food / travel

Barolo vs. Bordeaux: Latest Round To The Italian In Red

Wine guru Robert Parker pays unique homage to Barolo 2007, a vintage that could down as a once-in-a-generation offering. And the Italians rejoice.

Roberto Fiori

ALBA - Robert Parker, the influential wine critic who has determined the success or disgrace of countless producers across the world, has picked Barolo to do what he had never done before: a public wine tasting in New York.

With a selected group of 15 producers of the Langhe -- the wine-growing area in the northern Italian Piedmont region -- he introduced the 2007 Barolo to the most important collectors in the United States, Canada and Britain.

Apparently, it did not go down well in Bordeaux.

It is, in fact, nothing short of a conversion for Parker, who has long been a fan of Bordeaux at the expenses of some wines, like Nebbiolo of Alba or French pinot noir, that are the standard-bearers of specific terroir and identity.

No wonder Parker has had his right-hand man Antonio Galloni do some reconnaissance. Galloni has long been a supporter of Italian wine in the "Wine Advocate."

Called "Festa del Barolo" the event took place a week ago at Del Posto in New York, which has recently earned a fourth star from the New York Times, the first Italian restaurant in decades to win such an honor.

Fifteen tables for 15 star producers. The lucky ones who spent $900 for a seat were treated to a wine tasting, followed by a gala dinner and an auction whose proceeds were destined to relief efforts in tsunami-hit Japan.

"Such an event will go down in the history of Barolo as a milestone, the definitive recognition of our land and our wines," said Luca Currado of the Vietti di Castiglione Falletto wine cellar. "If the Legion D'Honneur existed in Italy, they should give it to Antonio Galloni."

And perhaps to Parker, too.

Says Bruno Ceretto of the wine-making dynasty in the Langhe: "I remember the first time Parker came to the Langhe in 1994. Prior to that visit, the Barolo and Barbaresco wines were considered ‘good but…" After, they just became ‘Good. Period.""

"This New York event consolidated a prestige that has been built with decades of hard work," said Ceretto.

Elio Altare, a producer from a town called La Morra, said Parker made a "safe bet."

"The 2007 vintage is one of those that can hardly repeat itself in the lifetime of a Barolo producer: it was so complete that it was virtually impossible to make mediocre wine," he explained.

Another fine producer, Enrico Scavino, likened the 2007 vintage to another one that is now legendary, 1990. "Same elegance, harmony, finesse and intensity. With its extraordinary fullness, a sip is all it takes to win you over."

The 2007 vintage produced a Barolo that was easy on the palate and became ready very soon. "A great wine is one that can be easily drunk even if it is as complex as Barolo," said producer Bruno Giacosa.

What matters is the impression that Barolo has finally made an impact among the great collectors in a country that, despite the crisis, remains the most crucial market for high-end wine. Back in Italy, producers who have returned from the New York event can hardly conceal their enthusiasm.

"It was unprecedented. Americans can get even more excited than us. The other night they looked like children in a candy store," says Barbara Sandrone, of the winery by the same name, who attended with her father Luciano. She said the Americans came to appreciate the uniqueness of this Italian wine.

The producers' thoughts now turn to the hoped-for hike in sales that the event is expected to bring. Might they overtake the French producers? They hope so, though nobody yet dares to say it out loud.

Foto (M3)

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