Older Rustic Red Wines

With our VINO concept, we are always looking to more rustic styled wines from around the Mediterranean basin.  They seem to work better with VINO’s style of cooking.  We therefore are always searching for really interesting wines produced from indigenous grape varieties from the wine producing areas found along the basin, which we supplement with rustic wines from other wine growing regions.

A real treat is when we have an opportunity to try these kinds of wine  with some bottle age to them.

Nowadays, interestingly, as I grow older, I find myself preferring wines which still have a strong core of fruit, vigor & structure combined with nuances of complexities from additional bottle age.  My preferred range of bottle age therefore typically lies somewhere between 15 & 20 years.

This past week we have been very fortunate to sample several wines which fit into this profile.  Here are a few of the highlights.

1997 Felsina Berardenga Chianti Classico “Riserva”

Felsina Berardenga has produced some of our favorite Chianti red wines for many, many years  We refer to their superbly crafted  wine as the “Queen of Tuscany” because of the elegance, refinement & their UN-testosterone  approach to winemaking.  This 1997 was a standout performance—classy, majestic & a stunning glass of wine, to say the least.


1996 Sasseti Brunello di Montalcino

Here is another really good Tuscan producer.  Their Brunello di Montalcino innately displays wonderful pedigree year in & year out.  We served this wine early in tonight’s line-up, however, because it is wide open, showing all of its stuff very openly.  For my palate, I suggest drinking this wine up in the short term, as it has resolved all of the hard edges, tannins & oak of its youth & is especially very food friendly right now.

2005 Giacomo Conterno Barolo “Cascina Francia”

What a truly amazing Italian aristocrat!  It actually was a shame this wine was actually opened on this night, as it was closed, tight as can be with puckering acidity & hard tannins.  Make no mistake though………this is a terrific, “tour de force”, soulful Barolo which just needs considerable more bottle age to harmonize & show its classic beauty & breed.  I only wish I had lots of this wine in the cellar.

1998 Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape “La Crau”

There is no doubt in my mind, this domaine is perennially producing the finest Chateauneuf-du-Pape in the appellation.  The wines deftly showcase everything I could ever want from this southrn Rhone Valley village through their wines.  Although this 1998 was tough, tight & really shut down on this night, it is one of the monumental standouts I have tasted from them with lots of power, depth, virility & structure.  Nothing shy here!  It will take many years for this beast to show the pedigree & intricacies one can find in some of the less ripe, “lighter” years, which I simply love, but this one will win a lot of friends….you just need to be patient.

1997 Rene Rostaing Cote Rotie

One of my all time favorite Cote Rotie masters was Marius Gentaz of Gentaz Dervieux.  If my memory serves me, Marius farmed roughly 2 hectares of old vines on the Cote Rotie & then crafted some of the most majestic Syrah based red wines in the world.  I was very sad when he announced his retirement after I believe the 1992 vintage.  I was very taken back when his nephew Rene Rostaing took over his holdings after a visit to Rostaing’s then new winery where I saw rows & rows of NEW oak barrels.   I walked away with a knot in my stomach.  Over the years, thankfully, Rene’s style of winemaking greatly changed & today is crafting some of the very finest Cote Rotie.  This 1997 had lots of saddle leather, graphite, roasted coffee smells with a terrific integration on the palate.  It was from my point of view tasting stellar wine at the perfect time of its life.  VERY impressive.

2000 Noel Verset Cornas

Here is another of the TRUE Syrah masters who has sadly retired (I believe 2006 was his last vintage).  His finest holding on the Cornas hillsides was Les Sabarottes, a very old vine parcel which seemed to have a much lighter colored soil to the naked eye from the others.  I was told Pierre Marie & Olivier Clape (August Clape) had purchased a big chunk of this holding & on a visit to their domaine marveled how their 2008 Sabarottes cuvee (out of foudre, before blending) had a similar character one would readily find in Verset’s…..very rustic, bordering rank, raw meat, Andouille sauage, pencil lead, green peppercorn aromas with higher levels of acidity & finer tannins.  This 2000 was a real treat, as all of its wild, masculine, hearty, untamed pieces have really come together, making this is sensational glass of authentic, masterful, soulful red wine to savor

1992 Tempier Bandol “La Tourtine”

This was another example of drinking a stellar red wine at the perfect time of its life kind of experience.  Where top echelon Bordeaux is an elder statesman with a tuxedo on, Tempier’s Bandol is much more  like a mountain man with a foul mouth…..being wildly rustic, eccentric & much more “country-ish” than a city boy.  The 1992 showcases lots of sultry, gamey, “countryside” character with a surprising  inner core of youthful fruit & vigor, with tamed tannins & a long finish.  Over the years, I have found either tasters really love this domaine’s wines….or hate it.  I love them!


1999 Gros Nore Bandol

A BIG, masculine, hearty, old styled,  full flavored Bandol which is typically quite forth right & impactful.  It has been well documented that proprietor Alain Pascal is an avid hunter & his Bandol is well suited for hearty, rustic game dishes such as the Braised Lamb Shank with roasted root vegetables we served it with the other night.  It truly was a match made in heaven!!!!!  I will remember this 1999…..it was that good…especially with this dish.


1996 Charles Joguet Chinon “Clos Dioterie”

I was somewhat surprised someone brought this Loire Valley red wine to a Mediterranean styled dinner.  I must say, however, I was completely fascinated by this 16 year old Cabernet Franc based red wine.  It had lots of funk & wild nuances, probably too rustic for today’s wine drinking public.  For me though, the wine had fascinating intrigue, fabulous fruit & structure with a real sinister, “dark” side to its core. I really wish I had more in the cellar.

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