Barolo….The Immortal Game

19 May 2018

Chess – a game of tactics, strategy, guile, wisdom and wit. A little like winemaking, perhaps ?

In a quest to prove our ‘loosely based’ comparative theory, we moved our pawns gingerly toward to the sovereign RED fortress of BAROLO in Piemonte, north west Italy.

Afterall who wouldn’t accept the chance of a VERTICAL challenge at DAMILANO ! As one of Barolo’s historic producers, this mouth watering prospect included 3 vintages from their top Barolo Cannubi selection and 3 from their Barolo Lecinquevigne selection.

Approriately DAMILANO’s Barolo Cannubi is dressed like a monarch, its subtle label illustrating as it does a resplendent ‘CAD’ graphic of this much sought after Chess piece. Indeed the designs architectural definition fittingly creates the expectation for what lies behind these dark bottle walls.
“The wine of kings, the king of wines”, a phrase that’s much bandied about. But in the case of Barolo, there is no doubt. For, as magnificently structured as these wines are, they are equally regal, endearing and intriguing. Homage and a courteous bow must therefore go to the native grape responsible for such majesty…..the incontrovertible ‘Nebbiolo’.

For centuries these vines have soulfully carved their imprint into Piemonte’s unique hillside landscape. So much so that Nebbiolo has become, as it were, the artists palette & brush, the ink and the stone, which its respectful Piemontese artisans use to create spectacular vintage after vintage.

As oft royal characters can be, Nebbiolo is a fussy one. It’s highly particular about where it sets down roots and it’s a late ripener too. And try as they might outside of Piemonte, apart from Valtellina in neighbouring Lombardy, it rarely if ever is inclined to deliver results on a par with those achieved in its homeland. For all the world it’s as though it’s telling us ‘I know my place and my place knows me’.

With Barolo as it’s theatrical backdrop, the masterful winemakers of DAMILANO have found their way to compete with this noble grapes acidic and tannic potency, to create what we would call ‘liquid poetry’. And not just one but 5 different Barolo’s – Cannubi, Liste, Brunate, Cerequio and Lecinquevigne.

Their Barolo Lecinqueterre (loosely translated Lecinqueterre means ‘the 5 lands’) is produced from the fruit of 5 different vineyard sites. We tasted the 2008, 2007 and 2004 in running order. Each one characterised by an intensity and complexity that grew significantly with age. Rose, fresh acidity and powerful yet velvety tannins first give way to light cherry fruit followed by rich spice, liquorice, tobacco and tar. Harmonic, persistent elegance, the standout was clearly the elder Barolo Lecinqueterre 2004.


Flight One

1. Barolo Lecinqueterre 2008

2. Barolo Lecinqueterre 2007

3. Barolo Lecinqueterre 2004

Flight Two

4. Barolo Cannubi 2009

5. Barolo Cannubi 2006

6. Barolo Cannubi 2003

Their flagship Barolo Cannubi is so called because not surprisingly it comes from Cannubi, one of Barolo’s top sottozone or ‘cru’.

Tasting from the 2009, 2006 and 2003, simply put…..Mama mia, full mouth explosion. Everything and then some. Garnet gems one and all, displaying wonderful structure, might and elegance with each momentous sip. Fresh with awesome ripe tannins, hugely complex aromas of rose and violets, spices, tobacco, chocolate, graphite, tar and leather all lasting long into the night. The stand out was no surprise at all, once again it was the elder Cannubi 2003 that took centre stage proving hands down to be this vertical’s true ‘CHAMP’.

With their older vintages proving tops, in returning to our loose theory….that of ‘Winemaking & Chess’ being games of tactics, strategy, guile, wisdom and wit, we uncovered proof positive that DAMILANO and Nebbiolo are real end game specialists. As tastings go, this was CHECK MATE !

Intense, complex, harmonious and explosive…… Barolo & Pink Floyd….how to become ‘comfortably numb’ in vintage style.

Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb

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