WS Wine Experience - '97 Italian Seminar


Tasted October 27, 2007 by otisabdul with 959 views


I attended the “1997 Italian Tasting” at the recent WS Wine Experience in NYC. The seminar was moderated by James Suckling, who selected 8 different examples from 1997, which he noted was a benchmark vintage – much like 1982 in Bordeaux, 1974 in Napa, or 1994 in Portugal.

James called the ’97 vintage in Italy the “gold standard”. He recently re-tasted 200+ wines from the vintage and many were even better than he remembered. It is a year that also reflected generational change, as many younger winemakers started to take over from their parents. Thus some more modern techniques and styles were incorporated into the picture.

Overall, it was a strong lineup of wines, all of which I rated 91+P, but none over 95P. Perhaps it was the format (not enough decanting?), but I was expecting much more fruit in these wines, especially after tasting many highly-rated 97s on release and fondly recalling their flamboyance. The wines are much more serious now, as if ready to settle in for the long haul with bolted-down structure and leathery, complex secondary characteristics driving the bus. But I am sure all of them would show better alongside some Pappardelle al Cinghiale, rather than on their own.

All of the winery representatives on the dais were women except for Lamberto Frescobaldi, but James pulled out a blonde wig for him to wear, in case he was feeling estrogenized. Lamberto actually donned the wig for the group photo afterwards. Good sport!

Flight 1 (8 notes)

1997 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Le Rocche del Falletto di Serralunga d'Alba Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
92 points
Represented on the dais by Bruna Giacosa, daughter of Bruno, who noted the wine’s “White berry fruit. Chocolate notes. Elegant in the mouth, with sweet tannins and a full body”. JS called it “pinot-like, with floral and raspberry flavors. Long finish, with some raisin in there.” The wine had a light color, with browning on the edges. I noticed some anise, as well. Should have a long life in front of it.
1997 Gaja Langhe Nebbiolo Sorì San Lorenzo Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Langhe DOC
94 points
Represented in the dais by Gaia Gaja, daughter of Angelo Gaja. Much darker than the Giacosa. Awesome nose of macerated raspberries and leather. Gaia said “this wine puts together power and elegance. The roots of the vines explore the deepness of the soil. It speaks to you on a high level. There are many layers of subtlety and you find something different every time you go back to the glass.” JS praised its balance and noted that “Barolos are really good company. Raspberry, licorice, tar, roses. A little chewy. Rich, yet fresh.” This was my #2 favorite of the tasting.
1997 Castelgiocondo (Marchesi de' Frescobaldi) Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Ripe al Convento Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
91 points
Represented on the dais by Lamberto Frescobaldi, who noted Tuscany’s “silent revolution of quality” over the past couple decades. He says his wines need four things: “Guts. Acidity. Lots of mineral/earth. Most importantly, fruit.” JS noted: “Floral, light raisin. Complex, with a fresh acidity that is unique to Tuscany.” I found the wine to be a little too acidic for my taste (at least without food), but it certainly has some nice complexity and power.
1997 Altesino Brunello di Montalcino Montosoli Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
95 points
Represented on the dais by Elisabetta Gnudi, who used to work for a pharmaceutical company, but decided that “wine was a better drug.” This was my favorite wine of the tasting, perhaps because it is the most evolved. Great brunello nose of violets and plums. Having tasted this wine many times, I noticed that the fruit is getting lighter and more elegant. Secondary characteristics are starting to emerge more expressively, but the incredibly silky mouthfeel is still in place. Definitely in its drinking window.
1997 Antinori Solaia Toscana IGT Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
93 points
Represented on the dais by Albiera Antinori, daughter of Piero Antinori. The grapes come from a plot that is adjoined to the Tignanello vineyard about 400 meters in altitude. A blend of Cab Sauvignon and Merlot. Tasted very much like a young 2nd growth Bordeaux. It certainly has a lot of tools to work with, but is not really ready to drink yet. As JS noted, “It has fresh, youthful power. Needs at least 5 years of additional bottle age.” I tasted this on release back in 2000 at the Hotel Splendido in Portofino (90 euros off the wine list – sigh). It was a decadent, velvety smooth, and a real jaw-dropper. I hope that it will someday re-emerge from its cocoon, as we have a couple bottles in the cellar waiting for that day. Marketing note: Albeira said that the 2007 could be better than the 1997. Let the hype begin!
1997 Fattoria Le Pupille (Elisabetta Geppetti) Maremma Toscana Saffredi Italy, Tuscany, Maremma, Maremma Toscana
92 points
Represented on the dais by Elisabetta Geppetti. Contains Merlot and Alicante. Very smooth and ready to drink. A dynamic, almost circular, flavor progression. Dried fruit characteristics, maybe even sun-dried tomatoes. JS noted: “a nice combination of international and Italian styles here.”
1997 Foradori Granato Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT
91 points
Represented on the dais by winemaker Elisabetta Foradori. From gravelly soils in northern Italy. The color is very dark and young-looking. Smoky nose. Rustic, baked blackberries, framed by mushroomy notes. Could use a little more time to smooth out.
1997 Allegrini La Poja Veronese IGT Italy, Veneto, Veronese IGT
94 points
Represented on the dais by Marilisa Allegrini. Seductive bouquet. The thickest texture of any wines on the table, as well as the softest, sweetest tannins. The wine caresses the tongue. As JS noted: “it has that dried fruit, raisin, Christmas cake quality to it, but also a modern touch of vanilla.” This was my #3 favorite and is another bottle than can be enjoyed now, but could also be held for several more years.




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