduced and meaty. Good length most developed feeling a little hot. Opened and blossomed in the glass.

Massolino Barolo – VA lift. Lots of Secondaries. Tight angular hot alcohol. Beautiful core of fresh fruit.

Massolino Dieci Anni Vigna Rionda Riserva – Jumping out of the glass, vibrant fruit, secondary development. Beautifully layered. Great length of fruit wee hump of tannin mid palate. Lovely acid. Held back by the winery for 10 years before release.

2004 Barolo Festa – The Ugly! OTT Oakey Ones!

Make sure you turn up the volume … the tunes are a part of the wine review!

A video posted by Paul Kaan (@paolovino) on

2004 Baroli Festa! The UGLY! All of these wines tended toward the OTT modernist style with lashings of coarse oak masking what was often an incredible core of delicious fruit. Creating unnecessary angularity and harshness! Great learnings to see them side by side with a number of other wines that got it right.

Poderi Luigi Einaudi Cannubi – Resinous sappy pulling a little short. Again developing well. Sappiness comes through on the palate. Front palate new oak dissruptive.

Elio Grasso Runcot Riserva – Stunning perfume & lift layered with fresh fruit & flowers, unfortunately masked by coarse oak. Searing acidity, edgy mid palate tannin that’s a little too hard. Asking for a little fatty food to enhance it. Heap of oak. Tough wine. Why did they throw this many trees at it! It could have been superb had a little restraint been shown!

Sandrone Le Vigne – Cooked over ripe jammy. Hard oak tannin coarse. Unyielding. Barossa of Barolo. Tough wine.

Azelia San Rocco & Bricco Fiasco – were just that! Oaky sappy hot alcoholic. Unexpressive. OTT WTF? Potential tainted.

Rocche Castamagna, Rocche dell’Annunziata – Boring, cooked out of balance.

Clerico Pajana WTF pushing the boundaries. OTT too much oak.

Wanna know how to save a 49 year old wine … READ THIS!

24 Apr

Wanna know how to save a 49 year old wine ... READ THIS! by Paul Kaan

At 49 years old this baby, 1966 Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Claret, was looking tired! So I decanted it onto 30ppm of Sulphur & left it 2 days. Result was impressive!

1966 Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Claret

The samples I tried on the day, both sulphured & un-sulphured were dramatically different. The unsulphured sample was hard with an aldehyde finish. The sulphured sample fresher, but, closed. Aldehyde had been mopped up by the sulphur.

2 days later the sulphured sample has freshened and opened up beautifully. For around $20 you can get the equipment & sulphur needed to treat more tired old bottles than you’ll drink in a life time. If you have a lot of old wine in the cellar & want to know how to do, this hit me up via the Contact Page or leave your email address in a comment below.

What can you learn from tasting 14 x 1988 1989 1990 Baroli from the best producers?

21 Apr

1988 1989 1990 Barolo Dinner by Paul Kaan


1988, 1989 & 1990 are referred to by many as the years that made Barolo, starting it’s astronomic rise to celebrity status amongst the greatest wines of the world. Once again Anthony D’Anna has scoured the cellars of Barolo to source 14 of the most celebrated Crus from these three vintages. Rare does not even begin to describe “drinkings” like these. You don’t taste these wines, you devour them, they are meant to be enjoyed with delicious food and good friends. When I first found out that I had a ticket to this event I had goosebumps and the very thought of the pleasure that awaited me!

1988 1989 1990 Barolo Dinner by Paul Kaan

Themes have started to come together over the last few “Il Vino da Tavola” dinners. Bottle condition, corks, old world vs new, oak, acid, restraint, oppulence, the hand of the maker, drinking windows.

What’s the difference between Great wine & Mind-Blowing wine, wines that scream DRINK ME?

Perhaps the most important question to answer from the night. I sought to assess these wines at the extreme level of excellence and differentiate between stunning and mind blowing. There were a couple of wines that I’d happily devour every night of the week and twice on Sunday, yet, amongst this company they were lost.

So what, was the difference between those wines that shone and those that whilst excellent didn’t make the cut on the night? I was looking for an edge more, that extra layer of complexity, harmony, seamlessness, wines that screamed DRINK ME! That rare ability to caress your tongue with a divine texture. The wine version of the renaissance man! I saw it in the Cicala, Mofortino, Voerzio’s and Grasso, hidden under some Brett in the Gigi Rosso. So very close to being there in the Vietti’s. I’ve seen it in the past in the wines of Bartolo Mascarello.  A core of incredible fruit wrapped in so many layers of yumminess and intrigue, that you can’t help but go back for more!

At a purist level, I just wanted the extra nuances that take it to the ultimate level. It felt like the wines that didn’t quite get there had seen some overt intervention, holding them back from being a true expression of site.

To address the elephant in the room … Where does the line between being too technical in your assessment of wine and just calling a spade a spade rest?

If it’s bretty enough to detract from the aroma and give the wine a hard finish it’s bretty. If the fruit has been dulled through oxidation, well, you guessed it, it’s oxidized! I’ll call the spade a spade. If a fault stops a site expressing it’s true personality then it hasn’t enhanced the wine, it’s detracted from it.

Tonight, there we wines that had faults that detracted from their expression. It’s a shame that wines of such great quality haven’t reach their potential. They weren’t terminal, but, they weren’t the best examples.

How old is too old?

The ultimate rule for wine applies here … call the wine, not the maker, not the region, not the vintage. The Gaja’s had years left in them, as did the Voerzio. The Vietti’s, Monfortino, Grasso, Gigi, Aldo Contertno’s good to go now. Fantana, Borgogno over the hill. As a generalisation, increasingly I’m getting the sense that 15-20 years is a good window with the caveat that you still need to play the wine, try a bottle after 5 years and give yourself a feel for when to try it next. This leads to the next question …

How much difference does provenance make?

Provenance is the cellaring history of the wine. Has it been stored under optimal conditions or not? The sense around the table was that a few of the wines hadn’t been stored well. The Monfortino and the Grasso were the two wines that stood out as perhaps not showing as well as they might have, potentially due to storage. The Monfortino, at close to $1,000 a bottle looked like it had seen some heat, now that hurts! Finding these wines, putting a collection like this together alone is a challenge guaranteeing provenance without source direct from the winery is near impossible.

Rusty tap water! Does colour really matter?

Simply stated … NO! As far as I’m concerned blind fold me. I just don’t care! Give me bags of aroma, flavour, texture and personality and I’m a happy fella! The Nerello Mascalese from Etna and the Barbaresco and Barolo from Piedmont are often pale, they can look insipid, at the same time they are some of the most intriguing wines with incredible personalities.

The Wines on the night.

GIACOMO CONTERNO – Monforte Monfortino 1988 Barolo Riserva

Incredibly rich, ripe, complex wine with layers of flavour and bags of aroma. A little VA lift, great savouriness. Soft and supple. This bottle wasn’t in the greatest condition, appeared a little heat affected. Will have to try another to confirm!

PODERI ALDO CONTERNO – Monforte Bussia Cicala 1988 Barolo

Loved the acid drive of Cicala, beautifully structured with fine tannin. A stunning perfume, incredibly elegant feminine Barolo, layered with savoury goodness.

1988 Giacomo Conterno Monfotino 1988 Aldo Conterno Cicala Barolo by Paul Kaan

ANGELO GAJA -Barbaresco- Sperss 1989 Barolo

The Sperss showed the balance of oak and oak tannin, fruit and acid that I was looking for in the younger of the 5 Decades of Gaja Barbaresco we drank a month ago, but, did not find until we reached 2011. Incredible perfume, core of fruit. The Gaja’s were some of the most youthful wines on the night. Great, clarity, freshness and a colour that suggest a little more than Nebbiolo was in the mix. I’d have loved just an extra bit of restraint in the oak handling to allow the site to shine a little more, rather than the hand of the maker. Now classified as a Langhe, not a Barolo, due to incorporation of around 3% of Barbera.

ROBERTO VOERZIO -La Morra- La Serra 1989 Barolo

Voerzio’s La Serra was one of the wines of the night. Complete, full and round, harmony, complexity balance. An expression of a special site.

1989 Angelo Gaja Sperss Barolo 1989 Roberto Voerzio La Serra Barolo by Paul Kaan

ANGELO GAJA -Barbaresco- Sperss 1990 Barolo

Just like the ’89, incredibly youthful. True to the Sperss style of the ’89 with that slightly overt oak. It was pulling short initially, openned to show a lovely perfume.

ETTORE FONTANA Castiglione F. Barolo 1990

Dried out and thin. Well past it’s prime. The colour of this wine was like a pale Rosé.

GIGI ROSSO -Castiglione F.- Sori Ulivo 1990 Barolo Ris. Baj

This could have been wine of the night bar the Brettanomyces! Incredible core of fruit, masked, by a little to much Brett. You could see what was underneath it. So much potential lost!

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ROBERTO VOERZIO -La Morra- La serra 1990 Barolo

As with the ’89, this was look fresh, opulent, refined and elegant. Oak structure was there, yet, not over the top. Like the Conterno’s it had a great acid drive and a beautifully even structure. There was incredible pleasure to be derived from this wine.

ELIO GRASSO -Monforte- Ginestra Casa Mate’ 1990 Barolo

Brooding, opened up beautifully. Would have loved an edge more acid, a personal thing really. Rich wine with incredible complexity. The 2004 was my Wine of Night at a Monforte dinner a year ago. Stunning wine. Would have loved to see it 5 years ago.

PODERI ALDO CONTERNO Monforte Bussia 1990 Barolo

An edge corked, looking flatter and less vibrant than expected. Would still drink it every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Again and again Aldo Conterno comes up with the goods! His wines are refined, sophisticated creatures, with so many layers of yumminess.

1990 Aldo Conterno Barolo 1990 Elio Grasso Ginestra Casa Mate' 1990 Roberto Voerzio La Serra by Paul Kaan

PIO CESARE -Alba- Ornato 1990 Barolo

Massive oak, with huge mid-palate structure and fruit with a silvery line of bitterness that worked well with food. Drunk by itself I’d probably have rated this wine higher. In comparison with the better wines on the night it lacked the layers and complexity.

GIACOMO BORGOGNO E F. -Barolo- Barolo 1990

Wild wine! Out of control, oxidised and hard. True to the Borgogno style it was an animal, savoury and rough around the edges, blood like saltiness, almost vegemite.

1990 Pio Cesare Ornato Barolo 1990 Giacomo Borgogno Barolo by Paul Kaan

VIETTI -Castiglione F.- Lazzarito 1990 Barolo

Finishing with two Vietti’s was a conflicting moment for me. I visited the winery back in 2005 and have a soft spot for the people and their wines. The following comments need to be put in context. Both wines were sensational examples of Baroli. On this night I sought to assess wines at the extreme level of excellence and differentiate between stunning and mind blowing. If I’d happily rave about the Pio Cesare Ornato on it’s own, I’d by rolling around the floor drink these bad boys. Vietti have exceptional sites and great fruit. I was looking for an edge more, that extra layer of complexity I saw in the Cicala, Mofortino and Voerzio. I felt that these wines had seen some intervention, holding them back from being a true expression of site. The Lazzarito appeared rounder, slightly broader. I feel like a bit of a hard ass. This was a great wine, again at a purist level, I just wanted the extra nuances that take it to the ultimate level.

VIETTI -Castiglione F.- Rocche 1990 Barolo

The Rocche stepped it up, the structure, acid and refinement, gave it a level of finesse that appeals. The restraint it showed was impressive, with such a core of fruit. Again I’d happily drink both wines every day of the week and twice on Sunday. I’d like to see them both as wines direct from the cellar. Perhaps they would have showed better a few years ago. That said as with many of the great wines of the world, I feel that they would have only declined slightly after their peak and would continuing drinking well for some time. I need to look at more young Vietti to see the direction Luca is heading in … Technical vs Expression of Site vs Restraint!

1990 Vietti Rocche Barolo 1990 Vietti Lazzarito Barolo by Paul Kaan

13 Vintages of Gaja Barbaresco over 5 decades of Gaja with Anthony D’Anna

13 Mar

Gaja Barbaresco Dinner 2015 by Paul Kaan

13 Vintages of Gaja Barbaresco over 5 decades! An intriguing tasting. More twists than a series of House of Cards! Anthony D’Anna’s passion for Italian Vino and desire to learn, by tasting, the best, has driven him to travel to Italy to collect an incredible array of the unique wines. Sharing a table, plate and several glasses of these incredible wines with friends has earned him the status of Legend Wine Dinner curator.

13 Vintages of Gaja Barbaresco over 5 decades by Paul Kaan

It is a rare experience to taste the same wine from a single producer across 5 decades, let alone the wines of the much sort after Gaja. The Gaja wines were not exceptional, lacking the personality and expression of wines like those of Bartolo Mascarello. What was exception, was to see how a vigneron, has evolved, how their relationship with, site, has deepened over time. How their winemaking has shifted, to see that they had continued to push and the direction changes they had made was truly fascinating.

Four distinct phases were revealed through out the night. The first starting with the oldest wine of the night the 1967, continuing with the 1973, 1974, 1975 and 1977.

These were the rustic wines, wines that were often driven by searing acidity and refined natural grape tannin. The 1967, one of my top three wines of the night, was still bright with an excellent core of fruit, stunning secondary characters bricky, but, not brown. 1973 had searing acidity, but, unfortunately was past it’s prime and fell away quickly, brown in colour. The 1974 was beguiling, also in my top three wines of the night, without really jumping out of the glass and saying drink me, none of the wine really did. The 1975 was a victim of the FUCork Gods. 1977 was just outside my top 3. Again with searing acidity and edgy tannin.

Gaja Barbaresco 1967 1973 1974 1975 1977 by Paul Kaan

The second evolution, the oaky ones! A regression for me, included the 1987, 1994, 1996, 1998 and 1999. These wines were over oaked showing the hand of the winemaker, not, the potential of the site. Sappy, green, hard oak tannin dominating the mouthfeel to the point of detracting from the wine and masking the expression of fruit. This was the just past puberty, gangly, I’m not quite sure what to do with my limbs yet, or, how to extract the most puss from my zits phase. The 1996 was the second victim of the FUCork Gods. The oak a combination of French barriques and large Eastern European Botte. Some of these wines were, balanced, to a degree, by the stunning feed dished up by our host Maurico Sosta at Sosta Cucina.

Gaja Barbaresco Dinner 2015 by Paul Kaan

The third evolution 2004 & 2006. 2004 saw a shift to more restrained coffee / mocha oak.  2006 was an outlier, an overblown, OTT, oaf, clumsy, high alcohol wine with super ripe fruit, jammy almost porty fruit.

The lastest evolution, the 2011 finally saw the balance I was looking for! The hallmark searing acidity, backed by a core of fresh fruit and balance oak & grape tannin. Finally the oak was just a layer, enhancing the wine, not, dominating it!

2011 Gaja Barbaresco Nebiolo by Paul Kaan

Gaja’s wines are controversial, they don’t deliver great value for the dollars. I do love the fact that they continue to push to find the best expression of place & time! If they continue toward the style of the 2011, I’ll be heading back to take another look at future vintages of Gaja, but, not alone, by sharing the bottle with friends!

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Definite contender for wine of the year & it’s only February!

2 Feb

1966 Penfolds Bin 389 by Paul Kaan

Definite contender for wine of the year & it’s only Feb! The 3rd vintage of 389 after the ‘60 & ‘64. Great year in OZ!

So much Yumminess! Shows the value of Cellaring wine in a controlled environment for it’s life! Better control than my piss poor video focus! The old man paid $6.95 on release. Great core of fruit. Much more finesse than others I’ve had from the era. Refined texture, seamless. A real purity about this wine. Great acid. Bags of personality.

Always a challenge getting old corks out of a bottle!

Got lucky! Just spotted a massive crack in the bottle of our 1966 Bin 389! Loving the embossed message on the back of the bottle, differnt times.