Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Cellar Report: 1997 and 2001 Brezza Barolos

I could just bottom line both of these and say they are really freaking good. In fact, maybe those nose-in-the-air...or in this case in-the-glass....publications like the Wine Spectator would probably be well-served if they started saying things like that. But god forbid they appeal to anyone but boring wine dorks. Editorial rants aside, I found myself fortunate enough in the last week to have both of these pinnacles of Italian winemaking art.

A quick lesson that will leave you as smart as 98% of wine geeks: Barolo is a small appellation in northwestern Italy's Piedmont region (the orange blotch on Italy in the map at right). It is made from 100% nebbiolo grapes and along with it's more feminine styled fraternal twin from the Barbaresco region (also made from 100% nebbiolo) are two of the greatest Italian red wines. In fact two of the greatest wines in the world. The Brezzas I was loving come from the small family firm Giacomo Brezza, an old school producer located in the town of Barolo in the Barolo appellation. Follow me so far? Yeah, right!

Okay then, two Barolos from two vintages considered well above average. I found the 2001 Brezza on a local wine distributors price list at a crazy price and brought it into the wine shack. In a great act of altruism I took one home and opened it to be sure it would be acceptable to my valued clientele. The 2001 was, in a word, young. A baby. An infant that has barely learned to vocalize and will need years to be able to communicate all it has to share with the world. Tight, tannic, with cherry, floral notes, and earthy, tarry aromas and flavors barely....just barely....starting to peek out. 2001 was a CLASSIC vintage, with fruit, tannins, and acidity in perfect balance, destined to sing like ABBA at the height of their powers. Oh, wait, bad analogy. ABBA sucks. But you know what I mean. These reds, especially the Barolos and Barbarescos, will need a minimum of ten years to really start throwing their weight around the wine world. The Brezza 2001 is all about potential, and it has boatloads!

The 1997 was another beast all together. It was a single vineyard wine from their Sarmassa vineyard. The 1997 vintage, not quite as good as 2001, was known for a lot of heat, which led to a lot of ripe fruit. These '97s are more near term wines (I know, calling any ten year old wine "near term" is kind of stupid), but they don't have the potential to go 15-20 years like the 2001s. We shared this bottle at dinner wth friends the other night, and it was nebbiolo nirvana at it finest. Drinking perfectly right now, with most of its hard edges whittled away leaving behind beautiful, heady aromas and flavors....first off a leathery earthiness, followed by mellow cherry, blackberry fruit, hints of that same tar that nebbiolo is known for (sounds weird, I know, but it is amazing), followed by rose petals and spice. On the palate this was intense, mouthfilling, the kind of wine that is the reason I have all those bottles laying around the basement. So smooth, with a long, luscious finish that echoed all of the pleasures listed above. A perfectly delicious wine, so good, so ITALIAN! One of those wines that when you taste it you know it could come from nowhere else (when wine doofuses talk about terroir, that is what they mean). It really won't get any better, so if you have any 1997s hanging around, you'd best be popping corks!


Dave said...

I just popped open the same 2001 Brezza Barolo about 5 minutes ago and it's sitting in the decanter waiting for me, so I decided to do a google search to learn more about the bottle, as I found it in my dads wine fridge, who does not drink wine. Not sure where he got it but after reading your review I'm much more excited to try it! I'm hoping the 9+ years have been enough time to loosen this wine up a bit re: your initial impressions.

Do you remember at all what this bottle retailed for?

Hopefully I will report back positively after sampling!

Dave said...

It was a major let down after reading your post got me all hyped up. Pretty one dimensional, still kinda rough tannins even after all that time and decanting, and just nothing too exciting. I would probably not pay $10 for it, give it a major pass.