Giacomo Conterno and Luciano Sandrone

14 May 2015, Morrell Wine Bar, Rock Center

My Vinous tasting group recently did a comparative tasting between Giacomo Conterno’s and Luciano Sandrone’s Barolos.  Two of my favorite producers but two very different styles.  A number of the guys at the tasting did full blown write ups which I’ve linked to below – I added a few of my own thoughts as well:

The Icon vs. The Iconoclast: An Epic Barolo Tasting – by Eric Guido on the Cellar Table @ Morrell

A Memorable Barolo Tasting – by Marc Scudiery @ Wine Without Numbers

G. Conterno Barolo vs. L. Sandrone Barolo Single-Blind – by Ken Vastola @ The Fine Wine Geek

Flight 1 – 97 and 00:

I felt neither of these wines were showing particularly well.  The ’97 Conterno appeared much older than it was – tannins were a bit absent and it had a shorter finish with a very linear mid palate.  I gave this wine 89 points and the ’00 Sandrone 90 points.  A lot of pepper and mint on the palate but this wine still felt like it could develop and resolve a bit more.

One thing I did note was that on a tasting I did a few weeks ago of various vintages of Canalicchio di Sopra, I liked the hot vintages the least – maybe the same could be said for Piedmont?  For my palate, I think cooler vintages can still make balanced and interesting wines but the hotter vintages just become flat over time.  Probably an over generalization but something I noticed.

Flight 2 – 98’s:
The ’98 Le Vigne and Cascina Francia were both very good wines.  Sweet cherries and impeccable balance for the LV and a more tart, younger wine in the CF.  The ’98 Cannubi Boschis (which I brought) was a big disappointment for me.  Perhaps it was too cold while I was tasting it and hadn’t opened up but it had no nose, menthol on the palate with no finish.  88 points.

Flight 3 – 99’s:
Flight was showing great across all wines.  I mixed up the Monfortino and CF as well as I recalled an earlier ’99 CF I had that was really singing whereas this wine still felt big, brooding and shut down.  A powerful wine with incredible tannins on the finish.  The Monfortino in contrast was all about the fruit – was just starting to develop some secondary aromas although it was still holding a lot back.  Felt more open to me than the CF on this night.  The Sandrone was a pretty wine – much less power than the Conternos but not in a bad way – Burgundian.

Flight 4 – 96’s:
Another great showing after the 99’s – in this flight I think all the wines showed as you would expect.  The CB had the mint/eucalyptus nose but with more age and sweet strawberries on the palate.  Starting to get a candied taste.  The Conternos were both much more masculine wines but in this case, the Monfortino was the darker, more reticent wine as you would expect.  Unyielding vs. the CF which still hadn’t resolved its tart red fruit.

Flight 5 – ’85 + 90’s:
And it gets better.  One of the best all around flights of Barolo I’ve ever tasted.  Every wine was amazing in a different way and although I socred the ’85 1 point ahead of the other two wines, it was really missing the point of how great these wines were in totally different ways.  The ’85 was fully mature – amazingly complex nose of dried figs and ripe red fruit.  Candied jolly rancher on the palate while still maintaining its acidic backbone to keep the balance.  The ’90 CF was floral on the aroma and still young – reticent in the beginning but started to come around towards the end of the night.  The ’90 CB was amazing for its purity of fruit and was one wine that left a finish of candied red fruit instead of tannin at the very end.

Final thoughts on the tasting:
I’m a big fan of both Conterno and Sandrone but found this tasting instructive in the relative differences.  In some flights they weren’t obvious and in others, their expected styles couldn’t have been more clear.  I’m a big buyer and believer in both producers and the experience of drinking these wines with friends who are unbelievable sources of wine knowledge was truly the best part of this tasting for me.

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