Marchesi di Barolo Nebbiolo Millennium 1990
The most obvious characteristic of the Chairman’s Selection program – to anyone who uses it regularly – is its wild unpredictability. Sometimes a treasure trove of wonderful bargains, it can just as commonly be a dumping ground for bad vintages and bottles past their prime.
As such, when a 1990 Barolo from a well-respected producer comes along, it’s hard to know what to think. Mature Barolos just don’t go on the retail market in the US, especially at a price like this. Is it too good to be true? How could it not be? Pre-release reports on this bottle suggested that it contained heavy, heavy sediment, requiring advance planning to stand it up and filter it before drinking. This in and of itself could explain the bargain price (as many people wouldn’t want to deal with that hassle), so hope endured.
I stood my bottle up for over a week in my basement. Could this be why the cork disintegrated on me while trying to open the bottle? Perhaps. I was planning to filter with cheesecloth anyway, so I poured it slowly through tattered cork into my decanter. (Edit: Cork came out clean on my 2nd bottle.)
Right off the bat, it had a nice earthy nose with truffles, and even triggered a fond memory of pool locker room. Over four hours, the aroma developed warm spice notes as well as tobacco. Hints of cherry, herbs and black tea lingered throughout, though the fruit had mostly passed. Tannins played hide and seek, but were deeply integrated. Acidity was there in full force, though it bordered on over-the-hill astringency.
All told, this is a fun wine to try for only $25, and an absolute must buy for any PA resident interested in how wine ages (especially if you have limited experience with the subject). This Barolo’s best days are probably behind it, however, so I’d suggest trying it before buying more than one.