Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at Acquerello, San Francisco, California

If you were to ask us which was the greatest Barolo vintage between 1947 and 1978, we’d find it hard to choose. But one thing is certain—we’d have three leading candidates: 1958, 1964, and 1971.

Not only were these arguably the three greatest vintages of the epoch, each year has stood the test of time. The finest examples of 1958, 1964, and 1971 are to this day profound expressions of classic Barolo.

Four Legendary Producers

For this unique tasting, we focused on four outstanding producers: Giacomo Conterno, Giuseppe Mascarello, Oddero and Franco Fiorina. The first two names are, of course, known by everyone. But while Oddero and Fiorina are known mostly to insiders, the Old Style Barolos they made during this period were not only superb, they have aged with stunning grace.

Growers since 1725, the Oddero family were among the first Barolisti to be both growers and producers. Their reputation was built on a single wine, modestly named Barolo, even though its components came from some of Barolo’s most iconic vineyards. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1980s that Oddero began to isolate the best juice to make single-cru Barolos from Vigna Rionda, Brunate, Rocche Annunziata, Bussia Soprana, Gabutti, Rocche di Bussia, and Rocche di Castiglione Falletto. Prior to that, it all went into their Barolo!

Fiorina began bottling their own wines in 1947 and were strictly Old School, practicing a 40 to 45-day cappello sommerso maceration for their Barolo. The wine was also classic in that it was always a meticulous blend of villages: Barolo for backbone, Castiglione Falletto for body and strength, Serralunga for perfume, and La Morra for delicacy. The result was a Barolo that stood out for its balance as well as its longevity.

The Wines

Alongside a superb menu prepared by Acquerello’s acclaimed chef Suzette Gresham-Tognetti, we had the chance to taste the Barolo or Barolo Riserva of each producer in each of these great vintages.

But we also had four bonus wines for some intriguing comparisons: Giuseppe Mascarellos 1958 Barolo Riserva to compare with the 58 Barolo Normale; Giacomo Conternos rare 1964 Nebiolo Riserva to compare with the 64 Barolo; Giuseppe Mascarellos 1964 Barbaresco to contrast with the 64 Barolo, and Franco Fiorinas 1971 Barbaresco Riserva to compare with Fiorinas Barolo Riserva of the same year.  

Here was the line-up:

1958 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva
1958 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo
1958 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Riserva
1958 Oddero Barolo
1958 Franco Fiorina Barolo

1964 Giacomo Conterno Nebiolo Riserva
1964 Giacomo Conterno Barolo
1964 Giuseppe Mascarello Barbaresco
1964 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo
1964 Oddero Barolo
1964 Franco Fiorina Barolo

1971 Giacomo Conterno Barolo
1971 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo
1971 Oddero Barolo
1971 Franco Fiorina Barolo Riserva
1971 Franco Fiorina Barbaresco Riserva

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Wine barrels in a cellar

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