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Clerico, Barolo..... Mastrojanni, Brunello..... Vin de Paille.....


A delightful Friday night dinner at home with our good friends Eli and Gilli.
A couple of months ago we vacationed with Eli and Gilli in Tuscany. To remind us of the great time we all had there, Dorit prepared a wonderful dinner which was basically Italian. To go along with the food, I chose two great Italian wines and a very special and rare dessert wine.

Pasta porcini and truffles
1989 Barolo 'Ciabot Mentin Ginestra', Domenico Clerico
Red and orange pepper soup
Ossobuco with dauphinee potatoes
1990 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, Mastrojanni
1990 Hermitage 'Vin de Paille', Chapoutier

Barolo 'Ciabot Mentin Ginestra' 1989 D. Clerico

12/2000. Bought at auction Oct-98 for $100. I have had this Barolo some 16 months ago and found it to be very rich though monstrously massive, fiercely tannic and somewhat hard. I was curious to see if it had melted down a bit by now.
COLOR: Deep dark red, quite opaque, with hardly any clearing around the rim.
NOSE: Marvelous nose of red and black berries. Deep and rich with a touch of smoky wood. Still mostly primary and secondary aromas. A very fine expression of the Nebbiolo grapes.
TASTE: Concentrated, mouth-filling, vigorous and winey. Plenty of zest with excellent fruit and other flavors. tannins are still a bit hard, but the richness of fruit, the fine grip and the excellent acidity all help to overcome their effect.
LENGTH: Extremely long and reverberating aftertaste.
TEXTURE & BALANCE: A full-bodied blockbuster. Multidimensional from the nose to the taste to the finish. Still young, vibrating and somewhat unyielding. Superbly focused and balanced. Will completely harmonize in 3-5 years.
OVERALL: Superb! This wine has the potential of becoming extraordinary in time.
MARK: 18.5/20.aaaaaaaaBUY MORE? Yes.

Brunello di Montalcino 'Riserva' 1990 Mastrojanni

12/2000. Bought in Italy Oct-00 for $77.
Some six weeks ago in Tuscany I have tasted the regular version of this very wine. It was among the best Italian wines I have ever had!
You can imagine my delight when, a day or two later, I found a couple of bottles of the Mastrojanni 1990 'Riserva' in a small wine shop in Siena...
COLOR: Nice looking ruby red, a touch lighter than the Clerico Barolo, but not much clearing around the rim here either.
NOSE: Beautiful, sensual, voluptuous. Sweetish ripe red fruit, with chocolaty spicy tones. Quite forward with some noticeable tertiary aromas. Among these there was a musky dusty element that bothered Dorit to a surprising point. It did not bother Gilli or me but it did Eli too. (Some wine was left standing in a glass after the dinner was over. When we sampled it, about two hours after we opened the bottle, this musky element had completely vanished)
TASTE: Wonderfully harmonious on the palate, but again, a tiny bit hollow in the middle. Soft delicious fruit with good acidity and receding tannins. Extremely tasty but not as good as we remembered the non 'Riserva' bottle.
LENGTH: Very long and very pleasant sweetish aftertaste.
TEXTURE & BALANCE: Medium bodied, elegant and harmonious wine. But can it be that the extra year in wood dried up some of the wineyness instead of adding structure to the wine? I have heard that 'Riserva' wines are at times less charming than the regulars. Is this Brunello such an example?.
OVERALL: Very fine, but a bit disappointing after the high expectations we had.
MARK: 18/20.aaaaaaaaBUY MORE? Yes.

P.S I don't usually go for opening and decanting wine long time in advance. But with this particular wine I do recommend decanting it at least an hour before you start with it.

Hermitage 'Vin de Paille' 1990 Chapoutier

12/2000. Bought at auction Sep-97 for $70 (350 cc).
I have had this nectar two and a half years ago and it was simply divine!
'Vin de Paille' or "Wine of Straw" is among the rarest dessert wines of France. About 3000 half-bottles in the years that it is made...
A small parcel of old Marsanne grapes in the vineyard of Hermitage yields 9 (nine!) hectoliter/hectar of this wine. According to Chapoutier, it takes a ton of grapes to vinify one cask, more than three times as much as needed for normal vinification. The grapes are left to dry for two month on straw mats before they are pressed. Fermentation is done in 100% new oak and the wine is left to age in barrels for about two years.
COLOR: Deep golden reddish yellow. Looks viscous and concentrated.
NOSE: Honeyed flowery and a touch yeasty nose. Complex aromas of figs, pears and other white fruit. Slight sherry-like oxidation adds complexity to the wonderful bouquet. Absolutely enticing!
TASTE: Extremely rich, mouthfilling and vigorous. Sweet of course, but with such good acidity and vibrancy that it is not one bit cloying or heavy. Multi-dimensional and focused, with superb grip and concentration. A rare pleasure to sip, with or without dessert!
LENGTH: Infinitely long and elegant aftertaste.
TEXTURE & BALANCE: Full bodied and expressive dessert wine. Brilliantly delineated with superb structure, unbelievable richness and an amazingly perfect balance.
OVERALL: Outstanding!! A heavenly nectar that can be enjoyed now but will no doubt hold for another decade or two.
MARK: 19/20.aaaaaaaaBUY MORE? Yes.

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Jacob "Yak" Shaya.