Marcello is a young lover of Italian wines who developed a passion for old Barolos and is in touch with a person who goes to browse in old cellars and who, after sorting, brings Marcello real treasures. This supplier only reserves the finest bottles for him.
Marcello follows me on Instagram and gets in touch with me to participate in a lunch at Arnaud Lallement’s Assiette Champenoise and announces a large number of old wines including a Barolo 1920 by Giacomo Conterno. I have the impression of having forgotten everything he told me, keeping only the Barolo 1920 because immediately a light went on in my brain: here is a unique opportunity to open a Vega Sicilia Unico of 1920, very rare bottle.
I agree to participate and I will think of my contributions. I thought I heard that there would be Champagne winegrowers, some of whom I know and I don’t know more, mainly because I didn’t listen. I suggest that Marcello come to the restaurant at 10 am to open the wines.
When the day comes I am early at 9:30 am. Marcello is on time at 10 am and brings up from the cellar two cardboard cases where twelve old Italian wines lie. I tell him it would be unreasonable to open all these wines, because there will be seven of us, an eighth having declined for Covid. Marcello confirms to me his wish that everything be open for this meal that can be said to be crazy.
For my part, I brought a 1946 Syracuse wine that we decided not to open. We will open the Riesling Ruffino Monteselva 1970, which I wonder by what miracle it entered my cellar, the Vega 1920 of course, and I brought a Marc de Rosé from the Domaine d ‘Ott 1929 for the end of the meal.
I entrust Marcello with my Durand corkscrew to open the youngest wines and I start with the oldest ones. Marcello points out to me how high quality old corks are, some being more wood than cork. All the scents are brilliant. No bottle is a problem. All the levels in the bottles are impressive, so high in the neck.
The opening operation is going very quickly so we have time, Marcello and I for a chat. Arnaud Lallement joins us to talk about the dishes he wants to make for us. I try to simplify some recipes because old wines need very consistent tastes, with no flavor tracks that stray from the main taste.
With Arnaud we make mutual concessions so that everyone is happy. Beehive from our park / gambon, caviar / Saint-Pierre de petit Bateau / ravioli carbonara, black Périgord truffle / blue lobster, homage to my father / sweetbread, ball carrot, veal jus / farm squab in pie, spinach / cheeses / Guanaja chocolate / sweets.
The winegrowers arrive and we have an aperitif at the bar, seated of course as our Prime Minister demands. The Bérêche & Fils Rosé Le Cran Magnum 2006 Champagne has a nice attack and a magnificent color, but I find it a bit short, which is corrected by the delicious little aperitif canapés.
Champagne René Geoffroy Extra Brut 2000 has a magnificent liveliness. It is beautiful and intense.
Champagne Tarlant P & F 1976 disgorged in November 2006 shows some signs of fatigue that it should not be at its age.
I still cannot understand how I got this 1970 Ruffino Monteselva Riesling in my cellar. It is way above what I imagined. It doesn’t really taste like a Riesling, except on the caviar with which it forms a brilliant accord. He is rich and well built.
The Barolo Bruno Giacosa 1988 is a very broad and opulent wine and I am very happy to have suggested that it be tasted with raw fish, because it pairs brilliantly with it.
The 1971 Barolo Fontana Savero has not a great nose but on the palate it is superb. He is fifty years old but shows extreme youth as he is lively.
The 1967 Vino Rosso Riserva Luigi Nervi & Figlio Gattinari is adorable, so smooth and subtle it is.
The 1961 Barolo Oddero has a nice attack but I don’t really like its finish which offers camphor accents.
The Barolo Marchesi di Barolo 1958 is a bit neutral, acidic and complex.
The Barolo Mascarello Natale fu Maurizio 1958 is sublime in its sweetness. This is the best wine at this point.
The Brunello di Montalcino Biondi-Santi 1957 has a very black color and has coffee accents. The palate is better than the nose and overall it is a wine with a good personality.
The Barolo Giacomo Conterno Monfortino Riserva 1945 is extraordinary, fabulous, legendary. He is so young. It combines velvet and energy. I fall in love with this perfect wine.
The Barolo Marchesi di Barolo 1933 is also fabulous, more virile and powerful than the 1945. Here are two wines that follow each other, very different but both at the top of the Barolo appellation.
Definitely, the Barolo Giacomo Borgogno & Figli Riserva Speciale 1931 is also magical, with a minty finish like Vega Sicilia Unico. It’s fabulous, but I prefer the 1933.
With the two 1920s, we are going to walk on another planet. Barolo Riserva Giacomo Conterno Monforte d’Alba 1920 is magical, rich, immense. This wine is uniquely consistent. We couldn’t change a single iota of this perfect wine. This wine is the first vintage of the estate’s reserve wines. An infinite rarity.
The 1920 Vega Sicilia Unico could have caused me to faint. He is obviously on this day the biggest of all the Vega that I have had the chance to drink. And what is amazing is that he has all the characteristics that make the excellence of young Vega Sicilia Unico. What freshness!
The Italian 1920 is perfect and totally coherent. The Spanish 1920 is more exotic and so charming. I would understand completely that we put the 1920 Barolo first but because of my trip in the world of wine and my love for Vega Sicilia I make the following classification: 1 – Vega Sicilia Unico Cosecha 1920, 2 – Barolo Riserva Giacomo Conterno Monforte d’Alba 1920, 3 – Barolo Marchesi di Barolo 1933, 4 – Barolo Giacomo Conterno Monfortino Riserva 1945, 5 – Barolo Giacomo Borgogno & Figli Riserva Speciale 1931, 6 – Barolo Mascarello Natale fu Maurizio 1958, 7 – Vino Rosso Riserva Luigi Nervi & Figlio Gattinari 1967.
We come back to the bar to taste the alcohol I brought, a Marc de Rosé from the Domaine d ‘Ott 1929. Its color is a magnificent pink, the pinkest of the bottles I have acquired. He is a magnificent marc. Did I in my subconscious want to show Italians that the Marcs transcend the grappa’s? I don’t believe so, which proves it was unconscious. Also unconscious is the fact that I put a wine that I brought in first. Is this serious doctor?
We chatted, remembering that magical lunch designed by Marcello, and remembering Arnaud Lallement’s inspired cuisine. Congratulations to the sommelier who managed all these wines. The atmosphere was such that everything combined to start all over again. The photos and comments I made on Instagram brought me 600 more followers in two days, mostly Italian, which gave me an idea of the feat Marcello has achieved. Well done. Bravo.