Although Elio Altare is best known for the superb Barolos he crafts from the Arborina and Brunate vineyards, his entire range is among the most consistently brilliant in Italy. This truly once in a lifetime retrospective tasting traced the development of Altare’s Vigna Larigi, an old-vine Barbera made from a  tiny one-hectare plot on the Arborina hillside. For the occasion Altare opened every vintage of Larigi from 1985 to 2006 - with the exception of the 1983 and 1984, which could not be located – a rare event by any measure, most importantly because Altare himself had never tasted so many vintages of the wine in one sitting. All of the bottles came from Altare’s personal collection, meaning that provenance was unparalleled. Readers will note that I have refrained from providing drinking windows for that very reason, as it is nearly impossible to replicate the sheer joy and profoundness older, perfectly-stored bottles offer. Still, there is a more important lesson to learn here, and it is that if purchased upon release and stored properly, top vintages of Larigi are capable of providing 20+ years of fine drinking.

A quick trip to cellar provided an opportunity to get a glimpse of the 2007 and 2008 Larigi, both still in barrel. The wines clearly reflect the qualities of their respective vintages; the 2007 is warm, ripe and opulent, while the 2008 is big and muscular. These will be fascinating wines to follow over the coming years. We finished with a sampling of Altare’s 2007 and 2008 Barolos, also from barrel, but those notes will have to wait for another article. My mind remained focused on the great Barberas we had tasted. In top vintages - 1986, 1989, 1990, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2004 - Larigi is easily one of the world’s great wines.


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