The most memorable wine I ever had was a 1968 Barolo that I drank in 1980 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The reason it is still memorable is that I was new to wine. I was just learning and drinking and exploring and getting excited about it. I loved drinking wine but it never really made me stop in my tracks. And this was the first bottle that made me realize how extraordinary a wine can be.
What I found very interesting about it was, I knew nothing about Barolo at the time and I remember it very vividly as being tar and just-pressed rose petals, and it had a little bit of sandpaper tannin. And it really was a wine that opened up the possibilities of what wine could be in my life. Before that, I was just happy to drink, but that’s when I started to study and try to learn as much as possible.
It was by Giovanni Scanavino. And the funny thing is that in my later research, I realized that Scanavino was not a well-respected producer at all. In fact, he had become known for making very, very commercial wines. But I discovered that not only was 1968 a very good year, it was also the first year that he had made wine from his own grapes instead of buying any. So I basically lucked out by having a great bottle of wine from a not-so-great producer! But it really was a wine of terroir, not a wine of technology, and it was pure and basic, exposed, raw, vulnerable Barolo. I well remember the taste even though it was quite a long time ago.
I have not had the opportunity to try it since, but a friend of mine recently sent me a picture of the 1969 that we will be having soon together. The 1969 was a far inferior year and I don’t have high hopes about it. But since I wrote about the 1968 wine, some people have taken an interest in it and somebody I know in Vancouver found a bottle just two years ago. And he put it in a blind tasting and it was the wine of the night!
As told to Charlotte Serve
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