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A venture into Italian wines

As I have very little experience with Italian wines, I thought I'd make a exploratory journey...
(Yikes, I can hardly figure out the labels on these and will no doubt have mistaken the wine type or region for the maker on some of these but here goes...)

Fattoria dei Barbi Brunello di Monalcino 2004
La Spinetta Vigneto Starderi Barbaresco 2005
Albeisa Saracco Pinot Nero 2008
Corte Sant'Alda Amarone 2006
Bruno Rocca Coparossa Barbaresco 2004
Elio Grasso 'Gavarini Chiniera' Barolo 2004
Ornellaia Le Serre Nuove Bolgheri 2008
Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino 2004
Ornellaia Le Volte Toscana 2008 (I was advised to let this breath for many hours if it was to be drunk now! I'm a little frightened.)

So, how'd I do? What is okay to drink now, versus to put away (which is a foreign concept for us... so far, wines "put away" have only been ones we don't like much). Your comments and advice would be much appreciated.

... and (Re. my other thread) from this list, have I managed by accident to get something that would compliment the lamb shanks/olives/tomatoes dish? (The decision to visit the wine shop was not pre-planned, and I must admit I completely forgot what I was supposed to be looking for, and just started throwing bottles into the basket.... wheeee!)
Thanks in advance.

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  1. Can't imagine you just "happened" to get all those gems into your cart...

    Forget about the 08 Ornellaias for at least 10 years. Hope you have a temp controlled place to keep it.

    The 04 Brunellos and Barbarescos might be good now with decanting for some hours. All would benefit from 3 more years in bottle, if stored properly.

    The Pinot Nero may be the most approachable of all the wines on your list, but not sure it goes with your dish. Don't know that Amarone at all, but would guess it needs more time in bottle.

    They all sound very tasty.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ChefJune

      Well, no, it was not just luck (obviously... although maybe I could have gotten pretty close just on price alone, frankly)... I went to a shop that specializes in Italian wine and asked for really good representative examples of the various Italian wines and went with the store owner(?)/employee's recommendations. As I research these labels, it looks like a lot of them are very well thought of!

    2. I think you did wonderfully! You must've spent a week's pay, assuming you only bought one bottle of each. :-)
      I'll try to help with what (little) I know of Italians.

      Put away:
      Brunello, Amarone, Barolo, Toscana

      Drink now:
      Barbaresco, Pinot Nero, Bolgheri

      Because of their "breadth," the Brunello, Amarone & Barolo should probably sit at least another 4 yrs. The Amarone has a slightly higher sugar content & a pronounced "raisiny" flavor. The last Amarone I opened (in 2003) was 32 yrs old & was beautiful. I had been holding onto it for over 20 yrs, in less than ideal conditions for most of that time. My oldest now is a '95, so I might open that anytime between now & the next 5 yrs.

      The Brunello & Barolo are big wines. Really. Big. Open 'em now & you're in hand-to-hand combat with 'em. Aging will make them more agreeable to being let out of the bottle.

      The Toscana is simply too young to open just yet, so that might be good in another year or two.

      Pinot Nero & Bolgheri are easier-drinking wines, more "smooth & silky" than the rest. Good soft-cheese wines.

      Barbaresco is the heavyweight of the drink-it-now crowd. It should be excellent with your yummy lamb meal.

      1. I'll be the odd person out and suggest that you don't drink your Piedmont too young.

        I suspect that the 2004s willl be closed, or start to close down very soon, even after 3-5 years from now. If you have multiple bottles of the same wines, then perhaps you'd like to open one of each in order to sample (with lenghty decanting time) and then forget about the rest in your cellar for many years.

        2004 Piedmont, especially Barolo, is turning out to be a very good vintage year and you'll be missing out by drinking them (Barbaresco or Barolo) in the next 5 years. Right now, I'm just starting to dip into my 1995s. 1996 and recent ones still need bottle years to round out into fine-drinking wines, imho. If you are serious into getting into Italians, and I think you are, then I suggest that you pony up on some aged/mature bottles and experience for yourself the major differences in having Piedmont with their wonderful secondary/tertiary nuances.

        3 Replies
        1. re: RCC

          Wow, I don't even know where I'd get mature/aged bottles... perhaps at the better restaurants that have good cellars... at what I'm sure would be really shocking prices. (Hey, I'm a spendthrift but I do have some limits, LOL! Love eating out but don't get to often enough for my tastes.) Sounds fascinating to look into (notwithstanding that I'm not even sure my palate could detect the nuances).

          1. re: altavino

            You won’t have to worry about nuances if you hit an Italian Nebbiolo (Barolo, Barbaresco, Langhe, Roero, Gattinara, etc.) at or near its peak. It will be delicious. Watch for Langhe Nebbiolo from the ‘90s at good restaurants if you want to see what can happen at non-shocking prices. However, it is not a linear trip from young to fully mature. The wine goes up and down, open and closed along the way. That’s why people buy several bottles to test along the way to discover the peak. Also, there is the new style of bigger, more oaked Barolo that is ready to drink younger. You need to get advice about particular wines, not just general advice. Cellartracker.com is a great source along with your wine shop or a friendly, wealthy wino.

            1. re: altavino

              Your merchant should have suggestions on where to pruchase good prevenance mature Piedmont wines.
              Or, if you are confident enough, go to winesearcher.com and look up the wines that you already bought indicating mature vintages.

          2. Looks like a great list! I'm sure you are familiar with how Amarone is different than the rest - that one will be enjoyable!

            Piedmonte wines seem to be released/consumed way too early - 06's that are just now being opened now are still years away, I'm sure the '04's aren't that much further ahead.

            1. Echoing some of what's been written... Your were advised well by the wine merchant. Nearly all of these will benefit from aging. What type of storage conditions do you have? If I was the wine merchant, I would have asked you that before suggesting wines that really won't show their best for several years yet.

              Regarding the "subtopic" on drinking Piedmont wines old or young... I still have 1995 Barolo wines I'm not touching. And 1996. And 1997 (although this vintage will be the first I drink).

              1. Must respectfully disagree with some of the suggestions.

                The two Ornellaias are the second and third wines of the estate. Le Serre Nuove is predominantly cabernet and merlot and could use short term aging. 10 years is really pushing it. Le Volte is predominantly merlot and sangiovese, with a little bit of cabernet and sometimes syrah. This is a wine meant to be drunk now. A decant would surely be helpful with either of these wines, but many hours is unnecessary. 2008 in Tuscany was a decent year, but by no means outstanding. I don't see either of these wines being fantastic in 2021. Le Serre Nuove may hold up, but there is no need to age Le Volte.

                Saracco is a very good producer for the price in Piemonte. They make an outstanding Moscato d'Asti that's a great bargain. The pinot nero, as most from Piemonte, is a relatively light, minerally, fruit-driven wine, meant for easy, early drinking. There's also no reason to cellar this.

                The two Barbarescos are quite distinctive in style. La Spinetta has been and remains one of the most fruit-foward and oak-driven nebbiolo producers you will find, especially in Barbaresco. The wines are rich, heavily influenced by new oak, yet retain their nebbiolo character. The estate makes 4 different Barbarescos: Valeirano, Gallina, Starderi, and Bordini, with Bordini being the newest addition from younger vines, and much less dense than the rest. The Starderi is usually the most austere of the group and in a good vintage would easily last 15-20 years. On the other hand, this is a wine that can easily go into a "dumb" phase for a few years, where your drinking window is either now, or 10 years later. Having tried every vintage back to 1999, I would save this bottle for a the 10 years later. But if I had a hankering for a rich nebbiolo, I would have no qualms about drinking it straight out of the bottle now, with or without a decant.

                I've had the Rocca Coparossa back to 96, and the wines, young or old, have an earthier, more rustic element to the slickness of the Spinettas. This is also a wine that is very unforgiving when young. Given the vintage in 04, I would put this bottle away and forget about for a long time.

                3 Replies
                1. re: mengathon

                  I most respectfully agree with mengathon's comments--spot on!

                  1. re: mengathon

                    Good to hear your thinking, Meng. I, for one, have missed you on this board.

                    1. re: maria lorraine

                      I think this hiatus was a little shorter!

                      Been busy trying wines from all over the world =)