The Ratti cellar is being completely redone, with its design better able to take advantage of gravity and to have good natural temperature control by being built partly underground. Once again I sampled the new wines at Ratti's facility in the village of La Morra. I tasted this time with cellarmaster Federico Oberto, who has been with the Rattis for 30 years. According to Pietro Ratti, the 2000 vintage reflects the fruitiness and elegance of La Morra terroir. "It's more focused and better balanced than 1997," he added. "2001 is a powerful vintage that's more comparable to 1999, combining great structure and a lot of personality. "He added that the crop here was smaller in 2001, and also harvested earlier than in 2000. (Numerous importers, including Lauber Imports, Somerville, NJ; Diamond Wine Merchants, Emeryville, CA; and Lemma Wine Company, Portland, OR)
($15; a blend of 70% sauvignon blanc and 30% chardonnay aged on their lees until spring, the sauvignon in tank and the chardonnay in barrel) Pale gold. Exotic, rather viognier-like aromas of banana, peach and lichee; very 2003. Then fat, smooth and exotic, showing more fruit than many white wines from this hot year. Finishes with decent length.
($14; bottled in March of 2004) Good medium ruby. Somewhat rustic, tanky aromas of cherry, smoke and leather. Supple but dry, with liqueur-like fruits showing a faint cooked note on the end. Offers more texture than flavor, in the manner of so many wines from this vintage. Finishes fairly tannic, with modest verve.
($20) Deep ruby-red. Aromatic nose combines blackberry, cherry, menthol and eucalyptus, plus a suggestion of tar. Flavors of black fruits and mints seem moderately ripe. Offers decent texture and persistence, but could use a bit more breadth on the palate. The first batch of this wine was bottled in December 2003, but this sample had been bottled the morning of my visit.
($20; aged for one year in barriques, 30% new) Moderately saturated medium ruby. Complex nose melds blackberry, tobacco, spices, fresh herbs and nutty oak. Fat, full and sweet, with liqueur-like black fruit flavors. Distinct note of raspberry-filled chocolate truffle. Finishes with a strong bitter chocolate note and slightly drying tannins.
($27; a blend of 40% barbera, 30% cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon, 15% merlot and 15% nebbiolo; aged for 18 months in new barriques, down from a normal 24) Moderately saturated medium ruby. Aromas of pungent fresh herbs and pepper, green tobacco, coffee, mocha and smoky oak. Fat, lush and sweet, with flavors of black cherry and licorice complicated but not overwhelmed by an herbaceous element. Finishes with sneaky, sweet tannins and lingering flavors of bitter chocolate and licorice.
($45; goes through malolactic fermentation and aging in a combination of 30% new barriques and 70% new and used botti Medium red. Dullish dark fruits, menthol and eucalyptus on the nose. Supple, ripe and full, with slightly medicinal flavors of chocolate-covered truffle, fresh herbs and mint. Offers modest flavor intensity and nuance, and finishes with substantial, slightly dry tannins.
($55; malo and aging in 100% new barriques Medium fresh red. Aromas of plum, redcurrant, mint, fresh herbs and cedary oak. Broader and sweeter in the mouth than the regular Marcenasco, with notes of mocha, smoke, meat and leather. Distinctly less green than the Marcenasco, but here too I get an impression of moderate rather than full ripeness. The dusty tannins, though, arrive later, giving the flavors more chance to expand on the back.
($65; malo and aging in all new barriques; from sandy soil, whereas the Conca is based on chalk and rock) Good medium red. Perfumed aromas of red berries, herbs and brown spices. A step up in ripeness and concentration from the Marcenasco and Conca, offering more perfumed inner-mouth flavors of redcurrant, leather, mocha and brown spices. Dense, full and ripe but quite elegantly styled and not at all roasted for the vintage. Finishes with lush tannins and very good length.
(the 2001 Barolos were bottled in July of 2004) Good medium red. Raspberry, mint, spices, eucalyptus and a hint of tomato on the nose. Fruit-driven, supple and fairly dense, in a distinctly approachable style. Good red fruit flavors complicated by herbs and spices. More intensely flavored than the 2000. There's still a hint of greenness here, but the wine finishes with sweeter tannins and very good length.
Good medium red. Very reticent nose hints at mint and raw wood. Juicy and fruity but tightly wound, with superripe suggestions of red berry liqueur juxtaposed with mint and herbal elements. Today this is tough going and dominated by its firm structure. The finish features strong tannins that coat the front teeth and dry the aftertaste. Is this too tannic for its own good, or does this simply need time in bottle?
Good full red. Subtle aromas of cherry, raspberry, rose petal, mocha and brown spices, with hints of tar and eucalyptus. Juicy, bright and sharply delineated, with a powerful underlying spine. Very fresh, classy Barolo with lovely restrained sweetness; not at all dominated by its new oak. Less forthcoming today than the 2000 example, but this is distinctly more primary. Finishes with firm but rather suave tannins and very good grip.