After 16 years in San Francisco, Wine & Spirits magazine moved its Top 100 Symposium tasting to New York City in 2020. Two months later, New York City was ground zero in America for the coronavirus. The following year the event went virtual, but as we learned in so many ways, there’s no substitute for personal contact.
Last month, the magazine’s publisher and editor Joshua Greene and his staff returned to the in-person format in New York City. Safety precautions limited the participants to 60 wineries who poured their awarded wine and another one or two wines of their choice. Around the perimeter was a coterie of New York’s cutting-edge restaurants and gourmet purveyors offering bites of the foods that made them the talk of the town. Here are some highlights:
At table no.1, Champagne Bollinger presented its La Grande Annee 2012. The deep flavor and mineral, stony backbone support the reputation of the outstanding 2012 vintage and La Grande Annee as one of Champagne’s premier wines. Also served was the delicious Bollinger Brut Special Cuvee nonvintage. Built on pinot noir, it towers over nearly every other entry-level Champagne. Respective ranges for the retail prices for the two Champagnes are $120-$200; and $59-$80.
Placed at table no. 2 was Champagne Roederer with its Roederer Cristal 2013, a wine that sparkles with mild croissant and apple aromas, and bright apple and ginger flavors. As appealing as this wine is now, it will show its breeding after five years aging in a dark, cool cellar. Don’t worry about aging it too long: Last month, I was stunned by the perfection of the 1979 Roederer Cristal I tasted.
Roederer’s second wine was Roederer Brut Collection 242 nonvintage, a new bottling that replaced the reliable Roederer Brut Premier nonvintage. The Collection 242 captures the essence of the vintage it is based on—currently 2017—whereas the Brut Premier focused on a consistent style regardless of the base wine’s vintage.
Driven by chardonnay in 2017, The Collection 242 offered a stony, tart fruit aroma and ripe pear and apple flavors. The 242 stands for Roederer’s 242nd vintage, and with each passing vintage the Collection’s sequential numbering will allow collectors to compare the wines. That might not have been in the minds of Frederic Rouzaud and Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon, Roederer’s respective owner and winemaker, but it’s in mine. I’m putting some 242 bottles in my collection with plans for 243, 244 and more. Along with gaining an understanding of each vintage, it will reduce the temptation to drink the Cristal before it’s properly aged. Retail prices for the two Champagnes are $250-$400; and $45-$80, respectively.
It was no surprise to see Elvio Cogno Barolo Ravera Bricco Pernice 2016 an award winner. I’ve been impressed with Cogno’s Barolo wines since my first tasting with owners Valter Fissore and Nadia Cogno a decade ago in New York City. In 2018, I reciprocated with a visit to their winery (see: Elvio Cogno the master of Ravera (thewineodyssey.com).
Pernice means partridge in Italian and bricco is the Piedmontese word for the top of a hill. Both meet in the 2016 Elvio Cogno Ravera Bricco Pernice Barolo DOCG, named for the rock on the top of the Ravera vineyard where courting partridges build their nest. Seductive raspberry and black-cherry aromas will keep your nose in the glass and the delicious red-plum and raspberry flavors are seasoned with dried oregano and tobacco-like tastes bound by an undercurrent of minerality. Its beautiful harmony and wholeness will captivate you.
In 1990, Nadia Cogno’s father, Elvio Cogno purchased a portion of the Ravera cru in Novello, one of 11 villages in Barolo. The parcel sits at 1,200 feet elevation in an amphitheater of sorts and its south-facing slopes of limestone and sandy soils allow the vines to capture the sun’s rays throughout the day. Countered with the coolness of night, the site produced the balanced fruit and acidity found in the 2016 Elvio Cogno Ravera Barolo DOCG. More cherry scented and flavored than the Bricco Pernice, there is a freshness to this wine that belies its structured and ageability. It will be tempting to drink this wine in its youthful bliss, but 2016 is a great vintage and you will prize this wine with four or five years of aging.
Vintage by vintage, winemaker Valter Fissore is carving a place for Elvio Cogno amongst the very best Barolo producers. Retail prices for the two Barolos are: $120-$180; and $70-$135, respectively.
Paolo Scavino is a century-old Barolo winery that has been in the hands of winemaker Enrico Scavino for the past 70 years. His daughters Enrica and Elisa work full time with their father, who doesn’t know the meaning of the word retire. He began his “career” at 10 years old.
For the 2016 vintage, Enrico decided to ferment some of the Barolos in large wooden vessels—botti in Italian—in place of the stainless-steel fermenters used for the previous 30 years. The award-winning 2016 Paolo Scavino Barolo Bric de Fiasc originates from a slope in Castiglione Falletto’s Fiasc cru. Perfumed with cherry and anise and packed with black-cherry and plum flavors, this explosive wine is wrapped in substantial tannins that will require years of cellaring to unite, or open it a day in advance of drinking. Enrico made his first Bric de Fiasc in 1978, this gorgeous 2016 will not be his last.
The mix of ripe, rich fruit aromas and flavors bound with noticeable tannins appears in the 2016 Paolo Scavino Ravera Barolo. The cranberry, cherry and anise stand out along with the tannins and acidity that support the generous fruit and confirm many years of life. Retail prices range for the two Barolos range from $78-$120; and $70-$85, respectively.
The tasting event was more modest than in the pre-pandemic days, but its largeness was felt through the outstanding wines, creative food and the perceptible vibe that life is getting back to the people and places that make New York City “top of the list, head of the heap, king of the hill.”
Words and Photos by John Foy