As I wrote in my previous post this tasting was done in June of 2009, but since I just started my blog, I thought it deserved to be mentioned here. It was a spectacular tasting.
Saturday evening it was time for the big Cascina Francia tasting. Apart from Stefan I had invited 5 friends, who are all very interested in wine. Four of them also participated in my Cascina Francia vertical last year. So we knew that we could be in for a very special treat, especially as this year’s tasting included more “older” wines than last year. The wines were served semi-blind as everyone knew which wines were going to be in the tasting, but the bottles were covered when served. We did not decant the wines, but they were opened three – four hours before being served.
|The bottles waiting to be served|
We started with a glass of
. It was Charles Ellner Champagne Brut Seduction Millésimé 1996. It had a golden colour. It had very distinct notes of rye bread, or yeast as others put it. Other than that it displayed lemon, honey, hazelnuts and also apples. It did not have the sharp acidity, which I have found in most the 96 Champagne I’ve had, but you could feel the acidity in the stomach. A very good Champagnes . 92 points. Champagne
Then came the first course, which was hand cut carne cruda from veal tenderloin. It was a magnificent carne cruda, and even though it was not tenderloin from Piedmontese animals it was one of the best carne cruda I’ve ever had. The food went very well with the first flight of wines, which were 1996 & 1999 Cascina Francia.
1999 Barolo Cascina Francia
Initially the 99 was very tight and did not offer much on the nose. I’ve had the 99 a number of times and it is the first time that I’ve experienced it with a tight nose. After working with it in the glass for a while it started to reveal some of its underlying greatness. The nose revealed cherries, some strawberry and in general small red berries. In the mouth it is very fruit driven, almost Burgundian. It was extremely well structured, with firm tannins and had good distinct acidity. It was very primary and you sensed that this only revealed a fraction of its potential as we definitely caught this at as rather closed stage. After the dinner we tried some of the leftovers and it was quite strange with voluminous sweet cherries. I had a tiny bit left for tonight and it had improved significantly. It was still dominated by cherries but it had lost the voluminous sweetness. On other bottles rose petals have been a very characteristic element in the nose, but I did not pick it up on this bottle. After this showing, I will try to keep my hands away from my remaining bottles. 93+ points.
1996 Barolo Cascina Francia
The 96 was much more open for business and offered a very expressive nose of cherries. It appeared darker in style than the 99 and it had a monster structure underneath all the primary fruit and berries. This is really a wine which is build for the long haul. The great body and the sharp acidity will keep this wine alive for decades and I’m sure there is plenty of fruit to balance it. At other tastings I’ve preferred the 99 over the 96 but not this time. When revisited after dinner this was really singing and the people that got to taste it were stunned. A fantastic wine although it is only a baby. 94+ points.
Next course was risotto with morels, summer truffles and fried quail egg. A fairly simple yet truly amazing dish. It offered a perfect match to the next flight of wines, which consisted of 1970 & 1971 Barolo from Giacomo Conterno. I had sourced the 1970 (and the 58 Monforitno) last year via a friend’s connection in
. When I ordered it, it was listed as a 1970 Barbaresco, but when I received it, it was a Barolo!! Naturally I did not complain and certainly not with a price tag of “only” 65 Euros. Stefan brought the 1971 from his cellar. I had anxiously been looking forward to this flight as I had never tasted any of the wines. As it turned out, this was the single best flight of wines I’ve ever had. Both bottles were truly amazing and in my book, they were both flirting with perfection. Italy
It had good ruby red colour and it initially revealed a touch of maderization. But after just 5 minutes in the glass, it transformed into a true beauty. The nose had a very characteristic note of menthol, but it also revealed cherries, leather, truffles, iron, iodine, blood and beef. It was amazing. In the mouth it had a very masculine personality with a big body. It still had plenty of well integrated tannins and a whipping acidity. I was completely stunned by this wine and I feel so lucky to have tried it. Wow. It did not let down at all, rather it kept getting better and better. I had the last zip tonight and it was equally stunning. It had not lost anything. A truly amazing wine. 98 points.
Colour was also ruby red and it too revealed a touch of maderization, perhaps slightly more than the 1970 did. But again it transformed into a true beauty in the glass. The nose was amazing with scents of coffee, leather, truffles, cherries and menthol. It also revealed iron, but not nearly as much as the 1970 did. It had lots of tannin and a good distinct acidity. It was also a big bodied wine, but perhaps with a slightly more elegant touch than the 1970. The finish seemed endless as the wine stayed in your mouth forever. This wine also just got better and better over the course of the evening and even tonight the last zip was unbelievable. There was much debate around the table as which wine was the better of the two. Initially I preferred the 1970 but as time went by, the elegance and balance of the 71 made my preference shift towards the 1971. But this was like splitting hairs as both were incredible. 99 points.
|still the best set of wines I've ever had|
Again I have to say that this was the single best flight I’ve ever had. The complexity of these two wines was stunning and the pairing with the food was just perfect.
Next up were the 1987 & 1988 Cascina Francia. Coming right after this unreal flight I feared that they would have a hard time. Again I was wrong. Both wines were singing.
1987 Cascina Francia
This wine was singing right out of the glass with cherries, strawberries, menthol and liquorice. It was so pure nebbiolo. In the mouth it had wonderfully soft caressing tannins and well balanced acidity. The finish was long and the wine left everyone smiling. A great wine. I think that this wine really shows how good the Conternos have been and still are as producers. This was a real off-vintage and yet they have made such an incredible wine. I had the Monfortino earlier this year and honestly this wine was not far from the quality of the Monfortino. Having said this, I think we caught this wine at its peak and I don’t see it getting any better, but I’m sure it will keep this way for a number of years. 95 points.
1988 Cascina Francia
Initially this was slightly more reserved than the 87. But after a while it opened in the glass. In the nose it revealed many of the same characteristics of the 87, but in the mouth it was much more masculine. The fruit was darker, the tannins were more aggressive and the finish was longer. Again an amazing wine and I really liked the pure expression of nebbiolo that this flight presented. One of my friends commented that this was how Mother Nature had intended nebbiolo to taste like. I have one bottle of the 88 left, and will keep this for a while as I think it will improve even more over the next few years. 95+ points.
The last flight consisted of 1985, 1989 & 1990 Cascina Francia. I met with Roberto Conterno here in
last Monday and when I told him about our tasting, he responded that the 85 should be unbelievable. I had never before tasted the 85 with this comment from Roberto, I was very excited to tasted it. Copenhagen
1985 Cascina Francia
The colour of the 85 was quite dark red, but to be honest no one focused so much on the colour of this wine. No, this wine was all about the nose. It was incredibly expressive, revealing the characteristics of the warm vintage, with ripe dark fruit with an extremely seductive personality. This was sex in a bottle. The wine is at peak and I don’t see it getting any better, but then again it doesn’t need to get any better, because it was fantastic. I just sat and inhaled this wine for several minutes – it was gorgeous. After some time the ripe fruit moved a bit in the background and flowers became present and then suddenly there was an wonderful scent of truffles. In the mouth it was soft, seductive and caressing, but still pretty concentrated. The fruit was somewhat sweet, which I guess is a result of the warm vintage. It was a stunning wine with a nose which was to die for, but it did not have the structure of some of the other vintages. 96 points.
1989 Cascina Francia
When poured into the glass this wine had a very mature nose but with time this disappeared and the wine just got better and better. I drank this from a Riedel Sommelier Grand Cru
Burgundy glass as I had anticipated that it would benefit from a lot of air. Despite being 20 years old it was tight and seemed to be saying “leave me alone” from the glass. But as expected it started to open up with air. It revealed tar, liquorice and cherries in the nose. Underneath this initial layer you felt the dark red fruit which seemed to be covering a core of rusty iron. Tannins are powerful and there was a whipping acidity. The finish seemed to last forever. This is a true powerful and awesome Barolo, but it also has an elegant touch. It really requires patience, which is best illustrated by the fact that it was much better when I had the last half glass tonight. A fantastic wine, which I think is one of the best if not the best Cascina Francia ever made. 97+ points.
1990 Cascina Francia
This wine seemed to be somewhere in the middle of the 85 and the 89, as you could sense that it came from a warm vintage like the 85, but it also had a hugely structured body like the 89. The nose revealed dark ripe fruit and cherries. Late in the evening it also started to show scents of iron. In the mouth it was big and powerful with very firm tannins and a medium strong acidity. The finish was also very long. It was a fantastic wine and easily the best 1990 Cascina Francia I’ve ever had. It did not appear to be near peak yet, although I’ve read many notes suggesting this. Perhaps this bottle had been stored under perfect conditions. 95+ points.
|The amazing line-up|