This week [June 2 – 8 2013] we raided the cellar again. Without planning it, we drank two wines that share an interesting history: the 1983 Cote Rotie from Bernard Levet and the 1982 Brunello di Montalcino from Luigi Anania’s La Torre estate. Two distinct wines with one dramatic similarity: both wines were the first wines produced by Levet and Anania, respectively!
1983 was the year that Bernard Levet took the reins of the family domaine from his father-in-law, Marius Chambeyron. I remember this transition with clarity despite the many years that have passed since. The “magic” was somehow in the air then but, even with that feeling, I could never claim to have predicted at that point how glorious this 1983 Cote Rotie and the subsequent relationship with the Levet family would become. This particular wine ranks amongst the greatest of all the wines I have purchased over the years.
The bottle we drank at home the other evening in the company of a simple meal was exceptional for its depth and balance. At first, even after the decanting, there was an edge of acidity that was worrisome, a hint of having waited perhaps too long. But, as is often the case with these natural, non-manipulated wines from exceptional terroir, twenty minutes of aeration proved stimulating: the color both brightened and deepened, the aromas of earth and truffles and dried fruits emerged and the tannins lay in a seductive pose along the finish line. Despite the heat of the late season in 1983, this wine carried perhaps 12.5% alcohol, all elements concentrated in perfect equilibrium. It gained in expressiveness and presence over the course of the meal … a masterpiece at thirty years of age!
Back in the mid-1980s, I had the good fortune of being introduced to Luigi Anania who, in league with his distinguished Calabrian father, had purchased and resurrected an old estate in the southernmost zone of the Brunello district, situated at high altitude a kilometer or two outside of the hamlet of Sant’Angelo in Colle. He was about to release the first wine produced through their efforts, a 1982 Brunello di Montalcino. Now, over a quarter-century after that first encounter and thirty-one years after the grapes for that first wine were crushed and fermented, history reveals how fortuitous that meeting was. Anania is a gentleman of rare intelligence, a writer, a thinker, a talented agronomist and viticoltore, above all a friend. His wines mirror his character: subtle, calm, profound, generous, professorial, remarkably distinguished. The 1982 Brunello is simply breath-taking. Having shed its rough exterior, it nonetheless prowls the palate with a restrained ferocity. It is a brooding, contemplative wine, a vino da meditazione if you will.
What a joy to discover these two old soldiers in such a hail and hearty state. A lesson from this tale: cellar the Cote Roties from Levet and the Brunello and its companion wines from La Torre so that you can compliment yourselves on your youthful wisdom when drinking them years from now.
NIR: 07 JUNE 2013