Le Rocche del Falletto di Serralunga d' Alba Barolo 1999

This bottle is a celebration: Mark and John, old friends of mine, signed a lease for an apartment in San Diego this afternoon, which means they’ll be leaving their home in Omaha in two weeks and moving in down the block from us. Fans of Italian wines that they are, they gave us this bottle many years ago – and now it’s time to share it back and celebrate their impending move.

First of all, I have no idea if I’ve titled this entry correctly. I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to Italian wines, so I don’t know if I should simply say “Falletto Barolo” and leave it at that – or write out everything that’s on the label that doesn’t seem like a legal term. (Google tells me that “Giacosa Barolo Falletto” might be accurate as well.) I’m even so clueless that I had to ask Mark to remind me what grape is used in a Barolo. (Thanks, Mark!)

Anyhow: on to the wine. There was a bloom of fragrance released into the room immediately upon removing the cork (which, of course, was an ultralong, very healthy looking one). In the glass, it’s obviously an older wine at this point, smelling something like Hansen’s organic cola, albeit with notes of molasses, dark chocolate, and dried herbs. There’s also something subtly citrus – it reminds me (almost) of dried orange peel and thyme.

Tannins don’t appear to be fully resolved yet, which is surprising at first, but oh, what a lovely texture this wine has – it’s medium-bodied, smooth, almost slippery, but with a definite undercurrent of heavyweight tannin. The overall effect is very surprising to me: this doesn’t even remotely remind me of anything I’ve encountered before, which is probably not surprising given my limited exposure to Italian wines at all. There’s sort of a dried-cherry note here, but on the whole the fruit flavors, such as they are, are decidedly backgrounded in favor of other things, none of which I feel well equipped to describe. The overall effect is somewhat disorienting: it’s more reminiscent of a Hungarian herbal liqueur than what I know as “wine.” To be honest, the intense texturality of it throws me as well: it’s impossible to drink this wine and note be acutely aware of the tannins present, which suggests to me that it might be better to wait another ten years before having a whack at it.

Meanwhile, Mark’s just reheated some Chicago style pizza from Lefty’s, which might work extremely well with this; the tannins really seem to be demanding some kind of meat to counterbalance them. “Yum,” Mark just said, and I think the look on his face sums it up perfectly. According to Mark, the tannins really complement the meat on the pizza, and the combination is what makes this wine work so well for him.

Sadly, I overindulged at dinner earlier on, so I can’t really manage trying some with the pizza, but I’m finding the style more and more interesting the longer I spend with it. The finish certainly does stick around for a couple of minutes, and it reminds me, oddly enough, of something like a wassail bowl: citrus notes hovering around the edge of something sweetly dark.

If anything, this wine seems to be utterly itself, which is a rare enough thing. I fear I’m not well situated to say much more about it, though, given that I’m not knowledgeable about or experienced with Italian wines – and I’m also far to used to drinking wines on their own (rather than with food) to fully appreciate the style, as it really isn’t at all designed to be drunk on its own. Ultimately, though, the true mark of friendship is sharing things that you enjoy with your mates even if they’re not quite up to the task of appreciating it, and for that I am deeply, deeply grateful.

Welcome to San Diego, Mark and John!

Price: $NA
Closure: Cork

2 thoughts on “Le Rocche del Falletto di Serralunga d' Alba Barolo 1999

  1. I’m with you Chris. I find many Barolos to be quite a challenge to get my head around. But the best wines are just so fantastically tannic, textural and interesting that it makes it all worth it.

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