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The Best of the Best of 1997, Historic Vintage Giacomo Conterno Barolo, and a Contender for Wine of the Year

April 3, 2013
A Note from Sergio


As they did with 1985 and 1990, wine critics showered 1997 with a lot of love. Some--many, actually--called it the vintage of the century. Like those other two vintages, '97 had many qualities that were easy to praise. It was a warm year, one with textbook weather for the creation of wines that would please the palate just about immediately upon release.


While critics like to praise warm vintages because they tend to produce wines that will please people (and thus create and maintain a readership for the critics), the truth is that wines from warm growing seasons tend not to age as well. Warm weather wines, while opulent and desirable in their youth, can dry out, get fatigued and turn hollow and empty as they age. Cooler weather gives grapes a longer hang time, what winemakers call the days or weeks that grapes have as they move from immature to ripe.


Look at winemaking like the sport of running. A wine from a warm season runs at a sprint. It jets out of the gate, and it is a marvel. It's captivating in its grace and power. But like a sprinter, it gets tired quickly. It just can't run that fast for all that long. A wine from a cooler season, for example 1996, is like a marathon runner. It doesn't look that impressive at the start, but when you get twenty miles in, you see the stars; they're the runners who make the long race look effortless.


The trick is to be a producer who knows when to pick his or her grapes, and in a warm season, this can be tricky. A grape has three important parts: the skin, the flesh and the seeds. The skin turns color, the flesh grows sweet, and the seeds change from green to brown. The issue is that the seeds don't always ripen along with the flesh and the skin--especially in a warm growing season. As harvest arrives, producers have to make the crucial choice of when to pick, divining the perfect blend of ripeness of the different parts of the grape to ensure good balance among the grape's sugars, acidity and tannins.


A hasty producer will pick before the seeds are ripe, knowing that at least the flesh of the grape is ripe, high in sugar--if unbalanced. This might produce a wine that's great tasting early, but it means that the wine won't age well. The high sugar content and imbalanced acidity will mean that the wine has no legs; the wine will be a sprinter whose race is over in the blink of an eye. A great winemaker will find the perfect moment when the flesh and the seed are ripe, a moment that's evanescent and urgent. These are the winemakers who can create an age-worthy wine in a hot year.


And these are the producers I'm proud to feature today. These are winemakers like Bruno Giacosa, Angelo Gaja, Giuseppe Quintarelli, Luciano Sandrone, and Franco Biondi-Santi; they are estates like Tenuta San Guido, Montevertine, Miani and Il Palazzone. They are the best of the best of the best, and today these '97 wines offer the opulence of youth combined with the complexity that you can only find in vintage wines.


1997 Sassicaia, Montevetrano, Percalo or Scrio--these are wines with legs, and at sixteen years old, they're showing their glory. I'm proud to offer you these wines with impeccable provenance and perfect maturity. There's nothing wrong with enjoying a sprinting wine right out of the gate, but there's immeasurable joy in drinking a wine of longevity. 


Today's Featured Sections Include: 


1. Spotlight on Excellence: A Return to 1997, the Vintage of the Century

2. Time Sensitive Offer: Two Giacomo Conterno Barolo from Benchmark '60s Vintages

3. Our Experts Suggest: A Pair of Wow-Factor Wines

4. Only at IWM: Bruno Giacosa's Contender for Wine of the Year

5. Wine Events: Brunello di Montalcino Immersion Course

My Best, 



Sergio Esposito

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Giacomo Conterno Barolo 1964 750ml
Giacomo Conterno Barolo 1964 750ml
Price: $539.00

Cantina Conterno began in 1908 when Grandfather Giovanni Conterno started making wines. While not technically labeled Monfortino at the time, the now legendary riserva was born in 1915 when Giovanni placed emphasis on premium quality Barolo made only in great vintages with long fermentation and aging periods to create the best aging potential. This philosophy was inherited and taken to astronomical heights by his son Giacomo more info
Giacomo Conterno Barolo 1961 750ml
Giacomo Conterno Barolo 1961 750ml
Price: $699.00

1961 is widely considered one of the great Piemonte vintages of the 1960s, and this Giacomo Conterno Barolo stands the test of time. This wine’s remarkable primary red and blue fruits dance against a framework of worn saddle leather, crushed herbs, dried rose petals, warm earth, and tertiary notes of autumn leaves, roasted game, and white truffles. At once ethereal and powerful, this Barolo floats on the palate while its spectacular minerality and surprising acidic core propel its silky, complex and kaleidoscopic finish. A magical wine, Conterno’s ’61 Barolo captivates from every angle, embodying its majestic vintage with its sheer finesse and breathtaking longevity. This 1961 Barolo dates from the years when the Giacomo Conterno estate still purchased their grapes from trusted local growers with prime vineyards in Monforte and Serralunga; this Barolo was crafted almost entirely by Giovanni, Giacomo’s son, in traditional methods. more info