As a start to In Pursuit of Winefulness I decided to open a bottle with some age to it. Barolo’s can exhibit a great deal of longevity, and in fact many examples require years of aging before they fully reveal themselves and all they have to offer. I thought it would be best to set a baseline for the project of where a Barolo could go if given a proper amount of time before opening. In looking over the choices I had, I thought the 1998 Fontanafredda Paiagallo Vigna La Villa fit exactly what I was looking for.
Fontanafredda is one of Barolo’s oldest wine producers. During the past century, the winery has certainly seen its share of ups and downs, but it remains a forceful presence in the Barolo landscape. Winemaking in recent years has found a middle ground between the traditional and modern camps. Maceration typically occurs over a 20-30 day period. The wine is then matured in barrique for 12 months for cask for an additional 12 months months before a further year in bottle prior to release. Grapes for the La Villa bottling come from Fontanafredda’s vineyard of the same name in the larger Paiagallo vineyard outside of the city of Barolo. Paiagallo lies just southwest of the famed Cannubi hill, and sits above Tortonian soil. The Tortonian soil typically results in a lighter, less structured but more perfumed expression of Barolo as compared to wines that hail from Barolo’s more eastern vineyards.
The bottle I tasted came directly from my cellar, where it had resided for several months. Tasting occurred over three nights.
On the first night, after putting the kids to bed, I opened the bottle and went straight for a pop & pour.
In the glass, the wine was pale garnet in color, with an orange rim. The age was beginning to be apparent by the look of things, and clearly there was little to no over-extraction going on here.
On the nose, the wine was moderately intense, but showed a depth to its aromas that could almost be felt. Baked cherry and sweet spice were clear, along with herbal notes, prune, date and orange. You could sense some wood, but it was subtle and clearly had integrated itself. The light wood notes coupled with traditional tar aromas highlighted the fact the the wine had moved out of its youth and into a more developed stage.
The palate remained fresh, with the acidity not wavering much due to the age of the wine. The tannins remained moderately high, and were still somewhat coarse and grippy. The wine showed a heightened level of intensity in the mouth relative to the nose, showing prune, milk chocolate, blood orange and menthol flavors. With some air, more mineral and earth notes were highlighted. The finish lasted a good while, kept fresh by the still vibrant acidity.
I recorked the bottle and left it in my cellar. Over the next two nights, I tasted the wine in the same manner (popped & poured after putting the kids to bed). On the second night, even more developed notes of fig, prune and balsamic vinegar came to the forefront, but the nose retained an edge of the fruit which was more prominent the night before. The tannins were still resolving themselves on the second night, and traditional tar, cherry and rose flavors dominated. On the third and final night, the wine softened a great deal, with blackberry and balsamic notes dominating. The wine began to fade on the mid-palate, but there remained enough acidity to help the wine come back around at the finish.
Overall the 1998 Fontanafredda Paiagallo Vigna La Villa was very good. The wine showed a great deal of complexity and character, along with being well-balanced and integrated. The acidity and tannin levels provided a great deal of structure to the wine, allowing it to show development across many levels. The wine was able to hold up for several nights, and definitely will hold up for a little bit longer.